1. Stoic Trigger Man
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    Stoic Trigger Man New Member

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    A Hit Man that is likeable?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Stoic Trigger Man, Jul 30, 2011.

    Hey Guys and Gals,

    I'm a noob, so go gently please :cool:

    So, I've had problems motivating myself to start my second novel. The main premise or underlying theme is how power and money corrupt even the most altruistic of souls.

    Please bare with me on some backstory of my protagonist, if you can call him that.

    He's a trigger man that is generally apathetic towards life, thus why he is an expert at his profession. He has a military background, a rough family history, and isn't the biggest fan of people. However, he doesn't take joy in the killing process, but is efficient.

    1) With the corruption angle, I want the US gov't involved (namely Big Pharma and the FDA corruption), and I can't seem to come up with a convincing way to get across his employment as a hit man. I can't figure out who his "employer" is...

    2) How can I make him sympathetic (not necessarily likeable) to the reader? I mean, he's a hit man, they're not exactly saviors of society :p

    Thanks in advance to anyone who takes the time to read this and help out.

    EDIT: Thought I'd give less backstory ;)
     
  2. SK.Knolls
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    SK.Knolls New Member

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    You say hitmen aren't saviors, but perhaps he could be. It seems you are a bit uncertain who you want his employer to be, consider making them the "good guys" against the "bad," for lack of better definition. For example, a group deems a rising politician to be a dangerous dictator with an itch for war and tyranny. Through the hiring of this hitman, your character could indeed be seen as a type of empathetic killer, this one life to ease the suffering of many. This is a loose example, but it could be fitting. This scenario appears to be rather common in this day and age.

    Other than his reasoning to carry out these assasinations, maybe his very act of killing could consist of quick and painless hits. Having his victims suffer longer than necessary would be taboo for him. Or maybe he could quote a peaceful stanza before he kills. All these ideas, if implimented properly, could give your hitman a human feeling.
     
  3. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    So maybe he's no longer in it for the money. Maybe he only takes jobs he 'believes' in. Maybe he only takes jobs where he feels the target really deserves sniper justice.

    Hit man with a conscience? Why not?
     
  4. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    In my opinion, giving us all this info about how he regrets it but does it ruefully anyway will just make me hate him, because he goes against his individual integrity, which is far worse than if his actions just didn't bother him.

    As far as making him likeable, give him traits we can all relate to. A dog/cat he loves with a quirky nickname, a sense of humor (or dark humor perhaps), a feature he's self-conscious about (like an ugly wart somewhere), etc. Give him multiple of these traits. Make him seem like a human. Count Olaf, Sweeney Todd, Gru from Despicable Me etc are all villains who are likeable because they have interesting personalities that are fun to read.

    You also mention family conflict, which is also highly relatable. Have dialogue and scenes with his (whichever family member he doesn't get along with) that are realistic and will make readers nod along in recognition.
     
  5. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    1. I'd like to say 'Cobol Engineering', but I think that's taken...

    2. Look at 47 from the Hitman series. He's extremely likeable. I suggest you rent out the movie or something. It's not a bad film, and it could give you from perspective.
    Alternatively, look at the Comedian in Watchmen:
    It is revealed in the film (I don't remember whether it was in the graphic novel or not) that the Comedian assassinated JFK, and he also goes around murdering, but we love him anyway.
     
  6. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I actually just tried to write a successful hitman. I am not sure if Mallory would hate him or not. He kind of is going against his integrity, but then he kind of isn't either. lol Hard to explain, it's complicated. lol

    The best way to make him sympathetic is to give him a somewhat understandable motivation for doing what he does. I tried to do that by having him be forced into a job he doesn't want to do. He's not supposed to be likable as much as complex. I don't know if I succeeded or not. You just have to try and write him as a complex character. You have to see him as sympathetic or else I don't see how you can expect a reader to.
     
  7. Rassidan
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    Rassidan Senior Member

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    If you are a good enough writer you can make anything likeable. A hitman should be easy to do. It is never about what he does but why he does it in the first place. Other than Agent 47 you also have The Professional and I am sure there are other hitmen that make the likeable list as well.
     
  8. Stoic Trigger Man
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    Stoic Trigger Man New Member

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    Some really interesting points, thanks.

    :) Yeah, I'm not secretly writing Inception 2 haha

    I do love that series, the games were better IMO, but the movie wasn't bad. I also like the Hit Man series by Lawrence Block, should check it out if you haven't yet.

    Thanks for your advice everyone, I'll see what I can work into it.
     
  9. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would try to keep separating what he does from what he is. Look at mob figures - they did some horrific things, yet they had wives and children who loved them. It wasn't "The Killer", it was "Daddy".
     
  10. Stoic Trigger Man
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    Stoic Trigger Man New Member

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    I think that's my problem with him, I look at his career as a lifestyle, something he's as used to as breathing. So it could definitely be a case of not enough separation.
     
