When I was small, the mother of one of my friend’s refused to use the word ‘hate’. She considered the word too strong an emotion to apply to anyone or anything. So whenever she heard a child use the word ‘hate’ she would firmly advise them to instead use the term ‘dislike immensely’ as she believed you could never really hate anything. It is true that the word ‘hate’ is used too often and too casually as a child, especially when you are upset or frustrated, but as an adult it does hold other connotations and so nowadays I understand what my friend’s mother meant. ‘Hate’ is absolute, there is no wiggle room down the sides of it, it is all consuming. You don’t hate someone just a little, that makes no sense, you either hate them or you don’t. It’s not a feeling you can simply switch off in an instant.
So how does the use of ‘hate’ factor into fantasy writing? Like any form of writing hate provides a strong impetus for driving your characters, sometimes more than love. How often do you see a character in a book go to extraordinary lengths to get rid of the object of their hate and only then will they rescue their loved one?
But hate doesn’t just arrive like love does. You can quite easily love someone at first sight or happily fall in love with a place or object with the same ease, with or without a reason. Hate isn’t quite that simple. Because hate is so absolute, so all consuming, it has to have come from somewhere or be caused by something. This makes hate a very complex emotion and in no way straightforward, which can help to give your story depth and interest as it unfolds. If you have a character that is being driven by hate, try asking yourself the following questions and incorporate the answers into the story:
Where does it come from? – There has to be a reason for your character to hate. Did something terrible happen to them or to someone they loved? Were they wronged by someone, even unintentionally? Does their hate come from a misunderstanding that was never resolved? Is their hate childish, or petty, due to some perceived small injustice or jealousy? Did they once love the person they now hate?
When did the hate start? – This can add real depth to your character, particularly if they’ve been hating someone or something since an early age as you can give glimpses into their childhood or formative years. But hate can start at any time in someone’s life; it may have been caused by something last week or (as this is fantasy) even hundreds of years ago.
How has hating affected them? – Hate doesn’t necessarily turn someone from a good person into a bad one, but if it does, this can be an interesting aside to your story. Nevertheless, your story’s hero/heroine could also be driven by hate. Is it making them slowly go insane? Does it give them sleepless nights? Are they plagued by nightmares of the past? Do they sometimes imagine someone they love to be the one whom they hate? Do they play out what they want to do to the one they hate to inanimate objects (e.g. smashing their statue)? Does the hate fade over time only to reignite upon some kind of stimulus? Is it slowly eating them alive?
What is it that they hate? – Your character could hate someone, or something. A ‘thing’ could be something like a government, a form of religion or an ideology. For example, revolutions have happened because people hated what those in power had done or the ideas they pursued. They may not have hated the people as individuals and may never have met them, but as an entity they would quite happily destroy them for their actions or ideas.
What do they have to do to overcome their hate? – Once hate is there in your character’s psyche it is a difficult thing to remove. What would the object of the characters’ hate have to do to placate them? Is it even possible to remove their hate? What feats, both great and small will allow the hate to go away? Will only death, destruction and conquest do? Or is it more subtle than that? Does your character simply want to humiliate the object of their hate or see them suffer the same torment that caused your character to hate them in the first place?
Is magic at play here? – This is fantasy writing, so could the hate have been caused by something magical happening to your character? Is the object of their hate someone or something magical? Or is the resolution of this hate only possible by magic?
What happens when the object of their hate is gone? – So, your character has somehow managed to overcome their hate of someone or something? Does that mean that everything is now all right or is the residual hate still there? Can they ever overcome it or will it haunt them forever? Hate is a difficult thing to eradicate once the first seed has been sown.