I had the idea for this blog post bouncing around for a while, and then Tuesday happened. I'm not going to spend time on politics here for various reasons, but let's just say that I have been very tired this week, and a lot of my computer time was spent zoning out to mindless stuff. Despite my best efforts, I just wasn't in the mood to get a lot of writing done, but I'm hoping to fix that. And as I think about it, this post I planned may have some relevance to current events (but again, I'm not going to delve too deeply into them here).
So I've been plugging away, slowly but surely, on Seductive Suspect and its varied cast of characters. One of them, Dylan, is...well, he's kind of an asshole. He alternates between arguing with the others and keeping to himself, makes inappropriate comments, and is just mostly unpleasant to be around in general. If we're being honest here, I based him on what we in the gaming world refer to as the "dudebro gamer". In some ways, writing him (and others' reactions to him) is fun; in others, it's been a challenge. While he's not a "nice" person, does that necessarily make him bad, or evil?
In that sense, villains are easy. The ultimate villain (as he doesn't appear that way initially) of the Disintegration universe, Dr. Zedek, was fun to write, as he had few redeeming qualities and was supposed to be the bad guy. By the end of his arc, I loved to hate him, and I hoped readers felt the same way. But what of the characters who don't fill the role of the antagonist? How bad is too bad?
Now I have a silly confession to make. When I play Mass Effect and Dragon Age, I make the decisions I think are best during my first run, and then when I replay, try to make different ones. Even when I'm playing a different sort of character, sometimes I really struggle with what I personally feel to be the less moral choice.* Part of me wants to see all the possible outcomes, but there's another part of me that just can't do certain things. Heck, sometimes I even feel bad picking certain dialogue options that don't have much of an effect on anything else. And then there are decisions/plot points that I think are completely terrible and I could NEVER bring myself to make a certain choice...and then I poke around the fandom and find people who think it's the right thing to do and can't imagine playing otherwise.** Gray morality, yo. Or, different people think differently.
So back to Dylan in this current book. Is he a horrible, irredeemable person? No, probably not, in that he's not plotting world destruction or anything like that. I still wouldn't want to hang out with him for too long, though. It's taking effort to find the balance of how far to go with him, developing his character without making him too over the top. Because realistically, some people are just jerks.
*In Mass Effect, even when playing a Paragon, I always let the Council die and shoot Udina myself. Those assholes had it coming.
**In Dragon Age 2, I am horrified by the idea of giving Isabela to the Arishok at the end of Act 2. But there are a ton of people out there who feel the same way about her as I do about the Council and Udina. Fascinating.