Fantasy Faction

Fantasy Faction Writers => Writers' Corner => Topic started by: Bradley Darewood on November 29, 2017, 07:29:49 AM

Title: Characters who change between good and bad
Post by: Bradley Darewood on November 29, 2017, 07:29:49 AM

So I love making the readers hate someone and then being like "woo hoo you were wrong you predjudiced bastards!"  so going from evil to... well not as evil seems to work out well, but going the other way...

I was just reading this book where a character who's a crafty underdog who I was totally rooting for turns out to be suuuuuper petty and evil and I was like whaaaaat and threw the book across the room and couldn't read it anymore.  So like I've got MCs with shifty allegiances too so I was all wondering if that might be kind of a problem.  I mean it's one thing if you find out they were awful all along and a totally different thing if you show them deliberating and struggling with the decision to become a bad guy, but still... how do you pull it off and delight your readers with the unexpected instead of alienate them and make them hate you

Title: Re: Characters who change between good and bad
Post by: CameronJohnston on November 29, 2017, 09:37:39 AM
I always throught David Gemmell was a master at showing a spark of goodness in the hearts of 'evil' characters. Sometimes it is just a single moment where they choose to do a good deed, or refuse to do a bad one to somebody they have come to care for. He made those small moments hit like a sledgehammer. Or in something like Waylander he has the ruthless assassin become something more, and offers them the unexpected opportunity to be a hero for once.

I think going from evil to good is far, far easier than a character going in the other direction.  Because we like to see those moments of unexpected mercy, but if we are really rooting for a decent hero and it turns out they are absolute arseholes, well, that's not so much fun. Maybe if your unexpected act of evil is at the expense of an even worse arsehole then it becomes OK? A character struggling with difficult and unpleasant choices is fine in my book if we see why they had to make that choice.
Title: Re: Characters who change between good and bad
Post by: ScarletBea on November 29, 2017, 10:50:45 AM
I think we can include Abercrombie's Glokta here too.
He's a baddie, yes - but he can also do unexpected good things.
Title: Re: Characters who change between good and bad
Post by: Peat on November 29, 2017, 12:35:34 PM
*stares at current manuscript* I... err... ****.

I dunno man. Its hard and I'm having a hard time thinking of examples. As already said, people like seeing villains become heroes. Watching heroes - people you empathise with and admire - become villains is hard, really hard. Usually they get short life spans, snuffed out with readers cheering because EFF YOU, or readers cheering because of one great last redemptive moment.

Lets see... (warning: minor spoilers about WoT, SoIaF, The Dagger and the Coin; major about Codex Alera

Rand al'Thor is about as good an example of how its done. A nice lad from the back country becomes a cruel tyrant with a warped sense of humanity. How did it work?

a) He got better.
b) We spent a lot of time in his head, seeing his justifications and self-disgust (but are they truly a villain if disgusted by their actions?) (Besides, so many complaints about Rand whining).
c) It was kinda the point of the whole series - Rand getting buried by the pressure and coming out the other side a better man.
d) Its mostly done to people who deserved it

I think we can see similar arcs in SoIaF too, particularly with Dany, although there's cases for Jon and Arya too... but... neither is an outright villain (besides, so many complaints about Jon whining).

I believe some would hold up Daniel Abraham's The Dagger and the Coin as an example of doing this well, but given how he lost me when the originally sympathetic Lord Dawson was revealed to be a complete and utter unrepentant snob/bigot with no self-awareness, I can't say it worked for me.

