Why I Write Characters You Hate
What makes a good character? Someone who's relatable? Likable? Maybe even lovable?
I've had plenty of readers comment that my characters make bad decisions, and suffer from all kinds of character flaws. I'd like to take this opportunity to explain myself, so that you can better understand the kind of writer I am. Why would a mom choose to focus on a man instead of her children? Why would a woman in a happy marriage allow envy and self-pity to consume her? Why would a handsome man, who seemingly has everything in the world, choose to obsess over one woman to the point of his own destruction?
These answers are rarely as concrete as we'd like. There are many complexities to the human experience that can contribute to less than honorable choices. We often want to ignore the ugliness within ourselves that lends itself to evil, but why? We are perfectly imperfect --- capable of both horrible atrocities and grand acts of kindness. Good guys are not all good, and bad guys are not all bad.
While I had always turned to writing as a form therapy, I never believed I was fully capable of having what it takes to write an entire novel. I would start stories that I never finished, or simply sit in the corner of my room scribbling poetry in a journal while tears streamed down my face. I knew I was ugly on the inside in some ways, and I absolutely hated myself for it. I would stew about the unfairness of life as I drowned in envy and self-pity. I would stand in front of the mirror, adjusting my hair and make-up until it was perfect. I would obsess over men who didn't love me. I wallowed in self-loathing until I hit the ground with nothing left but my computer and keyboard.
It was there that I clacked away on the keys night after night, trying to work out why I had failed at life. I opened an old word document about a woman who hated herself so much that she searched for validation in relationships. Perhaps she wasn't likable, but by all accounts, neither was I. I kept writing every night, guided only by my intuition, and a dream I once had about a handsome stranger. After many days of this, I figured I might as well complete what I had started. Before I knew it, I realized I had overcome a great obstacle. Not only did I finish something I never thought was possible, I found new value in myself.
Why do I write characters that you hate? I do it because there are pieces of my own character that are flawed. My heart carries both darkness and light. Happiness and sadness. Gratitude and jealousy. Each emotion is simply a different stroke of color in the masterpiece of life. It is what we learn from our ugliness that counts, and I have learned so much about myself through the depiction of characters in stories. So while my books might be riddled with unlikable characters, mistakes, and repulsive scenarios, they are also filled with hidden nuggets of wisdom. It is through characters who eventually find themselves despite their demons, that I have been able to fight mine.
So, love them or hate them, they are who they are, and I wouldn't change them for anything in the world.