Wednesday, October 24, 2012

book talk

So, my book club read Gone Girl last month and the word "diabolical" kept cropping up.  There were so many plot twists and we were all kept guessing until the end, which I loved.  I was also reminded of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan because I did NOT like the main characters in Gone Girl either. 

I imagine it's difficult to write horrid characters.  Most people in real life aren't purely good or evil, they're a mix of both.  The first time I really noticed a character portrayed as both good and evil was when I saw the 1997 movie The Peacemaker.  The terrorist's behavior is explained when you see the losses on his end, he's got a vendetta against the U.S. for legitimate reasons.  That added a depth to the entire film, another layer of plot that made the entire story more plausible.

This good-and-bad-in-all-characters is one reason I enjoy Sons of Anarchy.  Gemma's manipulative, but she adores her grandsons.  Jax kills in cold blood, but he loves his club and is loyal to his family.  The mix of good and bad adds conflict and complicates everything, tangles up relationships and perceptions.  In real life even the most despicable person has some redeeming quality--they're kind to children, they help a neighbor, they're a talented musician.  Even the most wonderful person has some flaw--they tailgate, they're rude to store clerks, they cheat at golf.  Isn't that true of all people?  We're good and bad all the time.  Nobody's Snow White and nobody's the Wicked Witch, right?  It's Jane Austen stood the test of time--the villains have charm, the heroines aren't perfect.

When writing fiction I try to incorporate a little bad in my "good guys" and something redeeming in my "bad guys."  It's too easy to write the extreme, obviously, but to write your protagonist as a wicked, miserable, selfish and awful human being has got to be tough.  I'd struggle spending that much time with characters like Nick and Amy--they're, well, they're diabolical.  I admire Gillian Flynn for developing them and going out on a limb to create such nasty people. 

That said, I hated Amy more.  Anyone else read it?  How did you feel about the characters in Gone Girl?  Could you--have you--ever written a character purely evil like that?


  1. I thought what made Gone Girl so interesting was how your mind had to flip from thinking Amy was loving and kind (normal) to pure evil (crazy). It was a great character plot twist.

  2. I really liked Gone dark and twisty. Amy was really twisted.

    I completely agree about the characters on SOA. You like them, but you cringe at the bad things they do.

  3. While I do applaud the author on her creativity, I just couldn't like the book. There certainly were some interesting plot twists, but there was just so much bad about both characters. If you aren't going to give me a character I can like, at least give me some lighter moments to get some relief from the evil. I think I could have gotten over all of that, though, if it weren't for the sister's nickname. Having a character with a nickname that is a common verb just jacks up the whole reading experience for me. It annoyed me throughout the entire book.

  4. I'm reading it right now. I got about 20% to go. I'm curious to see how it ends. The book does a great job at showing there are always two sides to every story. In this case they're both pretty evil and probably deserve each other.

  5. Oops I'm not reading this...not until next month.

  6. I haven't read Gone Girl, and probably won't. If the protagonist isn't likable in some way, I lose interest. But I just wanted to say that before I got to your third paragraph, I was thinking Jane Austen.

  7. I'll be ready to have this conversation soon, thanks to you. So, get this:

    Trip to Turkey. You know about that. Flying home two days ago. Plane in Paris is delayed. Makes us miss our connection in Detroit. Rebooked for a flight from Detroit to Mpls later that night. As apology, Delta gives us each a $25 voucher. To use for food and such. To me, "and such" means "make husband buy food for us off his voucher so I can buy a book." Go into bookstore. Look specifically for GONE GIRL (thanks to our previous exchange on this subject, wherein you assured me I wouldn't be creeped out by it). Find it. Voucher it.

    Now it's on my night stand.

    As soon as I can stay awake past 9 p.m. without my jet-lagged head splitting open, I'm diving into it.

  8. My favorite characters have always been those who are flawed. I haven't read Gone Girl, but I don't think I'd enjoy reading about someone who is evil, or for that matter, someone who is too good. I've never met a truly evil person btw.

  9. I too like my characters flawed but with redeeming qualities. I doubt that I could create a truly nasty person although it would be fun to try.

    And yes, I cheat at golf.

  10. I've seen lots of talk about Gone Girl, but probably won't read it because I'm all about sunshine and rainbows. I like to be happy when I read a book or watch a movie so I trend more towards the "too good to be true" end of the spectrum.

  11. we just decided on Gone Girl for our next book in Nov...don't really know anything about it...
    read half broken horses this month, was ok, easy to read.


Spill it, reader.