Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Separating The Sin From The Sinner in Fiction

Sawyer from Lost
The lovable bad boy
We love our villains and we love it when we love to hate them.These are what we call anti-heroes, those bad guys who are so compelling, so sympathetic, and sometimes downright loveable. But what makes them so? What is that special something that creates a sympathetic bad guy--or gal?

I think it may have something to do with separating the sin from the sinner. So often we can only see the glaring sin and it clouds our view of the person. Say a man continually cheast on his wife-- we see him as s stupid, uncaring, unforgivable man. But what if we knew his wife berated and verbally abused him, making him feel inept and unattractive. Knowing the background and separating the sin from the sinner sheds a different light on the situation.

What if we have an accountant who is embezzling money from his company? Would it make a difference knowing his child has a rare disease and the hospital bills are mounting? Understanding the motivations behind the sin somehow helps to see the bigger picture.

Of course, good and honest motivations do not in anyway justify the sin, but it does help to see the sinner as a human being who has needs and is in desperate need of a Savior's love.

So in our writing, we need to think about our anti-heroes and give them motivation for their evil deeds. Make the motivation something we can relate to, something redeemable. We want to be able to root for them, in spite of their sin.

We want to love the character, yet hate their plots!

How often do you have trouble separating the sin from the sinner? Are you able to see God's perspective in those around you, even those unlovable ones He has placed in your life? Have you written anti-heroes that reader will love to hate?



Sarah Forgrave said...

Interesting post, Sherrinda. That's a tough thing to do in life and in writing. Amazing how those motivations you gave as examples changed how I perceived the situation.

Bess said...

This is where Christianity becomes more meat than milk. God wants obedience, but He always wants us to be loving. When we reflect these conflicts between sin and the the sinners in our writing, we appeal to the reality of this world and to our readers' emotions.

Casey said...

Great post Sherrinda. I get what you are saying. I was told in every villian there needs to be a glimpse of some good in him. I'm not sure if every villian needs it, I am having a hard time finding it in the last villian I read, but I still understand what they are trying to say.

Your post reminds me of Collin in APMP. Definately a bad boy, turned good. I still think he is favorite bad boy. ;)

Pepper said...

Love it, Sherrinda!!
And I have a villianess (sp?) who was two dimensional at first, but once I fleshed her out and gave her motivations, desires, and wounds, then she's an even BETTER villianess. The reader still won't like her, but she's more sympathetic.

Darth Vader is a good example of a very thin shred of hope vs the Emperor who was ALL bad.

Mary Vee Writer said...

Good thoughts to help us add depth to our characters and to cause the reader to say more than shout "boo" when he/she enters the scene.

Jane Lebak said...

The villain in my novel was Satan.

He's got quite a few amazing qualities. No one's going to love him, and he's not redeemable. His motivations don't soften the evil he's trying to carry out in the novel, either, but I've been told he's fascinating to read because he's three-dimensional.

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

I guess I should say that not ALL villains will be redeemable and sympathetic. There will always be evil in the world and there will always be those who are completely turned away from God.

I suppose I'm talking more about an anti-hero...not the ultimate villain.

Jane Lebak said...

Milton managed Satan as an amazing anti-hero in Paradise Lost, though, and I think it's by doing what you said: giving him a solid motivation, one we could understand even if we didn't agree with it.