Characters acting badly

I finally put up the blurb on my home page for Dragon Blues (which will be available within a week!). A member in one of my writers groups read it and said that my heroine, a martial arts expert who’s killed two abusive men, reminded her of Dexter from the TV show. Though my heroine isn’t a serial killer, both she and Dexter only kill men who deserve it.

That made me glad for two reasons. One, that I succeeded in making my heroine a sympathetic character. Two, it gave me a blog topic for today.

These last two years or so, I’ve noticed that there are more heroines who kill. One of my favorites is Gin Blanco from Jennifer Estep’s Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series. Gin is an assassin for hire, but her targets are mostly monsters and she has a “no pets, no children” policy. That makes me like her right off the bat.

In Enemy Lover by Karin Harlow (aka Karin Tabke), her hero is a former special ops sniper who’s become a killing machine. The heroine is just as dangerous. But I was rooting for both of them. And I was for sure rooting for the really bad guy to be killed.

Other characters acting badly that we like are rakes. I have no idea why, but we especially like it when the rake reforms for the heroine.

Jewel thieves. We like them, too. Not breaking into jewelry stores in the local mall, but stealing from the obscenely wealthy. Usually a crime in which no one is hurt. Except insurance companies. I don’t know about you, but it’s hard for me to feel sorry for insurance companies.

In real life, I want anyone who hurts children, pets or women to be hurt themselves. In fiction, I want them to suffer. Or just to be killed.

What fictional characters acting badly have you admired or thought were very well done?

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25 Responses to Characters acting badly

  1. Edie, I love those characters the best. Lucas Davenport by John Sandford, a wealthy cop with a nun for a friend, has been known to “execute” a few bad guys in his day. A feisty lady with a major mission is Stella Hardesty, the lady who targets abusive husbands and fatehrs … Bad Day For Sorry, Sophie LIttlefield.

    Congrats for Dragon Blues :)

  2. Mary Jo says:

    Like Florence, I love the Lucas Davenport character John Sandford created.

    About 3 weeks ago I read The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom and her heroine and several secondary characters did things that were wrong; however, you still rooted for them and understood their decisions or even the times they just acted out incorrectly. Why? Grissom had provided the reasons within the story.

    Once again, a spot-on topic which I so needed today as I try to re-focus my brain and life on my creative world.

    • Edie Ramer says:

      MJ, The Kitchen House is a great title. And I want to read that, too. Letting the reader know the reasons why characters do something is powerful.

      And if anything I wrote helped you, I’m happy.

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  4. LaDonna says:

    Hey Edie, congrats on the soon to be released novel! :cool: And I love the Sanford character too, and totally get his desire to see justice win. And I read The Kitchen House too; fabulous book.

    When I read your post today, I immediately thought of John Grishom’s, A Time To Kill. I don’t imagine that there’s a mother anywhere, who didn’t stand by the father who killed those who hurt his daughter. Like you, a crime against children or women is the lowest action a person can do. And yes, I want justice to prevail and cheer for those who see it gets done. Great topic! Oh, I totally cheered for Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino too! We need more men like him IMO. He grew as a character throughout story and in the end understood that good people, racial and culture differences don’t matter, deserve to be treated with kindness and to be stood up for. Just loved his transformation.

    • Edie Ramer says:

      LAD, we saw Grand Torino at the theater, and we watched it again on DVD this last Saturday. I didn’t watch the whole thing, because I needed to work on my book. But his character was great! And the end was amazing. I’m sorry I missed seeing it again.

  5. Great post, Edie ;).
    The first character I thought of was Sugar Beth from Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s book AIN’T SHE SWEET — she behaved very badly (in a socially horrid way, rather than in a killing people way, LOL), but she was somehow very sympathetic. I liked it a lot!

    • Edie Ramer says:

      Marilyn, SEP did an amazing job with Sugar Beth. In What I Did for Love, her hero was the one who started off as an asshole. But as the book goes on, he becomes sympathetic, too. I’m eager to read her newest one.

