I’ll be the first to say, “people are generally awful.” I usually say this in commiseration after a story about disappointing human behavior. This pandemic has brought a new measure to gauge people’s awfulness by. But this post is not about that.
This post is about writing characters. I like to live in stories, and so by observing people as characters in books I have not yet read, I can at least give myself patience as I do not yet know their plot.
I don’t know why the old lady cornered me with her walker to ask me a question. Nor do I understand why taking off her mask will help her hear me better. I can acknowledge that I might have too high of expectations of blue-haired, bespectacled octagenarians with impeccable taste in animal-print sweaters. Also, I honestly do not know that she is an alien that hears through her mouth.
Truth is almost always stranger than fiction. If you are struggling to write a character, maybe you need to adjust how you view them. If they are your protagonist, maybe write them as if you hate them. And if they aren’t your protagonist, you can still write them as if you hate them. Consider Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice; it is obvious that Austen despises him. Her descriptions of him are my favorite parts to reread.
Mr. Collins was not a sensible man, and the deficiency of nature had been but little assisted by education or societyPride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
Don’t be afraid to allow your characters to have awful traits. Making your readers love your despicable characters is truly a testament to your fantastic writing skills!