Friday, April 20, 2012

Gray Characters

One of my friends said to me the other day "Usually my favorite characters of books are the characters which are kind of in the middle--you know, not obviously good or obviously bad."

And I've been thinking about that lately. Yes, one or two morally ambiguous (or "gray") characters are usually in each story. They can be protagonist, antagonist, or just there. So why are people fascinated by them?

Maybe it's because we're all so good and amazing in our everyday lives(I know, I know) that people who don't always do what's right are just interesting. It probably adds a bit of excitement into the story when you don't know a character's motivations. A lot of times, they throw loops into the story that wouldn't have been possible otherwise.

So here's a gallery of what I consider "gray" characters:

My Own Agenda 

This category is made up of characters that always have their own plans in mind. If it goes with the protagonist's plans, splendid. If it doesn't, look out! They can be friendly, unfriendly, on the "good" side or "dark" side, or all by themselves!

In it for the Money
Characters for whom greed is their primary motivation(or so they say). They claim to only care about money..but usually stick around to help out anyway. ;)

Some characters:
Bounty hunters!
Han Solo(not really anymore)

Whose Side Am I on Anyway?
These characters are really frustrating, because they elicit a sense of "What the heck are you doing on the protagonist side? Join the bad guys already"  These guys so blindingly, obviously, suck that you're just waiting for them to stab the main character in the back twice and be done with it.


Octavian(Heroes of Olympus)

I Hate Everybody
Anger/Revenge is these guys' primary motivation. They're bitter at life and just waiting, waiting to be redeemed :)

Nico :) (Percy Jackson) (Former, not so much nowadays. Still all mysterious and lonely though)
Lux from The Clone Wars :P He has good eyebrows, but he couldn't hit the side of a barn. Just sayin'!Merrin.jpg
Merrin Merredith(Septimus Heap) Kind of the "Nico" of SH. He should probably count as an antagonist, but he's just so astonishingly bad at it.

Nemo from 20000 leagues under the sea. Kind of random.

The next categories are all individual:

These guys are mostly teachers or senior officers or people in authority who are all tough and bitter from all the damage they've had through their lives. They're usually good-but-tough, but you never know ;)

Snape XD
General Krell from TCW(before he turned into a total wingnut and became a Total Jerk. A Total Jerk is a character who can be good, bad, gray, anything, but all that really matters is that they are just Total Jerks. Total Jerk is what defines their characters)
Mazer Rackham(from Ender's Game) That's the guy who plays him in the movie.

I'm Bad..but not really
Redeemable secondary antagonists and bullies go here, like:
Artemis Fowl

Clarisse(PJatO). I just discovered Clarisse doesn't have an official picture. Weird.
Draco Malfoy. Tom Felton is just too adorable.

Murtagh(Eragon)(so far, I've only read to Eldest)

If there's a category I forgot, remind me in the comments!

Gray characters always help add depth to the story, so try adding them! A teacher or fellow soldier who for some reason just hates your protagonist! A bounty hunter/assassin who'll do anything for money! The possibilities are endless.

I've written both of the characters I mentioned above. In my current story, I have a Jaded character, a Not Really Evil character, and a Whose Side Am I On character. :) 

In other news, I was cut from the top twenty list at the Go Teen Writers contest(hangs head in shame).

Congrats to Taylor Lynna and Jenna Blake Morris(I think you guys follow me) who both made it!
Do you have any gray characters in your stories? Which characters do you think I should add to my list? Do you spell "gray" "grey"? Comment!


  1. has nothing at all to do with your splendid post.....but...SNAPES AND ARTEMIS!!!!

    I'm happy for the day now.

  2. I think people are fascinated by the "gray" characters (the antiheroes, if you will) because they offer up a chance for redemption. As human beings who have fallen into sin, I feel we have this subconscious (or God-given) desire to seek redemption. Having these characters -- not good, but not exactly bad either -- is one way we display this.

  3. I am a big fan of the antihero type. Han Solo, Deadpool (Marvel comics),Rorschach (Watchmen), Man with No Name (Clint Eastwood), Wolerine, Anakin, Punisher, Ghost Rider and Ventress just to name a few. :)
    There is the category of heroes like Rorschach, Punisher and Ghost Rider that will kill anyone who harms the innocent. I am not sure what that would be named though.


  4. Great post! :D
    Yes and no. My characters change and evolve so much over the course of the series and really it all depends on your point of view to whether or not they are gray or not. I really look forward to seeing what everyone will think of my characters and whether or not they are seen as good, bad, gray, or something else :)


    It's like the many faces of anti-heroes.... sort of xD

    I think the best characters are grey, because grey is really human, you know? Not completely good, not completely bad. Just... human.

    Ha. Mazer. And Artemis <3

    Oh, you should make another category for Ender's type of character... he does terrible things, but it's not like it was his choice. All he wanted was survival.

  6. Gray characters can really add depth to your story! Murtagh is a prime example. I love Murtagh!

    And thank you! I was super excited to realize I made it to the top 20 - and in the first Go Teen Writers contest I entered, too. :D Sorry you didn't make it - better luck next time!


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