Butcher goes further in revealing one of Tavi's class mates to be an enemy spy, but given that she's quickly revealed to be a spy who'll help the good guys, that doesn't really count

So... good guys wandering in darkness? Doable. If the reasons are strong, if there's still a degree of sympathy, you're on a fairly quick route to hit town. Actual traitors to the cause of good? ... I don't think I've seen it done. It would take a long series to do it (I think) but I'd love to see it given a go.
Title: Re: Characters who change between good and bad
Post by: The Gem Cutter on November 29, 2017, 12:47:26 PM
Martin uses a simple technique, described in Just Write's YouTube on empathy: we define a character's moral value by comparison. So GRRM makes us like Jaime Lannister by putting someone worse on the stage at the same time as giving Jaime some "good" moments and poof! He's suddenly not so bad. As for the reverse, going from good to bad, I don't know. I would toss the book across the room. Too much like real life for me.
Title: Re: Characters who change between good and bad
Post by: cupiscent on November 29, 2017, 09:51:47 PM
Anakin Skywalker, yo. ;)

Flippancy aside, my major disappointment with the prequel trilogy is that it leaves out a whole lot of his descent--we see the big decision points, but not the grind of the war and the slow turn to the quicker, easier dark side that goes along with it. So his turn to the dark seems a little unsupported, a little bit whimsical and whiny, whereas I'm given to understand it was much more of a long, slow slide made of a hundred and one little decisions. And therein, for me, lies the key to turning a good guy bad--the reader needs to follow along, and if not agree then at least see the rationale for each step downward.

I'm reminded here of one of my favourite pieces of television, that being the original House of Cards. Francis Urquhart starts out as a sort of favourite uncle--sly, a little sharp, saying those things that we all think anyway, bringing us as viewers in on the joke. He keeps a very tight bond with the audience all the way through, which means that as things get darker, and as he starts to get vicious, vengeful, murderous, we are complicit. There's a point where he turns directly to the camera and chides us: where did you expect this was going? Really, you've known all along. You liked it before. And now here we are.

It was beautiful.
Title: Re: Characters who change between good and bad
Post by: tebakutis on November 29, 2017, 10:20:12 PM
Anakin Skywalker, yo. ;)

Flippancy aside, my major disappointment with the prequel trilogy is that it leaves out a whole lot of his descent--we see the big decision points, but not the grind of the war and the slow turn to the quicker, easier dark side that goes along with it.

That's one of the reasons I'm so glad we got Clone Wars. Despite the rough start, it had five full seasons of showing the gradual steps Anakin Skywalker took that would lead him down a dark path, as well as introducing my new favorite EU character ever (Ahsoka!).

Comparing the example of Clone Wars to your example of House of Cards, it does seem like good descending into evil requires a long arc, with many steps along the way, to be convincing. You could also easily make the same comparison for Breaking Bad and Walter White - by the end of the fifth season, Walter was *not* the same character he was at the start due to a number of small, believable, and chilling moral compromises, and I was 100% on board with believing how it happened.

So I guess it's easier to sell evil turning quickly good that it is to sell good turning quickly evil. Is that part of our human psychology, perhaps? We assume it's easier to be good than to be evil?
Title: Re: Characters who change between good and bad
Post by: Steve Harrison on November 29, 2017, 11:09:22 PM
I like to blur the lines between good and evil, but I work roughly on the premise that:

A 'good' person is someone who tries to do the right thing most of the time, but sometimes fails and does something they are ashamed of.

A 'bad' person is someone who thinks they are doing the right thing all of the time.
Title: Re: Characters who change between good and bad
Post by: SarahW on November 30, 2017, 08:27:25 AM
My approach has tended to be to make them seem so determined toward their goal or task, that despite being the hero with a noble goal, the lengths they will go they're treated as villainous in their efforts to quash the bad guy. Particularly of the noble extremist type.
Title: Re: Characters who change between good and bad
Post by: Ray McCarthy on November 30, 2017, 09:57:04 AM
My bad characters started good but drifted or jumped into it by making decisions, or not making ones they should have made. One of the Morrígna (in a story) points out 'we are all born into sin'. One of her two sisters pokes her and says, 'don't be going there!'. The Morrigna in my story aren't exactly bad, but they have a very bad relative.
One very bad character seems to reform, though later there is a suspicion she is involved in some sort of criminality.
Other bad characters don't have enough their history in the books for the reader or other characters to know how long they have been doing bad stuff.

