Anyone writing children's stories - how to bring sympathy to and round out your unlikeable characters?

(4 Posts)
stugtank Tue 03-May-16 14:16:25

If you have unlikeable or antagonistic characters in children's stories (thinking more of the age 9+ range here) is it essential to bring some sympathy to them as well?

I've been advised that my 'bad' characters are too one dimensional. Yet when I think of say Matilda's parents, I fail to see much sympathy for or redeeming qualities about them.

Possibly a back story is needed to bring sympathy and I know it is done in some of he best children's books e.g. Mrs Coulter

MattDillonsPants Wed 04-May-16 11:33:01

Perhaps the difference there is that Matilda's parents are adults? What role do the young children play in your story?

Are they simply there to make things go wrong for the protagonist? If so then rethink the role they're playing.

CantFeelMyFace Wed 04-May-16 18:24:33

It's so hard to answer this out of context(of your book). A back story could work to 'justify' the antagonist's subsequent behaviour or at least explain some of it. Or, you could build incidents into the narration that show a different side to the antagonist e.g a particular situation in which they are vulnerable or not so evil. For instance, if the evil character is normally quite nasty you could show that he/she has an attachment to a person/animal/something else that brings out a spark of kindness or selflessness in them. Or it could be quite a small gesture, sparsely described, that shows them hesitating in their nasty actions or regretting them for a brief moment. It depends on the age of the characters also. I would have thought that the subtleties of character development are not as important for a children's book compared to an adult one but maybe an actual author will pop along in a minute to enlighten us! HTH

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Thu 05-May-16 16:47:17

I think children's books in many genres have plenty of out and out baddies. Maybe you can make them more rounded in other ways, like interesting or surprising details, could be physical, could be how they behave or what they are interested in.

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