Monday, August 1, 2011

The forging of the A**Hole

For those of you who don't know and may possibly care, I'm currently working on writing a graphic novel. I feel silly trying to explain the premise, mostly because I'm sure it will offend hard-core zombie genre enthusiasts, but silly is exactly what I mean for it to be because silly is how I perceive the entire zombie concept... So there!

My zombie world is much more like our own, but full of undead people. Kevin is one of those, who is not only having to come to grips with being a rotting corpse, but having to contend with all the trials and tribulations high school as well. In addition, he has a crumbling home life, which brings me to the subject of today's post: Kevin's father Chet.

Chet is, for all intents and purposes, one of the villains of the story. I have to say, I am relatively new to the fiction writing gig, but I have to say without a doubt that the bad guy is the hardest to write! And even more so when all he really is is a massive jerk. Anyone can write a Super villain. You can go nuts! Everyone loves to write the Hitlers, the Voldemorts, the Magnetos, the Maleficents. A baddie on a grand scale is easy because going into it, everyone knows that this dude is pretty  F***ed up! I mean, look at the outfit. The flunkies. The capricious insane gestures of grandeur. There's a theatricality that is undeniable and irresistible. They're fun to write, and fun to play.

But what about all the wannabees? The C-class villains, who, at the end of the day are the types that we deal with the most. Most of us will likely never deal with someone who is legitimately evil. Even though roughly a third of our government and business leaders have psychopathic and sociopathic personality markers, most of us will come up against people who are merely assholes.

But what separates these sorts of bad guys? Is a jerk the same as a bully? Is a prick the same as a douchebag? I felt like I needed to straighten this out, because I actually have three separate characters that I need to spread out over the spectrum of petty evil and I don't want them to all seem like cardboard cut outs of each other.
I drew some sketches of Chet to help me. Sometimes the drawing of the characters expression, body language, etc, tells you things about the character that you didn't even know in the writing.
Initially, he seemed like a domestic bully. But Kevin has a bully at school, and I didn't want the relationship to be the same. After looking at the sketches, I felt like Chet's posture and falling-apart, disjointed body language weren't nearly aggressive enough to be a true bully. Passive aggression. That's Chet's style. He's resentful of the world because the Event (the unexplained whatever that caused 70% of the human population to go zombie-fied) also cost him his job, as well as his former college athlete good looks. He hates his boss for no real reason and embarks on several failed attempts to kill him and eat his brains, only adding to the hatred. He resents his family for not being the perfect 1950's style household that he once envisioned it to be. I haven't come up with a specific issue he has with Kevin, and I feel like that might be important. Kevin can't stand him in general because he's a jerk who lashes out at everyone.

I feel like writing dialog, getting into the head of a jerk, is really difficult because I've worked for the majority of my life not to be one! The kind of person who is rude to waitresses. The person who doesn't tip. Who can't appreciate anything from anyone. I can articulate all these things that I want Chet to be, but I don't know how to show him as such. I tried to do a little research on who are modern pop culture's greatest jerks and I don't want to dig any deeper because I can't stand reading about Kate Gosselin BECAUSE SHE'S SUCH A JERK! Lol. But probably exactly who I need to watch for inspiration. Her and maybe Hannity.

To complicate matters, my story is essentially supposed to be a comedy, so I have to make him a funny a**hole, and not so much of a jerk that the reader wants to walk away. Or more importantly, I want to walk away before I finish! I also want to give him a bit of a character arc, if only from bad to worse. (SPOILERS!) Ultimately, Chet drives away his family and descends into alcoholism. How do I make that funny?
Looking at my drawings, I feel like as a zombie, he should be more gruesome, but I want you to be able to see the shadow of his former self. To be able to tell he was once a good looking man, so there's some pity for this character who will ultimately and quite literally fall apart by the end of the series.

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