By J.A. (Julie) Kazimer
My original post was going to be something very profound and enlightening, something that would make your writing career, and eventually put you at the NY Times Bestseller List, and then I started watching the 2nd season of Orange is the New Black…
If you haven’t seen Orange is the New Black, you really should, for your writerly sake. It is just plain, good storytelling. It can teach you a lot about characterization too. The story starts off about a young woman of privilege who ends up in prison for a crime she committed many years ago. But it grows into so much more as we see the world through the eyes of various inmates, in humorous, sometimes sad, gritty and grim, but very honest ways.
I LOVE this show for many reasons, the writing, the plot twists, but most of all for the characters, for each is deeper, and their stories sometimes horrible, but also entertaining. At the end of every episode, I feel for them. I carry them in my thoughts after the show is over. I embrace and connect with them.
All things we as writers want our audience to feel.
Then there’s the main character, Piper.
I hate her. Seriously can’t stand her.
But I continue to watch.
She is an anti-hero in the finest way.
I don’t like her, for she isn’t very likeable. She started off likeable, and I even felt sorry for her. Now I feel like stuffing her in a wood chipper.
Her choices are poor ones, resulting in causing others much pain.
And yet, I watch every episode, hoping things will be different. Hoping she’ll be redeemed in some way. Hoping for a happy ending, not for her, but for the sake of those around her.
Yes, I hate her.
But, like it or not, I connect with her.
Now I’m not suggesting you go and write crappy characters who I will hate. Nicolas Sparks fills that void for me just fine (Kidding, no Sparks’ related hate mail, please).
I’m merely pointing out, that every character is flawed in some way. Find those flaws, exploit them for your audience, show us who the character is beyond a description in the mirror (please, please don’t describe your character by having them look in the mirror; it’s been done a million times, by yours truly half of those times). Give your hero warts (not literal ones unless your heroine like to apply wart remover), and make us want to heal them.
This is perhaps most true when writing the antagonist. Too often we only show the antagonist’s flaws, his evilness. But to make a living, breathing bad guy, show us beyond his evil façade. Show us why he is the way he is, show us his humanity, and we will continue to read on.
Any of you watching season 2 of Orange is the New Black? What do you think? Care to defend Piper? Or anyone have another example of a great anti-hero, besides Hannibal Lector?