Sunday, 11 July 2010

Tell me about your baddie

I realized the other day I like virtually all my characters, even the unpleasant ones, with very few exceptions. Can this be because they all represent a facet, however minor and repressed, of my own personality? They let me explore my undesirable traits I strive to control in real life. Perhaps my villains and baddies are like the Queen's corgis, who being dogs and not royal get to misbehave in a way Her Majesty would never allow herself to.

In Heart of Rock one of my favourite characters is Jeff Pike, The Voices' drummer, rich, impulsive, rude, foul-mouthed, a sexual predator; but also mixed-up, needy, with an abusive childhood and an undeclared love for the hero, lead singer Ric Kealey. He was fun to write.

So what I want the writers reading this to do today is tell me about one of your less agreeable characters: book title, character's name, what is horrible about him and why you like him - if you do. A brief quote, if you can find one that sums him up, would be good.


  1. I'm sure you're on to something here, Lexi. I wonder if all our characters, to be convincing, must represent something of our own personality. Whether it's something we are, we admire, we secretly long to be, or something we dread or despise. I think something has to resonate with us before we can write with any authenticity.

    So here's my offering...

    Title: Ghosts of Innocence.

    Character: Fleur Trixmin, Imperial Chief of Intelligence.

    Petite, elfin, playful as a cat with a winged starling. Her superficially irreverent manner masks a psychopathic sadism. The Spanish Inquisition are bumbling amateurs in comparison, and she relishes the pain she brings about through the execution of her duties.

    Favourite quote: "Most people I interview have wet themselves before they reach my office."

    And, no, I have no idea what this says about me, but Fleur was fun to write.

  2. Goodness, Fleur sounds alarming.

    Anyone reading your comment would, I'm sure, feel a desire to read Ghosts of Innocence.

    Characters with the brakes off are fun, both to write and read about. Less fun if they were real...

  3. I've known a small number of really sick, utterly dislikeable people, one of whom went on to become a serious war criminal. I think I could portray them as minor characters, from the outside. No way could I even begin to get inside their heads.

  4. Robert, I doubt I'd want to write about anyone whose head I couldn't get inside. The novelist has to know what is going on in his/her world.

    Did JK Rowling get inside Voldemort's head? I don't think so, which is why his bits of the books are the dullest, in my opinion.

  5. Title: The Golden Gryphon

    Character: Brund Chalmeth, son of a traitorous lord protector who was disinherited and beheaded by the King after the last civil war

    Wolfish in appearance, predatory by nature, but civilized (in his opinion), brought to desperate straits by the strain of genteel poverty, trying to maintain his estate without the tribute to support it, plotting to retake his lands by force

    Why I like him: It's fun to be despicable once in a while, and to write about character who is not at all conflicted about going after what he wants. He represents people who are trapped by the need to maintain an image. It never occurs to him that by humbling himself and assisting his successor, he might actually regain the respect his father lost.

    In addition to the mane of shaggy hair that flowed to his shoulders, he had a thin face, pointed teeth, and flat, light blue eyes that studied her impersonally. Despite this, there was a nobility about his features, and a sense of great injury to that nobility in his bearing.

  6. Christine, I've warmed to Brund already.

    What I like most about your description is civilized (in his opinion) which promises an interesting complexity. And genteel poverty puts a strain on anyone...

    I suspect if I was writing your novel, Brund would elbow his way into being the hero.

  7. In my second stab at a novel (no title as yet - I lost the whole thing when I couldn't remember the password to unlock this particular MS - never mind - long story!!). Anyway!!! I fell head over heels in love with Susan. Rather than being bad through and through, she was just a little selfish - her needs and wants came first but she was also torn between the redemptive powers of selfless love and her own (natural) shallowness! I loved her and thoroughly enjoyed writing her! Her bf on the otherhand (the selfless love) was just too good to be true! LOL!

    Take care

  8. Kitty, I'm not sure about your Susan - we all know people who are just a little selfish, and it's not endearing. Even if we are ourselves, we probably don't want to identify with it.

    On the other hand, I'd prefer an interview with her rather than Fleur any day...

  9. Lexi, you have way too much sympathy for bad guys and monsters. But that's what I like about you!

  10. Title: Boomerang

    Character: variously known as Quinny, Wilson, and &. He is the beneficiary of a quasi-official agency set up by J. Edgar Hoover, funded by slippery little paragraphs buried deep in appropriations bills. He likes money without having to work for it, enjoys exercising power over people and really, really likes young women. What does this say about me? Yikes, I don't even want to think about it. But just like you I like all of my characters, even Quinny. So there must be a sliver of my soul that sees life the way he does. Scary, but I guess as long as one recognizes the fact one can keep it at bay.

    Quote: “Oh, no my dear. It went very well.” Quinny smiled, but the smile was to himself, not to Bethie. “Very well, indeed.” Then, to himself, he said, “Now all we need is a nice call from our friend Down Under and everything will be fine.”

  11. There must be a sliver of my soul that sees life the way he does - how well you put it, Alan. But without that sliver, I don't think one could write these characters with any conviction.

  12. The House of Niccolo series: Dorothy Dunnett. The top bitch of all time is the woman Niccolo fights, through 7 books, but eventually grows to love. Her name is Gelis van Borselen and she is more Machiavellian than Macchiavelli. Can't think of quotes.

    My other gorgeously evil man is Guy of Gisborne from Robin Hood (BBC), but it's almost the end of the series and he's redeeming himself. No quotes, except maybe 'Locksley!' or 'Hood!"

    I like damaged characters that have a dimension of good so deep that one has to mine the blackest depths to get it out.

  13. Mesmered, I think women make the best baddies, because it goes counter to the assumption that women are the nurturing sex.

    As for your damaged characters with a hidden dimension of good locked away - I fear this appeals to women who can't resist trying to redeem Mr Bad, when actually they'd be much better off hooking up with Mr Good.

  14. Brund Chalmeth?!

  15. Oh, and while I'm here. You should try Twitter, Lexi. I've been on for a while (as thomasraymond) and there are tons of writers on there, as well as several publishers and agents.

  16. But if I tweeted, would I have time for all the rest of the things I do?

  17. I found that it freed me up, actually - less time than blogging. So far, I've managed to get a reading at Hay and have learned about lots of short story comps. Have also passed my blog on to people. It's definitely worth considering.