Writerly Notions: Characters & Negativity

One thing I’ve found out about myself, and which is part of why I’ve begun to think that I’m not future-author material, is that I can’t see the appeal of writing about sad or difficult things.

To be a little clearer:  if I’m feeling crummy, why would I want to actualize my dense, dragged-down, twisted, tangled feelings into words? Won’t it just leave me more exhausted and drained and defeated?

Additionally, why would I want to write about characters’ (whom I like) suffering, be it mentally, physically, or emotionally? (Okay, that’s not entirely true; there is a kind of…satisfaction from watching a character go through struggles and change as a result.)

I suppose it’s truer to say that I have a hard time getting why a writer would create characters who do intentionally terrible things.

I can get characters doing what they think is right or characters acting on their own sense of identity and integrity. But that that identity or sense of right would be to compromise the humanity of others…like why? What’s the appeal?

I can get characters who would see others as necessary or unnecessary pieces in an elaborate plan. I can get characters being spiteful to a friend he thinks has wronged him. I can get how characters would be dismissive of others or be nasty to a protagonist. But that they’d…intentionally wish to do something that would compromise the integrity and autonomy of another living entity… How? Why?

More specifically, why would you write that? Or want to? Or construct a story that needed that? (Okay, that’s not fair; I can think of stories where it would be part of the construction. Also, I can’t hold it against someone who would write a character like that. Not every character has to be…well, respectful of living dignity.)

I think what baffles me about all this  is less that the character might be created and more the idea that my aim as a writer is to create conflict and struggle. I’m supposed to makes things unpleasant for my characters.

I’ve realized that, sometimes, I don’t really want to write about bad things. But without conflict, there’s no story. (Hm, I wonder if this is why someone recommended Anne of Green Gables as a story/writer template/inspiration…) Because I just realized that conflict doesn’t mean negative. And I think that’s what I was working with. Not the idea of conflict but the idea that conflict had to be negative. It had to degrade and disgrace and crush and disgust. But conflict is just tension between outcomes. Hm…

(Although, to be fair, this post is hypocritical, since I do have a character, of sorts, who’s a real nasty guy (?) — he’s not human anyway — and there are definitely mindsets that are very dismissive toward the rights and autonomy of others in background / future writing ideas. Some of which I realized in the last few weeks, but still.)

Anyway this was mostly a stream of consciousness. I’ll see what thoughts — because of course I will! — I have later on this. Feel free to share your thoughts. I might not have much to say or even known what I’m saying, but the offer’s there if you have thoughts.


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