Monday, June 30, 2008

Through a glass darkly

Is it possible to write a story from the antagonist's point of view? Open with the bad guys, and all their justifications and delusions, but -- and here's the kicker -- present them as entirely rational and even self-evident.

Maybe that wouldn't be sustainable for a whole story. There's a good chance it wouldn't be palatable for a whole story. But certainly parts of the story could be done like that. Wouldn't it be more chilling to realize that for a time, we as readers agreed with the bad guys? Wouldn't it make them closer to us?

And isn't that the whole point? Anyone can hate two-dimensional antagonists. But things get harder when we recognize ourselves in them.

I'm not sure I can do this but I'm going to try. It will be a fine line to walk, but I want my readers to see through the eyes of the bad guys, if only briefly.

It's too easy to write them off as vaguely "evil" otherwise. No, we don't get off that easily: We have to understand them. Maybe even sympathize with them. Just a bit. Just a very little bit.

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