Tuesday, March 8, 2011
The Not-So-Nice Guys
I'm fighting with my WIP at the moment, so we're taking a break. At the present moment, I'm watching South Park and making one of my lovely dollies.
Anyone who knows me, knows I LOVE LOVE LOVE South Park. I could talk for hours about what I love about this show, but let's save that for another day, shall we?
Instead, we're going to talk about Eric Cartman. I linked to his wiki page there for a couple of reasons. 1) if you feel like actually delving into his character, I'm never against that. 2) More importantly, scroll half way down the page. Cartman has a section labeled "Criminal record." Because of how long it is, I'm going to do just a brief summary:
--> Murder by proxy
--> Attempted Murder
--> Attempted Genocide
--> Theft/Obstruction of Criminal Investigation
--> Violation of firearm laws/threatening with a deadly weapon
--> Hate Crimes
--> Kidnapping and False Imprisonment
--> War Crimes
--> Breaking and Entering
--> Hit and Run
--> Blackmailing/Framing/False Evidence
--> Forceful confinement
Jesus. You know, I was only going to list a few, but I figured I might as well throw it all up there. Granted, he's had fourteen years on the air to build up his criminal record, but considering he's only nine years old, it's still pretty impressive.
Now, I hear a lot of new writers worry about writing bad characters. Characters that may be villains in a different book. And honestly, half the time they couldn't compare to the stuff Cartman's done. And yet South Park is still on the air, a large part of that is thanks to Cartman.
South Park has characters like Kyle or Stan that viewers can sympathize with. Cartman, however, appeals to our darker side. We want to watch what Cartman will do next. More so, we want to know why he does what he does, which is why episodes like Tsst and Fishsticks do so well. They delve into Cartman's psyche and reveals that he doesn't do this because he doesn't have a conscience, he does it because he thinks he's doing the right thing.
I want to see more characters like Cartman. I want to see the darker side treaded on, especially in young adult. Teens are exposed to things like drugs, violence, sex, gangs, abuse, self-mutilation, suicide, ect. Teens aren't babies. They've been exposed to the darker side of life and it's fascinating.
So write more dark characters, but if you're going to do it, then delve into the why. That's what makes villains and anti-heroes so amazing. The why. Are they like Cartman, who believes he's doing the right thing? Is she aware that she's walking a fine line between insanity and the norm but is tempted anyway? Does he lack the ability to understand the difference between right and wrong? Does she lack empathy?
Murderers, rapists, deranged psychos, they were all teenagers once. Delve into their heads, find out what makes them tick. Don't just get into the darkness that they create, but the darkness within. Throw controversies and the fear of stepping on people's toes aside. Write dark characters who are honest and true and you will create something special. And even if we don’t sympathize with the character, we’ll be fascinated by them and drawn deeper into the story to see just how it’ll come to an end.