Sometimes an apparently decent character (or real life person) just lacks the opportunity to be bad. Like not becoming a dictator or megacorp owner. We rarely hear the stories of the office / factory / shop worker that keeps the law and is polite but would love to be running Facebook or be a Dictator setting up prison camps. The Walter Mittys that dream of great evil but have no resource to do it.
Title: Re: Characters who change between good and bad
Post by: Peat on November 30, 2017, 10:21:28 AM
Does Anakin count when every SW fan knows how it ends? There's no shock there, no "THEY DID WHAT?".
Title: Re: Characters who change between good and bad
Post by: Ray McCarthy on November 30, 2017, 12:55:45 PM
Does Anakin count when every SW fan knows how it ends? There's no shock there, no "THEY DID WHAT?".
IMO that film (all those three) degrade the SW experience and best ignored, so Anakin is irrelevant :D
The first in 1978 was really good.
2nd not quite so good.
3rd Explains why Disney bought franchise. Ewoks?
Title: Re: Characters who change between good and bad
Post by: tebakutis on November 30, 2017, 03:09:24 PM
Does Anakin count when every SW fan knows how it ends? There's no shock there, no "THEY DID WHAT?".

I thought we were just discussing whether a character going good to bad (or bad to good) was convincing/believably written, irrespective of the shock value. In that case, Anakin's turn to the dark side in III is baffling if you only watch the movies, but believable if you watch I/II/Clone Wars/III. The benefit of a full series to show his turn to the dark side helps (not to mention I actually *liked* Clone Wars Anakin).
Title: Re: Characters who change between good and bad
Post by: Peat on November 30, 2017, 04:45:51 PM
Does Anakin count when every SW fan knows how it ends? There's no shock there, no "THEY DID WHAT?".

I thought we were just discussing whether a character going good to bad (or bad to good) was convincing/believably written, irrespective of the shock value. In that case, Anakin's turn to the dark side in III is baffling if you only watch the movies, but believable if you watch I/II/Clone Wars/III. The benefit of a full series to show his turn to the dark side helps (not to mention I actually *liked* Clone Wars Anakin).

I read Bradley's post as being about how to carry the reader along with your revelation that the nice guy was in face a total bulbous bellend - which is usually quite a shock. And in that case, knowing that the nice guy is gonna get a big shiny black hat is a really big point of difference.

Fair point that Anakin's story is a famous example of The Fall and might be good material, but I do think there's got to be a certain Caveat Emptor there. Although maybe that's how to do it; warn your readers really early its gonna happen.
Title: Re: Characters who change between good and bad
Post by: SarahW on November 30, 2017, 06:54:04 PM
There is also the inverse: A truly decent individual becomes so propagandized by the establishment, their original character lost in public memory, that only church scholars and universities students remembers the true character of martyrs and saints.

This is one approach I took.
Title: Re: Characters who change between good and bad
Post by: Nora on November 30, 2017, 08:13:22 PM
What? Wait. No one is mentioning bloody Jaime Lannister? Come on guys! Starts his career throwing children off windows to keep his incest secret, ends up having most readers rooting for him. What was amazing with him is that his evolution was as subtle as Cersei's. Over hundreds of pages, both shift from self-centred deep-grey characters, to a lighter and darker shade respectively. Cersei goes mental while Jaime is forced to reconsider all his values after he loses his sword hand. You're never told he becomes nicer. You're shown how his opinions and beliefs shift as he reacts to what the world dumps on him.
In the end he's my favourite character, even over Tyrion, and I hope he can survive the whole ordeal.

