Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What Happens When You Hate One of Your Own Characters

With the release of Stalked by Death this month, I feel like I need to talk about hating characters. When I read books, I love to hate characters because any emotion—good or bad—is good. It makes you connect to the characters and the story. But when I wrote Stalked by Death, I hated one of my characters in a way I've never hated a character before. It was odd for me because...well, I created him. 

I'm talking about Chase. Why am I dropping this bomb here when some of you haven't read the book yet and might want to? Simple. People read my blurb and assume there's a love triangle. In my mind, it's not a love triangle at all. Why? I HATE Chase. He's everything I despise in a human being. If you read the book, you'll see what I mean. I don't want to be too spoilery here.

So why did I create a character I absolutely can't stand? Mostly because people like Chase exist in the world. He's real. His motives are real. And the emotions he evokes are real too. I've had a few reviewers say they felt so many emotions while reading this book, and that's a huge compliment in my mind. I cried and got so creeped out while writing this story, and most of that was because of Chase. He made me tap into emotions I never wanted to visit again. And while I will continue to hate him, I'm thankful that I wrote him.

Have you ever hated a character you created? What made you write them that way?

50 comments:

  1. Chase is a character you love to hate though...because you CAN hate him! This was such a powerful book for me because I do know people like Chase, and I know what people close to those kind of people go through...and really, you wrote it so real. It was deeply disturbing in that good way only books can be so deeply disturbing!

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    1. I know people like Chase too, which might be why he came across as a very real character. It was definitely an experience writing him though. He made me crazy and put me through so many emotions while writing this book. And like I said, in the end, I'm glad I wrote him.

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  2. Great post, Kelly. I think we need to have strong emotions (both good and bad) toward the characters we write. If we don't, we can't expect the reader to. I'm not sure I've had a character I despised, but I've had several I felt bad for. Sorry they lived their life in a certain way. As authors we can be cruel.

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    1. I completely agree. If we don't feel it as writers, the reader won't feel it either. I'm happy to go there even if it puts me through emotional hell. lol And yes, authors can be cruel.

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  3. Now you've totally got me thinking, have I ever written anyone I hate? Some of my antagonists have been pretty low on my like list, but outright hate, probably not. Totally gives me some ideas for my next WIP though :)

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    1. ;) Just brace yourself because it's tough to create someone who really makes your skin crawl like this. You're in for an emotional ride! Good luck!

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  4. It depends for me. Sometimes I can't read finish the book if I truly loathe the character. I know, what a whiner. When I was reading, 'Disgrace', by Jim Coetzee, I frequently through the book across the room, which is out of character for me. I love my books. In the end, I had to stop reading it. He did a fantastic job of ruffling my feathers. Good writing.

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    1. See, I love to hate characters in other people's books. LOL Any emotion is good because it connects you to the story. But writing a character like this was tough because it felt so real to me. I felt like I was living with Chase for a while and it was torture in so many ways.

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  5. Not only do people like Chase exist, but there are people who will love them in real life too, as much as it might boggle the minds of others.

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    1. Ann, that is a great point. You are absolutely right.

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  6. I agree that you need to create characters who do and say heinous things as well as sweeter ones. Sometimes the most fascinating character is the biggest jerk, simply because you have to see what he does next.

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    1. Very true, Catherine. Wanting to see what he does next is what makes the story better too.

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  7. Reading how you have the guts to break out of your comfort zone literally gave me the chills. LOVE IT!!!

    It's exciting to hear how you're breaking new ground. Good for you! As a fan, I love witnessing how you grow and evolve as a writer. That's what it's all about. Your work just keeps on getting richer and more intricate.

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  8. Your word "spoilery" made me laugh! At least you hate a character you created to be hateful. The line-edits on my novel are making me hate publishing...

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    1. Line edits, really? Usually it's the first round content edits that are rough. Anyway, good luck with them.

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  9. Not sure that I've ever hated a character THAT much, but I have definitely created a character that made my skin crawl. His name was Norris and he was blunt and vulgar and a sculptor and treated his nephew--my protagonist--like a jerk. And while his part was small, he's always stuck out in my mind vividly.

