Good guy, bad guy, or just human

I was thinking about my story and where I am. Tomorrow I have some writing time, and I do not want to waste an ounce of it, as I have been absent from writing for most of the week.

In my last post, you all provided me with some many good points that I was trying to implement today, in preparation for tomorrow. I was thinking about where I left off, and the next scene I would be writing (it is a rare and unusual treat for me to know what is coming next, and I am enjoying it!). I was thinking about one particular character, and I found myself asking, well, is he a good guy or a bad guy? The answer, he is just human.

I then realized that I have no true villains in my novel. How can that be? I froze. Uh-oh.

My first novel was a clear cut good vs evil. What is going on here?

My bad guys are circumstances, events, such as health, insanity, tragedy, war, love, hate, loss, and the unattainable.  Will this do, I ask myself? I think of all the novels I have read. Ok. This will do.

In one way, these characters are more difficult to portray than the ones in my first novel. With those ones the challenge was not making them one dimensional. In this novel, it is ensuring that we love and hate certain aspects of the characters all at once.  Sometimes, I find one character behaving overly nasty, and I have to ask myself why, and is it necessary (after all, there are no bad guys here). I have not yet had a good Samaritan, so that is not a complication for me. There is one character in the book who may have come close, yet I always knew she was going to betray her husband.

In what way do you ensure your characters are well rounded?

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23 thoughts on “Good guy, bad guy, or just human

  1. All the characters have to be interesting in the first place otherwise I wouldn’t want to write about them. When you are writing a novel you are stuck with these characters for at least three months and possibly a few years, depending on how many rewrites you do. So they have to be interesting in the first place. But you can make them more interesting over time by going deeper into their motivations. Everyone has something interesting in their character. Most of the people in my office I know in a very shallow way. That’s because we never talk about the many hidden aspects of their lives. Most people have these hidden things, the things they never talk about. Fictional characters have them as well. Once you start exploring those, you find they are limitless. But how do you find room for them in your story? That is another problem.

    1. Hi, Joseph.
      In my first novel, I was/am with those guys on and off for 5 years! yes, I must be deeply in love with them!
      In response to you last line, I think that those layers in our characters personalities are embedded in their actions/thoughts/dialogue.

  2. Sometimes it takes me a while to figure a character out. I have to write them into a few scenes before I see them more clearly. After that I can make them more well rounded because I know their motivation.

    1. I usually get to know a character as I write about them, Patti. By the end of the novel, I will find discrepancies back at the beginning, when I still didn’t know them so well 🙂

  3. Yeah, this is a tough issue. I suppose it also depends on point of view in the novel. Your main character could see another character as being particularly nasty all the time, but wouldn’t it be great if we the readers could see that s/he’s not quite so nasty as the MC believes? I like what Joseph said about only knowing certain people in our lives in a shallow way. It’s very realistic for one character to see another as one-dimensional. We do that all the time in our own lives, as Joseph pointed out. The trick, it seems to me, is to get the reader to see what the characters cannot.

    (Actually, in my case, the first trick to pull off is actual writing – even crappy writing, which seems to be where I’m stuck currently. Oh, the joy of being stuck!) (And now that I’ve publicly whined about it, I feel motivated to do something about it! So, thanks, Jennifer, for the unintentional forum! ;-D)

    1. Hi, Christina!
      Today when I was writing, I was in a scene from 3rd POV female. (the other half in is first). I had to show from 3rd pov, that her reaction was totally out of proportion to the male in the scene. I did this using exaggeration. He was overly calm and polite, so that even though the reader was feeling her angst, they saw how unreasonable she was (well, that was the aim anyway).
      Good writing!
      I have sent you an ‘unblock’ wish!

  4. It’s so difficult. Most writers have particular strengths and weaknesses (good/bad dialogue, well rounded/flat dimensional characters). Unless a writer has a particular gift for drawing out character, I think it takes a lot of time and practice. Some of my characters are really flat at times.

  5. Well, for me the villians can be anything, I much perfer to have more of a grey “villian” type character since I find that if they are pure evil and no redeeming value the novel falls flat.

    This is also the same with “good” character as well.

  6. As you said in your replies, my characters become well-rounded as a write, and that’s revealed in their speech and actions and thoughts.

    Great food for thought, Jennifer, as I continue to have one character who shows mostly her “bad” side through her speech. Maybe because she’s hiding a lot.

      1. You know I’ve been busy revising when you see IQOkie. That means it’s been so long since I blogged it automatically logs me out.

        I long time ago, when I first started my blog, it asked for a nickname. I used a quirky one. Yet, why it reverts to a nickname that I don’t display is beyond me. It’s one of my blogging mysteries.

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