Friday, November 29, 2013

Guilty Characters

Post by Lily Harlem

Guilt according to Wikipedia - Guilt is an emotion that occurs when a person believes that they have violated a moral standard that they themselves believe in.

Now I feel guilty on a frequent basis, I'd say daily and it's usually for something small. "I should have remembered to send that birthday card" or "I really should have taken my make-up off before bed" or "damn another sweater shrunk in the wash" (I do that a lot!).

So I'm guessing we're all familiar with the daily self loathing - I'm dramatic, I know, but we've all be chatting about guilt on a variety of levels from deeply scarring to more minor irritations and it certainly is an emotive topic. But how about when it comes to the erotic novels we all love to read and write? Where does guilt come into it then?

Mmm, this has me thinking about a character called Hannah that I created with my co-author Natalie Dae. Hannah stars in a book called Anything for Him and, to be honest, the girl is off her trolley! She's obsessed, lust-crazy and has a single-track mind when it comes to getting the man she wants. She goes to extreme lengths from spying through his window in a storm, to chopping her long blonde hair off and dying it black, to being heavily involved in the seedy underworld of a London criminal gang. But does she ever feel guilty?

Only for some things! She panics, sure, she paces and she dabbles on the edge of madness. But I digress, what I'm trying to point out is that guilt is a natural response and it has to be seen in some form in fictional characters because it is such an every day trait, be it if the protagonist does something small or if the individual breaks the law on an enormous scale.

Natalie and I call Anything for Him our Marmite book because readers either adore Hannah and can understand her obsession and dark desires, or they are irritated by the fact that she isn't a sickly sweet heroine who has all her morals intact and feels hideously guilty all the time for the things that are happening. But hey, what is the most real behaviour? How many women who are head-over-heels in love and lust do behave rationally? Is there a female out there who wouldn't lie to protect the man she loves and who hasn't sneaked a peek at someone their crazy about? (Even if it's just to Google their name.)

Guilt, I would say, is an awesome tool for authors but it has to be handled carefully. Too much of it, too little of it, can say a lot about a character, it can also push forward or pull back a plot line and it certainly can get a violent reaction from readers if it's not in line with their moral views and what they'd feel guilty about.

You can read the first chapter of Anything for Him here if you're intrigued to meet Hannah! But certainly playing with a character's levels of guilt can be like playing with fire. Personally, I like the heat!

Lily x


  1. Nice twist on the topic, Lily.

    In my current WIP, the heroine is dominating one of the heroes (Etienne) and submitting to the other (Harry). She feels guilty because her master has ordered her to continue acting the Domme and Etienne doesn't realize this. Meanwhile, she also suffers the occasional twinge when she realizes she really enjoys having Etienne serve her - she loves the sense of power. A sub's not supposed to feel that way, right?

    Menages offer fertile ground for exploring guilt. In the real world, I love my husband, but I also am still in touch with my Master. It seems as though whatever I do, I'm going to be hurting someone.

  2. Lisabet, you're WIP sounds really interesting with all of that switching going on, and certainly a great set up for lots of plot twists and angst. I'm looking forward to seeing it hit the shelves.

  3. Lily brings up the different levels of guilt. We're not talking about the legal definition here, nor are we talking about things we've done and we are simply sorry for, then move on. That's a far cry from something that haunts us unremittingly, something we can't shake. But the guilt element is super to explore in a story.


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