As a reader, I like characters who aren’t perfect, characters who make mistakes and have flaws. But I still have to like those characters. So how far can a character go without losing the sympathy of a reader? Can he commit murder? Can she lie or cheat? Can he steal?
A character who steals just because he’s too lazy to get a job isn’t going to be sympathetic. On the other hand, a character who lost her job in the recession, lost her home in the sub prime mortgage meltdown, who is now homeless, who has no health insurance and whose child is sick and hungry, a character who feels humiliated and desperate to keep her family alive—it’s entirely possible this character could come across as someone we relate to and root for, even if she steals food for her family.
Most of us would definitely agree that killing is wrong. A character who commits a murder because it gives him a feeling of power and pleasure to take another life is not going to be sympathetic to readers. But what about a Navy SEAL who raids a top secret compound housing the most wanted terrorist in the world and puts two bullets into that terrorist? Would we understand and sympathize with his motivations? Would we consider him a hero?
And yet both those situations involve taking another life.
[What we forgive for love...]