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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Character Clinic: Italo Benetura and Anti-Heroism

Joyce's character is on the couch this week. He's a 32-year-old pirate who's got a fairly disturbed 34-year-old brother (Iachimo) who has been cutting himself for 10 years. Their father died in a raid 10 years prior, and his mother died one year later. Italo promised his father that he would take care of Iachimo and make sure his brother didn't successfully kill himself. His brother is also macabre, torturing and executing prisoners and getting perverse pleasure from it. Italo continues to work with him, though, as co-captains of their father's fleet. Italo believes that Iachimo might be anointing himself with his own blood like warrior-monks did during an initiation ceremony for worshipers of the war god Kirro. Why? Because Iachimo's fair blond hair is not red, and Italo thinks it's been dyed with blood.

Joyce wants to know: How realistic is Italo's reaction to Iachimo's clear mental problem? Am I missing something? Are there possibilities for Italo that I haven't explored? I do wish to keep him the "sane" one of the two, whatever that may be. These brothers originally started out as antagonists. Do you have any suggestions on how to keep Italo a "villain" and not have him become a redeemed bad guy by the end?

Family members of people who have a severe mental disorder are often put in this exact same position. Italo isn't doing anything out of the ordinary trying to protect his brother or keep him alive, especially given the request of his father. It's not even unusual that Italo is the younger brother, performing the "duties" of the older brother, such as protection and care taking.

It would be very realistic to have a few scenes with Italo seesawing back and forth about the decision to leave Iachimo and take half the fleet and crew with him when he does. I wouldn't say that Italo is enabling the cutting behavior....that's something that Iachimo is doing all his own. However, he is definitely enabling his brother's torturing and executing. At the very least he's condoning it by lack of action.

Since you're not wanting Italo to be redeemed by the end of the book, I'd at least consider having him work through this issue with Iachimo. Italo standing by and letting his co-captain do these things does reflect badly upon him and Iachimo, perhaps even more so, since Italo doesn't have the mental problems Iachimo does.

To keep him a villain...I've got a great scenario in my head. Let's say his brother's sadistic tendencies get worse, self-destructive to the nth degree. If Italo believed that it would be (or even not be) in Iachimo's best interests to go ahead and give up his life (either because Iachimo is so miserable or he's making Italo's life miserable), then if Italo were to sacrifice Iachimo for the greater good (or Italo's own greater good), this would be a bittersweet, anti-heroic measure.

Wow. That was a convoluted sentence. I just reread it, but it says exactly what was in my mind. I hope it translates!

Hope that this helps out. I welcome any further questions below.

Let's Analyze: What examples from fiction (movies or books) can you think of where a villain turns on someone close to him--maybe even someone he protected--to further his own agenda or to put the other person out of their misery?