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Thursday, February 11, 2010

February: Why are Evil Characters so Appealing?

In our last discussion on whether there's such a thing as a purely evil person, featured author Sharon Draper raised this question:

Why are evil characters so much more interesting that characters who smile all the time and never break the rules?

What do you think, readergirlz?

13 comments:

Mimi Five said...

There needs to be some sort of conflict in a good story right? Something that a protagonist has to overcome. Evil characters stir up conflict and an average or goody two shoes character would most likely avoid those kinds of situations that would create drama in a story. A lot of really popular reality shows are not appealing to so many people because of the actual events. These shows are actually about nothing at all but all have at least a few outrageously awful people who are good at stirring up conflict, even when there is nothing to fight about.
Thinking about this makes me wonder... do we always need to see the evil character defeated in some way in literature? It seems like reality dramas are more popular when they have unresolved conflict. I wonder if we look for something different in written word?

Erin said...

I don't think it's evil characters that are appealing so much as COMPLEX characters. We want someone to relate to, and all humans have good and bad in them. Someone 'too good' isn't going to have the appeal that someone with conflict going on will.

Priya said...

Another thing about evil characters is that they usually have an interesting background, or something happened in their life that made them evil. Protagonists can be interesting, but they are usually less complicated than villains.

Morgan said...

The reason I like reading about "evil" characters is because it's the opposite of who I am-the good girl. So reading about someone that is so unlike me really takes me out of my world and lets me experience something I'm not used to experiencing.

Little Willow said...

I'm with Erin: Complex characters are more interesting to me than "evil" characters.

Kelsey C. said...

the evil people are just so UNPREDICTABLE and more entertaining than the characters that you KNOW are going to follow all the rules. I would really like to find a book where the bad guy is a protagonist. (vocab word!!!) Does anybody know any book like that?

thanks!<3

Melissa Walker said...

I'm with Morgan. I've been so good all my life that I like seeing the world of someone evil...

Kelsey, whenever there's an evil protagonist, they always end up seeming not so evil b/c you know their inner thoughts, right? I'm thinking...

servalan said...

I'm definitely with Erin who said that evil characters are more complex, but the offshoot of that is that they're also easier to identify with these days. Sometimes a "good" character has no personality other than their "goodness" (and the fact that they perform "good" actions without worrying about the other options).

On the other hand, an "evil" character has the chance to consider other choices. Maybe they'll make the "good" choice in the end, but the act of getting to that point wasn't obvious. Where a "good" character must be unrealistically earnest, an "evil" character doesn't have to be all, "I must do this because I'm evil."

Interestingly, the "earnestly good" and "earnestly evil" characterizations used to go the other way. Bad guys were one-dimensional and had no motivation (other than being evil), whereas good guys made choices. When did this change?

Lorie Ann Grover said...

Hey, I'm just back from a sci-fi con where this was discussed. There were writers on the panel with Dia who believed you could have purely evil characters in novels. *sigh* Please, no! We want complex characters with depth and an arc.

But, maybe in the world of comics, pure evil flourishes? I don't know enough about the form!

holly cupala said...

About fiction in general, I think it allows us to explore ideas and extreme scenarios not normally allowed to us in real life - to confront a villain is to confront strong feelings in ourselves, things we struggle with, people we have conflicted with, and possibly make sense of them. And fiction allows a resolution not necessarily possible in life. And hopefully, it points the way to better ways of dealing with our own villains.

usagirl798 said...

evil? not sure anyone can be completly evil. or if a character is, its not very realistic. complex characters, i think, are what are the most compelling. And generally these characters have a dark side; sometimes a dark side so overwellming they appear evil.
but i also think dark characters are so appealing because many readers can relate to those mixed emotions. if all of us where goodie two shoes all the time the world would boring. but i also think dark characters are intruging because they do what sometimes we wish we could do; though we don't like to admit it.
and they like to stur up trouble. and where would the writing world be without conflict?

abby said...

evil characters are so appealing because i guess...it's a change from the goody-goody always doing the right thing kind of person. like in harry potter, dumbledore can get boring sometimes and that's why people like voldemort. and i guess the evil characters make the story worth reading. like if there was only good people in the book, what would the conflict be at all?

Dia Calhoun said...

A character who is pure evil is not redeemable and thus has no arc in a story. Sauron is an example of this. Characters who are pure evil are neither interesting or real.