Writing characters as evil

Avoid writing one-dimensional characters. That is an important piece of advice for writers. No one is all good—or all bad. One-dimensional characters are unrealistic and shallow. You want complex characters to make the story interesting. For memoir writers, don’t write yourself or others as perfect and therefore unrelatable, predictable, boring. At the other end of the spectrum, painting someone who wronged you as all bad can backfire—revenge writing can make you look bad yourself. Complaining relentlessly about some completely terrible person makes for tedious reading, and we know there are two sides, two perspectives to every story. We don’t want caricatures, we want to read about real people who have been affected by their past experiences, who have learned thought and behavior patterns, who are complicit in relationships. What is the whole story?

During this turbulent and stressful year of COVID-19, protests and rioting, divisive leadership, and contentious elections, many of us have discovered some shockingly unpleasant truths about our friends and acquaintances. This year has brought out the worst in people. How can they believe that?! How can they think like that?! How rude, how disgusting! We had no idea that some of our friends were such awful people. But are they? We thought most of them were just fine before, or we would not be friends with them in the first place.

While we are an extremely divided people these days, we have to remember that the characters of our friends, our family members—and most everyone, including ourselves—are neither all good nor all bad. I hope we can still see the goodness that resides even in people we strongly disagree with, even if we have discovered they have “evil” within. I hope we don’t put friends or family members into their own little boxes and check them off. If we do not see the humanity in each other, we will surely destroy our country. No amount of flag waving will save us.


About moonbridgebooks

Co-author of Cherry Blossoms in Twilight, a WWII Japan memoir of her mother's childhood; author of Poems That Come to Mind, for caregivers of dementia patients; Co-author/Editor of Battlefield Doc, a medic's memoir of combat duty during the Korean War; life writing enthusiast; loves history and culture (especially Japan), poetry, and cats
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