As I am at the end of the rough drafts of Karda: Adalta Book I and Hunter: Adalta Book II, it is quite late to make major changes, so inevitably I discover major changes to make. That’s what a rough draft is about. Arrrg.
Writing my evil character was fun. I could put the energy of all those icky behaviors I hope I don’t have into writing and make it fun.
Readen is indeed evil. But my much-abused editor pointed out to me, not just once, that even the most evil person, with few exceptions, is all EVIL in capital letters. To make an evil character believable, he also has to have some ordinary, normal, human, even GOOD characteristics.
Then, just in time, I found two excellent books on writing characters—The Positive Trait Thesaurus and The Negative Trait Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Publisi. Wow.
So, I decided to do a revised character sketch for Readen, the bad guy in my series. First I concentrated on Readen’s negative characteristics and the wounds that made him what he is. What I’ve already written falls into that category. It was easy. Too easy. And flat. A little worm of doubt started working busily in the back of my mind, building its cocoon. It had been building that cocoon through the drafts of both books.
Finally, my drafts finished, the cocoon finished, and the larva inside metamorphosed. A fully formed Doubt Moth emerged and fluttered its way into the front of my mind.
While I worked to decode the message marked on its wings, I found Ackerman and Publisi's books. They helped me decode it before the moth began to eat holes in my story. The words No One Is Completely Evil emerged.
So, how does one portray the good side of The Evil One without eroding how truly evil he is? I’m sure there are plenty of other books or sites that do that very well, but I couldn’t think of any right away. I googled "writing evil". Wow. Of course. There were 79,200,000 entries.
I had just confronted a major personal flaw, which, when I look at my brothers and sister, has to be inherited.
Never Ask How Because You Already Know Everything And Do Not Need To Read Directions.
This character trait is a particularly brittle one which breaks the minute you’re forced to look at it head-on. Mine had broken once again. (This is an experience repeated so often in my life you’d think it would never surprise me. Oops. It always does.)
So here is the description of Readen’s character traits that I'll experiment with in the editing and rewriting stage. Is it believable? Does it make Readen approachable? Can an ordinary-not=particularly-evil-person identify with him now? Can you feel empathy for him and still be appalled (and maybe just a little intrigued) by his Evil Side.
I hope it works.
His Truly-Evil Side
He is callous, disregards other’s needs, is manipulative and lacks empathy, does not like to be touched, is emotionally detached, vengeful, narcissistic, relentless, and easily irritated. He hides all this behind his smiling, helpful, deliberate facade of interest in others and carefully cultivated smiles that create deep crinkles beside his eyes. He is also a traitor (not a spoiler alert, this becomes obvious soon in book one)and the root cause of his bitter wickedness can be defined by the words rancorous resentment.
There are more and worse traits and behaviors, but those would be spoiler alerts.
His Likable-Good Side
He has a terrible childhood wound—a devastating accident of birth no one in the world of Adalta has ever faced. He is independent and self-reliant, decisive, sophisticated and socially polished. His powers of persuasion, both magically augmented and inborn are powerful. He moves toward his goal with relentless, patience, and resolution. He can be playful, flirtatious, and amusing (although with a bite).
His Could-Go-Either-Way Side
Passionate, out-going, intelligent, imaginative, disciplined, responsible, efficient. Humor belongs on this list, too. He uses it both ways.
Most of the traits on these lists are in The Positive Trait Thesaurus and The Negative Trait Thesaurus. Just working out these lists has made my character more real to me, and I look forward to seeing how I can us them as I rewrite. I think I need to do the same thing for my two main protagonists.
There’s another evil being in the Adalta Series: The Itza Larrak. This is my list for it.
Evil Side: He is not human. Humans are tools. Wound: He is the only being of his kind on Adalta. Good: Not so much.
As always, I would love to hear your thoughts, so comment below. please.