Forget Evil. Annoying Characters are the Most Difficult to Write.

I don’t believe any particular type of person must be present within the canon of someone’s fiction writing. If I don’t choose to ever write a story about a child-molester, that’s my prerogative as an author. I’d be uncomfortable delving into that character and his actions, so you’re not likely to find such a person in any of my fiction. It isn’t wrong to write fiction about such a person committing such acts, but it’s not for me.

All of this is by way of saying that unlike some writers, I don’t believe it ‘s somehow an author’s duty to explore every single unpleasant situation and personality through their work. That’s fine for those who take up that cause, but I reserve the right to not go into any particular type of world with my fiction.

That being said, I have created people in my fiction that would be rather unappealing to me if I encountered them in real life. And while I maintain that someone could indeed still write good fiction without ever creating a character they would dislike in real life, my guess is that such an approach would put severe limits on a person’s creativity. It’s one thing to never want to write a rape scene. It’s another to populate all of your fiction only with those characters with whom you’d love to have lunch. It can be done, but I’m guessing it won’t take one far.

I won’t write a child molestation scene. Yet on the whole, writing villains isn’t problematic for me. Not much of my fiction has required a straight up evil villain at this time, but I’d have no qualms about writing same. One reason is probably because as far as I know, I’ve never personally encountered a true villain. A bigger reason is that I can control how much detail of his crimes I illustrate in my writing. I can control how and where I’m exposed to the evil of any given villain in my fiction.

Not so when I create a character with everyday quirks that I find unappealing, though not evil in their own right. I’d rather write a scene with a violent criminal attacking a cop then write a scene about a man who derives great enjoyment from cutting loud farts in public.

I didn’t even like typing the phrase “cutting loud farts in public” into this blog post.

That’s just an example of course. I don’t need to write a character who does that specific thing. Yet as an author I’m going to have imbue some of my characters with tendencies that would be distasteful, annoying, rude, or scary to me in real life. And it’s these small traits that make me grit my teeth as I write more so than writing about the large transgressions in many cases.

What that says about my psychological profile I leave up to you to determine. Suffice to say there is a litany of negative, or even neutral personality traits and quirks that I sometimes need to force myself to wade into as I write, in order to bring about conflict or at least diversity in my fiction. Quirks that in real-life make me want to run away screaming.

I have to remind myself that in a story we can find those who are slobs, stupid, haven’t watched the news a day in their lives, are still obsessed with their favorite boy band well into their 20’s, fold their slice of pizza before eating it, or will only date taller men. All traits that bug the piss out of me. But sometimes I must be willing to get intimate with characters who display at least some of these traits if my fiction is to have the depth that I want.

And when I get tired of spending time with the motorcycle rider that revs his engine while going through small towns just because he can, I can always give myself a break and switch to someone not as difficult to write about. Like an evil mastermind plotting to take over the Earth, but is at least polite about it.

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2 Comments

  1. This cracked me up because it is SO FREAKIN’ TRUE. I read and usually write YA, so a lot of writers dither and worry about writing “appropriate” characters and complain when anyone swears. And I’m like, “But what about all these obnoxious people???” I’d rather read a novel where the main character had a dirty mouth, mind, whatever than about some characters I’ve encountered. :/
    Funny you should mention annoying people because I was just thinking about my annoying protagonist in a novella. She’s just annoying because she’s too immature to deal with anything so she runs away and does stupid stuff instead. Hopefully she will make the progression to less annoying and finally likeable, but for now, geez. I derive a sort of evil writerly pleasure sitting there, mwahaha-ing to myself, making her as annoying as possible.

  2. So, I’m not alone in this one. =)

    The antagonist of my first novel, Flowers for Dionysus, has to be obnoxious to just about everyone he encounters, and therefore he had to be obnoxious to me in many ways. I got through it sometimes by letting him say certain things when he was pissed off that are not unlike things I might say. But I had to be careful not to go too far with that. If I had become too comfortable with his company, I don’t think he’d serve his function as well as he needed to.

    He clears his throat excessively to call attention to himself, cuts people off, and smiles as he delivers news people won’t like. I hate when people do all of that, but put up with annoying myself with it. in fact, the more annoyed I was, the better I figured the scene with him was going.

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