OK, I admit it, I didn’t do my homework because…well, I was expecting world annihilation or something by the time my usual Sunday blog post was due. So I procrastinated. But since we’re all still having our morning cups of coffee, unscathed, I have decided to throw together some thoughts. And in the spirit of post-apocalyptic joy, I think I’ll go with one of my favorite topics – good versus evil.
For as many years as Earth has revolved around the sun (and still is) humans have had a propensity to divide the good from the bad; clearly delineating the two. We root for the hero, who is honest and pure, while booing the evil-minded villain (bad guys never get any love!). Writers sometimes make the same distinction in an attempt to cater to the readers’ likes. Good must always triumph! Right?
We of the paranormal world like to blend our black and white to a fitting shade of gray.
Why are we so damn hot for bad guys?
Who knows? That’s a personal question for individual authors and readers, I suppose. For me, there is a certain mystery about historically evil characters. Perhaps a strange side to me that thinks I can change them. Take the movie Hellboy (ok, not worthy of an Oscar but work with me). The main character is a big red, unattractive demon with gimpy horns. Not my idea of Mr. Dreamboat. But why oh why am I tickled pink by the end of the movie when his leading lady finally falls for him? I believe humans, even when faced with the nefarious, have a tendency to acknowledge the slightest hint of compassion. Going back to the movie, the guy denounces his own kind by hacking off his horns, and protects against the dark forces of the underworld. Can we possibly get past the fact that he is spawn from the depths of hell?
It comes down to how the character is developed and what qualities the writer infuses to make us see beyond the cruel, brooding exterior to the soft inner core. Let’s face it - vampires haven’t always had the reputation of being sappy heroes. There was a time a dude with fangs was someone you didn’t want to run into down a dark alley. Now every woman I know dreams of a steamy tryst with the undead. We are embarking on a new era where bad boys have equal rights to a winning personality.
And vice versa.
The same holds true for Mr. Goody-Two-Shoes. It’s not enough to be hopelessly good and save all of humanity in a victorious win over evil. Sorry guys, I like a little dysfunction in my protagonist. Call me crazy, but I want the down-on-his-luck, binge-drinking angel who fell from the heavens for breaking the rules and is thrown into an unlikely circumstance that ultimately saves the world and secures his ticket back to the pearly gates. I want to be challenged when I read. Make me fall in love with this loser by the end of the book!
I’ve attempted to incorporate this dynamic in my latest HALOS novel, where I blur the lines, giving my angels some inner turmoil and my demons a smidgen of charisma. Flawed characters mean drama throughout the story. And they give us something to admire and sympathize. But the catch is, they have to change their situation at some point and begin to rise above it, otherwise we’re just following them down a self-loathing path of destruction. And we can find that on the evening news if we’re that hard up for it.
Whether angel or demon; human or vampire, readers crave a hero. It’s not so much what’s on the outside that counts, but what sinfully virtuous (yes, my intentional oxymoron) attributes are embedded deep within.
How narrowly do your characters walk the line of good and bad?