Contrary to the title this is not a focused rant about a gross dislike for a particular person. This is more about dynamics of hatred on the same side of the coin. Everyone has co-workers they dislike, and sometimes even hate. This is about the moment where someone leaves the room, there’s an awkward pause, and the immortal words: “I hate that guy” comes out vocally or from a simple expression.
Conflict between a protagonist and antagonist can shape the plot. The disagreement between to comrades can make this more volatile and more interesting. It provides obstacles the protagonist didn’t anticipate and makes their life more difficult.
This does not mean that I think all groups should not be cohesive fighting units. I think at the core what defines alliances is a common goal. But what happens when they disagree with everything else? The subject matter of the disagreement can be many things and many severities.
‘That guy called my armor ugly.’
‘That guy fights left handed. I hate lefties.’
‘That guy blinks too much. He’s shifty.’
‘That guy killed my dog in cold blood.’
It’s also interesting when you look at the other side of the coin.
‘That guy has no fashion sense. Has he no pride?!’
‘That guy isn’t very adaptive. He expects the world to line up for him.’
‘That guy has staring issues. Does he even blink?’
‘That guy was let his hunting dog work itself to near death. It’s a good thing I put it down.’
Similar to my arguments with antagonists, I find it better to justify the actions of characters no matter how irrational they seem from a couple steps away. Plus it makes it that much more potent if both characters find themselves walking away from each other and muttering: “I hate that guy.”
Sometimes the target of the annoyance isn’t even really trying to get on the nerves of the people around them. In fact, that is fairly common in real life. There are very few people out there that go out of their way to make people miserable intentionally: unless of course they’re being compensated for it with lots and lots of money.
I will say I am not a fan of the obliviously obnoxious victim. Unless they are specifically dim witted there is only so far you can take someone that gets on everyone’s nerves and not have them aware of it. In that case they either don’t care or they’re doing it intentionally. Under those conditions it is pretty fun to have ‘that guy’ loving their title and smiling with contentment when they walk away and draw out from their intended victim: “I hate that guy.”
The obvious dynamic of this is that people have to deal with this guy. They make great authority figures that lord over their ‘lessers’. However it is a little bit different when the annoyance in question is actually competent… even likable. At that point it becomes an opinion, that you can let the reader in on. The world may think highly of a figure, but on the personal level they aren’t so rosy. Or perhaps there is something about them that only a select few know about, skeletons in their closet.
This is a dynamic I try to embrace, in all its forms. And I’m curious to see what defines ‘that guy’ in your eyes, fiction or not, in the comments.
Hopefully you shook your head a few times reading this and said: “I hate that guy.” (Hopefully not aimed at me!)