Monday, September 6, 2010
Show No Mercy
Mercy is for the weak until you desperately need it; then it becomes fashionable. – Book of Tortured Souls
Steve Andrews bullied everyone in elementary school. The blond terror outweighed most of us by a hundred pounds. I recalled my first run-in with the brute. He took my pencil and when I complained, he snapped it in two. He said, “Tell the teacher and I’ll do the same to you.”
Steve got bored often. There wasn’t a girl he sat behind that didn’t complain about him pulling their hair. For five years I watched him take what he wanted. Smaller, thinner boys suffered his wrath. He’d take their lunch by force if necessary to appease his enormous appetite. Steve never demonstrated an ounce of mercy for he often preached, “Mercy is for the weak.”
My classmates and I were beginning to think the business of God answering prayers was another myth until the new guy came into our classroom. Carmelo Miles stood silent as Sister Mary introduced him to us. A few girls smiled. Some of the boys whispered among themselves. I sat and studied his appearance. I glanced at Steve who scowled. Although the new guy was short, he carried himself different from the rest of us. I couldn’t pinpoint the special quality he possessed, but I suspected he’d change things.
At lunchtime it didn’t take long for Steve to try to impose his ways on Carmelo. “Hey new guy, give me your chocolate milk.”
Carmelo ignored Steve and chewed on his burger.
“Hey loser, are you deaf? Give me your milk.”
Carmelo smiled. “Sure, I’ll give it to you.” He lifted the table and pushed it on to Steve and two other boys sitting next to him. They landed on the floor, pinned by the table and all the food spilled on them. The blond bully puckered his lips as though ready to cry. His white uniform shirt spotted with brown, red and green stains.
The rest of us laughed at Steve as he tried to get up. When he finally did get on one knee, Carmelo rushed to his side. I don’t know why I thought he was going to help him up. Instead, the new guy pummeled the bully with a series of rights and lefts. His fists rained on Steve’s face, breaking his nose.
Steve cried, “Please stop! Have mercy!”
Turning the tide on a character brings about much entertainment. A good antagonist makes the reader feel like personally punching him out. Creating a character that people would love to hate takes careful planning. One of the key elements in play is mercy. If your villain enjoys toying with his victims and seems incapable of showing mercy, then when the tide is turned, readers will love to see the bad guy get his. It’s amazing how the evil foe begs for something he has no right to acquire—mercy.
See you on the dark side.