A Broken Clock that Ticks

Posted: November 1, 2014 in Uncategorized
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In my home language at school we did a novel called Kringe in ‘n Bos (Circles in a Forrest)

I want to stop there, but this novel had received even a good international reception after it had been translated. The thing is that it is the writer’s voice and not the plot nor the characters that saved it. Saved it? Must be bad, huh? No, not bad… not great either. I gave it three stars in a review.

One of the biggest problems with this novel was how it handled its characters other than the main one. The main character wasn’t great either. I call him Super Woodcutter. I am here to discuss the antagonist. He is a liar, slaver, shrewd businessman and prospecter that hates mother nature and trades ivory. He is ruthless, evil, bad. That is an idea repeated in many ways. So it is a flat character, so what?

You never get to see his motives beyond greed. No history. He just loves oppressing others. This is not necessarily wrong, but if a writer neglects his antagonist and just makes him do stuff it makes you wonder if that world is normal. Whether it is or not, if this happens a reader will want to know more about the bad guy. I never got acquainted with him.

I will discuss the golden good guy and the rotten bad guy in detail later.I am referring to how some writers strip their antagonist of all humanity and seeming thought. How then should a reader react? Like I said, it could work. So I will ask you this: who is your favourite bad guy in a novel or movie? Why?

Firstly, bad guys do deserve more time. If not, the reader may lose interest. Secondly, he needs some form of history. At least for me. I want to know what makes the broken clock still tick. Thirdly, most bad guys are human and believe it or not they also want friends, love and other things normal people want. This is how a reader will see his true motives and even identify with him. These bad guys are often more powerful than the evil monster we sometimes imagine. All of us have been the antagonist in some situations, but we most probably had the right motives. This is my favourite type of antagonist. Not an animal, not crazy, but somewhat delusional or even disillusioned.

  1. I’ve sat in small interrogation rooms with a lot of bad guys. I’ve been to their homes and their jobs (yes, bad guys sometimes actually WORK). Usually they are not completely and totally bad. They have moms and dads and kids and aunties and grams. They can do dastardly deeds and not feel too bad about it but they are humans too. I try to write them with an eye toward reality. They screw up and laugh and cry and they get scared. Who’d a thunk it!


  2. The worst is when the backstory of an antagonist isn’t expressed at all. The “bad guy” is bad because that’s what the writer wanted and that’s all there is to it. (Just look the majority of Disney movies for reference.) The best kind of bad guys in my opinion are the ones who have a conscious – who /know/ what they are doing is bad, but have to do it, or feel obligated to in some way. Bad guys should be the characters we love to hate, at least in my opinion.

    Liked by 3 people

    • stefooch says:

      Yup, that is what Disney would do. I also agree with the bad guy that has knowledge of his evil ways and it does work. There needs to be balance. I also think that antagonist relationships must be explored.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I think “bad guys” need a lot more thought and development than protagonists. They’re often much more complicated – and, in some cases, interesting. It can be great fun.


  4. stefooch says:

    We tend to forget about that and I agree. Those who are more messed up than the protagonist will probably be more interesting.


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