But no, I don't think you're in any real danger of alienating readers if you handle your character well. You should present him/her as rather grey early on if you want us to not jump in surprise, and then work your way to the more obnoxious behaviours.
All MCs need to be flawed to make the story catch, but I guess after that there are shades of grey you can cloak them in.
A nice MC who does super shady stuff out of the blue is unrealistic, for sure. It's what made me hate the second mistborn book. The MC was behaving totally stupidly and against all the instinct she ought to have ingrained in her from her childhood.
I doubt you'd make that sort of clunky, awkward shifts.
Title: Re: Characters who change between good and bad
Post by: Elfy on November 30, 2017, 08:52:26 PM
Could probably also throw the MCU's Loki into this. He's very bad in the first Thor and the first Avengers, starts off still bad in the second Thor, but becomes a bit of a hero before going bad again.
Title: Re: Characters who change between good and bad
Post by: cupiscent on November 30, 2017, 09:21:15 PM
I find the good-to-bad slide much more interesting than the bad-to-good redemption, so that's the aspect of this I keep thinking about. :)

A book I read recently--Ilana C Meyer's Last Song Before Night--had a main character who was flawed from the outset, a balance of problems and charms, and in the course of the book we get to see his flaws really canker and eat away at his charms. In one regard, it's a thorough and realistic portrayal. But I found it really irritating because it seemed so... straightforward. Here is a man weighed down with anxieties and jealousies. Watch those problems drown him. Drown, little man, drown. There was no surprise in this progression. (I also found it irritating because I really liked his charms, and so it was super annoying to see more time being devoted to his flaws, as it were.)

Conversely, an old favourite of mine--Jennifer Fallon's Lion of Senet--has an arc for the main character where he has to make "villainous" decisions in order to come out at the best outcome overall. He hurts people, he does it on purpose, and he hates doing it, but he does it really, really well. It's not quite a genuine slide into villainy, but it was a hugely interesting and satisfying story for me. (And you could tip it a little further into darkness, ask where the line is, what will or won't you do to achieve the right thing, etc.)

Actually, now that I think of it, that movie The Ides of March might be worth a visit here. It's been ages since I saw it, but I recall Ryan Gosling's character being a good guy, crusading for the "right" team, trying to achieve overall good, but in the process being forced to be party to and actively participate in some minor evil. Stellar performances really help bring together the moral aspects.
Title: Re: Characters who change between good and bad
Post by: Peat on November 30, 2017, 09:58:03 PM
Hmm. There might be some good examples in movies. Network features a lot of characters slipping into a mire from which they do not escape. Full Metal Jacket arguably is similar. TV wise, haven't watched either, but Breaking Bad and The Wire sound like they have possible inspirations there.

There's some military/intelligence/crime memoirs out there that seem very focused on the idea of "I was a normal-ish guy, then the job got me". In fictional terms, Le Carre goes to that well albeit not so much for the protagonists. It would be really interesting to play things with a long term middle agent that's only revealed when we grow to love them in their original role.

I dunno. For me, I don't want to just see the character go to grey places... I want to see them switch tribe. Because that's more taboo in fantasy. That would be truly impressive. Grey heroes, heroes getting a bit antiheroic? Feh. Been done. Although not as much as the Redemption arc, true.
Title: Re: Characters who change between good and bad
Post by: tebakutis on November 30, 2017, 11:30:29 PM
What? Wait. No one is mentioning bloody Jaime Lannister? Come on guys! Starts his career throwing children off windows to keep his incest secret, ends up having most readers rooting for him. What was amazing with him is that his evolution was as subtle as Cersei's. Over hundreds of pages, both shift from self-centred deep-grey characters, to a lighter and darker shade respectively. Cersei goes mental while Jaime is forced to reconsider all his values after he loses his sword hand. You're never told he becomes nicer. You're shown how his opinions and beliefs shift as he reacts to what the world dumps on him.
In the end he's my favourite character, even over Tyrion, and I hope he can survive the whole ordeal.

Oh, Jaime is one of my favorite examples of a character you initally loathe, than root for, but I'd argue he doesn't necessarily change his morals or become significantly less gray over the books - instead, I think we gain a deeper understanding into WHY he does things, rather than having him actually change.

