1. Ged
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    Ged Senior Member

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    A rant about relatable characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Ged, Feb 13, 2011.

    I may be in the minority on this, but I just cannot read stories that contain characters who are too much like me.

    I read not to see myself as a character in a book, but to observe how people are different, and how uniquely they react to their own plights.

    What matters to me is sympathising with the character, not relating to him or her. There is a keen, frail line between the two that I cannot fully express, but I hope you guys understand.

    I might not relate much to a character who is a murderer and has a quirky penchant for eating babies, but if I understand his reasoning and his psychology, I will feel connected to him. And I might like him for being a bad guy, out of personal preference.

    Does this necessarily label me an escapist?
     
  2. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Nope. It does not label you an escapist. You an escapist if you consume culture to escape "the banality of everyday life". Thats the only factor that make or make you escapist, not -how- and on what level you prefer to immerse into the story.

    And I agree with you distinction, and your preference. I prefer to immerse myself into a character not because something make my sympathize with the character, but because something lets me get under the character skin and experience the character.
     
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  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Is there any specific reason for this? What's wrong with both relating and sympathizing with a character? Besides, I doubt that there's a character out there who's exactly like you (a character who likes/dislikes the same things and who would make the same choices you would make, etc.).

    I actually find it comforting when I read about a character who is sort of like me.
     
  4. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    There nothing wrong with doing both. I meant that for me the key is that I can relate. Whatever it interesting to sympathize or not depends on the book.

    I some book the writers try a bit to hard to make the main characters sympathetic, and that sort of bore me. Not because systematizing with characters are bad, because the tricks and traits used to make you sympathize is often overused. For example: The hard cop/ex military who got really cute kids and is a good father. The girls that means well but is a bit unsure about herself. The one that for some reason feels a bit like an outsides and is a bit bullied for not being cool, but nice and intelligent. .... And so on.

    Often I think you don't have to push that damn hard to make every protagonist really really sympathetic and make sure everyone really really likes the character. I think you could just aim for making a character relatable, and let the reader themself find what they can sympathize with personally with that character.
     
  5. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Sorry, my question was directed at the OP. I should have been clear about that. But I do agree with both of you when you say that it's ultimately the reader's preference.
     
  6. Ged
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    Ged Senior Member

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    1. Nothing whatsoever. As the title says, this is a personal rant, reflecting my own opinions.

    2. So do I, to an extent, but when things become too personal, I stop reading. Several traits are okay, but anything beyond that, and I stop reading the story.

    Sorry if this thread is in any way offensive.
     
  7. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Why would it be offensive? :p

    I agree a lot with w176 - it's annoying to see the cliche stereotypes that try too hard to be relatable. They always have some "ironic secret side" -- i.e. the priest who questions his faith, the bully who has a soft spot for puppies, the popular girl who is secretly insecure. Because people use these tropes far too often in all the same ways, the secret side is no longer ironic or unexpected. It's annoying.

    I don't think it's weird [in itself] to read about a character who is like me. I sort of like it, especially when the character is similar to me in motivations, personality, values etc and not just appearance/age/occupation/hometown/etc.

    I can maybe relate to you (OP) on one thing, though -- I find it hard to WRITE about characters who are too similar to me. Whenever I've tried it in the past, they fall flat and end up underdeveloped. I compare it to how you're statistically more likely to get in a crash within 5 miles of your home because you're not as focused on the road. My last protag was a 10-year-old boy and my current one is a 12-year-old girl: they're much more developed because I actually have to stretch my mind about how to get in their heads. I can't just think "Oh, she's like me, she'd do what I'd do."
     
  8. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I may have a blind spot when it comes to characters who are like me. I just don't recognize that they are. I sympathize with them and understand them, but there's such a gulf between me, the reader in my universe, and the character in the story's universe that I don't see myself in him. It takes someone to tell me. "Hey, that character in that story is just like you!" Only then do I examine myself and realize that it's true. Someone could write a story based on me and my life and I'd be too blind to see that.

    I might just be weird about that, or I might have a very different idea of myself from that of others; I might be deluded. If so, I'm sure I'm not the only one.
     
  9. Silver_Dragon
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    Silver_Dragon Senior Member

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    I like to be able to relate to main characters in books I read as well as in my own writing. That generally doesn't mean they're anything like me, but there are some qualities in all the characters in my writing (or at least in all those who are really interesting to me) that I relate to.
     

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