Morally Questionable Characters
Thieves, assassins, bounty hunters, smugglers. We love books that feature characters who lead darklives, living on the edge of acceptable society. What makes stories about characters with morally questionable professions so intriguing?
The vicarious experience
Let’s be honest—most of us don’t actually want to steal things or kill people (or do we?). But in a book,we can experience things we’d never do in reality. The thrill of the chase, the fear of getting caught, theconfidence of being a badass. Morally questionable characters provide us with the opportunity toindulge in situations and actions we’d usually avoid.
Reading is an out-of-body experience, no matter the subject or genre. We can safely enjoy the illicit andforbidden, from the comfort of our couch—without the dire consequences.
The character’s growth
At the heart of a compelling story is usually a character who changes. As they navigate their waythrough the plot, the events leave their mark, forcing them to face their flaws and inner demons. Oftenthe protagonist grows, and becomes better. Sometimes, he or she doesn’t. Either way, the characteryou meet on page one is not the same character you say goodbye to when you turn the final page.
Characters leading dark lives pull you through the story, enticing you with the possibility for change. Will they do the right thing in the end? They keep us on edge, wondering what they’ll do, because we know their standards. They’re as likely to betray as to save, to embrace the dark rather than the light. The potential for a satisfying character arc is strong when the character begins as a thief, rogue, or killer.
The character’s competence
Often the thieves and killers in a story are remarkable at what they do. They can scale a wall, pick a lock, hide in the shadows, or talk their way out of anything. Whether the story includes the character learning these skills, or they already possess them from the beginning, reading about a badass is fun. There’s a deep satisfaction in seeing characters pull off the impossible, and a delicious sense of anticipation as we watch the story unfold. We know that this time, their skills might not be enough to get them through in one piece.
Writing an assassin
As an author, writing about morally questionable characters proved to be as much fun as reading them. I always enjoy exploring a character who views the world very differently from me. Writing a book from the perspective of a cold-hearted assassin was fascinating. What would she do when facing a challenge?
How does she interact with the people who cross her path? How would she react when her own life is threatened?
Pairing an assassin with an innocent child took the story in an intriguing direction. The main character is faced with saving the life of the person she was hired to kill—which sends her on the run, pursued by her fellow assassins, and a notorious bounty hunter. A moral hero would handle this adventure in one way—an assassin takes quite a different path. Throughout the story, she’s able to use her skills to help her along, often facing odds that are stacked against her. And the events that unfold challenge not only her worldview, but her view of herself. All in all, it made for a very satisfying story to write, and I hope readers enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Assassin’s Charge: An Echoes of Imara Novel
What if you were hired to kill the only person who could save you?
Rhisia Sen is one of the Empire’s highest paid assassins. Living a life of luxury, she chooses her contracts carefully, working to amass enough wealth so she can leave her bloody trade. She is offered a new contract on the outskirts of civilization, and almost refuses—until she sees the purse. It could be the last job she ever has to take.
But when she reaches the destination, she discovers her mark is a child.
The contract, and her reputation, demand she kill the boy—if she can banish his innocent face from her mind. But another assassin has been sent to kill her, and a notorious bounty hunter is on her trail. She doesn’t know why the boy is a target, or why her former employer wants her dead. Saving the child could be her only chance at survival.
Claire Frank is the author of the epic fantasy series Echoes of Imara, and the brand new novel, Assassin’s Charge, a stand-alone story set in the same world. By day, Claire is a busy mom of three. By night, she writes, giving voices to the characters who clutter her mind during the daylight hours. Her husband David is her co-creator and collaborator, adding his ideas and feedback to her work. Together they banter ideas, craft worlds, create characters and develop stories, usually over too much coffee. Learn more at www.clairefrankbooks.com