Writing Tip #98

Because I’m bad, I’m bad… Or am I? I just watched the first four episodes of Season 1 of Breaking Bad, the critically acclaimed AMC program starring Bryan Cranston who plays science teacher turned meth maker Walter White. I know I’m late to the party, about 40 or so episodes behind the rest of the world, but I’d heard so many good things about this program that my husband and I decided to watch it from the beginning.

Just a few minutes into the first episode, I knew the show was for me. I’m a sucker for good characters who do bad things and, conversely, bad characters who do good things, characters who make you feel ambivalent, who make you question why you’re rooting for them or why you’re making excuses for them like a mother who pleads with the authorities that her murderous son is really “a good boy.” Tony Soprano was one of those characters. Hannibal Lecter also comes to mind. And this was the kind of bad guy I was trying to create with Don Bailino, who is the villain of my debut novel Baby Grand — one that kept readers on their toes, hating him in one chapter, liking him the next and, perhaps, not liking themselves just a tiny bit for liking for him. I find these kind of characters to be compelling, human, relatable, perhaps even sympathetic.

“You can see why he became a meth dealer,” my husband said about Walter White. “Because now that he knows he has lung cancer and only a year or so to live he needs to provide for his family.”

“I get it,” I said. “But that still doesn’t excuse him from what he’s done. He just choked a man to death and told his sidekick how to use chemicals to get rid of the body of the other guy he killed in the trailer explosion. He chose this road. Nobody chose it for him.”

“So you’re not rooting for him, I guess?” he said.

“No, I am,” I said with a smile.

What on earth would make him think I wasn’t? :)

Who is your favorite bad guy of literature, television or film?

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2 thoughts on “Writing Tip #98

  1. I haven’t yet watched this show but it seems to be calling out to me lately and I suspect it’s only a matter of time before I’m through a season on Netflix.

    I just finished a novel that touches on exactly this character thing, at least for me, as I’m still struggling with who the hero of the story was. Under This Unbroken Sky is the book – come to my site to learn more!

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