    People often think that I hate Ethan, the bully from "Coming of Mage" but I don't. I actually feel very sorry for him. His actions...disappointed me. That's weird to say, right, because I wrote him? But that's where I got emotional. I didn't hate Ethan--in fact, I found him rather charming and funny. I just wanted him to be a better person, but, for the sake of the story, that couldn't be.

    I mean, you nailed it, we write creeps because there are creeps in the world and we write what we know. Nothing grounds a story like something familiar, and we've all come across a nemesis.

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    1. I love what you said about Ethan. Yes, characters can disappoint us and even surprise us. Mine do it all the time. I really do feel more like I meet my characters rather than create them, so I know exactly what you mean.

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  10. First- happy to come to your new Wednesdays!

    I find the topic interesting, because you are wholly aware of your dislike. I wrote a complete MG not realizing I was maligning one of the characters, while the POV was another character who felt only affection for the one I had more than a few reservations for.
    My good editor fixed it nicely. It was subtle enough to escape my awareness, but not a more removed reader's.

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    1. Thanks, Mirka. I'm happy to have my new schedule in place. :)

      That's interesting that you didn't realize your feelings for that character. Thank goodness for editors who are able to see what we can't. :)

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  11. I have my own story to tell here, Kelly-

    You have read my debut MG novel, Gabriel, in process, and you know I had issues getting Gabriel's voice right.

    My antagonist was a challenge, too, but in different ways to what you've described with yours.

    Now, unlike your experience with Chase, I NEVER truly hated Rum (My novel's antagonist), and ironically more people liked him better than Gabriel at first.

    Not for what he does (Which is good, otherwise I'd REALLY worry about kids today), but because they "got" him easier.

    It surprised me because in many ways, my antagonist was a collage of every bully I had growing up, but it wasn't until just before Kelly and I met in the critique group we used to both be in (I had to leave for personal reasons three years ago) that I realized how much I liked him, too, and that a lot of my annoying traits are also in him.


    Now I DON'T talk like Rum (Or Gabriel, who's more my ideal self), but Rum and I have short tempers, we keep a lot to ourselves, and we don't handle change well, but one of the key differences between Rum and me is that Rum can HIDE his weakness convincingly, I can't, people always know, just ask my grandma and Kelly (LOL)



    Now it probably helps my morale as a writer that Rum wasn't rotten to the core (I haven't read your trilogy, Kelly), but I imagine Rum's not at Chase's level of loathing given how much support you gave me and what you shared with me after reading it. Trying to avoid spoilers in what I share here, Kelly, especially since my book's not out yet.

    Like you, I do find it easier to loathe characters in stories I haven't written, and it has kept me from reading certain books, most notably Olive Kitteridge. But there are ways to make it work without driving yourself nuts.

    This is where reading how other writers handle this can be helpful. Reading "Poppy" by Avi was helpful to me because in it there's Ereth, that grumpy porcupine, and I didn't want Rum to be THAT abrasive, so sometimes knowing what you don't want to do helps inform the writer, so you still serve the characters and overall story, but in a way you as the writer can live with.

    That said, Rum was honestly easier to picture than Gabriel at first, because contrary to popular belief, it's NOT easy to write shy, less direct characters that still are active.

    It took me a long time before Gabriel came off the way I intended, active and proactive in ways that were right for HIM, as opposed to Rum or myself.

    I was trying to invert male stereotypes and I succeeded in part to helpful advice from you, Kelly, and I can't thank you enough for that.

    I never originally intended to write more about Gabriel and Rum, but I'm working on Rum's story now (As well as a non-Gabriel/Rum book), and it's partly in first person from Rum's POV, and (Not to knock the challenges of writing in first person) it's easier to write Rum in first person than if I tired Gabriel in first person, because Rum's voice is so pithy and raw.

    So as you said above, we know people can be sleazebags out there, but for my novel, I chose to take a different tact and also say (without spoiling my story)some sleazebags wise up.

