If you've been following my tweets you know that I'm re-watching LOST and because of that I've now lost interest in the real world. LOST is one of those shows that is so well written, acted, paced, plotted and executed that it worms into your brain and eats away that part of you that allows you to be entertained by mediocrity. Now I want nothing except LOST.
That being said, The Walking Dead is on tonight, and you can bet your ass I'll be watching.
And those two things side by side brought me to a realization. As a writer, reader and overall storyaholic, I love the anti-heroes - those complex, warped fellows that find themselves unable to fit into social situations. They'd rather make up insulting nicknames for people or throw squirrels at them than actually participate in a helpful way.
The first thing we see Sawyer do in LOST is smoke a cigarette and glare at people. When he finally does get social it's to accuse Sayid of being a terrorist and get into a fistfight with him. And thank God Jack broke that up early because it would've been a shame if Sayid had to break Sawyer's neck with his ankles.
Our first exposure to Daryl is when he comes lunging out of the brush, completely filthy and armed to the teeth, pissed off that a zombie got the deer he's been tracking... and then he throws dead squirrels at people and makes racist comments.
Yes, these are my heroes. Aggressive rednecks.
So why are they so much more compelling than the real heroes?
Because Jack and Rick are good, clean-cut people thrown into bad situations where they begin to deteriorate. Rick is killing the living and getting phone calls from heaven, Jack ends up strung out and makes a pretty crappy husband / boyfriend. These transformations happen after they go down the rabbit hole and their personalities get a reality check. My anti-heroes grow after the world falls apart.
In "Two for the Road" (LOST S2 E20) after Libby dies, Kate is crouching on a bench in the hatch attempting to hide her tears. Sawyer more or less forces his comfort on her with a sweet man-friend chest-pillow hug and I'm like "DEAR GOD I WISH YOU REALLY EXISTED TAKE ME HOME." And Sawyer just gets better from there. He reads (YA, no less), he plays ping-pong, and he threatens people who threaten Kate. Also, he sports a half-ponytail every now and then and it's super hot.
And then he backslides. I've never been so upset as when Sawyer stockpiled weapons and declared there was a new sheriff in town. OK, I have been, but you know what I mean.
Daryl is like Sawyer (minus aggressive sexual manipulation of every attractive female he meets) in that the worst possible situation is bringing out the best in him. He's stopped throwing squirrels at people. Now he's feeding everyone with his bow. He's a team player and Rick's right hand man, (although I'd argue that Daryl is more important to their survival than Rick but *anyway*) he may even have feelings for Carol down under that filthy skin. And the equivalent of Sawyer's man-friend chest-pillow hug was the cuddling and christening of Baby Kickass. Yeah, even my tin can of a heart rattled around a little.
But I sense a backslide coming as his path converges with his brother's. I'm actually worried about this and have a feeling I'm going to be shouting obscenities at my TV sometime soon.
And these are the kind of characters that I love - the ones that you worry about. Creating a character that keeps people waiting for the next episode or forcing themselves to stay awake for just one more chapter because they need to know what's going to happen to him/her is a true art.
We're writers. Our job is to make readers care about things that never happened to people that don't exist. It's not easy, but it's doable.
I don't know if I'll ever be able to make characters as compelling and complex as Sawyer and Daryl, but I promise you I'll try.