Bastards. What are we dealing with here? According to the Google Dictionary a bastard can be anyone of the following:
“a person born of parents not married to each other”; “an unpleasant or despicable person”; “a scoundrel, villain, rogue, rascal, weasel, snake, miscreant, reprobate”; et cetera…
According to my other online source of entertaining information, Wikipedia, a bastard can mean all those things and more.
So what do bastards have to do with writing, writers, and the writing life? Quite a bit actually. First, we as writers can be, and have known to have been, fucking bastards of the 1st degree. Bukowski, Hemingway, Thompson, et al, are all well known bastards and according to my research for the first article in this series, also assholes. But bastard is the word of the day, so we’ll stick to that. Being a bastard as a writer is not uncommon, but also not entirely necessary. Being a bastard also means being stubborn and sticking to an ideal, for example, the ideal of a story or character. By keeping your head firmly up your ass, as only the best of the bastards are wont to do, you as a writer can fight for your version of a story. This is only recommended in extreme circumstances when you actually have the leverage in name to negotiate while your head is entrenched inside yourself. Not having any cache will get you nowhere and just have possible agents, publishers, and producers wondering, “who was that bastard that was yelling with his head up his ass. I’ve never heard of him and now no one else ever will.” The moral? Being a stubborn bastard only works when your name carries some weight in the industry so that the sight of you bent over yourself and mumbling into your colon can be overlooked. Though being professional always wins out in the end.
Characters as bastards. Similar to characters as assholes, writing a character who is a bastard in the “scoundrel, villain, rogue, rascal, weasel, snake, miscreant, reprobate” way is vital to a great story. Obviously having your antagonist as these things works, but try writing your protagonist this way. I find that I’m leaning towards more protagonists that aren’t entirely lovable. Or at least, if people love them, they don’t love themselves which makes for great conflict and tension because then the character is acting in spite of themselves for the good of those around them. The internal conflict and tension is so great that it can’t help but spill over into the external world of the character, leading to many different layers of build-ups and payoffs. I believe the term “anti-hero” is appropriate here.
All in all, bastards. They add to any story, however, being one yourself is only recommended if your name precedes your words. Even then, why?