Sunday, May 22, 2016

Choices: The Good Bad Character, or the Bad Good One.

By the time you've worked your way through the taser stings of adolescence and into your twenties, you've had enough experience making decisions to set your mind in overdrive when making most new ones, comfortable you won't freeze up when some downshifting into lower gears becomes necessary.

Unless you've suffered some physical or emotional traumas in the past, new experiences are pretty much events to take for granted or to prepare for in advance. If you are able to look back over some of your more notable failures, you'll run into the reminder that you've always recovered from these to the point where you can go forth, accepting, to use a fielding analogy from baseball, chances. 

And wonder of wonder, looking back on successes, however much you have to sort through the memory file to find some, adds a sense of confidence and panache to your willingness to encounter new experiences.

The same is true in your writing life which, in simplistic terms means snatching up some passing idea or notion as though it were a butterfly that lingered a moment too long on a flowering plant. You have a significant record of successes and failures in this aspect of your inner life, for writing is every bit as much about your inner life as your ability to see the curve ball or change-up coming your way as you stand in the batter's box.

All right, enough with the baseball metaphors, even though games can and do serve as useful metaphors for events off the playing field and into the home, the classroom, the workplace, the writers' room at the TV studio. 

Let's say that in your writing life, you're as used to making writer decisions as you are making person decisions in real life. In the writer decisions, you have to keep in mind the need to produce a simulacrum, a plausible portrait of an atmosphere that could pass for Reality.

A major strand of choices you need to make have to do with the characters you bring forth. Thus, is creating a character who is of good morals and ethics bad for your story? And, is creating a character who is of poor or no morals and ethics good for your story? The question follows the noted play of parallel lines within a given story, when the reader is faced with two thematic progressions, often mirror images or in some way or others, at loggerheads with one another.

The reader knows and expects the parallel lines to converge somewhere, the penultimate chapter if the narrative is long enough to be a novel, the final paragraphs if the narrative has willed itself to be a shorter form.

Good characters, those of superb moral credit rating numbers, tend to be taken over by virtue which, when it is not being comical, is edging toward boredom. Bad characters, not necessarily those who are morally depraved so much as those who invite ways to bend rules and compose elaborate justifications of behavior extending beyond the norm.

As a species of readers into which you place yourself, you note how much easier it is to get behind and root for the evil of two lesser; there soiled man or woman gets your vote and loyalty because you wish to see what will happen to them, should they persist in their ways. This makes perfect sense to you, because you would rather record the deeds and antics of the persistent son-of-a-bitch who resides within you than the patient pilgrim, always seeking travels to lands far and impossible.

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