  11. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, that's true, but think about criminals in general. Excepting rapists and kiddy fiddlers and socio-/psychopaths, most criminals have absolutely excellent morals towards children and stuff. It's just that they stole something or murdered someone, and that's not so bad.
    Really, though, I'd be more likely to trust the average criminal to look after my (hypothetical) kids than I would be to trust some day care centre (based on how sick my niece has been due to other sick kids at day care; based on how rude she can be due to other sick kids at day care, and so on so forth).
     
  12. Jonp
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    Jonp Senior Member

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    It is possible to make a Hit man likeable. People have already mentioned 47 from Hitman, and to that I would like to add Bill Nighy's character from Wild Target.
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    007 is essentially a hit man.What do you think licensed to kill means? It means he may be ordered to terminate someone who is deemed a threat.

    Speaking of James Bond, there was a hit man character in a couple of movies, referred to as Jaws. He became a somewhat likeable character when we saw him develop a soft spot for a woman he encountered while on a mission to kill Bond.

    The key is to show the readers a side of the hitman they can identify with. Whether it be an unexpected tender heart, or a pain the assassin lives with that drove her to a life of eliminating certain types of people, you build a connection to the readers.
     
  14. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    You could give him a wife and kids who love him, but in order to make them more relevant, tie the wife or one of the kids into a subplot that affects the main story. This way you've got the killer vs. Daddy dichotomy in his life, and also more conflict points and plot complications. Win-win solution.
     
  15. Ursus_Buckler
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    Ursus_Buckler Member

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    Have you seen a series called Dexter? It's excellent for making you sympathise with the wrong character (in this case, you root for a serial killer). You do this by making him human; even if he doesn't like people you could attempt to make him at least try to have some human interaction. Something else that you could do is put the character into situations (where most people would want to do something but would stop themselves due to morality) and then making him do it anyway. That sort of thing really helps to make your character admirable, and fun, which is an important thing to add with a character like this.
     
  16. JeffS65
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    JeffS65 Contributing Member

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    Watch 'Gross Pointe Blank'...In addition to a great movie and great performance by Matthew Broderick, it kinda gives you a good idea of a likable hitman.
     
  17. proserpine
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    proserpine Member

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    I think your hit man needs to care about something, if not someone.

    Perhaps he is a hit man by day, but has a pet Persian cat that he brushes routinely, and will buy cat treats for at midnight. Maybe he grows delicate flowers. Maybe he has a soft spot for a wayward child in his neighborhood, or unrequited feelings for someone he works with.

    His past will help draw readers in. How did he become a hit man? Is he running from something in his life, or is he looking for something? He has an entire pre-hit man life for you to create.

    Good luck with your writing.
     
  18. tiggertaebo
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    tiggertaebo Member

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    It was John Cusack but otherwise spot on. Another film worth watching would be Leon.
     
  19. JeffS65
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    JeffS65 Contributing Member

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    Oops...a bit of brain gas, as they say...Would have been a much better movie with Broderick, wouldn't it? ;)
     
  20. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    That was only in the film, and a lot of old time fans of the comic hated that clip. That aside, I think it's a bit of a stretch to call the Comedian loveable.

    I mean, the guy killed his girlfriend and unborn child just because he could.
     
  21. Pythonforger
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    Pythonforger Carrier of Insanity

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    On the surface, he is an uncaring hit man who goes around pulling triggers and pressing buttons(to detonate bombs).

    On the inside, he's a witty, quirky, charming, extroverted, confident, slightly narcissistic cool dude with a weird tendency to come up with really odd comebacks, mostly because his brain just comes up with a random answer when he can't think a witty comeback fast enough.

    Then make his employer just another number who has oodles of money on the surface.

    On the inside, he's a maniac. Grinning, laughing, doing unexpected swiping motions at people;yes, that's number 78 for you.

    Do this for all your characters, maybe trim them a little so the story doesn't look like someone popped the Joker into a cloning machine and set the switch for sixty million, and you'll have a hit man who everyone loves.
     
  22. Stoic Trigger Man
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    Stoic Trigger Man New Member

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    Thanks very much, some good advice here. I know I can unearth something he's running from, and you're right I do have to still weave that backstory from before he was a hit man.
     
  23. proserpine
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    proserpine Member

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    I'm glad I could help.

    Sometimes, it helps just to start writing, and learn about the character on the way. You're going to need to go back and rewrite at some point anyway. In my experience, at least, trying to get all my ducks in a row ahead of time can seem like an unsurmountable task, and stops me from writing.

    An idea: hit men (usually) have their targets chosen for them, they don't have to make the decision. Perhaps your hit man made a decision that he greatly regrets, and he likes his job because it makes the decisions for him.
     
  24. tiggertaebo
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    tiggertaebo Member

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    I've always been something of a John Cusack fan and I think he was perfect in the role, do like Broderick though and I think he could have done a pretty solid job in the role.
     
  25. Stoic Trigger Man
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    Stoic Trigger Man New Member

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    Great idea, I might be able to massage something along those lines into his visible motivation. Plus, I've got some experience in the mistaken decision-making in life regarding leaving a job I liked, so I can almost relate there.
     

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