Ambiguous characters

My middle grade WIP has a main character – a 12  year-old boy – who is a good egg. He spends much of the story, however, conflicted in a way that makes the reader worried about his ability to make the right choice in the end.

On the other hand, my bad guy has been pretty universally awful. In draft four, however, I’m giving him a motivation that will make him a bit more understandable/likable. 

It just strikes me as more real this way.

I asked if this was an appropriate decision for my target audience during #kitlitchat last night, and got the following answer:

Becky_LevineIcon_lock@katie_bowden I think kids can handle/get much more than they’re given credit for. 🙂 #kidlitchat

Right on, Becky_Levine!  That’s something I should print out and stick to my computer.


3 thoughts on “Ambiguous characters

  1. Okay, see, now I want to READ this book. Is your bad guy another kid? I’m always curious about this and how the kids reading it see it. My son’s 13, and I’ve always gotten the impression that, for him, bad guys have a REASON is pretty obvious (can you hear him saying, “Duh!”?). On the other hand, they’re still bad, and whatever the hero has to do to take care of him/herself is okay. He doesn’t take it that far in real life, thank goodness, but I think it’s the parents who are more into a reason making something LESS bad.

    If that makes sense!

    • Hi Becky! Thanks for your comment – and your kind words about actually wanting to read my WIP. And with so little to go on! 🙂 My bad guy is a grown up, but I’m trying to make him at least a little bit sympathetic.

  2. I agree with Becky Levine! Professor Snape from HP, one of the all-time ambiguous good guy/bad guys who everyone loves. Suzanne Collins’ Gregor the Overlander series has a number of ambiguous bad good guys and slightly good bad guys. It may be that the complexity needs to be held in some really exciting action, but I don’t think complexity or ambiguity is a problem in and of itself.

    We talk a lot with our five year-old about how no one is all one thing and how we all have some good and bad in us. Probably a message kids grasp well before they can even read.

    Best of luck to you!

    P.S. Book give away going on over at my blog — topic is Fear as Muse.

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