Good Girls Write Bad

As a child, I thought that the pinnacle of luxury was purchasing hardback books. As an adult, my views have not changed all that much.

I have always loved reading and consuming stories. I’m brave enough to admit that I have read the Harry Potter series in its entirety nine separate times. But as I worked my way through my college Creative Writing program, I began to realize that my real love lies in stories of realistic fiction about flawed humans and anti-heroes; I’ve grown tired of white-knight stories and frankly, I don’t care to write pieces about “good” people. The members of my MFA cohort like to joke that the way to my heart is through characters that no one else likes.

I caused a bit of a stir in my seventh grade English class for being fully on board with Napoleon’s reign of terror in Animal Farm because it was the first time I’d read a story where a bad character was at the forefront. However, I did finally concede when he had Boxer the horse killed. When I was thirteen, I read The Great Gatsby for the first time. Even then, I had no interest in Nick or Daisy or Gatsby himself. I was so interested in the character of George Wilson who was “so dumb he doesn’t know he’s alive” that I named my cat after him. I fell in love with Dennis Lehane’s short story “Until Gwen” after reading it for my intermediate level fiction workshop during my junior year of college, even despite my general disdain for things written in the second person. But who wouldn’t be entirely enthralled by a story of a father and son with a trustless relationship trying to look for a lost diamond while also trying to be the one to shoot first?

For my advanced level fiction workshop, we read Toni Morrison’s Sula, which I believe is the most fascinating depiction of female friendship and womanhood ever written with the twists and turns of accidental murder, purposeful murder, secret keeping, and cheating. The raw intensity and emotion that comes through in the tale of Sula and Nel’s relationship is something that I strive to replicate.

Morally grey characters and stories about things that aren’t always happy are what I look for, whether it be through books or movies or television shows. The best piece of writing advice I’ve ever been given was that compelling characters are the ones that can be seen mourning premature babies in one scene and ordering a murder to cover up their illegal business dealings in the next (what’s up Boardwalk Empire). And seeing as I’ve never been the dictator of a farm, fled the scene of a hit-and-run, stolen a diamond, or drowned a kindergartener, I can’t be all that bad, right?