Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A to Z Challenge: U is for Unforgivable




U is for Unforgivable:  [the inability] to grant pardon for or remission of an offense.    (Dictionary.com)

If you’ve followed this blog at all, especially in recent months, then you know my book is all about forgiveness.  Though I recently took the absolute worst part of my protagonist’s offense out as terms of my publishing deal, what remains is still mighty abhorrent.  The main character in The Mistaken commits a reprehensible act in retribution for the death of his pregnant wife.  But it’s not until after he has mistakenly exacted his vengeance against an innocent woman that he realizes just how far he has fallen from the honorable man he used to be, before grief, rage, and alcohol transformed him.  Afterwards, he realizes he must find a way to atone for his shameful sins. 

All along—since the very inception of the idea for this book—I’ve been searching for answers.  You hear all the time on the news about some ordinary, upstanding guy who, for whatever reason, commits an unspeakable crime, something that all his friends and family say is completely against his nature.  He couldn’t have done it.  They just don’t believe it.  George Zimmerman and the killing of Trayvon Martin comes to mind. 

So what makes a man (or woman) commit a heinous act, especially a good man, an honorable man who holds to the very letter of the law?  That is why I wrote The Mistaken.  All along, I wanted to show that a good man could be turned into a monster yet somehow find his back to the man he used to be, or a semblance thereof, anyway.  I wanted to show that the unforgivable could actually be forgiven. 

Most readers are pretty forgiving, though they do want someone to believe in, someone they can understand and associate with, so giving them a protagonist who commits an egregious act is risky, at best, and just plain crazy, at worst.  And though I did compromise slightly by taking out his most heinous offense, what he does is still pretty deplorable.  But I don’t think there is anything that is truly unforgivable.  Humans are complex, ruled not only by their hearts and emotions, but also by their circumstances.  Who’s to say they wouldn’t do something in the intense heat of the moment?  When their life, health, or happiness, or that of their loved ones, was at great risk?   Sure, we’d like to think, after years of conditioning, that we would never cross the line, but the truth is, it happens everyday, all over the world.  It could happen.  There is always that possibility.  We are human, and therefore fallible.  And then there’s that whole whoever-is-without-sin, cast-the-first-stone argument.  In addition, I’ll throw in the one about walking-in-their-shoes, because you just never know.  So it’s comforting to believe that forgiveness—even for what seems to be the most unforgivable—is possible                     

What do you think?  Could you cheer on a protagonist who is so flawed and damaged that he could commit the seemingly unforgivable?  Do you truly believe in redemption for those most in need of it?  

20 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That is difficult to pull off well. I had to tone down my main character because he was almost too unlikeable.
Is there redemption? Of course. God forgives doesn't He?

Eva Gallant said...

It's an interesting dilemma; it also makes me curious to read yur book!

Eva Gallant said...

It's an interesting dilemma; it also makes me curious to read yur book!

L.G.Smith said...

I've got a similar sort of deplorable act that my main character commits, though I don't reveal the actual act until late in the book. The reader mostly sees the fall out of her guilt over what she's done, and then find out what it was. If I just came out and said in the beginning what she'd done I don't think anyone would forgive her. But if people can see someone who knows they've done wrong and want to find redemption for it, then I think people will forgive.

Siobhan said...

I agree with Alex. There is always redemption. I am most interested in characters who are flawed, or live with some type of guilt, as long as I see that they're working toward being better, and forgiving themselves.

Glynis said...

I have horrible characters in my books. They turn up and I let them in! Unforgivable? Not sure the other characters feel they should be forgiven.

New follower, and thanks for finding me! :)

jp said...

I find it easier to forgive people who never meant anything to me. To be betrayed or dumped on from a great height is far harder to bear when it is by someone who is close or trusted.

Enemies can hurt you but it takes a friend to utterly devastate you.

Melissa Sugar said...

It takes a talented writer to pull this off and it sounds like you have done it. I am really excited about the release of your book. I have many books that I look forward to reading, but yours is one that I really cannot wait to read.

I could pull for a protagonist who is so damaged and flawed that he commits a seemingly unforgivable act if the set up gives me reason to empathize with him and the story provides me with a compelling reason to root for him. As a prosecutor (20 years) then a criminal defense attorney, I have seen it all. It is rare, but there have been incidents when a defendant that I either prosecuted or defended committed the most reprehensible, ultimate crime and his or her reason, while still unlawful and immoral was one that I could understand . I can't say it was enough to qualify as justified, but I have seen crimes committed that make all of the lawyers, judges and others involved sit back and question, "What if it happened to you? What would you do if you were in the exact position?"

One that comes to mind (actually one that will never leave my mind) was a young father whose child was brutally tortured, raped and murdered. The defendant was found not guilty by the jury because the defense attorney successfully suppressed most of the damaging evidence and so the jury never heard it. He sort of lost it and he killed the defendant as soon as he was released. I had a tough time with the case against the father.

Sorry I blabbed for so long, but the issue really hit home. I am eagerly awaiting the release of your book.

Donna K. Weaver said...

You'd have to make him sympathetic for me to root for him. It can be done, but I'd have to get ino the sympathy and remorse stuff pretty quickly or I'd quit reading.

Carrie Butler said...

Absolutely. You know I love said protagonist. :)

Lynn Proctor said...

i believe only God knows who has been given over to a reprobate mind---as i think of my children i cannot think of anything they could do that i would not forgive

Liza said...

This is a very hard question. But I think, if the character does end up good...I could buy it. The goodness would have to be the complete end of the spectrum from the "heinous" act though.

Heather M. Gardner said...

I just don't know.
It's so hard to figure what anyone would do, like you said, under certain circumstances and whether we could forgive or not.
Tough one.
Heather

Damyanti said...

I do have a character in my novel who is very unlikeable, but he has slowly become the villain...

jamieayres said...

I also had to revise at times b/c a character comes off as too flawed. It's interesting b /c we just had a big discussion with our middle schooler today about how God forgives everyone if they are truly sorry for their sins . . .she knows it in her mind but can't get over it in her heart that He would be willing to forgive certain things. But I reminded her we are all sinners and fall short. Thank God for redemption:):)~Great post!

Chuck said...

I have read books and watched movies where the main character has committed something heinous and now is atoning for it or atttempting to...often times even saying "I know this won't (solve/cure/bring back, whatever the problem is) and still I find myself rooting for them doing the right thing now. Do you think I would like your book?

Nancy Thompson said...

Chuck, I hope you'd like it! It sounds like you might.

Melodie Wright said...

I do believe in redemption...but it can be a hard sell for a debut author.
I write about this for tomorrow's post - v is for vicious.

Empty Nest Insider said...

This is really a tough question because there are so many factors involved. Now I'll have to read your book to decide! Julie

Lisa Regan said...

I love this post. It asks so many thought-provoking questions. I think if you do it right, you can pull this whole thing off with your protagonist. It's all in the execution and you know, obviously, that I think you nailed it in the Mistaken! You're an example to me of how to be a better writer!