This week’s video cautions against having good characters turn bad just to provide an interesting plot twist.
As we discussed in last week’s video, authors are always trying to come up with ways to keep readers guessing, particularly as the “unexpected” element of the ending comes into play. We always want to catch readers a little off guard. We don’t want them to have everything figured out before the ending. So we try to come up with surprising twists. One twist we sometimes consider is that of having a seemingly good character turn out to be not-so-good. This could either be the result of wanting to explore the gray areas of morality in a character’s arc, or it could it be an attempt to keep readers from guessing the true bad guy until the very end.
The former is very rarely going to be a problem, especially if it’s done in a thoughtful and exploratory way that gives readers something to chew on after they’ve finished the book. But we have to be careful when we take a good character and suddenly reveal that, whoops, he’s actually horrible and evil. This may well surprise readers—but probably not in a good way. If
you’ve led readers to like a character, they’re going to like the character. Imagine that! So when you pull the rug out from under them and turn that likable character into someone evil, there’s a good chance readers may feel betrayed.
When I was kid, there was a Buzz Lightyear spin-off movie that gave Buzz a funny sidekick/partner. He was kinda Han Solo-ish, so naturally I loved him. He died in a spectacular explosion, it was very sad, and then suddenly it turns out that it was a fake and he was actually working for the evil Zurg all along. I think I threw my popcorn at the TV. So, suffice it to say, that if you’re going to the trouble of making readers like a character, you’re always going to want to think twice about turning him into a baddie. And, if you do, you’re probably going to want to let readers watch his downfall, rather than just springing it on them.