Bad characters are the best. Not evil characters -- bad ones.
You know, characters that you like even though they do bad things. They screw up. They shirk their responsibilities. They tell lies. They steal, cheat, smoke. They aren't very good listeners and can't stay on a diet.
They are good people with huge imperfections. And it's those very imperfections that make them real -- and so attractive.
I absolutely love reading novels with bad characters in them.
Bad characters are also great fun to write. I'm writing one now; he's the main character in my next book, a thriller. But a funny thing is happening -- I keep making him "better." I find myself assuring the reader that this guy is not really so bad -- that he loves his dad and his girlfriend and that it wasn't really his fault when he got kicked out of school and etc. etc. etc.
I'm discovering that it takes a big commitment to write a bad character. You have to trust that the reader will see him or her like you do, sympathetically. And then you just have to go for it -- showing that character at their worst. All his foibles, all her failings -- lay them all bare.
If you lose that commitment, you get something like the recent movie Disturbia. You know, the kind of story in which the main character supposedly has a lot of problems, but the author can't quite pull the trigger on them. Like the author is scared you won't like the main character if he doesn't shine a big light on the character's pure heart.
Even being the huge Robert Crais fan that I am, I have to say that "The Two Minute Rule" had just a touch of this effect.
What are your favorite bad characters? If you write about bad characters, do you struggle with "committing" to their badness, as I am now? Or do you just revel in it?