When Negatives Are Good

You know those moments in life when you want to turn around to someone and tell them the truth about how insane they make you, but you know you can't because you'll destroy a friendship or lose your job? Or how about if you've had a bad day and all you want to do is stand in the middle of a room and SCREAM YOUR HEAD OFF.

We don't do these things because social etiquette tells us not to, especially that last one.  However! As a writer, isn't it awesome to know you can write characters blowing up over the little things? It could be the starting point for your story.  Say, a stressed employee blows up at her evil boss and goes off to seek her fortune in the crazy world of Internet meme creation.

Best. Meme. EVER.

My old writing tutor told us all to forget about social niceties, no matter what genre we were writing.  Even in a contemporary story, no one picks up a book and wants to read about Nicey McNicerton from Nicetown where happiness and contentedness remain unspoilt for eternity and nothing ever happens.

Characters need to get angry and do stupid things.  They need to have moments when everything gets too much for them and the cracks show.  They need to panic and turn their backs on the people who need them.  They have to fail when they really, really need to succeed.  Why? Because that's where the story is.  If your main character never does anything bad or never shows any weakness, they may come across as boring.

Think about some of the big twists in your story.  Do they happen because of a character's weakness? Does your character show weakness? Is there a moment when your character's self-esteem takes a knock because of their own stupidity? Think about yourself and some of the silly things you've done.  They're as much a part of your make-up as all the positive aspects of your personality. Make sure your characters have some negative traits to balance all their shiny goodness.

In other words, channel all your negativity into your character.  Let them have the public meltdown you can't.  It'll be very cathartic, and could make for an engaging read!


  1. This is very true, and beautifully put. I'm as timid as a church mouse, so I love reading about reckless characters.

  2. Yes! I totally agree! I just wrote a similar blog post actually :) Characters don't need to be positive!

  3. It's so true. I recently rewrote a scene. In the original version (which my workshop group at school read) my protag had a conversation with her mom that had a bit of tension in it, but she ended up apologizing for something she did earlier. Everyone said the scene felt just tacked on at the end of the chapter. When I rewrote it, my protag ended up not apologizing, but exploding at her mom. Nothing got resolved and the tension was amped up 100% more. And everyone loved it.
    We have to be mean to our chars and make them do mean things. Otherwise, they're not very fun.
    Great post!

  4. Bwahahaha! I LOVE this picture!

    ALso, I love writing characters who aren't bound by the same rules of social convention that I am. Poor impulse control is my friend in fiction! Don't like that guy? Punch him in the head.

    Bring on the fight scene!

  5. I'm actually worried about that exact thing in my WIP right now. While my character definitely has weaknesses, I'm worried that she's a little too NICE. Yikes.

  6. Absolutely: Channel your inner infant-bitch-hysteric. This reminds me of some advice that brilliant Editor Cheryl Klein offered in her new book, Second Sight: If you're querying and getting rejections: Put your rage and pain into your characters. Wow, that is just so *healthy* it's scary!

  7. This is one of my FAVOURITE things about writing - I can express my rage on paper in ways that society would never allow me to, thus preventing me from getting into any kind of trouble whilst blowing off some major steam and having a TON of fun into the bargain!

  8. Christine: It's fun, isn't it? I always wish "gosh, I wish I could get away with that!"

    AJ Mullarky: Exactly, although there's also a fine line between too perky and too angsty.


    Jen: Isn't it BRILLIANT? Google "Baby Godfather". Punching in the head? I *LOVE* it :D

    Melanie: Give her a negative quality. Maybe she's got a short fuse or maybe she's a bit two-faced. Make her do something outlandish!

    Gail: Oooh that is such good advice! I'm going to remember that!

    Crystal: Exactly! It's such a release to just let it all out!

  9. Great points! A perfect character is hard to take. And a character must act. It's very important.

  10. Kirsten: I read a book in the summer with a perfect character... It was SO boring. Mind-numbingly dull. I gave up on said book without finishing it.

    Kris: Absolutely! :D

  11. 'Tell Tony to drown the bitch' Love it!!!

    Yes, I'm far too nice in real life (honest ;P) and I love writing for letting me flex the evil side of my brain mwah hah hah.

  12. Amanda: That's just one of many, and they're all brilliant XD

    Writing is definitely the best way for us to flex our evil tendencies ;)


Post a Comment

Popular Posts