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FOCUSING ON THE BAD GUYS

March 30, 2016

I guess there are some people that just love bummer stories. I know Stephen King does. That’s one reason I tend to avoid any book with his endorsement on it. I’ve been burned too many times when I’ve seen his blurb saying how much he loved a book only to find out the hero, or heroes all die in the end. For those of you that know me, I hate lousy payoffs.

Once again, as a heavy reader, as well as a writer, I’m never wont for inspiration. Case in point, I book I just read. In this story, the focus was on the bad guys.

WHY PICK THE BAD GUYS?

I suppose there’s always the simple reason that the story calls for it. For an author, you have to follow your muse. On the other hand, if it’s out of sheer boredom and you want to give your reader a twist, okay. However, does it really work? Sure, it has in the past and there are plenty of classic movies (and books) to prove it. Anyone seen Bonnie And Clyde? Thelma And Louise? In Bonnie and Clyde, they’re pure evil, well at least Clyde is. In Thelma and Louise, they’re just a couple of women who get into a bad situation and end up with a bummer ending. In both cases, the key is the bummer ending.

I’m being very general here, so don’t get in a fluff.

In the one book I read that I will name because it was the most awful piece of crap I’ve ever read, The Ruins, there was nothing redeemable about it. The “heroes” weren’t so much good or bad guys as they were just a bunch of whiny millennial schmucks who all ended up dead. No payoff at all. What I thought would be a great icky bug, recommended by Stephen King, was a complete waste of time with lots of characterizations (rambling) and the ending was terrible.

Going back to the main theme, some authors like to tell the story through the bad guy’s point of view to delve into their motivations and feelings. In other words, they put on the black hat, versus the white hat. All the while, the reader knows from the beginning that they’re (the main characters) more than likely going to get it in the end. I guess the enticement is to see if somehow, they can pull it off and get away with it. Will they? In some stories, they actually do. Those stories I might actually like, as long as the crime isn’t that bad, or it is done for the right reasons. How many of you remember The Exterminator, for instance? Vigilante movies are basically good bad guys.

Then again, there are other readers that love bummer endings. Why? Because that is real life to them. Because they’re probably glass-is-half-empty people!

WHAT I READ (PAST TENSE)

What I just read was a story told almost entirely through the eyes of the bad guys. A small portion was told through the eyes of the good guys…a disproportionate amount. In this case, all of the bad guys got it in the end, in other words, the main characters.” The actual good guys, who played second fiddle, took home the bacon, but because they had so little to do, their parts kind of fizzled.

The author tried something unique, I’ll give him that. It just didn’t work all that well for me. I put all that emotional investment and reading time getting to know the main dirtbag. I thought he might get away with what he did, or somehow redeem himself in the end. The author portrayed him as sort of a good guy. Nope, never happened. Through plot twists and surprises, the main character turned out to be worse than he first appeared. In the end, he got his just deserts, which some might call a payoff. To me, it was good to see him get it. On the other hand, it was a waste of time because I prefer to spend my emotional investment a character more redeeming, like the law enforcement character that was chasing him.

SOME PEOPLE

I’m certainly not everyone and I can’t account for taste. Some people love…in fact they eat up bummer stories. They love Debbie Downer extravaganzas. They love the unhappy-ever-after stories. They get bored of the good guys always winning. I understand that.

What I enjoy most are the stories that are black and white and clear with the motivation. I do enjoy gray areas, but I also prefer a clear and concise B after the A, regardless of what happens in-between. If you aren’t clear on what your main plot is and don’t give a good payoff, it doesn’t matter what games you play in the middle. You’ve lost me.

Happy writing.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Pegalou permalink
    March 30, 2016 2:00 am

    I don’t particularly like stories written from the bad guy’s point of view. I don’t like tv shows or national events that have too much of the bad guy’s pov either. It seems too simple. Give me the story of someone who is basically good and have them live with some regret about what they didn’t do. The story that comes to mind is The Kiterunner. The protagonist was young and thinks he should have done more, gets handed the chance to be good again, and off spirals a great story about a place I don’t know much about. That’s my kind of story.

    • March 31, 2016 1:56 am

      Peggy,

      Great comments! Most of the time, when I read a story, I always dread the sections with the bad guys. I hate having to slog through the motivations, feelings and the token bad things they do so we know what, where, when, why and how of each of them. I’m always glad when we get back to the main character or characters. When the whole story is based on the bad guys, that throws me off. Now, if they’re a good bad guy, well…

      There has to be something redeeming in it. Like you say, the Kiterunner example gave you something to sink your teeth into.

      Thanks!

      Fred

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