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    1. Very true. Some bad guys change. (I won't comment on what happens with Chase in the final book. My lips are sealed.) Even Chase has reasons for being the way he is. I think that's the key. People aren't just evil for the sake of being evil. There's a reason, even if it's not a good one. In their mind it makes perfect sense.

      And I really do like to read books where I hate a character because it draws me in and makes me want to see what's going to happen next.

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    2. Well, good for you, I'm not as resilient as you are as a reader in that way, and I can only deal with sleazebags for so long.

      Yes, making the motivations clear for the reader is important, but I think you can take it further than I can from the writer's perspective, but it's good there are writers and lay readers like you who can.

      Thanks for stopping by T.A.A. today, Kelly, take care.

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    3. Taurean, maybe I can tolerate them more in books because I'd rather read about them than meet them in person. ;)

      Always happy to stop by T.A.A. :)

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  12. I wrote a character I loathed. Perhaps it was a way of behaving in a way that I know I can never do - apart from the time travelling. I'd do that in a flash, even with him for company.

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    1. I can honestly say I'd never want to do anything with Chase, other than write this series. ;)

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  13. I'm in the process of creating a character(Moirah) that's a real low ball. It's been interesting to say the least! You could always send Chase over to visit Moirah- she runs an aerial acrobatic show...And her performers don't get to practice or perform w/safety nets... ;)

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  14. For the co-written work I do, I created a character named Jeremy that I don't like. Drunkard, a jerk, treats women badly. It's easy to dislike someone like that.

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  15. That's wild! I don't know if I've ever felt such an intense dislike of one of my own creations before. Usually even if they are horrible, I like that horribleness about them, because they're accomplishing my goal--and they're still my horrible little creations :)

    I'll have to check out Stalked by Death and see what you mean!

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    1. Let me know if you hate Chase as much as I do.

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  16. I can't think of a character I've created that I really hate. The only one I can come up with is my WIP, where I really disllike, perhaps even hate, my heroine's mother for the way she treats her daughter. Now I'm curious too. Think I'll look at my other novels and see if there are other characters to add to my "hate" list.

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  17. Hate is a very powerful emotion. I can say that I love a character that everyone would hate, but it's because I have an appreciation for the character development. If you hate a character who is despicable, then the author done good.

    :)

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    1. Very true, Diane, which is why I love books that have characters I can't stand. I think kudos to the author for making me care so much.

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  18. Yes. One of the main characters in the War of Six Crowns series rubbed me raw and fought me every single step of the drafting process.

    I literally understood him by the end of a 100k long rewrite. Which was when we got along.

    Strangely, though, a lot of people who've read the first book love him.

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    1. I just read a review where someone said they liked Chase the best and I thought what?!! lol To each his/her own.

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  19. I've hated several of my characters. They added flavor and reality to my manuscripts.

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  20. Great post! I hated a villain in my first story then changed him to a hero in my second as I ended up loving him!

    Nas

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  21. Reading about your hatred of Chase only made me more curious to read this one! Some characters just have to be written and there are bad people out there.
    ~Jess

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    1. Well, if you do read it, let me know what you think of Chase.

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  22. If we're going to write about something other than our own little favorite corner of the universe where everyone is like us, then we can't love every character.

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  23. Perhaps the ones we love and those we hate are based on the people we've met in this lifetime. There are some things about them that strike (or flick) a chord. Come to think of it, I don't have an antagonist I hate in my MG. Just a few side characters I know I wouldn't like in reality.

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    1. I try really hard not to base my characters on people I've met. I might pull traits from people I've met, so there might be some truth to this.

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  24. I really like that you can admit that you hate Chase. And knowing that he made you cry and cringe intrigues me. I want to know what he does, and what he's like!

    One antagonist of mine had done a lot of horrible thinks, but I don't think I hated him as much as you hate Chase. Actually, I think I only disliked him a little because I gave all the hate to my protagonist. lol

    Thanks for sharing this insight into your new book! I'll have to read it! :D

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    1. Thanks, Chrys. This was definitely a different experience for me, so I felt I should share. :)

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