Why You Should Create Characters You Hate

It’s these kinds of things that remind you how much fun writing can be, when you just sit back and let yourself go crazy.

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Is there someone in your life you absolutely cannot stand? Same. It’s tough to deal with, but it’s part of life. Which means you can’t keep writing stories filled with characters you love to love. You have to dare yourself to branch out a little, and create characters you absolutely can’t stand. Here’s why.

It’s an accurate representation of real life

It keeps things relatable. There are people in everyone’s life who make them miserable, who they just cannot stand for various reasons. It’s important to keep your stories, especially the characters that drive them, relatable to your audience. And yourself, too. If every character were likable, it wouldn’t be realistic. Everyone has flaws.

It’s okay to base a character off of someone you used to know, or know currently, who really gets on your nerves. You don’t have to mirror their personality and bad habits exactly – just use them as a starting point. That helps you get some of your frustration out, too, if you still have it. Bonus!

It’s an easy foil

Easy-to-hate characters give great contrast to characters you actually want people to like, even if they aren’t fully likable (really, no character ever should be). Plot twist: your MC is actually the bad guy. They’ve done horrible things. But if they’re the narrator, it might be hard to show the reader how awful they actually are, especially if they’re telling the story from their own biased perspective.

So throw in a character that’s more good than bad. Or several. You can flip it to, and show the overall goodness of someone by contrasting them with someone mostly ‘evil.’ These kinds of techniques really help an audience decide how they feel about a character in particular and whether or not they feel okay ‘liking’ them or not.

It’s kind of fun

Every once in awhile, I try to portray a character that is as annoying and distasteful as possible. Great storytelling includes extremes, and the further you can push a character onto the extreme side of unbearable, the better – for you, and for everyone else.

It’s fun. Try to think of all your pet peeves, things people do that you absolutely cannot tolerate, and assign all those traits to one character. A character’s traits are only part of a story, but depending on how you arrange things, they can really do a lot to influence the outcome of major events. It’s these kinds of things that remind you how much fun writing can be, when you just sit back and let yourself go crazy.

Can you think of a character in a story you’ve read recently that you, and probably the author, hated? I finished the Pure trilogy a few months ago, which featured a character we were supposed to hate even more when he was dead than when he was alive. So many emotions …

Image courtesy of Alina Solovyova-Vincent/iStockphoto/Thinkstock.

3 thoughts on “Why You Should Create Characters You Hate

  1. Thanks for the thought. It’s definitely something to keep in mind, especially since so many of us know people we can’t stand. Or just outright hate. I’ve seen a shirt that says something like “Careful, or you’ll end up in my novel.”

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