I write crime fiction/noir, and since those genres generally involve lawbreakers in some form or another, suffice to say, there are 'bad' guys in my stories. The way I look at it though, is with a realistic point of view. Some 'good' people have serious flaws and some 'bad' people have some nice qualities about them. I believe our characters should reflect that, which brings to mind a question. Do you think it's necessary to like your characters? Do you feel they would come across as more genuine to your readers if you do?
Depending on what the makeup of any of your characters is, you don't necessarily have to condone, or like, what they've done or plan to do. But is there something about them (good guys or bad guys) that you can personally relate to or identify with that you try to get across when you create their lives, their thoughts, their perspectives, etc.? Personally speaking, there's a bit of me or someone close to me in every character I write. I enjoy creating their pasts, their presents and especially their futures. I enjoy them--every one. How about you?
Writing crime fiction and the dark genre of noir, I seldom write happy endings, and events and character interactions are rarely uplifting. However, I really do like creating these individuals and try to make them as three-dimensional and tangible as someone I'm sitting next to on a bus. While an actor is in front of the camera, he or she BECOMES the character they are portraying. If the character is distasteful to them, it shows in their performance and we, as their audience, are unable to engage and the film, or TV show, falls flat. I think that while we, as writers, sit in front of the notebook, keyboard, or typewriter, we should take the same approach and put ourselves in our characters' skins, and relish, and be grateful for, the time spent there.
What do you think?
I think you should like something about the characters, or maybe love to hate them. But I too think that there is something of me in almost every character I write. If they don't have a bit of me in them, then they are often inspired by someone I know, or more likely a combination of several people. As I think back to my earlier writing, those characters that did not have a bit of me in them, or weren't inspired by anyone in particular, really weren't very well developed.
Funny you mention actors. I acted professionally in my youth, I would say that I would find something to like about every character I played-- find a bit of me in them, even if it was a stretch. I do use my acting training a lot in my writing actually.
Characters need only be imaginably real. You can love em' or hate em'. The most important thing is that they are well developed. You should be able to drop them in to any situation and know exactly how they'll behave.
I go wit that. Some of the characters I've written aren't meant to be likeable (especially the bad guys) but I'd like to think they are rounded enough for people to identify with them. I like the sense of vulnerability that they have. Ordinary people caught up in extraordinary circumstances in which they make bad choices rather than them being deliberately evil. Having done a bit of acting myself. I think its important to make your character believable if not always likeable.
I think the key--whether one is a writer of an actor--is to find the elements of a character that appeal to them in some way. Every bad guy is the hero of his own story. The trick is to find that point of view and work from there.