Unlovable characters

I'm supposed to be working right now, writing content for this online creative writing class. But halfway through the module on character, I was writing about developing well-rounded characters, about how people are never all good, or all bad. Your characters don't have to be likable, I wrote, but you, as the writer, had better love them. And then I thought, fuck, because now I have to figure out how to do that. I wouldn't say that I only write horrible characters, but on the spectrum of admirable to jesus, what a bastard, I've never been particularly interested in virtue. They skew pretty heavily toward, oh, let's call them characters who challenge your sympathy.

Take the witch. She's a cannibal, maybe even a pedophile. Her feelings about sexuality and violence are clearly mixed up, and there's something lascivious about the way she looks at Hansel.* She's not just bad. She is deeply, deeply evil. But god I love her. I really do. Even when I was writing the infanticide poems, which were trickier, based on real people, real events--the man who dropped his children off a cliff, the woman who...maybe let's not get into that. Thank god I didn't have to spend as long with those characters, but the project was always about humanizing a person in the context of their most unforgivable act.

Maybe this is the problem with the character I don't love. He's not particularly unforgivable. He's not particularly bad. He's just sort of decent and resentful. He's just sort of a drudgery to be around. What a dull thing to forgive. How am I going to love him? I don't know, but I'm going to have to crack it.

*I should mention that there are 3 witch poems in the new issue of Willow Springs. I haven't gotten my hands on a copy yet, but I can't wait, so I've been checking out the sample content on the website. Colin Pope's Phone Call to Plan Abortion, As Flood is just...you should read it. It's on the website. You should probably read it right now.