Tuesday, 23 August 2011

How do your characters sleep at night?

A few nights ago I was planning to rob a bank with a bunch of thugs (none of them George Clooney unfortunately). I won't disclose the details in case I ever decide to take up that career, but when I woke up I felt as if it had all been real. For a whole day, I had this burden on my shoulders that only lifted when I remembered that it had only been a dream. I kept reminding myself that I didn't have to feel bad about going into a bank and shouting at the bank manager -although that could happen even if I wasn't robbing the bank. I didn't have to feel anxious in case I got caught, because there would be no grand escape or car persecution. It was only a dream.

However, my conscience had something to say about my dream's scenario. It was telling me it was wrong. So I keep wondering how swindlers, robbers, murderers and any other offenders can sleep at night. Don't they feel bad about it? Isn't there a little voice telling them that that's wrong?

I've been reading Nicola Morgan's fantastic Write to be Published and it has a whole section on characters. One of the things she mentions is villains and how they should have some redeemable feature (she says it much better than I do, of course, but I've paraphrased her). And the truth is, that hopefully the baddies in our stories have a conscience too, the little voice reminding them that they're behaving badly. We will have a rounder character if they hesitate before acting and have doubts eating them up. If there is a believable reason behind their behaviour.

So, I'm going to dig into my baddy's behaviour, make him think about it (maybe he should sit on the thinking step) and I hope he will feel bad about it.

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