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I have a character that I want to give a huge slap across the face to.

If I absolutely hate this character, does that mean my reader will hate him too? Is it good to purposely include a character in your writing which the reader is designed to hate?

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    It's a good tool to evoke the justice boner in readers. – SF. Jun 2 '16 at 13:23
  • Holy crap, @SF., that's brilliant. When I start my next punk band, my stage name will be Justice Boner. – Lauren Ipsum Jun 2 '16 at 21:21
  • @LaurenIpsum It sounds similar to schadenfreude. – Cascabel Jun 3 '16 at 18:59
  • @Gandalf It's similar, but Schadenfreude is literally "pleasure at another's misfortune," when the misfortune is often but doesn't have to be "justice." – Lauren Ipsum Jun 3 '16 at 19:05
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    @LaurenIpsum That's why I said similar. At least it's repeatable in mixed company, which I cannot necessarily say for "justice boner". – Cascabel Jun 3 '16 at 19:08
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Well, "good" is subjective. You can have a loathsome, hissable, completely irredeemable villain who roasts puppies, shoots women with crossbows, and writes comics where Captain America is revealed to be a lifelong HYDRA agent at the end, and your reader will likely despise that character.

However, even your wretched villain should be three-dimensional. Just because there's nothing good about this person doesn't mean the character doesn't have motivation, personality, or a backstory. The motivations can be horrible (he likes kicking sand in the faces of 90-pound weaklings and hates that one was turned into a supersoldier), the personality can be insane (she blows up hospitals just to watch first responders scurry around), and the backstory can be horrendous (he's a thoroughly spoiled and coddled royal brat who's the product of brother-sister incest and inherited the throne at age 13, with no one who can stop him or even discipline him), but do come up with something. Flat villains aren't interesting. We just want them to go away and stop being obstacles.

There's a place for a character we love to hate. Think of Joffrey Baratheon on Game of Thrones and Red Skull from Captain America. They are horrific and we generally want them to die, but they aren't cardboard cutouts.

Compare with GOT's Ramsay Snow/Bolton and The Waif, or Jafar from Aladdin. They are villains, but beyond varying levels of anger, sadism, and hunger for power, we don't have backstory or motivation for them. They aren't as interesting or rounded.

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    Very good answer. I think the most important thing about a villain is that they are 100% human – MicroMachine Jun 1 '16 at 17:05
  • "...and writes comics where Captain America is revealed to be a lifelong HYDRA agent at the end," Subtopic: I wonder what they make Cap's motivation for being lifelong baddie? – raddevus Jun 1 '16 at 17:54
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    @SaberWriter I will never know unless someone tells me, because I will never buy that comic. That is My Immortal fanfic levels of OOC. – Lauren Ipsum Jun 1 '16 at 22:31
  • Another really good example of a character we love to hate is Nobuyuki Sugō from Sword Art Online. He was all around a heavily despised villain and in making him so, the audience very much loved SPOILER WARNING seeing him get the snot beaten out of him in the ending. – Cyberson Jun 3 '16 at 19:27
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I think if you try hard to make a character hateable, most readers will hate him. And yes, it's good to have such characters in stories. If all your characters are nice and kind, the story might get a little boring. Those hated people are something different for your story. If you really want your readers to hate him, make him bully the protagonist or something. Readers will boil out of anger every time he shows up. Of course, this also opens possibilitys for the outcome. Will you kill him off in a very sattisfying way, finally rewarding your readers for everything they've been through because of that guy, or will you have them change their personality and become good? The latter one also uses to be a good idea, but you have to do it in a convincing way.

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It depends a lot on the plot, the "genre" (I don't like this word too much, but there is a difference between pulpy science fiction and literary fiction), and other dynamics.

For genre fiction (=science fiction, horror, fantasy, detective, etc.) stereotypes are generally expected. This means, characters should be rather clearly offered as good/evil, smart/dumb, etc. Check about character theory: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Character_theory_%28media%29

For Literary Fiction (or if you want your genre story to be more complex - "high-brow"; at your own risk!) the exact opposite should happen:

  • A character cannot be evil; s/he can be misguided
  • A character cannot be omniscient; s/he must have doubts
  • A character cannot be omnibelevolent; s/he must have some dark side (or, at the very least, some fundamental character quirk that assigns a flawed quality to his/her ethics

And so on

  • Oh, I don't know. Bob Ewell strikes me as pretty much irredeemably evil, but I'd say TKAM is certainly serious fiction, too. – Tom Zych Jun 9 '16 at 10:59

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