Saturday, 4 February 2017

Creating fiction characters who hate mankind, and why we can relate to them, especially now!!

 
It seems you can't even glance at Facebook these days without being confronted with conflicting images - one of a heinous act of cruelly followed closely by cuteness overload. Many people are now switching off the negative posts, not wanting to acknowledge them. And it isn't because they don't care. It's because they care so much that it hurts to see these images. It generates a profound sense of sadness and disappointment in them. Sadness and disappointment at their fellow human beings.

If this lead up sounds strange, it is. I'm trying to explain why I created a character in my sci-fi series "Welcome to the Apocalypse" who is anti-humanity, who hates mankind, who is a misanthropist.

Writers are meant to create protagonists (the good guys) who butt heads with antagonists (the bad guys). So if a character in a story has a profound dislike of mankind, does that make them a protagonist or antagonist?


 
Kelly Lawrence is a twenty-six year old paralegal from San Diego who is grieving the loss of her husband. Understandably, she's angry and upsetsand hates everything. The problem is that her husband's death didn't foster her dislike of people. This particular trait was born in her teens when she first witnessed a documentary about poachers in Africa. She hated these people who were cruel to animals, and driven by a desire to do something 'good', she entered the field of law, where she became even more disillusioned with the world.

This feeling grew until she didn't care if the whole world burned taking every single human with it. But she didn't really want it to burn. And she would never actually do anything to make it burn.

Fast forward a few years to where this story begins, and Kelly enters a virtual world of apocalypses in honour of her late husband who was a designer of the game. She's there to find traces of him in this virtual world and to connect with him. This explains her presence in the game, otherwise why else would a person who isn't a gamer enter a simulation pod and subject herself to 'kill or be killed' scenarios? Perhaps she didn't really think this through, but once inside, she isn't too keen on the idea of going around and killing everything with maniacal glee. It's purely self defence for her. And she's terrified of the consequences of her actions, because they will define her. Wishing the world to burn is one thing, doing something about it will make her a psychopath. 

 
Kelly Lawrence is a misanthropist. She cannot run around inside a game of 'kill or be killed' and overlook the fact that if she becomes what she hates, then her moral conscience is lost.

Kelly isn't alone in her view of the world. Poets, singers, artists, everyday people look at all the badness in the world and they want to cry. For me, the quintessential movie that explains misanthropy is James Cameron's "Avatar". Humans find a moon inhabited with a beautiful, peaceful species, yet we want to mine its minerals and so we go in and destroy everything and take what we want because we can. And, we, the audience did not like this act of all-powerful superiority one bit.

"Avatar" crossed the $1 billion mark on the 19th day of its international release. On January 31 it became the first movie ever to earn over $2 billion worldwide. (Source Wikipedia)

Humans do bad things to good people all the time. So why was this film so popular? It can't be just the special effects alone. Admittedly, they're great, but we've seen great visual effects in movies before. I put the success of this movie down to its ability to tap into that little bit of misanthropy that lives inside most of us. When times are good, humans need to be shown that we cannot step over the line in the sand. And when times are bad, we need to be reminded that we cannot step over the line in the sand.

Humans rule this planet and until the existence of life on other solar systems is discovered, we will continue to be the only species who is capable or willing to judge our moral actions, despite the legality or lack thereof.

Every day I scroll through Facebook and I see so many posts from people who are so incensed with all the badness in the world yet so helpless to do anything to stop it. Cut off the head and another one grows. This is why I just had to write a character who feels the pain of the world as much as you guys. I hope this post gives you more of an understanding of my main female character, Kelly Lawrence, and her role inside my "Welcome to the Apocalypse" series.

 
 
If you'd like to learn more about misanthropy here's a great article to read.
 
If you'd like to learn more about my "Welcome to the Apocalypse" series please click on the link and read an extract or visit my website www.dlrichardson.com 
 
Stay tuned for insights into more of my characters.
 
D L Richardson
 

 
 

2 comments:

  1. First I need to point something out. A "protagonist" is not the same as a "hero", nor is an "antagonist" the same as a "villain". The former is the person that the story revolves around and the later opposes the former. I see this kind of misuse far too often. Anyway....

    I think your use of "Avatar" to illustrate your point is a good choice. Humans are clearly the aggressors here (not all of them, but most of them) and the Na'vi presented as the defending underdogs. As far as I know, it is one of the few such examples in science fiction. There are a lot of real-world analogies that make people feel angry and powerless: colonization, exploitation, schoolyard bully, etc. Watching them get put in their place can be cathartic for those members of the audience.

    On the other side of things, I've seen some audience members spin extended fanon that justifies the humans' actions or even makes the Na'vi into the villains. I can't see any reasons other than the fact that they are humans and their opponents are not, or that the humans are judged "cooler" than in their opinion. Is this the "audience identification" thing at work that I hear about?

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  2. Yes, Brian, you are right about the role of the protagonist and antagonist. I suppose I tend to think of them as 'good guy' and 'bad guy' because that's how I like it to be when I write. Then again, one of my favourite movies is "The Crow" and it's eye for an eye violence where there is no 'good guy', just the protagonist avenging the death of a loved one. So point taken.

    The reason I really love "Avatar" is that so many blockbuster movies (but not always) portray the act of blowing things to oblivion as the right thing to do if it's for the good of mankind. I just think there are members of the audience who disagree with this aggressive approach. I know I cheered on the Na'vi and I cried when the military destroyed the beautiful tree.

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