Fear of a Character

For the better part of the week I’ve been avoiding my wip.  There have been many a reason I’ve told myself why this is, but the truth is I hadn’t found the actual reason until now.  I’m afraid of my character or, more accurately, I’m afraid of writing this character.  As many of you know I’ve decided to write a section from the villain’s perspective and it’s probably the most disturbing thing I’ve had to write thus far.  A tyrannical state bend on punishment and enslavement of the masses is one thing, but to write a character in all his three dimensional glory who believes in such a thing is quite another.

Let me be clear, this person is the embodiment of all I see wrong with this world.  He is the reason things are the way they are and to write him as he needs to be, as the material dictates, requires me to have compassion for him and for those people.  To exist in a world of black and white, where one is either all good or all bad, is a comfort just as much as it is a painful limitation in life experience necessitated by, in my opinion, serious trauma.  A favorite author of mine wrote most of her characters in such a fashion and, even though her works are/have been quite pivotal for me, this unwillingness to draw villains realistically left the application of her notions falling short in the eyes of the populace.

All that said, I still sit here writing a blog post instead of working on this character.  A character whom, for all intents and purposes, just as vital to the story as the heroine.  This is an instance where I sit and think of how to attack this problem and I begin to think that “telling” would be so much easier; it would enable me to have a greater separation from the character.  In the interest of the work, in writing it damnably well, I am going to “show” thereby confronting all demons I intellectually acknowledge and doing so, hopefully, with heart and possibly optimism.   Alas, I now understand why so many villains are 2-D.

Does sympathy for “the bad guy” ever freak you out?  How?  When?

**Commenting on Blogspot: Sorry I am that I have been unable to leave comments on many a Blogspot blog.  There seems to be some kind of error with WP users commenting with Open ID that has not been fixed yet.  Yeah.  Interestingly enough this problem is supposed to be “regional” so SOME blogs I’ve been successful in commenting on while most of them I have not.  I’ve tried, really I have, and so I will continue to try in hopes the problem is resolved sooner rather than later.


24 responses to “Fear of a Character

  • Tweets that mention Fear of a Character « The Perpetual Writer -- Topsy.com

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kimberly Loomis, Kimberly Loomis. Kimberly Loomis said: Fear of a Character: For the better part of the week I’ve been avoiding my wip.  There have been many a reason I’v… http://bit.ly/aLgr97 […]

  • Jan

    Kudos to you! It takes a great deal of courage to do what you are working at doing. I don’t know if this will be helpful or hinder–so you can just throw it away if it doesn’t help but I just received a quote online that may be useful to you while you are working out how to do labor of love.
    Here it is:

    “This business of hozho. The way I understand it … I’ll use an example. Terrible drought, crops dead, sheep dying. Spring dried out. No water. The Hopi, or the Christian, maybe the Moslem, they pray for rain. The Navajo has the proper ceremony done to restore himself to harmony with the drought. You see what I mean. The system is designed to recognize what’s beyond human power to change, and then to change the human’s attitude to be content with the inevitable.”

    — in ‘Sacred Clowns’ by Tony Hillerman

    but I wonder if in some way, this is also not important to remember:

    The key is to not resist or suppress the negative. We need to acknowledge its existence, though we may choose not to express it. When we embrace wholeness, we move to a higher perspective.

    “The light which man has discovered within himself makes him more aware of the dark; through the good which attracts him, he sees the evil which is the line of least resistance; the activity leading to pain simultaneously permits him to visualize the contrasting pleasure, and thus he experiences something of both hell and heaven.”

    — Aart Jurriaanse

    • kimberlyloomis

      Excellent quotes, Jan. I agree with all of it. Wholeness is, by far, easier to appreciate in the goodness of people than in those who live out our own perceptions of darkness. For this character is the darkness in the world and I know that he believes he is right every much as I think of him as wrong.

  • laurelrainsnow

    I can relate to your issues with the character…my first novel had a stalker character, and I wrote sections intermittently from his POV. I thought it would be difficult, and in some sense, it was…but after years of working with clients who were sociopaths, psychopaths, etc., and having to try to reach out to them…that helped, I think.

    But you definitely don’t want to do that black and white thing. You’re right to give it all a lot of thought. You could just plunge in and edit it to death if you’re not happy with it! lol

    • kimberlyloomis

      Lol! I try very hard to not wind up with horrific edits! Not that I won’t wind up with some anyway, but still….

      Your experiences sound like they give you excellent insight into the mind and heart of disturbed individuals. Can only imagine how this helps you right very three dimensional characters. 🙂

  • Jemi Fraser

    I love writing from the evil pov – not quite sure what that says about me though 🙂

    I’ve had a few friends having trouble commenting on my blog lately – I wonder if it’s the same kind of issue. Thanks for the info.

    • kimberlyloomis

      I would think it might be, Jemi. I’m pleased to say that it seems as though it’s fixed now. Hopefully it stays that way!

      Haha – nice to live vicariously through someone with a morality we would never take into ourselves. 😉

  • Mercedes

    I’m having the same blogspot error, and grrr! Grrr, I say!

