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Characterization: Bitterness and Villains

Written by Vicki Hinze

On October 1, 2010


I few nights ago, I watched an interview with a “personality” that intrigued me.  At one time, he was funny, bright and interesting.  Listening to him was entertaining and at times enlightening.

Now, years later, he’s still interesting but for very different reasons.  He’s grown rude and arrogant–considers himself superior to others and makes no bones about it.  He projects the image of being wise and all-knowing and yet gets the facts he offers proving it wrong.

It was hard to reconcile these two distinct and very different people as one person.  And it yet was, and that’s what sparked my interest.

My imagination went into overdrive.  What had happened to him?  I continued to watch, seeking clues, watching for tips or hints that would give me insight.  He offered nothing of value beyond his arrogance, attacking and belittling others who happen to be different.  Simply put, those who agree with him are worthy of breathing.  Those who don’t agree with him are too stupid to live.

And then toward the end, I caught a glimpse that carried a sense not of what happened, but of the results of that something.  Bitterness.

What happened to cause this man to become jaded or cynical or bitter isn’t known, but his disillusionment was apparent.

So while I and half the rest of the world were insulted by this man, it was easy to let go of the irritation created by his comments.  They were still unreasonable, arrogant and rude and well as inaccurate, but  he, like the rest of us, is imperfect and flawed.  And whatever caused him to change into this person he’s become, carrying that bitterness is a heavy load.

I don’t envy him his path.  True, he’s choosing daily–even hourly–to walk it, but sometimes when you’re mired in the maze, the way out can be hard to see.

And that got me to thinking that a person who drastically changes makes for a very interesting and complex character.  One caveat.  The man didn’t show a single redemptive quality.  I’m sure he has them, he just didn’t show them.  A character can’t do that and carry much story weight.  So give your character a redeeming quality and you’ve got a strong complex character–a worthy villain.

Has to be a villain.  A hero just doesn’t hang onto bitterness.  He isn’t rude or arrogant.  He doesn’t consider himself superior to others.  He doesn’t have to tell you he’s heroic; his actions make that evident.  A hero might be bitter about something, but he resolves it and moves on.

I hope the man too finds his way to a resolution.  That will take seeking one, of course, and for whatever reason he doesn’t at this point seem to be ready to do that.  More’s the pity.  But hope springs eternal, and for his sake, I dare to hope that he gets ready soon.  His soul is clearly weary.  And that is an even heavier burden to carry than bitterness.




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