Antagonistic MC

by Austin

Question: My story is about a serial killer trying to get away with their crimes, it's like a reverse murder mystery where the killer is constantly wondering what the police are thinking and if they are any closer to being found out. My MC obviously, is a serial killer. So my question is, how could I make my MC not seem totally evil? Could I still make my story interesting and appealing even thought the protagonist is not a very nice person?

Answer: There are stories told at least partly from the villain's point of view (e.g. in the visceral horror, suspense, and psychological suspense genres). However, it is harder for the readers to put themselves into the shoes of such a character (not being so amoral themselves). This creates distance between the character and the reader, so that the reader looks at the character more objectively or psychoanalytically.

That might be okay. But if it's not what you have in mind, here are a few tricks that can help the reader relate to such a character.

1. Give the character at least one redeemable quality. For example, a passion for music (as in A Clockwork Orange), a loved one he wants to protect (e.g. Artemis Fowl), or perhaps a personal code of ethics that he won't violate (e.g. he might have a rule that he only kills people he feels deserve it because of who they are or something they have done).

2. Give the character a backstory that generates sympathy (e.g. Ebeneezer Schrooge).

3. Make the character charming. Write in first person, so that he talks to the readers like they're his best friend.

4. Give the main character an enemy who is even less moral. For example, in A Threepenny Opera, Macheath argues that, while he is a cutthroat assassin, his crimes are peanuts next to those committed every day by financiers.


You could consider having your character redeem himself in the end. For instance, he might sacrifice himself to save an innocent person.

Best of luck.

Comments for Antagonistic MC

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Nov 07, 2017
Useful example: Crime and Punishment
by: Anonymous

Perhaps you could have a look at 'crime and punishment' by Dostoyevsky. This book is about a man who has a theory that exceptional people can commit murder if it is necessary for a greater good. He then becomes dead poor and commits a murder. The guilt (although he does not want to admit that he feels guilty) and the fear of being found out drive him mad.

The book is full of wonderful examples of 'show, don't tell'. The entire description I gave above is implicit in the book; you can only infer it from his behaviour.

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