I'm going to put my thoughts in spoiler tags for the one person who hasn't read all the books yet, because whatever :)

Our first exposure is Jaime diddling his sister and then pushing a kid out a window to die. Seems horrific.

Then we're told that during the sack of King's Landing, the rebels entered the throne room to find Jaime (a member of the Kingsguard) sitting on the king's chair polishing his sword and looking all cockish after having stabbed the king in the back to save his own skin. This makes him a coward, a betrayer, *and* a dick.

The next big "bad" thing we see Jaime do is randomly assault Ned and his soldiers in King's Landing, as he demands his "brother back". Again, because we've had only Ned and Caitlyn chapters to this point, it seems like Jaime is being petty and unreasonable.

It's only at the end of the book and in later books, as the story progresses, that we finally get *context* for why Jaime took these reprehensible actions, and our opinion changes (or mine did).

We learn that if it's ever discovered that Joffrey, Tommen, and Myrcella are children of incest, Jaime's children will be banished (probably killed) as will he and Cersei. You even see that he feels bad about pushing Bran out the window, but he had to do it because if he hadn't, he literally would have been consigning the woman he loves and all three of his own children to death. So he pushed Bran, not enjoying it, to protect his children.

Then we learn (in the bath scene with Brienne) that Jaime has kept a secret all his life. As the rebels closed on King's Landing, the Mad King decided to incinerate the entire city (and its thousands of citizens) in wildfire. Jaime was forced to break his oath to kill the Mad King to stop him from literally burning everyone in King's Landing alive, and THEN, to make it even more brutal, forced to keep the king's secrets (his honor demands it!) and not TELL anyone the king planned to burn the city down and everyone in it.

So basically, he does the honorable thing twice, killing the king to save everyone in King's Landing, and then *keeps* the king's secret, which ensures he will be called a Kingslayer and regarded as a betrayer/coward/asshole for the rest of his days. Ironically, it is his strong sense of honor that forces him to be universally regarded as wholly *without* honor.

Finally, we learn that Littlefinger or one of his people informed Jaime that Catelyn Stark had abducted Jaime's brother Tyrion (who he loves dearly, despite his father and sister hating Tyrion) and that he went after Ned in an attempt to (as he saw it) rescue his brother from the Starks, who wanted to imprison or execute Tyrion. So now his attack in the first book (which seemed petty) becomes about, again, an attempt to protect his own family.

So it's not so much that Jaime's moral code changes. It's more that his actions are presented in the worst possible context, initially, and secrets are kept from us, and then once all those secrets are revealed we suddenly see all of his previous actions in an entirely new and sympathetic light - even pushing Bran out the window! And once we start getting multiple PoV chapters and seeing how focused Jaime is on protecting people (Brienne, his family, the kingdom) and realize how much he's sacrificed, we start to root for him.

So it's masterful writing, IMO, but I'd argue that it's not so much *Jaime* changing as it is our *perception* of Jaime changing. The Jaime in later books is humbled, certainly, but still has the moral code of the Jaime we first met. We just understand his actions differently.



Title: Re: Characters who change between good and bad
Post by: Nora on November 30, 2017, 11:54:37 PM
Mmmh, I agree with your interpretation, except that you don't mention his distance towards Cersei in the end, or his nascent passion to actually do good as captain "golden hand". In the last book I don't think he's the same man, and Brienne is the one who changed him most. After all his risks loosing his life for her, whilst he's always been selfish so far.
Also, wanting to protect your incestuous children and your sister-wife is hardly a hallmark of great moral behaviour. I still think he makes genuine progress. Tyrion hurts him too, in their farewell. He becomes more broody, more thoughtful, or so I felt.
Title: Re: Characters who change between good and bad
Post by: tebakutis on December 01, 2017, 04:21:08 AM
Good points, Nora! I agree with that. Jaime's growth due to the new influences in his life are another big part of why I ended up rooting for him.
Title: Re: Characters who change between good and bad
Post by: tebakutis on December 01, 2017, 04:25:21 AM
TV wise, haven't watched either, but Breaking Bad and The Wire sound like they have possible inspirations there.

