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Character debate: Everyone thinks they are good people...

Discussion in 'Tea Room (Book Chat)' started by tirial, 11 May 2018.

  1. tirial

    tirial IT fixer extraordinaire

    I've heard many writers say that every character thinks they are a good person. I've even had someone say that to me in real life. And I don't think it's true.

    I've met people who don't think they are good, they think they are the only person, and others who outright reject the idea and gleefully embrace trying to make the world a worse place for everyone. There are many people who just don't think about whether they are good or evil at all, and others who simply don't care. Why shouldn;t this be reflected in writing?

    They may think they are the 'hero', but that's hero in the form of the Greek sense: a protagonist who moves the action, not a good or modern-day heroic person. So why is it standard writing advice to make sure that everyone thinks they are good? It can make the characters seem a bit flat.
     
  2. Kindler

    Kindler Active Member

    I don't think it's true. I'm fairly certain there are plenty of characters out there, who are not only evil, but embrace that fact and revel in it. They would never describe themselves as good. They may well describe themselves as right, but definitely doing evil.

    Perhaps this is a case of authors writing what they want to believe or even only writing what they can comprehend. Unless it is one of these new fads and styles that has come out to make all the characters more relatable. I really, really don't want to relate to a murdering psychopath thank you very much.

    It shouldn't be that the characters are good, but that they are consistent.

    Heh, here's a very recent example. Thanos from the Infinity War movie. He knows what he is doing is not "good", in terms of what good is currently described as today, but he certainly thinks he is doing the right thing, no matter how horrific those acts may be.
     
  3. Honeybee42

    Honeybee42 New Member

    I think it's a bit of trying to invert something that I have read (that no one thinks they are evil) in an effort to avoid cartoon-level villainy. I'll agree with the no one thinks they are evil.

    I can see the "every character thinks they are a good person" if it's written well enough that even though Character X says/thinks that they're a good person, as a reader, I can see that Character X is either flat-out wrong or horribly mistaken.

    I guess that's a long way around of saying "doesn't think he is evil" =/= "thinks he is a good person".
     
  4. Terry

    Terry Member

    It's probably another trope that gets bought up as the "in thing" to do these days, but I'd bet that Hannibal Lecter doesn't think he is good or righteous in any way.

    If they can make the character interesting with a solid backstory which justifies their POV, no matter how far fetched and can make the reader see how they got to that position, then great.
     
  5. Tregaron

    Tregaron Member

    Would you say it is truer that every character thinks their actions are justified? That is very different to saying characters must believe that they are good.
     
  6. Honeybee42

    Honeybee42 New Member

    Yes, that sounds much more accurate, to me.

    I do know, that for myself, reading about a villain who might as well list "Hobbies: kicking puppies, destroying children's sandcastles, and stealing from orphans" is just plain boring.
     
  7. tirial

    tirial IT fixer extraordinaire

    Justified to themselves is a good way to put it. After all, the reader may disagree, but if they can see how the character justifies it to themselves then it is still believable.
    My main complaint about characters like that is that their backstory must be fascinating. Sadly that is not the story that the author chose to write.
     
  8. Reader

    Reader Vile Critic

    I have seen one book where a villain was of that type, which I loved. Admittedly, the villain was being paid by the hero, who had run in all the actual villains, to give him someone to fight so his sponsorship deals kept coming in.
     
  9. atry

    atry Member

    What about random characters like the Joker, or his indie equivalent Jack Slash? I don't think the Joker ever justifies anything. Neither of them think they are doing good, either.
     
  10. jessica

    jessica Active Member

    ::rofl::::lol::::rofl:: How often does that happen, you know, that a character drops a comment about something and you just think that story would be much better than this one?
     
  11. porridge

    porridge Member

    Come on! Larger-than-life moustache-twirling villains can be fun and ham-tastic. No one else here loved booing Blackbeard at the panto?
     
  12. Honeybee42

    Honeybee42 New Member

    My general experience is that people who write such villains can't do a proper job of it. More like "I'm going to engineer the release of this murderer via my role as head honcho of the police just to stick it to you, detective who quit sleeping with me".
     
  13. Angel

    Angel Munificent Critic

    I always seem to find it comes under the reader* must empathise with character to fully understand the reasons why they are acting the way they are. And as authors only see themselves as good people, make the mistake of trying to make the villans, in some part, good as well. Write what you know and so on.


    * No, no that @Reader
     

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