I have been wondering if I can create a character who is meant to be hated by the audience without ruining the story. They will have little to no redeeming qualities and usually get away with their misdeeds to provide a “life is unfair” lesson or accentuate a real-life issue. I’m currently working on a story in which the protagonist’s father is abusive towards his son. Despite being polite and friendly to everyone on the outside, the father constantly gets in the way of his son’s dreams and berates or humiliates his son for not living up to his expectations. The same question can be applied to the protagonist’s annoying friends who often mock and hinder his goal.
Thank you for reading!James
So the son is the protagonist, and the father and friends are antagonists?
Yes, you can write antagonists that get away with misdeeds to make a point. Many people in real life who have faced abuse have no way of holding the abuser responsible or even receiving acknowledgement from the abuser or other family members that abuse occurred.
If you want to depict this in a story, I have two recommendations:
- Although the protagonist can’t get justice, highlight what he can do. That might just be healing and being happy in spite of the fact that he’ll never even get an apology, but you can still frame that as a success story for him.
- For a story like this, you’ll need to adhere to a high standard of realism and sensitivity. If you haven’t personally experienced these issues, please do lots of research to depict abuse accurately and make sure you aren’t exaggerating the abuse to create more drama. Also, ask if you really need both the father and the friends to be toxic, since an abusive father is bad enough. If you have personally experienced these problems, then, by all means, write your truth. Even in that case, researching what other people have experienced can still be helpful.
This is a case where the audience can be asked to deal with the dissatisfaction of letting antagonists get away with terrible behavior, but they need to see that it’s in service to a story that’s realistic and thoughtful rather than one that’s piling on the sensationalist suffering.