I have a book that lists among my weaknesses the word, ‘DISTURBING’ Just like that, all caps. The only thing that disturbs me about that is that they consider it a weakness. Hell, if I can disturb somebody and there are no consequences, like getting arrested or fired, I’m going for it. Besides, we’re all disturbing in one way or another. Religion, politics, social and societal convention, we are all disturbed and disturbing by and to someone. The question is: should you make your characters disturbing?
Hell yes. Even if you are writing a piece about well meaning people on two sides of a divisive issue and everyone will be redeemed in the end through compromise and group hugs, someone needs to be disturbing or the boredom will be excruciating.
I can hear you thinking, ‘Huh, I’ll just have my antagonist be disturbing.’ Does it disturb you that I can hear your thoughts? Now, you can have your bad guy be disturbing, most of them are in one way or another; they’re bad guys. So make them disturbing in their actions. Have them swerve to hit bunnies on the highway, pee in the office coffee pot, try to see the future in the entrails of their victims, etc. That’ll disturb some readers but we expect that sort of thing and we expect bad guys to have disturbing thoughts if they have a POV. By all means, make the bad guy disturbing but also do the unexpected. Give your protagonist disturbing thoughts.
Heroes are better characters if they are flawed, we all know that. This is just one more way to bring them to life. I don’t have room here to give examples because there are too many possibilities. Think sex, murder, torture, violence, kinky sex, violent sex, torturous sex, vandalism, suicide, autoerotic asphyxiation, homophobic, homosexual, pee in the office coffee pot thoughts.
I can hear you thinking again and some of you are reluctant to sully your good guy with less than heroic thoughts. You love him because he is so strong and brave and virtuous. He is your idea of a perfect person. You can’t have him think stuff like... No!
Okay. Many books have been written and published with nary a thought out of place on the part of the hero. The tension comes from insurmountable odds, the hero’s fear or feelings of unworthiness, or his desire to save the villain, etc. There is a large audience for that.
Not my cup of tea.
I prefer Han Solo to Luke, Rooster Cogburn to Marshal Dillon, Ironman to Superman, Grace Anadarko to Joe Friday. I want heroes with grit. I want them dirty, nasty, sociopathic in their thoughts and borderline criminal in their deeds. I don’t care if they fight their demons or embrace them. I just want them to have demons.
Now, I realize this sort of thing can be overdone. So don’t obsess over thinking up and putting in inappropriate thoughts. But there are situations where a reasonable person might think something that would get them arrested if they said it out loud. If one occurs to you, try it out.
What do you think? Gonna do it?