#openbook – Hating On A Character


What character have you created that you despise/hate the most?

When I write, I try to give a story’s antagonist some depth and humanity. One way I do this is by making them the protagonist of their own plot, allowing them to justify anything they do to the book’s antagonist(s).

For example, in Trapped in Sin, Saeed plots to keep Baaz and Rahmah apart. Saeed feels that his actions are justified because he wants to keep Baaz in their criminal business and making money. So for him, everything he does is a matter of self-preservation.

An antagonist may also be deluded by their own narcissism into misreading the protagonist’s responses, making them dig in further and causing more drama and trauma. In Sweet Love, Bitter Fruit, Phoebe is sure every man who crosses her path wants her, including Marcus. She is so caught up in her vanity that she misinterprets Marcus’ discomfort around her as desire. Her pursuit of Marcus leads to a lot of trauma, but for Phoebe, she’s just getting her man.

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Giving antagonists layers of humanity makes it hard to completely hate them. Try as I may, I find myself connecting with the vulnerabilities and fears of characters like Saeed and Phoebe. Heck, I even felt a little sorry for Raad in Building on Broken Dreams. I wrote an article about him as he “vacillates between feelings he has no clue how to handle.

While I do find it difficult to completely despise/hate most of my stories’ villains, there is one that I have a lot of ire for, Faruq. In the soon-to-be-released Drowning in Shallow Waters, Faruq is the ex-husband of Hawwah. He is vicious in his pursuit and torment of Hawwah, chasing her across the country to physically and emotionally abuse her.

Faruq saves his brutality for his ex-second-wife. When he’s home with his first wife and kids, Faruq is a loving and patient father and husband, which makes my hatred for him raw. He doesn’t have to hurt Hawwah but he does so to feed his deep-seated sadism. Faruq plays with Hawwah’s pain like a cat with a trapped mouse. Below is a deleted scene from the book that shows Faruq’s cruelty.

“As salam alaykum.” Hawwah dropped the keys in her handbag and plopped it on the sofa before plodding on her aching feet to the refrigerator. The air bursting over her face as she opened it cooled the beads of sweat across her forehead. She put the cream-colored, environment-friendly takeaway tray on the shelf, empty save for a few water bottles and a jar of jelly. She grabbed a bottle and stood straight, arching her sore back. Carlos had been in full dictator mode in the kitchen. Everything had to be perfect for the wedding party that filled the restaurant. She opened and closed her free hand, tilting back her head to let the chilly water trickle down her throat dried from hours of inhaling gourmet flour dust. Her fingers still ached from making hundreds of French mini patisserie cakes and Belgian chocolate dessert cups. She never wanted to see another hazelnut as long as she lived. Pastry chef wasn’t the ideal position, but it was better than flinging chicken at some fast food joint.

She trudged into the bathroom, unwrapping the white-dusted khimar plastered against her face from a gluey combination of sweat and flour. She flung it on the white tiles along with her clothes. Getting away from the overly sweet smell emanating from them was a top priority. She hopped in and let the warm shower water envelop her as she stared at the black moldy line of caulk along its top. Spraying mildew cleaner and weeks of scrubbing did nothing to get rid of it. She had come to accept it along with the slightly musty smell of the old apartment. Like her job, it wasn’t ideal, but she was safe. She pumped some shower gel in a puff and glided lather over her neck and arms. The lavender fragrance filled her nose. Thrift store furniture and a bus commute to and from the better part of town was a fair enough trade for sanity and security.

After rinsing, she stepped out of her watery sanctuary and wrapped a towel around herself. Her stomach growled. No way was she cooking anything after hours of being surrounded by pots and pans. Fortunately, Pedro had looked out for her from day one at the restaurant. She never went home empty-handed when he worked the sous chef prep station. Some of his scrumptious leftovers while binging the latest show in the streaming cue would be just the thing to end an exhausting day. She headed back to the kitchenette.

She only made it to the end of the short hallway. Her gaze fell on a smiling face that made her heart pound.

“As-salam alaykum.” Faruq sat, lounging back with an ankle resting on a knee. His white teeth flashed between his manicured beard. “Feeling better? I was wondering how long you were going to be in that shower.” He chuckled. “Were you having a little fun with yourself like I taught you?”

She tightened her grip on the towel at her chest. No. No. No How the hell did he get in? She looked at the door.

“Oh—” Faruq pointed and turned his head “—you left it unlocked. I’ve been waiting for you to do that for a week. I knew you would eventually.” He laughed, sitting up and putting a foot on the floor while shaking his head. “How many times did I tell you about that at our apartment?” His grin turned downward, and his gray eyes narrowed.

Chattering from her teeth filled her ears, joining the throbbing sound of her pulse. The tiny apartment closed in around her. She swallowed the lump in her throat, tensed along with the muscles aching her body. Her legs refused to budge despite the word run ricocheting through her mind. “How did you find me?” she whispered.

Faruq sniggered and shifted in the seat. She watched him dip his head and reach into her purse. “It wasn’t hard.” He held up her phone in his large hand. “You changed your number but didn’t uninstall the tracker I added when we got married. Always so careless. Aren’t you, Hawwah?” The device almost disappeared in his palm as his knuckles turned white around it. “Careless and selfish.” He sat straight. “Do you think I have time to track you across the country? I’m a busy man, but that doesn’t mean anything to you.”

She filled her lungs and raised a heel. Finally, her body was cooperating. No way I’m making out the front door. I have to play along until I can get away. “I—I’m sorry.”

He scowled. “You’re going to be.”

Yeah, Faruq is the character I despise the most. I didn’t even give him a last name!

Be on the lookout for Drowning in Shallow Waters.

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