The Cannibal Irony

Cannibals are evil, right? They kill and eat people, and that is inherently wrong. Yet Cannibals are some of the most interesting characters in my story world. How can readers possibly bond with someone who does something so evil?

In Botanicaust, the Cannibals survived the demise of world food crops by refusing to be picky. Yes, they eat humans, but not exclusively. They eat anything. And they don’t believe in wasting. Their culture evolved as the ultimate conservationists. They have laws to protect people with knowledge that must not be lost. And only certain bands, called Hunters, actively hunt and kill other people. The rest of the Cannibals are gatherers, healers, craftsmen, and parents. If the situation suits them, they take pity on outsiders.

Beyond the one nearly unforgivable trait that defines them, Cannibals in Botanicaust have many good qualities. There is a reason for what they do, proven again and again by a harsh environment. Readers can empathize with the need to survive. And that is the crux of memorable characters; the reader doesn’t have to actively like them, only empathize with them.

Can you think of a character with a serious flaw who for some reason, you bonded with anyway? What redeemed that character for you?

© Tam Linsey, 2011. All rights reserved.

Cross posted at and


6 thoughts on “The Cannibal Irony

  1. Casey Wyatt

    I always love flawed characters. The ones who have reasons for their behavior, even if those reasons are evil or dememted, make the story more interesting. Tam love the Cannibals – they sound like a really interesting group!

  2. ArcaneRhino

    Angus Thermopile from Stephen R Donaldson’s “Gap Into” series.
    Though “bonded” would probably be a stretch, in a cast of contemptible characters, of which Angus, vial act for vial act, is probably the worst (emphasis on probably – he definitely has competition), he is honest with himself and others about his motivations – at least those of which he knows. The purity of his loyalty, at least to those things and people he views as his possessions, is also inspiring in its own demented way. Finally, his ironic role as the unwilling antihero of the series is delightful.

  3. jessicaaspen

    I think flaws are what make the best characters great. Why else would people love vampires who suck blood and were-wolves who lose control? And isn’t that what makes a fantastic alpha hero, someone who has some terrible flaw? Otherwise they’re all as boring as superman or the musical Camelot’s Lancelot. Too good looking and smug. But liking cannibals? That’s genius! Way to go!


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