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As writers, it's our job to take our characters to their highest heights and lowest lows. We show them strong, smart, capable of handling the situations they find themselves in. However, we also show them broken, lost, unsure of their path, overwhelmed by the choices they have to make.

Personally, I always find it easier to do the former. I love all of my characters, even the "evil" ones-- I want to show them all at their best. That wouldn't make a very interesting story, though, so sometimes, I have to develop characters in ways I truly don't like, because it ups the stakes and gives the story the oomph it needs.

So. Unsympathetic character development. It's there in the moments that make your reader/watcher/listener go "WHAT?" and throw the book across the room/cry/tear at their hair/etc. Okay, I'm being dramatic, but the point is: having a character develop in a way that is not necessarily ideal can push your story forwards. It brings conflict, which makes your reader want to find out how the conflict is resolved.

I'm going to use a very recent example here: the Supernatural season finale for S6, which just aired last night and sparked this thought process in my brain. IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE FINALE AND DO NOT WANT TO BE SPOILED, PLEASE DO NOT CLICK ON THIS CUT.

Alright, onwards into spoiler land. If you've been keeping up with SPN, you will know that the angel Castiel has gone through quite a bit of character development this season, despite the early episodes being fairly Cas-lite. To me, Cas starts out as an unsympathetic character; when he's first introduced in season 4, he's uptight, righteous, and frankly kind of annoying despite the fact that he did pull Dean from Hell. As season 4 goes on, however, we start to see different facets of his personality; the good qualities in him start to come out, and we become a bit more sympathetic towards this little angel who honestly doesn't know how to be an angel, let alone how to be human. By season 5, his awkwardness and his loyalty have pretty much endeared him to us, and by the time he reaches the pinnacle of his crisis of faith mid-season 5, we feel for him and his loneliness.

Enter the season 5 finale. Sam leaps into the Cage with Lucifer and Michael, the war is over, and Team Free Will has won. Castiel's faith in his God has been renewed, thanks to his resurrection, and he is on his way to Heaven to bring his message of freedom and hope to his angel compatriots. This seems like a pretty pure goal, character-wise.

Now, give a character something to stand for, and you're handing them either a smoking gun or an olive branch. In Cas' case, his conviction is what will ultimately bring about his downfall; he is determined to "help" his fellows, whether they like it or not. This sparks an intense civil war in Heaven, as the majority of the angels don't really intend to listen to this little pipsqueak undermine what's pretty much the foundation of their society. Castiel knows full well he can't beat Raphael and his/her followers without help, and so when Crowley offers his assistance in cracking Purgatory and using the souls trapped within to beat Raphael, Castiel goes along, even though he knows that a.) Crowley's most likely lying to him, as he often does and b.) that such a victory will come at a cost. He's starting to sink into the behavioral patterns that precede unsympathetic character development, making choices that he knows will bring him to a point of no return. At the same time, he's starting to develop a lot of bitterness, as well, especially towards the Winchesters. He starts to perceive himself as being unappreciated. Called every time they need him, and with very little thanks to show for it. He swallows it down and continues to help them, but you can see the change starting to occur. It happens all around you--everyone knows someone who never says what's bothering them, and just builds up a head of steam all the time.

All of this starts to come to a head around the time that Rachel discovers what Castiel intends to do. Personally, I think Rachel's is an interesting perspective-- she's watching this development from the outside. She understands Castiel, in many ways; she knows, however, that he's going to take it too far. I feel like this sort of character is kind of necessary in this sort of setup-- someone who understands what's going on, but is fairly powerless to stop it. She does try, and it's a mark of how futile her efforts are when she gets killed for her trouble. Cas, like most characters caught in this kind of spiral, has already decided what he's going to do. No one can stand in the way. People who do get disposed of.  Pretty much every antihero/villain --or hero, for that matter-- in fiction has this mentality, at one point or another, and it's kind of the first barrier. Either things stop here, or they go on.

Cue Stumbling Block #2: The Winchesters and Bobby discover that Crowley is NOT, in fact, charred and roasted, but alive and well and setting himself up as the King of Hell. Given that Castiel was-- supposedly --the cause of his demise, eyes start turning on to him. This is the second place where this particular line of character development could have stopped; the fact that even Dean-- who has stood pretty stanchly beside him before-- is beginning to suspect him of having a less-than-savory motive could have easily halted his progress. Which leads us to another point about these sorts of antiheroic characters: the qualities that are usually good for them are usually not so good in such a situation. Cas' bravery, resourcefulness, and recent independence is working against him here, driving him on to the point of no return.

Which brings us here, to that point. This is a character poised on a precipice, and not a good one. The bitterness, the anger, the self-righteousness, the hurt of Dean's admittedly brutal verbal smackdown-- it all comes to a head here, and that's when the proverbial manure hits the fan. It's time for drastic action, action that changes the course of the plot, and brings out a side to a fairly sympathetic character that we've never seen before and is really quite nasty. We see someone who's ruthless; he breaks the wall in Sam's head, kills Balthazar, and disintegrates Raphael without much thought. Hungry for power; he knows the risks involved with being the vessel of that many souls, but he can't let go of the power of it. Self-absorbed: "A better God" than what came before. One that DESERVES to be worshiped.

I'm sure there are more examples of this kind of character progression, particularly in sci-fi and fantasy. This one's particularly recent, which is why I used it as an example. It certainly raises the stakes; it brings a different element to the plot. All in all, such developments are good for your story, and it has more impact than if you brought in a random, unsympathetic character (for me, this was Raphael-- I never cared much about him/her, so his/her unsympathetic nature never bothered me). You FEEL it when it's someone who's already been shown to be a good person at heart.

What's your favorite example of this kind of antihero-type character?