1. Crimson Dragon
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    Crimson Dragon Member

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    An issue of preference

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Crimson Dragon, Jun 13, 2013.

    I have a rather odd issue at hand that effects not just one story or idea but my writing as a whole, and it deals with what kind of characters I like to write and what audience I usually aim for. I will admit this flat out, I do not like writing typical heroic-type characters. The "good guys" are too direct and straightforward in their methods and come from humble beginnings. I like to write intelligent, scheming, manipulative characters in positions of wealth and/or power who have grandiose, goals that favor using smarts and indirect, chessmaster schemes rather then direct "fight the bad guy" action. The issue, such characters make great villains in the eyes of most, but lousy protagonists. I aim mostly at teens when I write, since I enjoy writing teen characters and such, but I just don't find heroes enjoyable. I find the scheming manipulative, intelligent chessmasters with grand goals and some degree of wealth/station/power in their background more enjoyable for me to write then the typical heroic protagonist who comes from humble beginnings and often find that when I go to write something that fits the latter mold all the interest is sapped out of it for me. However, my worry is that the kind of characters I like to write make horrible protagonists, especially in YA. Why would somebody want to read about the villain winning? What kind of moral is that teaching people? Heck, even if they don't win and the story becomes about the errors of evil I still think that the kind of characters I enjoy writing most are better suited to being antagonists rather then protagonists, yet when I go to make a hero to their villain I find myself wanting to only develop the villain because they are just far more interesting to me. So my issue is thus: I highly enjoy writing characters that work best as villains/antagonists and dislike writing the kind of characters you usually find as protagonists and have no idea how to rectify this issue. Any advice or tips for me would be highly appreciated.
     
  2. maskedhero
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    maskedhero Active Member

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    A Song of Fire and Ice by George R. R. Martin is full of jerk characters from high stations, and everyone is grey in their morality. That's closer to real life than we'd all like, but it also reflects life a bit. The YA genre may not be the best home for that sort of villain as the main character though...

    If it is done well though, even an unlikable character can be made likable, in some small fashion. None of the characters in The Sound and the Fury are particularly likable, yet it is considered Faulkner's best work by some.
     
  3. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Read Monument, by Ian Graham, for a main character who is thoroughly unlikable.

    Also, Humbert Humbert from Lolita isn't exactly likable. He's got a certain amount of wit about him, certainly, but he's a pretty despicable character under the veneer.
     
  4. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm the same way! I tend to write YA fantasy, and the first novel I ever started writing had the typical heroic character. It's the only one like that since. My second novel was about a teenager who worshiped a demon. The third about a "dark angel" so to speak who lives in a world with no sunlight. The most recent involves an angsty teenager who ran away from home and hates everything. lol I find the normal boring and the odd exciting. I think it's a different way of looking at the world, a good way to get into the minds of a different kind of character. I applaud you and urge you to continue. =) I'm glad I'm not the only one!
     
  5. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Perhaps part of the issue the OP presents is tied up in the meaning we give to the word like/likable. I personally (personally!) don't worry about a character's likability. As Maskedhero points out, that is more of a goal in YA lit, and I don't write or read that.

    Perhaps appreciate/apreciable or relate/relatable are better terms and better goals than like/likable.

    Have a look at Asian liturature. The goodie and the badie are much less polarized in the literature of the East. And I am not talking about manga.
     
  6. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Why not a story in which the intelligent chessmaster is the hero? I have to admit, I'm sick and tired of the standard story of the musclebound hero defeating the evil genius. It was always Superman and his muscles versus Lex Luthor and his brains. Many other comic books follow the same pattern, or at least they did when I was growing up. Movies, too - James Bond's villains are all evil geniuses, and Bond defeats them with all-out violence and tons of explosions everywhere.

    I think this actually has a detrimental effect on society (American society, at least), because it teaches kids that brawn is better than brains. American universities often seem to be little more than football teams with a few professors drifting around. Football is more important than education. Smart people are considered nerds and are dismissed or laughed at or bullied.

    Reverse the trend! Give us a brilliantly-intelligent hero who defeats the villain by outscheming him! Sherlock Holmes did this, and is still hugely popular, but Conan Doyle's stories are a century old. Give us a new hero who wins with his brain!
     
  7. Crimson Dragon
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    Crimson Dragon Member

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    Yeah, I thank you for all of the advice. As for the characters I was talking about, I guess they are not as horridly evil as I make them out. Just selfish and with grandiose goals, though those goals usually are things that are at least somewhat relatable. Some examples of protagonists that I have in my stories include..

    - The cocky, spoiled and somewhat immature/selfish but rather well-meaning heir to a massive megacorp in a science-fantasy setting who seeks to oust his evil father from his position and take control of the company himself so he can run it in what he feels is a better way for everybody in the setting. Not as evil as the others, but pretty bratty initially(this does change) and unafraid of using chessmaster schemes and deceit to oust his father(who is definitely the worse between the two).

    - A teen Necromancer who is for the most part totally selfish, and is driven to fight a greater evil out of that selfishness initially. (The reason being that his entire family line is dept to said evil and could he never obtain the number of souls needed to pay off all the dept.) He gets less selfish as the story progresses and comes to care about the characters who go from allies to friends, but always keeps some of that selfish attitude with him and his dreams of immortality and having essentially unlimited magical power never change. He also toys with some very...dark magics, to say the least

    - A charismatic, manipulative teen with supernatural powers who starts a rebellion against the wealthy and powerful along with other powered teens that while high-minded in speech ultimately seeks blood, revenge and the establishment of global dictatorship with shades of both Communism and Fascism. He does have a charisma about him and believes fully in his cause, but is most likely the worst out of all the protagonists I have on the evil-o-meeter as far as actions go. Rare exception to the "wealthy"trend as hee starts off middle class-ish.(but eventually seizes quite a bit of wealth to fund his rebellion)

    - A mad scientist type who creates a virus that is later used to cause a zombie apocalypse. He's pretty evil, but rather humorous as well and is fighting for "team good" despite being evil. A large corrupt company steals and alters the initial virus he made and he is brought in by the government to help defeat his own creation. Rare protagonist who is not a teen, too.

    Those are just some examples. I have other protagonists that include such wonderful people as the antichrist/son of Satan, computer hacker criminals and numerous others that are grey at best on the morality scale. Many of my characters however share in common the fact they are fairly well-off and unafraid to use manipulation and chessmaster plots to achieve their goals, and range from selfish but well-meaning to rather depraved individuals. Also, those short blurbs hardly sum up everything there is about these characters. So yeah...
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i don't see how you can 'rectify' your personal likes and dislikes... but, as noted above, many novels [and movies] are built around entirely on unsavory characters, so i don't know why you think it's a problem... just write what you like to write and if you write well enough and come up with marketable stories, you can be successful at it...
     

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