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Tears For A Scoundrel by author Max E. Stone
No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.
The phrase is just one of the many instructions that all writers, myself included, use as their credence to speak realistically to their audiences no matter the genre they write.
Personally speaking, I started writing at nine years old as a hobby. At that time, I followed this piece of advice to the letter, though it was more subconscious than anything.
Regardless, my readers felt.
Mostly concern for me.
My stories and the scenes within were anything but childlike to say the least.
I recall multiple times when the adults in my life (parents, relatives, teachers, counselors, you name it) sat me down and would ask various derivatives of “Is everything all right?” and “Do you want to talk? About anything? Anything at all?”
Everything was fine.
Things couldn’t have been better and I didn’t need to talk because the stories just came to me.
But, in those moments, I knew that words had the potential to elicit powerful emotion and feelings.
I could actually make people feel for and care about my characters the way I do.
It was easy with the good guys.
But what about the villains?
Making readers hate the villain for his or her misdeeds was simple.
He or she is, after all, a villain.
So how can you cry for the guy or girl everyone is supposed to hate?
I explored this question after the publishing of my first book, August to Life, in 2012. Within that work was the introduction of a billionaire and narcissistic psychopath.
He did horrible things and, worse yet, used money, status, and outright fear to shut mouths and cover crimes.
How can anyone feel for someone like that?
I’m reminded of an interview I heard on the radio that same year. Quentin Tarantino, speaking of the character plantation owner Calvin J. Candie in his, at the time, upcoming movie, Django Unchained, stated he always tried to give his villains a story or a reason for why they are who they are because no villain is a villain for no reason.
That quote inspired me to delve deeper into my characters.
To find out why that billionaire was so abusive.
To figure out why those closest to him would take it all for so long.
In essence, I had to stop making all the good characters good and the bad ones bad and listen to them.
Find out who they were, layers and all.
I haven’t been in the publishing world for long, but I have learned that nothing is black and white and no situation is exactly the same. There are gray areas because people are different and have their own reasons for operating as they do. Characters, especially the villains, are the same way and to make a reader feel means to make the character one to whom they can relate.
Then and only then will the tears come.
Max E. Stone