Within young adult, she enjoys writing and reading a variety of genres from contemporary with a unique twist, psychological thrillers, paranormal/urban fantasy and horror. She loves stories where character development takes center stage.
Kelley's website: http://www.kelley-york.com/blog
Making 'Bad' Characters 'Good'
by Kelley York
Awhile back, a friend and fellow YAtopian, Chanelle, posted a question on her blog: What makes a character likable? I gave it a lot of thought before answering, because it was a question that pertained to me and HUSHED.
In theory, HUSHED’s protagonist, Archer, is a character you shouldn’t like. If you heard about him in the news or through a friend, you’d likely think he was a waste of space. Someone you could never sympathize with. He kills people, after all. And when I started writing HUSHED, I knew I was venturing into dangerous waters. I had a character that was not a hero, but very much an antihero and doing things that were hard to forgive. If I wanted people to like him—or at the very least, understand him—I had to be careful.
When a character does something bad, it dehumanizes them in our (the readers’) eyes. The worse the crime, the most distant we feel. This is why the truly evil villains we might enjoy as villains, but we don’t really feel something for them. We don’t mourn for them when they’re gone. But—a villain given substance, given some sort of very ‘human’ qualities that we can relate to? It makes the conquering of the villain very bittersweet. We’re happy for our heroes, but sad for what was lost.
Antiheros are no different, and neither was Archer.
One thing I’ve been proud of in seeing reviews of HUSHED is that people do like Archer, and people do understand him. And most of them are aware that they shouldn’t. But why?
I think motivation plays a big part in how we feel about any character. Someone trying to take over the world for power is looked down upon. But, someone who’s trying to take over the world in order to overthrow the evil higher power—well, that’s a little different, isn’t it?
So we have Archer. A murderer. But he isn’t doing it for kicks and giggles. He does it because he honestly, sincerely, believes it’s the right thing to do. Justice being served. He has no misconceptions that he’s a hero or a godsend and is, in fact, aware what he’s doing is wrong on some level. But he murders because he thinks it’s the only way to free his childhood sweetheart, righting the wrongs against her from when they were kids.
Archer’s loyalty is what makes him relatable. His unwavering faith, love, and devotion, however skewed and obsessive it may be, can make you feel for him. Not to mention he spends all this time trying to save Vivian when the events of their childhood have left him just as emotionally scarred. He’s damaged, and he doesn’t realize it.
I can think of very few acts a character could commit that readers would not be willing to overlook, if said character’s motivations were honest and pure and relatable.
What makes a ‘bad’ character likable is not necessarily their actions, but their reasons.
There are all sorts of ‘bad’ heroes, and ‘good’ villains. Can you think of any?
Hushed by Kelley York
He's saved her. He's loved her. He's killed for her.
Eighteen-year-old Archer couldn't protect his best friend, Vivian, from what happened when they were kids, so he's never stopped trying to protect her from everything else. It doesn't matter that Vivian only uses him when hopping from one toxic relationship to another - Archer is always there, waiting to be noticed.
Then along comes Evan, the only person who's ever cared about Archer without a single string attached. The harder he falls for Evan, the more Archer sees Vivian for the manipulative hot-mess she really is.
But Viv has her hooks in deep, and when she finds out about the murders Archer's committed and his relationship with Evan, she threatens to turn him in if she doesn't get what she wants...And what she wants is Evan's death, and for Archer to forfeit his last chance at redemption.
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/hushed-kelley-york/1033904538