I’ve been wanting to post this since Sara Creasy (author of Song of Scarabaeus) came out with her view on Fairness in characters. Didn’t want to derail her blog since I have my own blog to do that sorta thing.
I do believe in the mantra “Life isn’t fair.” Life sucks then you die. I’m not fair to my characters (I do my darnest to kill them) and I don’t expect my characters to be fair either. A lack of fairness in a character does not make them unlikable, not all of us are “save the whales!” type people. And personally, I think that’s more realistic. If we were all so altruistic, we’d be at North Korea’s border, screaming at Kim Jong-il to release all those people in prison camp. That would be the “fair” thing to do, right? Sorry, but I don’t have a deathwish, and neither do my characters.
What works for me when writing and reading characters is: a) they’re interesting and/or b) they’re somewhat relatable (meaning, I can understand how they feel). Also, if they don't whine (too much) or get all angsty that would be great!
Let’s take Hannibal Lector for example. He eats other humans so we already know he’s not a fair guy, but then why do people love him so much? Well, because he’s a very intelligent, clever guy. You could just imagine yourself chatting with this man, sipping on your chardonnay, admiring his wit and knack for observation. Sure, if he invited you over for dinner you’d have to decline, but that doesn’t stop you from liking the guy.
Amazingly enough, a good author can turn any bad person into your best pal. As they say: “it’s all in the pen.” Thus, I’m not concerned if my characters come across as fair, make the world a better place types as they’re too busy trying to save themselves!