Humanity in Characters

Recently I sat down to coffee with a friend of mine and after some polite chit-chat about zombies, a life without electricity, and the stupidity of youth he informed me that he was rereading Genesis and he realized that he didn’t like Atom.

I stared at him over my coffee cup, uncertain as to my own emotions.

A part of me felt like I should be insulted that he didn’t like my main character.

But then I realized he didn’t dislike the character because he was boring or a cardboard cutout. He disliked the character because Atom made decisions that he didn’t like.

I sat in silence, listening to my friend expound on the statement and I realized that in my eyes he was actually praising my depiction of Atom. I can’t say that I set out to create a deep, multi-layered character (and I’m not sure I can ever say that) but in my attempt to craft a fun, rip-roaring adventure I may have onioned Atom with a few unintended layers.

Atom isn’t always anything.

He has moments where you see undying loyalty, fatherly love, snarky humor … and yes, moments of ruthless callousness.

I tried to capture a character who is human.

I feel like there are a lot of characters out there who are good, bad, and ugly but sit in that characteristic and refuse to budge.

Atom wanders.

Part of that is myself. I’m not saying Atom is a projection of me, but he does some things like I would. When I look at my life I have achievements that I’m proud of and moments that make me smile. I have memories that make my heart glow and incidents I would love to bury in a deep hole and never let them see the light of day.

But that’s humanity: pride, shame, joy, love, hate, rage … emotion makes us human.

The difference between Atom and the rest of us is that he can’t hide. I’m sure people would look at everyone differently if everything they had ever done or said was written on a page for the world to see. But that also makes a character relatable.

I’m guessing most of us haven’t killed someone callously for the bounty on their head, but I’m pretty sure we’ve all made choices we weren’t proud of for work.

That comment, ‘I don’t like Atom,’ really got me thinking. Would we like anyone if we knew everything about them?

Food for thought.

In the meantime, keep on reading, keep on digging, and keep on flying the Black.

One thought on “Humanity in Characters

  1. JD

    You’re touching on why it’s not healthy to think we are always right and just as unhealthy to think we’re always wrong.
    In my opinion, that’s why we need the continual whisper of Jesus in our ear to maintain some grip on reality. Especially when there’s another voice saying, “You can be a like God! You’re always right!”
    Also, from my observations of the current sincere, rational and positive debates about certain issues, a lot of people have callously murdered other people in their hearts.
    So, yeah, Adam is relatable, so you can like him or second guess him.

    Like

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