Both of those shows are excellent, both from a viewer and a "writing" perspective. I'd suggest picking one or the other (I think Breaking Bad is still on Netflix?, and you can watch The Wire on Amazon Prime now if you don't have HBO) and working your way through. I feel like I learned a lot about storytelling just by paying attention to how those shows were written.

Even though I watch a lot more SFF than non-SFF, those two shows are among my favorite dramas, or, I daresay, stories, of all time.
Title: Re: Characters who change between good and bad
Post by: The Gem Cutter on December 01, 2017, 04:31:04 AM
I want to recant my statement about throwing the book to a narrow chance that I might remain interested if the shift is done well. If it makes sense to my own view of how people learn and change and react, and all those verbs' negative, often destructive cousins. People often adapt poorly to the world and the events in their lives, and there's more than a few good stories to be told about that journey.
Title: Re: Characters who change between good and bad
Post by: Rostum on December 07, 2017, 11:50:51 AM
I would suggest good and bad are simplistic abstract constructs that are limiting to your characters.
As a person I strive to be a decent human being and often fall short, but I doubt many people wake up and think 'hmm what can I do that is truly evil today?' most of the stuff we do that we are not proud of is reactive or responsive to situation we find ourselves in, not a calculated action.
Perhaps to varying degrees people have the potential to be both and it is part of being human.
Title: Re: Characters who change between good and bad
Post by: cupiscent on December 07, 2017, 10:58:20 PM
I doubt many people wake up and think 'hmm what can I do that is truly evil today?' most of the stuff we do that we are not proud of is reactive or responsive to situation we find ourselves in, not a calculated action.

I prefer to phrase it as "What can I do to help people?" versus "What can I do to destroy [people / a person]?"

Sometimes I'm really angry and following through on the destructive impulses feels really satisfying, but that doesn't mean they're any less bad. And I can sometimes do the same things for reasons from either side of the spectrum. It certainly is complicated. But I would say that "giving in to the dark side" is a definite thing, and something most of us do at least a little bit every day. It's not some abstract "evil" thing.
Title: Re: Characters who change between good and bad
Post by: Nora on December 07, 2017, 11:33:10 PM
So, in manga culture there is a group of women artists called CLAMP, who did the famous Chobits, Sacura Card Captor, xxxHolic, X/1999... and Magic Knight Rayearth :

(https://pbs.twimg.com/media/A6RiAcuCAAA85OE.jpg)

In which three young (obviously) japanese students all from different schools find themselves visiting Tokyo tower at the same time on school trips, and end up teleported in a fantasy world to be the Knight Rayearth and save the world, where the Princess who upholds reality has been kidnapped by her grand vizir or something, a 2m tall long black haired dude all in black scary looking garb.

(http://i4.mangapanda.com/magic-knight-rayearth/1/magic-knight-rayearth-2374341.jpg)

So without the princess, the world is falling apart and monsters are appearing. The girls get weapons (which match their hair colour and uniform, cause, y'know... so blue hair is water, red head is fire, etc) which slowly upgrade all the way to full on mecha (Japaaaaaan!!), and they fight forces of evil and people from other countries in this world who have opposing interests. It's full on super-hero-saviour-of-ages style.

I mean, look at our baddie, named Zagaato (that's what's written under the dot) :

(https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/guerrerasmagicas/images/2/25/Scan-zagato1.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20120303124439&path-prefix=es)

So yeah, you read on and on, the whole thing bleeds the 90s style of drawing and character design, the story is original only cause this was like 1993-95...

