Round Robin 6-27-15
Every person has good and bad traits, everyone does both good and bad things and we certainly have plenty of examples emerging from our various media. There is a precipice each character stands on–one side is too good to be true, the other side too evil to exist. What makes a character too good to believe? How evil can a main character become before they are irredeemable?
Every human has foibles. Without them, we wouldn’t be human. Even the Dalai Lama has them, I’m sure. In order for me to relate to a protagonist, I need to see humanity in them. They can’t be like Cora in The Last of the Mohicans. Perfection, while okay in this particular literary work, doesn’t in most fictional pieces of today. Most of us want to see a “real” person struggle and grow, not a one-dimensional caricature of a person. We aren’t like that. We will never be rid of anger, sadness, jealousy, fear, frustration, and so on. Even if we don’t outwardly show it, it’s there. No one is always happy.
And people deal with stressful situations differently. While one might get angry and frustrated, another might cry and throw a pity party. As long as there is something to show me that character is human and subject to the same emotions we are, I can get on their side. Even if the character lets most things slide of their backs, I still want to see that moment of uncertainty, fear, anger, even a little white lie, etc., even if it’s only internal.
A character who doesn’t show some negative emotion through whatever is thrown at him/her is not believable.
For an evil character, I don’t know if I care as much. They are typically shown as stereotypes and I don’t know if they can ever be redeemable for me. Of course, it might depend on the severity of the crime. Someone who has been a child molester or serial killer is not ever redeemable for me. A thief is redeemable. A murderer, not so much… although there are people who have murdered and come back to be contributing members of society, who have changed their ways.
Someone who has destroyed another person’s livelihood or life or done something to damage the environment might be redeemable. It all depends on how the author works this and how many times that character has done it.
Since we’ve seen some pretty heinous crimes committed by some very evil people (Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, Idi Amin, Hitler, to name a few), I don’t there’s really a point of being too evil.
I have a series (The Children of Itar) I’m working on. I really wanted the second book to follow this character Esme and perhaps see a redemption of her character, but, at this point, I don’t think it’s going to work. No matter how hard I try, she’s just evil.
The protagonist Eleanor of the first book, The Whispering House, is a strong character, but has her foibles as any good character does. She has to overcome fear, self-doubt, anger, and frustration to finally realize her goal. She does, but it’s a journey, just like it is for all of us.
So, for you, what makes a character too good to believe? Or what makes a character too evil? Is there such a thing as a too good and evil characters?
Find out what some of these other authors think: