Bird Face Wendy

Things relevant to reading, writing, publishing or marketing teen fiction.

Pity for the Snake

on May 13, 2015

I never again want to see a snake torn into four pieces.

My husband and I returned to our new home in a new state after running one of a hundred errands required by such a change. What we found in the back yard was no housewarming gift.

A big snake–probably (originally) four feet long or more–lay massacred. Our youngest dog was splattered in blood and guts, as was one of the porch posts and an area of grass.

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Public domain image

By entering our fenced yard, the snake had taken the kind of chance that a story’s antagonist does by entering a potential hero’s territory. And this snake may not have been a danger to anyone. (We’ve yet determined exactly what kind of snake he was.) Many antagonists aren’t truly evil, but they bring out the more noble qualities of the protagonist. In the case of my young dog, maybe her protective instincts caused her to overreact. Even protagonists make mistakes.

I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the snake, who could be only what genetics and his environment made him. If he’d bitten one of my dogs, that would be different.

I often develop pity for the antagonist when an author provides a glimpse into the life events that molded his character. Unless he is a murderer, rapist, child molester, or preys upon the elderly or disabled, there is usually something revealed about him that softens my heart toward him.

When is the last time you felt pity for the bad guy or gal in a work of fiction?

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2 responses to “Pity for the Snake

  1. My first thought is “wow” for your dog. But that’s because my mind immediately thinks evil, venomous snake so my instinct is “what a heroic, amazing dog!”. I remember years ago before I was grown up, opening the backdoor one Sunday morning to call in the dogs before leaving for church. And when we opened the door, we caught the two of them fighting over a rabbit – each of them had one end of it in their mouths. My mother dashed into the yard and began smacking them on the head to drop it. Dot dropped her end and while my mother continued smacking her head, screaming for her to drop it, Pebbles swallowed the rabbit whole. My mother and sister ended up in tears and the dogs were locked outside for the day – party because we weren’t risking the one getting sick inside the house (the last thing anyone wants to see is a vomited-up bunny!) and partly as punishment since my mother was so upset at them.

    As for pity – I know exactly what you mean! I don’t know if I’ve mentioned but I watch a lot of Asian tv dramas. I generally find them to have better-developed stories and much more depth than American television (not to mention cleaner). And they are masters at the sympathetic villain. I remember watching one where I hated the villain so much and then the drama began to reveal bits of his back-story. And I remember pleading, “Please, don’t make me feel sorry for him! I like hating this one. Can’t we leave him pure evil?” LOL

    I just skimmed through my Goodreads list, looking for books with villains I felt sorry for, and I’m only coming up with the manga Fruits Basket. Now there was someone who was truly horrible, leaving fear and pain everywhere. And yet, toward the end, everyone learns how utterly messed up they are, and the character begins the process of healing and redemption.

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  2. Oh, I know how your mother must have felt when she saw that bunny. One of my pet beagles caught a baby squirrel, and I was heartsick. But I knew it was his nature–he also caught rats, for which I was glad.

    I sometimes find a soft spot in my heart for antagonists in manuscripts that I help critique. (I read so many good ones in my critique groups!) After a time, I forget when that happens with published novels, but I need to start keeping a list.

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