I keep writing these really dodgy things lately and then look at them and thinking, What?
Today one of my characters thought: The opposition didn’t need names.
And then I thought, That’s appalling. Of course they need names. Taking away their names, not honouring them with that identity — it’s dehumanising. You turn a person into an object and it’s way too easy to — Oh. You turn a person into an object and it’s so much easier to kill them. And I backed up and muttered, “Well, okay. But I am not approving of this. This is still A Bad ThingTM.”
But, you see, this character that I love is also someone who will absolutely kill to protect the people he loves. And he does not care who they are. Which makes it easier for him. Doesn’t make it right. Doesn’t make it wrong, necessarily, either.
I still refer to my protagonists as ‘the good guys’, and generally they are. For certain values of ‘good’. But like all people, sometimes they make dubious choices. Sometimes they make wrong choices. Because they’re scared or confused or desperate. And sometimes they make the only choice they think they can and it just leads them further into the darkness.
Being one of the good guys doesn’t mean they always do the good thing. Being the protagonist of the story doesn’t make them right. You have to remember, happy endings are never happy for everyone.