    I remember how disturbed I felt when I read Lolita. The narrator discussed how his heart beat faster when he looked at Lolita’s coltish knees, and it was so very well written that I found myself understanding why he was attracted to her. It made a sort of sick sense even though I was keenly aware that she was a little girl. I was horrified! But I was grateful at the same time because until that point, I hadn’t read a book where I almost understood something that I was so morally against. It was amazing writing.

    Writing villains and dark things are always frightening, and I think part of it is because it comes from us. WE’RE the one writing those things, even if it’s how the character would act. I had a friend give me a book that he wrote and tell me how afraid he was that I wouldn’t like him after reading it, because that darkness came from inside his head.

    This was a fantastic post! It really made me think this morning. 🙂

    • kimberlyloomis

      And all those are my goals, Mercedes. 🙂 I totally agree on all the points you made, too – even the one about your friend’s concern about what people would think of him for having thought of such things.

      I really need to read Lolita. I think it’s been mentioned in various comments at least three times now! 😉

  • Carol Kilgore

    I love writing the villain. They’re much easier for me than the protagonist. I don’t even want to know what that says about me – LOL.

    The scenes I avoid writing are the ones where I kill a character. Takes me a few days to build up to saying “I’m doing it today.”

  • Melissa

    I understand what you’re going through because I’m going through the same thing right now. It’s not that the character I’m working on is necessarily “evil” but.. they’re so emotionally driven that it leaves me so drained at the end of it. I have put off working on my w.i.p for over a week and now I realize I need to get back to it. It’s time, you know?

    You can do it though! 🙂 It does take a lot of guts to write a character like that. Sadly, the world is full of characters like the one you described. It’s not easy to write like one in a book, but I know you have it in you.

    • kimberlyloomis

      Totally understand, Melissa. Sometimes that space is just plain necessary for getting back into the work.

      Thanks for your words of encouragement and I hope your wip is going better this week for you, too. 🙂

  • damyanti

    I love writing from the POV of the bad guy, it is a challenge, and I love challenges.

    That said, it makes me physically sick sometimes when I’m writing such characters, so may be I do not actually enjoy writing them all that much 🙂

  • Lua

    Kimberly I can totally relate to your fear- writing about this bad guy, injecting him everything your see wrong with the world and make him likeable… That is scary. But no matter how evil he is, I like ( let me rephrase that- I love) it when a writer makes me like and even sympathies with the villain.
    And when I write about a bad guy, I always end up liking him… How can I not, I create him, good or evil, he’s mine 🙂 And I think if you can like him and sympathize with him then so can your readers…
    Everyone can make you like a good fellow- but only a good writer can make you sympathize with the bad one and I have no doubt that you could do this. Go kick that block in the butt 😉

  • Hart

    I think your undertaking sounds FABULOUS. I think it will grow you as a writer and make your book that much more compelling. That said, have you considered writing it in PARTS? Tell it first and THEN get in his head as to what he was thinking? The REwrite can be the show. That seems like an easier way to go about it. You still have to get IN there, but it is more a puzzle then, rather than having to actually BE him. I’ve written bad guys, but I usually feel compelled to redeem them, so I know you’ve got a hard task ahead. Good luck!

    • kimberlyloomis

      Good idea, Hart! I actually wrote through pages of brutality, something it would be very hard for a reader to have sympathy for, then went on to write his beginnings only to decide I simply needed to remove him from some of the violence for a short time period in his introduction to achieve my goals.

  • Arlee Bird

    Two of your comments to posts from last week showed up on my blog. I don’t know if you made these today or if they have appeared after being lost for a while in cyberspace. Just thought I’d let you know.

    As far as writing from the pov of the darkside, I’m sometimes hesistant with a concern that readers might think this is actually coming from the real me other than my creation as an author. Just don’t want anyone to have the wrong idea.

    Tossing It Out

    • kimberlyloomis

      I actually posted the comments this week (I had copy and pasted the ones I tried posting last week) and am very glad the problem is fixed. Can’t tell you how much time I spent trying to get comments to post!

      Your fear seems to be something others have mentioned here. The bad guy doesn’t illicit my concern in such a way, but some of the plot points do.

  • DarcKnyt

    Hm. I can’t say I struggle with this, or have ever struggled with this. I’ve written a few short pieces from a perspective of a sick twist, but I’ve never had a problem with it. I don’t know how fleshing out a character for a long piece like this would be different, but I can agree with you on how so many end up two dimensional and caricatures of cartoon villainy. It’s not easy to be evil.

    The Blogger error you’re talking about — one fix is to use the Name/URL option instead of the OpenID option (if available). I have one or two like that too, and that’s the work around I found on Google’s help page. 🙂

    • kimberlyloomis

      Now why didn’t I think of that way around the Blogger issue?! Next time I shall remember. Although I dearly hope there isn’t a next time… 😉

      Definitely not easy being evil – especially when evil is purely a subjective assessment. Can’t imagine anyone we consider to be “evil” thinks of themselves that way, but instead views themselves as doing “what’s right” and “necessary”.

  • amkuska

    Poking at the darker shadows in your brain can be more uncomfortable than facing down bears or jumping out of a plane. Eventually you have to find some point of reference connected with the villain, and that point of reference is you.

    I told a short story from the perspective of a villain, and found myself admitting…I can really hold a grudge. Maybe not quite the same way the character did, but close enough.

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