Unbelievably good characters

There is a splinter of ice in the heart of a writer.

Graham Greene

I’ve got a writing problem that seems to mystify my writing friends: my characters seem to be inordinately good souls. Apparently I need to learn how to create believably bad individuals — I need to hone that splinter of ice that Graham Greene mentions.

For example, beloved gravedigger Adam, in the second volume of Biome NE47, well, he makes our daughter gag. ‘Too insufferably wonderful Dad!’ But I love him, dearest daughter, what am I going to do?

I had a thought that for his appearance in Volume III, I’d try to convey a little pretentiousness, just a soupçon of pomposity, as he flaunts his intellectual credentials, daring his audience to understand what he means. He’s getting old, nearly 50 now, and he’s lost patience with those he might consider fools. No more glad suffering maybe.

Oddly, I don’ t have any problems identifying why I don’t get along with certain people in real life. But when people emerge from the page, unfailingly they turn into good, well-meaning souls! I suspect that my issue here is that I’m not very talented at depicting character in general, and so I’m missing the opportunity to describe failings experienced by a saint, or conversely good qualities about a miscreant.

So this week I’m going to work on writing some badness. As actors say, playing the baddy is much more fun than the goody-two-shoes. I’ve got about three more scenes until I reckon I’ve reached the end of the beginning of Volume III.

I can’t wait to get to this point, to be honest, because then I can leave the Biome series alone and fallow for a while, so that I can concentrate once again on the developing story of Keep Me in Your Heart, an historical fiction from WWI and into the inter-war years. But more about that in another post.

By Larry Winger

Retired scientist, devoted diarist (AllendaleDiary.org), community-minded aspirant novelist, I've lived on a smallholding in the East Allen Valley for the past 30 years, delighting in watching our family grow up, in experiencing the development of our grandsons, and in taking care of our small flock of chickens and garden.

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