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When Good Readers Fall For Bad Characters

I am sure I am not the only one that’s minding my own business reading a delightful book, and then – BAM – a bad character hits you out of nowhere. I am not talking about a poorly written character or Mary Sue/Gary Stu, but a truly bad character. A character that is amoral, mean, caustic, narcissistic, arrogant, a murder, philanderer, or some combination of these. 

They come on the scene and you spew venom and call them a few colorful names. With each page, the colorful names falter, the disdain wilts, and you find yourself turning the page, curious to read more about them if they are the main character, and anticipating the next scene that he/she is in if they are a secondary character. What happened? How did you fall for such a person?

Well, it is quite easy. Yes, I realize there are some people that will never like characters like that; for them, there is no redemption for a morally flawed character. I get it and definitely respect it. But for some, there is something that occurs while reading that fosters a level of acceptance and allows us to like someone that should otherwise be hated. I don’t know about you, but it is a little unsettling. When that happens, I feel like somehow I have betrayed my ethics and upbringing. (Sad, right?) 

As I mentioned before, I love the show Scandal, and for a long time I felt a special type of guilt about my love for Olivia (I-Am-Cheating-With-The-President) Pope and President (I-Cheat-On-My-Wife) Grant, but at the end of the day, they are characters that are fun, entertaining, and characters I enjoy watching. They are flawed individuals, and they entertain for that hour.

I am going through the same thing with a series I am reading, Barry Eisler’s excellent books about an assassin, John Rain. Yep, you read that correctly. He kills people for money and sometimes just because they needed to be eliminated. Needless to say, he isn’t very honest and he has broken his share of promises to people. Yet, while on the Arc Trainer (I read at the gym) I found myself wiping away tears while pretending to be removing sweat from my face. I turned each page with anticipation (I use my tablet—but you get the point), hoping he would get away with murder: not figuratively, but literally. When he was caught, I flipped through the pages even faster as I hoped he would get away. And my heart was just a little too heavy when he lost his lover. I was pulled into his world, felt his pain, the trauma of his childhood,the hopelessness of his life, and in the end, I was able to be entertained by a person I would never want to meet in real life. And I can honestly say it was one of the best books I have ever read.

I’m writing this because, as you may know, Chris is getting her own series. Several times while writing her book, I closed the file and right clicked the mouse to delete the file and give up on any idea of writing her story. People hate Chris. And that makes me wonder if my interest in her is an imposition on my loyal readers. But with the encouragement of friends and my editor, I have chosen to continue. If you decide to follow her series and hate it and Chris, blame my friends and editor. (Send me an email, I’ll give you their contact information :) ) Plenty of Skylar fans won’t like it, but I’ve realized that Chris has a story to tell, and honestly I can’t wait to see where the muse leads me with it.

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2 Comments on "When Good Readers Fall For Bad Characters"

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By all means write what you love Ms.Mckenzie. I am part of the group who is not a big fan of Chris. I’m a Skylar Fan all the way (and JOSH TOO) but I am sure a lot of chris fans out there will enjoy your new series. Best of Luck!!


Thank you!