I write "down" stuff about lost dogs on mean streets the way that I saw them, i.e., without happy endings; there are none out there, except maybe for those who get out of the life in one piece. And that's around two percent of the people who've called those streets home.
I was one of the luckies who made it out intact, more or less, and I got to know those streets well; if I hadn't I wouldn't have made it on out. The two most important things I learned there were: all the dopefiends and whatnot out there are people, with hopes, dreams, and fears just like yours, and not the low-rent cartoon exotics that common wisdom would make them. I also learned that the streets, with their pimps, hos, and tricks, the junkies, the violence, the scams, and the fear, is American society, writ small, so to speak, and that light shone on those streets is light shone on us all.
I've been accused a few times of writing "unsympathetic" characters. I've never known quite what that meant, other than than that they're not nice and readers won't like them. The inference here is that a "sympathetic" character is what makes for a good story.
Only in America could such drivel be offered as wisdom
Stories are meant to shine light on the human condition. Period. And the stories that do it best are the ones that most effectively induce within a reader a sense of empathy for the characters being portrayed, no matter how "unsympathetic." The more you see yourself in others the greater perspective you have on life all around you. If the only ones you can empathize with are ones that you like, you have no fucking clue who you are, and are likely a bigot to boot.
That's my opinion anyway. I'd like to hear what others think about this.