Feels like a good day, this. Nothing about it that’s different than yesterday or the day before (except perhaps that my brain is speaking to me, making suggestions without my having to wrestle my own thoughts to the ground to make them surrender.)
Makes sense that, on such a fine day, my contrary noggin would ask me to write about a contrary thing: Unlikable characters.
Unlikable characters are the people we create for substance and texture and conflict and plot development; to chart their journeys…and perhaps to give another character the chance to redeem them.
Where do they come from, these creatures whose lives become the substance of our own? When characters are drawn (as mine so often are) from inward observation rather than observation of others, things get interesting.
Writing from the unlikable in one’s self is always the product of brutal honesty. We invite some of the wronger aspects of our natures out into the open; the things we’d probably rather not admit are true about ourselves. These are the less-than-good traits we wish we didn’t own. The insecurities. The denials. The snark. The meanness. The tempers that lurk under the greater generosities of our natures. All laid bare. To conquer them.
Like the perfect apologist, we turn those traits around and make them all better. Through our characters, we conquer those Unlikables. We show them the error of their ways. We create the ideal space where love and goodness and fairness conquer all—despite the nagging backdoor cynicism that tells us that such denouements rarely ever happen in real life.
Truth? Sometimes it’s just more interesting to work with a character that you don’t really like; a character who—as my dear friend Mary says—you “wouldn’t be inviting over for dinner anytime soon.” And knowing where that character has come from? Seeking–finding–the humanity in that character is an unquestioned act of faith in the Self from which it was drawn.
Creating an Unlikable Character, and redeeming him/her is life, psychology, hope–the impossible triumph of the best in human nature–reflected in fiction. It is an act of embracing optimism, to surrender to the worst so the better can Be.