Attitude. How amazing a thing it is. It is normally defined as the degree to which a person likes or dislikes something. But it is more than that. It is the degree to which the like/dislike affects the behaviour and beliefs of a person. The way that these beliefs and behaviours make that person interact with their world.
Take aggression. It is often manifests in the way a person stands, the cock of their head, the facial expression. Those with softer expressions and looser body posture are seen to be less aggressive and this description is more times than not attributed to women. And it is often women who innately react to aggressive postures without actually knowing it. They then react with either caution or positively depending on their own attitude (and whether they like bad boys). That is not to say that men don’t have the same reactions but theirs are likely to be more muted. I think everyone knows the psychological, physical and historical reasons for this.
What intrigues me is more it anger. It is not just a feeling in some people, both male and female. It is an attitude. Their every move is filled with the tension of unshed, unaccepted, deep anger and rage. And it is this type of personality that is often cast as the villain/antagonist in fiction (and often are villains in real life too).
At the CSfG meeting last Wednesday evening, Ian Mc took the group through a wonderful exercise. A short, short story of 5 paragraphs introducing 5 characters each who did not seem to have any redeeming features. He asked us to rank the characters in order with 1 the least likable. Then we discussed each persons choices. Great fun, huge differences in choices and reasons for them. We then had to find a way to make them more sympathetic in readers eyes. Again everyone had a different idea. Some, as is usual of CSfG members, quite nefarious.
Although this exercise was one of redemption of initially unlikable characters it got me to thinking about just that. Redemption. How can you keep someone aggressive and angry without putting your readers in a position where they hate to keep reading or are bored with the ‘baddie’. A warrior is aggressive, but a king/queen, prince, warlord or any leader for that matter with a lot of suppressed rage or anger seems to be more fun to write than to read. The attitude gives so much room for abhorrent behaviour and senseless bloodshed. But how do you make such a person redeemable? Because doing so gives the character more dimensions, more range.
A difficult background seems an easy way out. Making them love their fluffy puppy again is a no-brainer but not very interesting and overly used.
So, my question to anyone reading this is to provide some interesting ways a really nasty person, an aggressive and angry one, could show something that makes them tolerable.
I will think about it and, if there are any responses, put these in with my next post.