Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Writing the Characters We Like (to Read About?)

Writer E. A. Durden, in an article for Glimmer Train, says, “A gulf yawns between the stories I love to read and the stories I write. I see it every time I work on a draft. My fundamental problem: I want my fictional characters to be liked. I make them too nice. Decency is the scourge I must arm myself against.

I think many writers would identify with this. I enjoy reading about characters who are complex, conflicted, flawed, and, sometimes, not especially nice!  We are fascinated about gaining insights about the human experience.  Life, loss, hope, dreams.  We all experience these.  Some of the writers I most admire explore dark subjects and amoral characters, tackling aspects of the human psyche that can be difficult to confront.  Yet I have an innate anxiety about writing in this way.  It scares me.   

I have done it a few times in several short stories for adults – but when I read back over them, sometimes I’m left feeling uncomfortable that such characters and plots came from my imagination. Like I am responsible for their actions. Which, since I created them, I am.  All very baffling.  Maybe I’m worried that the people I know will judge me negatively if I create monsters? If you can offer any insights I would be interested to hear them.

Anyway, thanks to the wonderful I recently read and enjoyed 2 excellent pieces that explored issues such as these. 

Is what you like to read different from what you write about?  Does this mean anything?  Can our understanding of this inform our work as writers?


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  1. Ha ha ha, I am useless as writing villains ;)


    1. I am thinking about collating a few of my stories about not so nice characters into a mini collection, if I get the nerve.