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On Morally Gray Characters

missgoomba39 asked: “I wanted to ask you how to write a morally gray character and make them interesting but not seem completely evil?”

I won’t lie – I love morally gray characters. My favorite books are full of them – characters who are just not nice, characters who commit murder, who lie, who cheat, steal, say horrible horrible things to their own mothers – horrible people can be fascinating heroes. 

When it comes to writing these kinds of characters, if they are protagonists, there should be some kind of logic or understanding of them and their motives. A character might say something terrible to his mother, but you want to know why he’s saying these things. What’s his perspective? I don’t think that the reader needs to agree with them, but to get the reader to be at least on their side, there has to be some reason why the reader is willing to stay with them. 

I think too, that a morally gray characters needs to be a mixed bag. You need to know what is good about this person. When do they act nicely? Who do they care about? Who are they kind to? So, back to the character who mouthed off to his mom – he might resent her, but maybe he’s great to his sister? What are their good qualities? What brings out the worst in them? 

The important thing too is to be consistent. If it seems like random things set off this character right and left, the reader isn’t learning anything about them. If they have an issue with their parents however, everything negative will likely center around that or come back to that. A few related things that set the character off will show the reader what the problem is. 

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