Tip #27: No Good Deed…

Good deed

I just did a post about characters who do bad things and decided I would flip the coin over to explore the bright side.

Characters’ “good” actions are far easier to recreate in your writing than their shameful misdeeds. This is because you, the author, are more likely to have saved a life than taken one. Compare the number of firemen, paramedics and police officers in the world to the number of murderers.

But by making your life more difficult as a writer, playing with your character’s thoughts and feelings regarding the “good” act, you can add depth to your story.

This is all about the saying “no good deed goes unpunished”, but it goes further than cosmic reverse-karma. It is about how your character responds internally to their own act of charity. How did you feel the last time you did a good thing for someone else? I doubt it was the unassuming sense of “ain’t no thing” which the Bible advocates (not a direct quote).

For your character, it could be a less appetizing feeling of inflated self-worth. They might also feel uncomfortable or anxious about their act of charity, depending on the reaction of the character receiving it.

A sense of frustration or anger can also follow a good deed. Did your character do it in the belief that the recipient was something other than they are? Were they lied to, manipulated or frustrated? Have they discovered new information or a change in circumstances which turns their good deed into something ugly or unpleasant?

Explore the wicked or shameful side of your story’s cast. By doing so in the context of an unashamed act of “good”, you can surprise the reader by turning their perception of a character on its head.

Let me know in the comments if this was useful. Do you have any writing tips to share?

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2 thoughts on “Tip #27: No Good Deed…

  1. Few rounded characters will be either unrepentantly evil or truly saintly. Taking a primarily ‘bad guy’ and having them do something anachronistically (or unexpectedly) nice/kind can be a powerful insight into their character.

    “Have they discovered new information or a change in circumstances which turns their good deed into something ugly or unpleasant?”
    ^^ Twists like that can also be really powerful in a story.

    Liked by 2 people

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