Friday, August 15, 2014

Man vs. Self (Or, when your Bad Guy might also be your Good Guy)

I'm almost done editing The Last Song for this round (you ready, Kelly?). I still feel very good about it, which is either awesome or worrying. I honestly can't tell, but if I'm not my own advocate, who is? Right? Right.

My main character is not a nice person, necessarily, and doesn't always do the right thing. I guess I need to go so far as to call him an antihero. He's his own worst enemy, as the trope goes, and he's a great example of Man vs. Self in that English class you had years ago on "conflict". There is no Bad Guy in the story, no villain; just our POV character and his mistakes. His occasional self loathing. Y'know. Like you do.

But. I also hope the reader roots for him, y'know? He's got a goal, and regardless of the past (and there is a Past), goals should be attainable. Goals tinged with regret and perhaps apology especially so.  Personally, I like characters who have flaws. Squeaky clean characters (and people) may or may not (in my experience) lean towards the self righteous, and that just gets my snark up. People with flaws, especially when they're aware of said flaws, strike me as more genuine, more human. It makes a character come off the page better.

In a way, this came from an Absolute Write post, as some things do. I didn't read the thread, though. I just kind of scrolled through the recent stuff, wherein somebody was asking "What if I don't have a bad guy?"  I thought to myself, "Well, I don't have a bad guy! I mean, creepy things happen, bad stuff happens, but there's no 'villain'. It's all scenery and setting and experiences rolled into the narrative." And I've read books like that, of course, where there's no "enemy".

In fact, I'd say most books don't have an "enemy", most narratives have no true antagonist. In a way, the universe is too indifferent to take the time opposing everybody individually, no matter how important we are to our own narratives.

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