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?