Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Getting under the skin of a very bad man

To be perfectly honest, my favourite "bad good guy", James Edward Guillaume, was a complete surprise. When the idea for my urban fantasy novel, Khepera Rising, came to me late 2006, I'd had no idea I'd be creating a character who was, really, just so degenerate and by ordinary standards irredeemable. But what got me buzzing was that I knew I wanted to subvert readers' sensibilities and loyalties by having them empathise with the lead character who was, essentially, the antagonist in the story.

What if the bad guy was the good guy? What if the bad guy won for a change?

Those were the questions I posed myself when I set about writing my novel. James Edward Guillaume is not a very nice man. I make absolutely no apologies for his behaviour or his outlook on life. He is a narcissist, he has a problem with substance abuse, and he also holds incredible power to damage the people around him, not to mention the fabric of reality.

Of course these issues also create the crux for his problems, which seek resolution near the end of the novel. How he copes with these issues, both external and internal, and how he grows as a character are what is at stake.

I don't ask readers to like him, merely to see the world from his point of view for a while. And the best part is seeing how many of my readers were cheering for Jamie near the end, despite hating him for being such a right tosser.

Writing a "bad" character is much more fun than sticking with Captain Goodie-two-shoes. Sometimes you want to take a character and beat some sense into them when they act boorish or make horrendous mistakes, but as a reader, you can't do that. You're dragged along for the ride and half the fun is seeing how a bad character, with massive flaws, is able to turn around a sticky situation.

In conclusion, fantasy author Greg Hamerton had this to say: "Through sleight-of-hand plotting and misdirection Dorman induces the reader to empathise with Jamie, and we become complicit in his actions, participating in his sins whilst pretending not to know. The result of this manipulation is an emotional trap and you begin to understand that you will only find release from Jamie’s dragging guilt by reading through to the end."

For further information, see: http://www.lyricalpress.com/khepera_rising

3 comments:

Rebecca Rose said...

What a great idea; the bad guy being the good guy. Not many authors could pull something like this off, but you my dear, have done it! :)

Becc

Robert said...

I am really looking forward to reading this. Now I just need some time to snuggle up with the old laptop and my copy of the book :)

kanishk said...

so the antangonist is capabale in the reader's mind of challenging the protagnist.

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