When You *Hate* Your Characters

It’s hard to believe (since life is throwing more hard balls at me, especially now), but I’m working on the sequel to Virtually Yours, which I’ve tentatively titled Virtually Yours Forever (or VY4ever). Sorry, no tentative covers…yet.

A week ago, when I first opened the file and poked around, a few things occurred to me. One, this is a damned good story! (Okay, I’m highly prejudiced, but…) There’s no secret in the sequel since we know all of the characters, and the Big Reveal at the end might be considered cheesy, but I’m liking the roads where I have taken my characters. It’s four years later, and plenty has happened.

(If you’d like to read the synopsis, wander over to my page “Novels” and check it out. Or I could put a link in here. I did!)

The other thought that came to me is that I really, really, really (I know, adverb overload. Danger, Will Robinson.) like these characters. I hadn’t really thought about them or their plot twists since I penned the first draft during the November 2011 NaNoWriMo — too many things going on in my Real World. But opening the file and working on their story lines is like visiting with your high school best friend after thirty years of absence. (I would know about this, since I’ve lived it. Hello, Bonnie!) Even though a lot of time has passed, you pick up right where you left off.

It’s easy for me to write about friendly people who might have character quirks that make them not so amiable. It’s very difficult to write about the truly heinous and do a good job at it. I’m struggling with my bad guy in Finding Cadence. I’ve made my attorney, John Sloane, stereotypically bad. Ruthless. A womanizer. Shrewd. Heartless. The kind of shyster that would make Gordon Gekko look like a choir boy. He’s so bad, he’s like a cartoon character lawyer. The third pass editing, and I’m trying to figure out ways to give Sloane redeeming qualities while still conveying to the reader what a rat he is.

But as we know, every good story has a bad guy. Even my fun-loving story about the Virtual Moms. Readers need to cheer for the underdog, and to *hate* whoever stands in their way in their quest for happiness. I’ve spent the last few days wondering who I could make a villain. It would have to be someone completely unexpected, and there are several characters I could choose from. Coincidentally, this article landed in my email box today, a listing of the 50 most hated characters in literary history.

It’s an interesting list, but I’m not sure I would agree. I mean, really. The Twilight girl and guy? They may annoy, but I don’t hate them. Similarly with the current novel I am struggling with, 50 Shades of Gray. Ana Steele grates on my last nerve (something like a group of giggling 14-year-old mall rats), but I don’t hate her.

The closest I came to hating a character was Ben Bailey in t. greenwood’s This Glittering World. I love t. greenwood, but I found this man’s morals to be completely lacking. I nearly threw the book down in disgust, several times. However, Ben proves himself a stellar (albeit seriously flawed) man in the end.

(Amendment: Tom Booker in The Horse Whisperer. Not the Tom Booker of the Robert Redford movie, the one in the book. I was so angry when I finished the book that I vowed to never see the movie, and I haven’t. Tom Booker is the Bill Clinton of literature in my book. Yeah. I don’t like Bubba either.)

All of the authors on the “most hated” list must have liked their characters. A little? You think? How could they not? Authors take a seed of an idea, nurture it, and eventually give birth to a full blown story. Hating your characters might make for a very tedious and grueling workout at the computer.

In the end, I’m not sure I could write about a character I hate completely. I write because I love to write. It’s my hobby, it’s my creative outlet. I have to enjoy myself or I couldn’t do it.

The trick is to find some sort of balance, a vein of redemption in your *hated* character.

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