Redeeming the Antagonist? 2013 365 Challenge #266

First trip in Daddy's little car

First trip in Daddy’s little car

I had an interesting discussion with my father in law this weekend about the end of Baby Blues and Wedding Shoes. He read the story, back when it was called Pictures of Love and still needed a lot of work. When I showed him my Baby Blues proof copy and said I’d rewritten chunks of it, he said “I hope you rewrote the ending.”

It had me intrigued, because when he read it he’d said nothing about the actual story, only pointing out the typos. When pressed further to explain what he didn’t like about the ending, he said there was a character who didn’t get the comeuppance he deserved.

Without giving too much away, in the epilogue we discover the antagonist has been redeemed by love despite being a nasty piece of work throughout the book. It seemed the right thing to do, although to explain why would give too much of the story away. My father in law says I should rewrite it and give him a sticky end (pulling out his fingernails was suggested!) because his actions are unforgiveable.

I guess to me we all make mistakes and we’re all are capable of redemption. But it made me wonder if it makes the book less satisfying, and the protagonist’s victory weaker, by redeeming him. It’s hard to discuss it without spoilers. I guess at the very least it gives a couple of great book club questions about whether his actions are forgiveable, to go with the other parenting ones I’ve started writing to add to my website when I find five minutes!

Is it okay to redeem the bad guy in the end? Have you compiled book club questions for your book? Is it a pretentious thing to do, or a genuine resource to offer? I found a great link for generic book club questions, if it is something you’re considering but don’t know where to start.


Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog: 


Darkness pressed around Claire when she woke and she could hear the soft breathing of the other occupants of the dorm. The fresh air and exercise of the day before had resulted in heavy sleep for all of them.

Far more effective than drinking games until 2 a.m. No snoring either: bliss.

Feeling wide awake for the first time in ages, Claire crept out of bed and pulled on her jeans, careful not to spill coins all over the floor as so many people did when trying to dress quietly. She couldn’t see anything through the curtains, but she guessed it was before dawn.

Padding through the silent hostel, Claire felt like the only person alive in the whole world. She wandered through the lounge, smiling at the memory of the sheep who had called in for coffee the night before. She let herself out the back door and stopped to pull on her boots, then stood and stretched, inhaling the cold morning air. Her exhaled breath created a patch of white mist, and Claire contemplated going back for her jacket. Unwilling to risk waking anyone, she pulled her cardigan tighter and stepped out into the morning.

In the distance, a pale line of blue splashed across the horizon: a streak of colour against the dark sky. As she moved away from the hostel, her ears filled with the sound of birds echoing from the forest beneath her in the valley. She walked a short way towards the trees, until the sound wrapped around her and smothered all other thought.

Light seeped into the sky almost imperceptibly; more blue, then pink and yellow, like a rainbow dispersed in swirling water. Claire’s nose tingled with the cold and her cheeks burned, but she only heard the rising crescendo of song and saw the spreading canvas of colour.

In the background, another noise trickled in around the dawn chorus. It took a while for Claire to identify it as the hush hush of waves caressing the shore, out of sight behind the forest.

Unwilling to move and break the magic, Claire stood for what seemed like hours. Her legs stiffened and her skin ached with cold. Gradually, glints of gold appeared between the trees, as the sun pushed its way above the horizon. As Claire watched, a ray of light pierced the forest and shone out like a beacon. The day had arrived. She continued to watch as the sun rose higher, feeling like a pagan worshiper at midsummer, although it was nearly winter here.

At last, human sounds joined the mêlée as the hostel came to life behind her. As if it released her from the spell, Claire moved and stretched her arms. A wide grin spread across her face, and she felt she could skip back to the building for her breakfast. Here, at the bottom of the world, she had found peace.


“Morning. You were up early.”

Claire smiled at the blonde Aussie, recognising him as a fellow passenger on the bus. She returned the greeting, as she pulled out her box of food and poured a bowl of cereal.

“Yes, it was beautiful out. I went to watch the sunrise.”

“You don’t strike me as the communing with nature type: I thought you were a city chick?”

Claire looked at the man in surprise. “What makes you say that?”

“Dunno, really. You look too–” He flushed, and his embarrassment surprised her. “–Too polished, I guess. Like your hair and clothes and stuff are smart.”

He dropped his head to his toast and missed Claire’s look of confusion. The guy had noticed a lot of things about her, considering they’d only been travelling together for a day.

She sat at the table opposite him and thoughtfully chewed at her food. “So, if I’m wearing nice clothes and I brush my hair, I must be a city chick, as you call it?”

The man said nothing, and Claire took pity on him. “I’m not offended, just surprised. I’ve barely worn a scrap of make up this whole trip and my clothes haven’t seen a washing machine for weeks. I thought I looked like a tramp.”

“Nah, that’s not possible,” the man blurted out, before resuming his red-faced silence.

Claire smiled, prepared to accept the compliment. As they continued to eat without speaking, she contemplated the man’s words. What made a city chick or a country girl? And which one was she now? Six months ago she would have said city girl, unable to live more than a mile from a Starbucks. Now she wasn’t so sure.

Either way, I don’t have a home to go to, in the country or the city. I don’t even have a car, unless Carl accepted my offer, which I seriously doubt. I’ve only got Conor’s word that there is a job waiting for me.

Sitting at a scrubbed pine table in the middle of nowhere, with a tongue-tied bloke and a flock of sheep for company, Claire wondered why exactly she was rushing home at all.



12 thoughts on “Redeeming the Antagonist? 2013 365 Challenge #266

  1. With giving too much away, I was a little surprised by the ending, but it didn’t disappoint me! I like stories of redemption (there’s a big one in Reckless Rebellion too). Perhaps you could have given a little more warning it was coming, or a few hints earlier in the book, but overall, I think it helped make it tidy.

  2. Endings CAN be unpredictable. Does not always have to be “nice guy wins, bad guy gets hit by a bus, blah, blah…” Real life being unfair as it is..jerks are sometimes getting the promotion at work while others conscientiously and ethically slave away for nada. The ending was not typical, and that is fine.

  3. I always waffle between liking that a character is redeemed at the end and feeling a bit like it’s a cliche. I guess it just depends on the rest of the book? Hard to make that call but interesting question…

    • It’s based on my own experience of people – that they can become so wrapped up in work and seeing the wrong things as important that they make all the wrong decisions, but if they meet someone who helps them reassess their priorities they can be redeemed by love. It might be a cliche, I hadn’t seen it as such because based on evidence, but then cliches are cliches because they happen often!
      The book was originally called Pictures of Love, and his redemption was another part of the picture. Perhaps it makes less sense since the rewrite. Ah well!

  4. Pingback: Dark Dreams: 2013 365 Challenge #267 | writermummy

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