This NYTimes article discusses Will Ferrell’s one-man Broadway show, “You’re Welcome America.” In the show Ferrell reprises his caricature of Ex-President Bush. The article includes this bit of inadvertent advice:
Mr. Ferrell said he had never received any feedback from Mr. Bush, which comes as a relief: “Not for fear that he would punch me in the face or anything, but more just to help me stay unbiased about how I play him.” Mr. Ferrell’s sense of Mr. Bush’s personality is neither one-dimensional nor ideological; as he describes it, it sounds somewhat complicated.
“I kind of feel like he’s someone who — and I think this is documented — he is someone who is seeking acceptance throughout his entire life, and finally got into the most prominent position of power in the world, and then thought ‘My way or the highway,’ ” said Mr. Ferrell, who paused as he discussed Mr. Bush, choosing his words carefully rather than cracking jokes that might seem demeaning. “There are times when I was doing him and I thought, ‘I kind of feel sorry for him.’ But then I’d think, ‘No, he’s a grown man, he needs to be held accountable for what happened.’ “
This is a perfect illustration of the writer’s advice that you must love your characters, all of them, even the villains. Especially the villains. They must remain fully human to you despite flaws, more likely because of them. If you don’t, your reader will see right through you and yell ‘bullshit.’ If you don’t, your reader will know that you’ve created cardboard cut-outs and parodies for them to throw mud at, but they won’t throw the mud at the characters. They’ll throw it at you.