Thursday, December 01, 2011

Thursday's Thugs: There's a Little Grinch in All Bad Guys

"The Grinch" is the go-to bad guy of childhood, particularly during the holiday season. Children everywhere Christmas is celebrated have been exposed to Dr. Seuss's Ghinch. He is one of the most memorable bad guys ever created. Love him or hate him, the Grinch is the bad guy who puts the mean in green.

As a writer, I am more impressed with the author than the character. Dr. Seuss has endowed his children's books with complex characters and simple actions that make those characters understandable. Everything from the Cat in the Hat to the Butter Battle teach children to think about the world in new ways. In a world where what we get overshadows why we give, this bad guy reminds us to give of ourselves.

The Grinch is an excellent example of the annoying aspects of holiday excess and exclusion. Who-ville's happy people are a sharp contrast to the bitter, hateful, cold cave of occupied by the Grinch. But even the Grinch has one friend in his dog Max. We are saddened by poor, loyal, Max being forced to pose as a reindeer and help steal Christmas. Max is ashamed of being part of the evil. But without evil we would not feel for Cindy Lou Who and the denizens of Who-ville. But, it is the personal growth of the mean old Grinch's character that gives us the warm fuzzy feeling.

There is a little grinch in all bad guys. A small part of the villain that ma
kes him human. Not all bad guys have hearts that can grow three sizes at the end of the book. Not all stories of the bad guy end with redemption, or even end in the book we are writing. All of them do end with our villain making a choice. We writers have to understand what our bad guy's story is, we have to know the warts and weaknesses that make him the hero of his own story. Only when we have a grasp of how the evil garlic grew in our bad guy's soul can we come up with a hero equipped to pluck it out.

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