  6. I feel sorry for insurance companies! When they get hit with covering the expense of fraud and theft, they sock it to me!

    I love Dexter! Who knew? I love assassin heroes and heroines. Even the bad ones. ;)

  7. Jill James says:

    I love Dexter and characters like him. They are bad, but bad for a reason. I really wish I got Showtime. :(

  8. Liz Kreger says:

    I think its a Robin Hood syndrome, Edie. You want to root for the little guy. You want to see someone strong enough to take on the big, bad monster and defeat him/her. Jennifer Estep’s series is a good example, and a lot of UFs have the heroine (or hero) who are bad-asses. Faith Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock series falls into that category.

    • Edie Ramer says:

      Liz, I was thinking of Robin Hood when I was writing about the jewel thieves who steal from the obscenely wealthy. And, I agree, a lot of bad-ass heroines are from UF.

  9. Cynthia Eden says:

    Congrats on your upcoming release! :-) And I am a HUGE Dexter fan. Give me enough motivation, and I can care for *almost* any character.

    • Edie Ramer says:

      Cindy, I’m not surprised you’re a Dexter fan, either. lol

      You’re absolutely right about motivation being the key. That’s why I love damaged characters. They come with built-in motivation.

  10. Amy Atwell says:

    Edie, I’m with you when it comes to wanting to see villains get their just deserts. I’m a lover of fairy tales, and those villains had to die horrible deaths or be destroyed to satisfy my notion of payback.

    For me, a hero or heroine who kills isn’t a turnoff, but I need to understand and applaud the stakes. Like Cynthia said–what motivates that character to kill? There are lots of well-done scenarios out there in books. I’ve been surprised to find myself rooting for all sorts of characters I wouldn’t have thought possible at the beginning of a book.

  11. Don Draper from Mad Men– no doubt about it. The man screws up, time and again, acts in ways that are appalling, no matter how many different angles you try to view it from, and yet… there’s a fundamental decency to the guy that makes you root for him to do the right thing.

    And sometimes, he does… and you feel so validated as a viewer. Then he goes and does something deplorable. He’s such an amazingly multi-faceted character. He just fascinates me.

    • Edie Ramer says:

      Barb, I don’t watch Mad Men, but it has a huge following. I think fundamental decency is what makes us enjoy characters like Gin Blanco and her “no pets, no children” policy.

  12. I also love a bad guy with decency character. One of my all time favorites is Jean Reno’s character Leon in THE ASSASSIN. I watched another Jean Reno movie on the weekend, a French movie, called Empire of the Wolf, which had a totally straight, always do the right thing cop, and Jean Reno’s character, who appeared to be a dirty, bribe-taking cop, and a woman assassin who was a sort of Jason Bourne character. Just loved it. You were routing for them all, because each had a fundamental decency that made you want them to be good.

    I also always loved the Spencer series. Spencer doesn’t pull his punches, and you KNOW Hawk is mean and does things you don’t want to think about too much, but we still route for them.

    • Edie Ramer says:

      Michelle, what great characters in the Empire of the Wolf movie! I suppose some day it might be made into an American movie, but when that happens, it doesn’t always seem that great.

      I know a bookseller who had Robert Parker in his place for a signing, and he enjoyed Parker as a person as well as a writer.

  13. Misty Evans says:

    I’m so excited that Dragon Blues is coming out! Can’t wait to read it.

    When I first read Stacia Kane’s series with her witch Chess, I didn’t think I’d like Chess at all. She’s a drug addict and has some unlikeable personality traits. BUT, I totally love her in every story. I don’t always agree with her actions, but I understand them and can still root for her in every book. She (and Stacia) never fail to take me on a fascinating ride. Some of the other characters in the series seem unlikable as well on the surface, but again, under their *labels*, they’re human beings who have good traits and bad ones and still stand up for each other and take care of each other. On some level, that’s what it’s all about for me.

    • Edie Ramer says:

      Misty, I just uploaded it. I feel wrung out!

      You make me want to red the Stacia Kane stories. I want to see how she can make a character like that lovable. It takes skill – or heart!

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