Pushing on with I Knew Him today. I was thinking about characters recently, having re-read “Nightwatch” for the umpteenth time, and the fact that the person who had recently fed back on I Knew Him had said (and she stressed that it wasn’t a bad thing) that she didn’t like the characters much.
I suppose I’ve never written nice characters. Ambrose was possibly one of the “nicest” I’ve written, but he was a wet hen and his sole purpose was to grow up and grow a pair. I wouldn’t say he was particularly nice when he did – he was just mildly nicer than most other people in the book—apart from perhaps the priest.
Nightwatch – and I will never be able to lick its boots – and particularly Sam Vimes illustrates this for me. Because Sam is a “Good Guy” but he’s most certainly NOT a nice person. The best thing you can say about him is that he can rein in the darkest part of his psyche, just barely—keeping it locked up in chains—but it’s always there, sniffing for the least little opportunity to get off its leash. He’s self-deprecating to the nth degree, has an enormous chip on his shoulder and hates just about everyone in the world except his wife, Vetinari and a few watchmen that he could trust with his life (if not the tea money.) What terrifies me, and very probably what also terrified the Monks of History, is what on earth would Vimes had become if he hadn’t come under the very temporary good influence of “John Keel”? It doesn’t bear thinking about.
None of my characters are anywhere near that mind-crushingly brilliant, but I do like to show that they are human, and full of the foibles and idiocy that that implies (and you only have to be on the internet for two minutes to see that fact explored). I know what she meant, though – many writers write Good Chaps who are basically decent and might make mistakes but they need to be a bit heroic, otherwise they wouldn’t be heroes. I tend to like characters with a healthy dark streak.
Those who spring to mind:
Apropos of Nothing
Mario Santelli from the Catch trap
Belimai Sykes from Wicked Gentlemen
I’m sure there are loads of others, but I can’t think of them right now. I hesitate to say “Aragorn” because people will jump on me and complain. How very dare I, indeed.
Do you have any multi-faceted morally ambiguous characters you can’t resist? Do tell!!