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  1. Smithy
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    Smithy Senior Member

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    Angsty Characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Smithy, Jul 23, 2009.

    I have a bit of a problem with writing angsty people. I have no problem giving my characters things to angst over, they just don't angst or when they do it isn't done very well. Usually their 'angsting' is just them either going over the bad stuff that's happened to them or thinking about how no one will understand hardship like they do.

    This isn't so much a problem with my epic fantasy, where you are meant to think that the angsty guy should get over himself, but my urban fantasy really needs the heroine to be angsty and sympathetic; has anyone got any tips on how I can write a character who angsts well without boring/driving off the readers?
     
  2. GrantG
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    GrantG New Member

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    I would consult Rachel Getting Married, a recent movie which really pulled off ridiculously angst-filled characters in a way I wasn't totally bored. I think the secret is giving your characters valid reasons to feel that way...

    You know, the more I think about it, the harder this task seems. Maybe you should tap into your own angst?
     
  3. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Are you sure you want an angsty character? They're kinda a total cliche, and rarely interesting as characters. Unless angst isn't what you really mean....
     
  4. OneMoreNameless
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    OneMoreNameless Contributing Member

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    Saying angsty characters are cliche is like saying heroic characters are cliche. Whether they're interesting or not depends on how well they're written, their depth of character, how their other characteristics are balanced, their reasoning and back story ...
     
  5. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Well then they wouldn't really be "angsty characters", would they?
    There are far too many fantasy novels/films/games that have the reluctant angsty hero with no other character traits except a pathetic "why me?" mentality that is rarely explored any further until he overcomes the main challenge and becomes a completely different person.

    If that kind of angst is just one small part of his fully-rounded personality, then its fine, but angst as a personality is a recipe for disaster...
     
  6. OneMoreNameless
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    OneMoreNameless Contributing Member

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    I think we're working off a different definition of "angsty character" here. What you described is a case of a poorly written or flat character, whereas the OP probably has a well rounded character who derives sympathy from also angsting.

    To respond to the original question, the key is to keep the angst realistic in the case of minor events, and even where the character does have something significant to angst about (a murdered parent or whatever), try to show the ongoing affects that it has on eg. their other relationships rather than dwelling on long, personal monologues. Progress and/or regression at significant points through the story will also help to keep it believable.
     
  7. Anders Backlund
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    Anders Backlund Contributing Member

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    Actually, making it too obvious is probably something you want to avoid. Anguish can be a very private matter that the person suffering from might not be inclined to express to others. Plus, no one likes to read about a person who keeps going: "No one understands my pain!" all the time.

    My advice would be to give your character emotional sore spots based on the source of her angst: things that she is sensitive to that can really ruin her day, or things that get her riled up.

    For example, my main character grew up without her mother and with a very neglectful father. It's not something she angsts about frequently and she doesn't go around in a perpetual sour mood, but her dad is a major sore point for her so she tends to get very moody or loose her temper whenever he is brought up. Also, most of her actions throughout the story are motivated by either resentment for her father, longing for her mother, or both.

    Also, rather then having your character going: "No one understands me," you can do the opposite and have her go: "I can really relate to the suffering of this other person."

    Well, it's definitely something you want to be careful with, because it's very easy to overdo. Still, I wouldn't call angst a bad storytelling element in itself.

    Basically, angst is a way of invoking sympathy, but if the character spends too much time angsting and never doing anything productive, it has the opposite effect: people tend to get fed up with the whining and starts resenting the character for being pathetic.

    Good angst works like an engine for character development, often forcing the character to make tough decisions, come to turns with regret and grow emotionally. If that character development doesn't happen, then it just becomes angsting for the sake of angsting.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    seems to me there's too much angst here over angst! ;-)
     
  9. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe you have no angsty characters in you?
     
  10. cybrxkhan
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    cybrxkhan Contributing Member

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    Angsty characters tend to be easily criticized, and, frankly, most of the time the criticism is well-deserved. I wouldn't want to read about a guy who just complains about his own petty little problems. If you want to make sure you do a good angsty characters, look up good books that have angsty characters. My suggestion would be The Catcher in the Rye, which in my opinion is the classic angst-novel; though some people hate it, I find that the angst in the Catcher in the Rye is portrayed well. Why? In my opinion, instead of the main character just going "Oh look, X and Y just happened, X and Y are terrible, X and Y make me feel terrible, oh woe is to me!", you sort of get to know the reasons why such things make the character feel angsty - his background, his unconsciousness, sort of, I guess. This makes him a much more sympathetic and understanding character, rather than a character that just says "Waah, this sucks!"

    Basically, my point here is that if you want an angsty character, make sure readers can understand and sympathize with it. You aren't going to get much if Mary says "Boohoo, my dog just died!" But if you show Mary getting anti-social, starting to drink heavily, and lose her job over her dead dog (in a realistic or at least plausible way, of course), then it makes the angst a lot more interesting, in my opinion.
     
  11. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I think depressed is a better word.

    Try to show it through their actions and words.

    Mary leaped off the wooden chair. "Hey, let's watch a movie."

    Karusa slowly triwled the spoon in the bowl of oatmeal. "Okay."

    "C'mon, didn't you want to see that new movie . . . you know?"

    He watched a clump of oatmeal slide off his spoon and plop into the bowl. "Star Blaze."

    "Yeah, that one."

    "Sure."

    "What's up with you lately?"
     

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