Wednesday, May 9, 2018

An Unexpected Antagonist - The Character We Love to Hate #amwriting #amreading

A reader recently asked me which of the baddies in my books has been my favorite - which did I have the most fun writing about and making readers love to hate.

That made me pause, because I don't view my characters in terms of good or bad. My characters just are. They each develop the role they play, and each has their own personality. But with a little prodding, I realized that the character I get the most feedback about as detestable is a police officer named Hugo Petchard. He showed up completely unexpectedly as I wrote THE DEVIL OF LIGHT, but as with all of my characters, he popped up at just the right time. I thought he would be a minor character and perhaps come and go quickly, but without fail he has turned up in all three Cass Elliot novels. Although he does play a minor role most of the time, he and his love interest ended up dramatically impacting the plot in AVENGERS OF BLOOD.

Let me tell you a little about him, and then you can tell us what you think about his detest-ability:

Officer Hugo Petchard is an absolute snot, a big fish in a small pond. (In his own mind, he pronounces his name PetCHARD, with a kind of French flair. But when readers speak about him, they call him PETcherd, with a bit of a redneck twang - he really hates that.) Despite having been given the grand name of Hugo, he’s small in stature, which bothers him mightily. Petchard has his job because his daddy has money and the Forney County Sheriff, Bill Hoffner, owes Daddy for making significant campaign contributions. Deep down, Petchard suspects that he doesn’t have what it takes to be a real police officer. That unacknowledged insecurity makes him show off in ways that inevitably lead to embarrassment for himself, his fellow officers, and occasionally the entire sheriff’s department.

Petchard is the kind of person we’ve all worked with who thinks he’s important / intelligent / gorgeous / witty / and dead sexy - why wouldn't everyone adore him and why isn't he already in charge around here? In reality, he's a bumbling buffoon and totally incapable of self examination. Petchard is the guy who raises your blood pressure with a single superior snort. He’s that co-worker: the one the boss tolerates despite his incompetence, the one the boss refuses to fire. It’s a blast to put Petchard in positions where he has the potential to succeed, but because he can’t contain his ego, he ends up falling on his face. It’s also fun to put Sheriff Hoffner in the position of having to defend Petchard’s stupidity to keep the campaign dollars flowing.

Writing scenes where Petchard appears makes me laugh and cringe at the same time. I love and hate him in equal measure. My other characters seem to simply despise him.

What do you think? Is Hugo Petchard the kind of character you could love to hate?

No comments: