I joke with my beta readers about what “team” they are on when they read my stories, but secretly I’d rather them wear “Down with So-and-so!” shirts. To write a character that your readers hate is an exceptional feat. When I say hate, I don’t mean they dislike the character because they’re poorly written or do embarrassing things, etc. I hate Ms. Swan for being spineless and whiny, but I have no desire to cause her demise. These characters that you hate are the type that turn on you. The type who you might have liked at one point and then they do something so heinous that you wish you could reach in the book and kill them yourself or better yet, maim the author for making you hate that person.
My #1 example comes from a little series called A Song of Ice and Fire (WARNING Spoiler ahead! Skip over this part if you are just now reading the books or watching the show: Game of Thrones.)
Mr. Martin introduces us to a ward of Winterfell, one Theon Grayjoy. While he is technically a prisoner of war, he is treated well and brought up like a sibling to the Stark children. When poor Bran is felled by the Lannisters, Theon is immediately by Rob Stark’s side, ready to seek revenge with/for his “brother”. He offers to fight for Winterfell. He seems like a stand up young man. I liked him! Then he stabs them all in the back. Sneaky little f*ck. If that wasn’t bad enough, Martin has him do something so awful I almost threw my Kindle across the room when I read it. Our author tries to get a little redemption for Theon’s character, but his crime is still pretty hideous. I hear the upcoming A Dance with Dragons will have Theon getting his just desert, but if it’s short of his head on a pike and being eviscerated by a White Walker, I don’t want to read about it. We shall see.
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I think it’s every author’s goal to evoke feeling from their readers. We want them to get to know our characters. To love them, to hate them, to want to be them, to want to be friends with them. While it’s not necessarily an easy task regardless of the kind of connection you want your reader to make, I think it’s infinity harder to make your reader feel that violent hatred towards your precious creations. I’d be happy to hear you tell me you are Team Chaz or Team Judd or even Team Jazz (please! ^_^) but I’d be ridiculously ecstatic for you to approach me and tell me you hate ME for screwing with your emotions. For you to feel ashamed for ever having liked one of my characters. For you to have thrown the book across the room because that character had been double crossing our heroes the entire time (please do not throw e-readers! I cannot reimburse you!). For me to be able to write such a realistic three dimensional character that induced such a passionate response from my readers would be an amazing accomplishment. I look forward to your hate mail!