Some people are saints. Some people are sinners.
That's just the way it is, and that's the way it will always be. Writers are constantly on the lookout for individuals and their personality quirks. We aren't picky, and we use those gleaned tidbits to build our characters and develop their behavior. These characters are infused into plots depending on how they are needed. It's a little bit like playing God.
Whether someone's behavior is noble or deplorable, we simply observe it and sprinkle our characters with real life mannerisms and attitudes. However, just because these fictional people "live" on the pages of our novels, it does not mean we endorse their behavior.
We merely record it.
In years gone by, readers seemed to understand this better, I think. Perhaps without the intrusion of all the social media and the fast moving world we now exist in, if they picked up a book and read it from cover to cover, they realized it was a story the author had created with characters who could either be emulated or despised. Readers had their opinions about what these story folks had done throughout the plot, then they took from it what they wanted and moved on about life.
Characters in books taught morals to readers and those characters, whether they were naughty or nice, became part of popular culture. Think of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind. A spoiled brat for certain. After reading about Scarlett, I'm certain no reader would ever want to try to behave like her. Her selfish desires caused lots of problems. Her example taught readers that if you recklessly use people, you wind up a very sad individual. We could go on and on about fictional or real characters depicted in books or movies and discuss the example they set. Think of Hannibal Lecter and his disgusting cannibalistic tendencies. Think of Captain Ahab in Moby Dick and his dangerous obsession with the whale.
Were the writers who created these characters trying to say they agreed with their misguided behavior? I think not.
These days it seems authors live with the PC police breathing down their necks. Some readers or other critics, I'm not saying all of them, decide what is kosher for a character to do and what is not. When they finish reading the book, they find platforms to voice their opinions and proceed to attack the author, as though the author carried the same skewed psyche as some of their disturbed characters.
Authors not only have to open a vein and bleed out the story, they must now face possible "stoning" from certain members of the public who want to believe they also behave as deplorably as and despicably as the people who perpetrate evil and ignorance in their novels. Instead of being able to weed out the moral of the story, and seeing how terrible people eventually receive terrible justice, some readers choose to publically whip the author for daring to reveal the atrocities that lurk in human nature.
How do readers and critics do this? They go on public rants on Amazon or other electronic forums. They send hateful e-mails, and on the rare occasion, I'm sure they still send authors snarky snail mail. Most authors disregard such silliness. Personally, I do the same and I hope and pray those mean spirited individuals can someday find peace in their hearts. When people choose to live in a world of hatred and delusion, their journey in life never seems to be an easy one.
At the end of the day, in a secret part of an author's heart, it's still got to hurt just a bit that someone would accuse them of thinking the same way their nasty characters do. I know I experience wounded pride at the hurled missiles, yet still do my best to move forward with my head held high.
Have you ever had any of your books or stories or manuscripts reviewed in an unfair light? What did you do in order to deal with it?