But then the knights learn as they fight their final duel against evil Zagato, that he's actually not evil at all. That all he's done was to try and help and protect the world... that the reason the princess is locked away is because she isolated herself..... because she's dead in love with Zagato. And he with her.
But such strong emotions would just destroy everything.
Cursed lovers! *roll of drums* *tsing!*

(https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/guerrerasmagicas/images/c/c0/Scan-emeraude-zagato1.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20120303124905&path-prefix=es)

Anyway, I'll stop boring you. The moral of this story is that the knights came back to our world really distraught. Completely shocked that they had never been fighting a "bad guy" and that the bad guy had good intentions all along. He thought he was acting for the good, and so did they, so where was good?
Worse, if I remember, they kill him, and the princess. Some sort of weird mix of sacrifice in battle with, whatever, can't remember.
They had a reflective and depressed time, then returned to help the realm since fallen to chaos with the death of the cursed lovers.

I read this very young. It was a pretty blunt way of putting things but the messaged carried. Not everything is as simple as it seems.

End of the day, I'd not recommend such treatment if you're writing for YA or adult. Going from evil to good and good to evil implies that you deal in absolutes, and that should stay a kid's staple, and not an ideal one.
But going from Evil to Good by revealing that the narrator/pov character was misguided... now that's interesting.
Same deal with Mistborn really.
Title: Re: Characters who change between good and bad
Post by: Peat on December 08, 2017, 01:18:59 AM
YMMV but I believe that an author can address Good and Bad as serious meaningful concepts without treating them as fixed absolutes, or things that characters either are or aren't, but rather as a sliding scale open to nigh-infinite interpretations, and one in which many humans have a wide possible range, often wider than they believe. I'd go so far as to say I'm not sure how else one treats Good and Bad seriously.

And I also believe just because the definitions are so mutable and subjective does not make the concepts irrelevant; on the contrary, it makes them all the more relevant and powerful. There is nothing limiting about taking on fields of human uncertainty.

And no, very few people wake up and think today I'm going to do bad. But that doesn't mean there aren't people who do mostly bad. And it doesn't mean you can't perceive a difference between good people and bad people after they lash out in anger - good people are there trying to fix it, bad people just shrug. Well, mostly. And yes, you can be mostly good and a bigot, or an arrogant bully, just like you can be bad and be kind to the homeless.

The subject just wouldn't be as much fun if this wasn't the case.
Title: Re: Characters who change between good and bad
Post by: ScarletBea on December 08, 2017, 02:29:38 PM
I think we can all agree that human beings are on a sliding scale of good/evil and there are no absolutes: the issue was that until very recently, that wasn't reflected in the books we read, right?
I believe that nowadays you find that ambivalence is much more prevalent in most books (or in the books I've been reading, at least).
Title: Re: Characters who change between good and bad
Post by: Peat on December 08, 2017, 10:49:32 PM
I think we can all agree that human beings are on a sliding scale of good/evil and there are no absolutes: the issue was that until very recently, that wasn't reflected in the books we read, right?
I believe that nowadays you find that ambivalence is much more prevalent in most books (or in the books I've been reading, at least).

I sometimes think we undersell this. I think we're so caught up in the idea that it was Good vs Evil that we maybe overlook things. Was Denethor a bad man? Was Frodo not good enough because he couldn't resist the ring come the end? Is Feanor the hero or the villain of the Silmarillion?

Was it possible that Asmodean might return to the Light? Was the younger Ged a good person? How different was Belgarath from Zedar, or Arutha from Guy du Bas-Tyra? How evil was Raistlin or Brandin of Ygrath?

And a bunch of other questions from ye olde times. Not to mention my examples of possible flawed good people was lifted straight from Discworld.

A lot of those questions are quite difficult to answer because the trend wasn't for such encompassing coverage of a conflict as we see today. But that doesn't mean the authors weren't creating moral quandries.

Maybe its us readers who've changed more than the authors. Maybe we look for it more.