By That Sin Fell The Angels may be the first story I’ve written which really gets into the head of the villain. Usually, I restrict the viewpoint to the main character or the main character and his love interest (the secondary character). The antagonist, if there is one, is usually observed by these characters, but we don’t actually experience his or her thoughts.
In this novel, however, the story is being told from the point of view of Terry, a closetted music teacher at the High School; Jonah, a gay student; and the Reverend Isaac Thompson. Isaac is the direct antagonist of Terry and indirectly affects Jonah, through the guidance he gives Jonah’s mother. He’s an extremely difficult character for me to write, for three reasons.
Firstly, his viewpoint is pretty far removed from my own. He’s a fundamentalist Christian who sees sin in everyone and feels that this needs to be confronted head on. Compromise merely leads to sinners continuing to sin, and ultimately being damned to Hell. Therefore, he rejects all of the things that I personally think are essential in a community of people with diverse beliefs — attempting to find common ground, accepting that there is more than one way of viewing things, being open to compromise. Isaac does legitimately want to help people, but he goes about it in a way I could never condone. I do have a dogmatic streak in me that often manifests itself in arguments about certain subjects (translations of Icelandic Sagas, for instance), so I can tap into that, but Isaac’s narrow-minded view of things often makes me want to hit him.
Secondly, he keeps wanting to be a parody. The attitudes and views he represents are often repugnant to me and the temptation to portray him as Bigotted Bible-Thumping Preacher #5 from a catalogue of movie and television cliches is strong. I think there’s a natural tendency for us to lampoon our enemies, and this character represents people I do consider to be the enemy — people who are bound and determined to interfere in my life and make sure I can’t live peacefully and happily in the manner I choose. People who’s ignorance and hatred of those who differ from themselves leads teenagers to take their own lives in despair. So I’ve been struggling to make the man intelligent and present his arguments in a logical fashion. And I’ve used the grief he’s experienced over the loss of his family to explain in as sympathetic a manner as possible, why he is the way he is.
Thirdly, he doesn’t like the other characters. This is particularly tough for me, because I’m a sap. I love happy endings. I love silly romantic movies and I cry when the main character realizes there really is a Santa Claus, even though everyone knows there really isn’t — especially the filmmakers who are pocketing the money I paid for a DVD of their hackneyed factory-produced crap…
Uh…where was I? Oh, yeah. One of my biggest problems, when I’m writing a story, is that I want everyone to fall in love with each other. I want the story to end with one big puppy pile of people hugging and kissing each other, all wrongs forgiven and all malice forgotten. Because of this, I frequently discover that a story has lost momentum, because I had the characters sit down and talk like reasonable human beings and iron out all the major conflicts between them. With nothing left to fight about, there isn’t much of a story left. I then have to go back and unravel all of that communion and empathy, so they can go back to hating each other for a bit longer.