Good and Evil

Good and Evil

Good and Evil |Every work of fiction by any author deals with good and evil on some level. Put simply, protagonists (main characters) are good. Antagonists (the bad guys) are evil. There are shades of gray on both sides. Not all main characters are squeaky clean, without sin, or perfect in any way. Just the same, not all bad guys are completely bad or even always guys.

The main characters are the ones we root for, the ones we want to win out in the end. In the process, they face adversaries and their own frailties, weaknesses, or imperfections. Through this, they change, learn, grow as characters.

This applies to fiction in any genre, be it science fiction, romance, fantasy, mystery, horror, or thriller. And it doesn’t matter if it’s Christian or secular. These are the stories we want to read.

Imagine trying to get behind a purely evil protagonist as a main character who is out to wreak revenge, death, and destruction across the fictional world. Well, I suppose you could if you were a fan of H. P. Lovecraft and Cthulu. Still, most characters that resonate with readers are good, and/or strive to do right.

The Good

When we create a main character (MC), there are usually flaws or issues that make that character not perfect. True, the MC is the good in the story and will attempt to do the good or right thing. But, what is the good? Usually, the MC has to step outside of his or her self and do something for someone else, for the community, the country, or humanity. Sometimes, that involves battling against incredible odds, an overwhelmingly powerful opponent, city hall, or solving a particularly difficult murder case.

The MC struggles through adversity, resistance, and often directly against an antagonist to accomplish the goal. But, the effort is to do the right thing. Defeat the bad influence, antagonist, and put the world right.

The Evil

The antagonist works against the MC. There is the ethically challenged city manager trying to skim from the city coffers. Then there is the competing love interest that uses nefarious methods to thwart the romantic efforts of the MC. Or, how about a dark evil being lurking in the abandoned metro tunnels, sending it’s minions out to thwart the efforts of the MC?

It boils down to the antagonist’s core motives of self: selfish, self-serving, self-aggrandizing. Not all the bad guys in fiction are purely evil. They may perform some acts of kindness out of a fractured attempt at redemption, but usually those fail. Unless, the point of the story is to bring the antagonist to some kind of redemption.

Life is full of examples on both sides of this duality. Most aren’t quite so well defined and obvious, but you can see them.

Keep writing.

 

 

Smelly

Something is smelly.

I smell something up thereThings smell. Sometimes the smells are good, sometimes the smells are not good.

In my current work in progress, the main character encounters a lot of different smells as she moves through the story. Riding in the back of a military truck is “hot, loud, and smelly.” Of course, that is pretty generic, so I’ll add some things that mix in to make it smelly. There are other aromas she encounters later that are disgusting or nasty, and some that are just from the terrain she is in.

Like the cat in the picture here, smells connect her to her environment or the action. You probably connect certain smells to memories, like the smell of pine trees and their sap in the early summer at Salmon La Sac in the Cascade Mountains. Or the aroma of fresh-baked bread from grandma’s kitchen when you were young. How about warm cherry pie with a melting scoop of ice cream? Then there is the smell of new-mown hay, onion fields near Ontario, Oregon, or a nearby stockyard.

Or, skunk.

Smells help set a scene or help evoke emotions, and can accomplish a lot in just a few words. Smells trigger memories and you can use that to enrich what is happening in your story. They clue your character in to what might be coming, or what might be nearby.

Think about your own memories, especially those triggered by smells. You know the ones. You’re walking down a street, entering a building, strolling by Cinnabon in the mall. A smell hits you and it brings a memory front and center. Is it a pleasant memory? A sad memory? Or, does it just make you hungry?

Some may say that visual or audio experiences are powerful, but don’t forget smells. In Nasty Leftovers, the main characters used mentholated cream smeared in paper masks to help deal with overly strong aromas of rot and filth, the sour stench in the air of the city, and the burning sulfur smell of the hellhounds. Dealing with the smells affected almost everything the main characters did.

Some of smells carry forward into the work in progress, adding continuity and bringing up memories for the main character. Those memories impact her reactions and behaviors as she works through the story.

Right now, I smell a Cinnabon and I think it’s calling my name.

Keep writing.