Sunday, February 12, 2012

How Do Characters Go Bad

Every story needs a bad guy to make the hero shine. Without Dracula, Johnathan Harker would have just been a wimpy solicitor. Luke Skywalker might still have become a hero as a squad leader in Star Wars, but, with the help of a shove from daddy Darth he became a more awesome and memorable character as a Jedi Knight.

The villain and their background has everything to do with how heroic a hero will turn out to but what’s the recipe for turning a character to their dark side?

One cup of attitude, two tablespoons of thorn in the side…. No that’s not really how it works. Characters go bad for the same reasons people do. It could have been something they were born into, a family history of malevolent behavior.

 For example gangsters, as in Al Capone not pull up your pants wanna bes.  Most of these stories are about men who were taught the “family business”. They were raised in a world where bad things are a lifestyle choice.

The character’s environment can play a part in how they turn out in life. If their childhood was spent hanging with the wrong crowd the behaviors could stick with them in adult hood.

A drug king pin could have been a kid who’s family struggled for every slice of bread on the table. Unable to cope with the lack of food or money they started selling dope on the street corner for the local king as a way to buy the things working a legitimate job couldn’t.

There is a theory that it’s genetic, that some people are just born bad. The parent was a violent person so the child will be also. There have been a few books and movies based on this evil gene theory.

A villain doesn’t always have to start off bad. Somewhere in their past a line was crossed. Either a loss or event that triggered their sinister ways.

Outlaws can have many shades of black and gray as to how bad they really are. One thing a writer needs to be cautious of is how hated the character can become. He or she has to have something likeable about them.

At least one quality or vulnerability that gives them a touch of humanity, something a reader can relate to. If a bad apple gets too rotten it starts to turn all of the other apples in the barrel. That’s what happens when a character is too cruel or harsh. It taints the rest of the story and can turn a reader off very quickly. 

By the end of a story the villain is usually overshadowed by the hero, but, a well written bad apple gets noticed.

So what are you waiting for? Join us this week as Outlaw’spRose hosts Blogs Gone Bad and celebrates the bad boys and girls of fact and fiction all this week! 


Bookish Hobbit said...

Excellent post. I was actually thinking about writing a post for this week about historical figures such as Capone. Perhaps I will!

And thank you for stopping by my blog during this event.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

This sounds like so much fun. I love the complexity of bad guys with something in their history more than the simple 'bad genes' theory.