1. jack_is_cool
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    jack_is_cool Member

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    Archetypes or Characterisation?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by jack_is_cool, Mar 12, 2009.

    I've reached a dilemma. Suddenly I'm unsure if I wish my novel to follow the Ellis-esque route of vacuous hedonism as a means of illustrating how meaningless life is, or if I want to use my characters' personal stories as platform for the themes in my novel.

    My question is do you guys like the archetype approach? When the characters are sufficiently developed, but the main point of the novel isn't them, but rather the subtlty and nuance of the text? When the characters, if analysed, are really just examples of a particular message trying to be conveyed?
     
  2. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    I can't speak for anyone else, but I tend to prefer when a story is built around a theme/idea/argument, and the plot, characters, symbolism, metaphors, et cetera all exist with that theme in mind. As in, the foundation is the message that the author is portraying, and everything else is based on that. I find that when a story is centered around a character (without the character representing an ideal) the theme, if there is one, usually seems forced. The same would be true with a plot-centered story. Of course, this is just in my experience, and I'm sure there are plenty of exceptions; I just haven't read them.

    Of course, none of the above applies if you're writing a story for entertainment only (without a true theme or message), but your post seems to imply that you aren't.
     
  3. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    The way I see it is, what good are all those themes if they aren't about people?
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Archetypes are flat. I'd much rather have characters who react like real people. If I need to make a point, I'd rather manipulate the environment than use "stock" characters.
     
  5. Cheeno
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    Cheeno Contributing Member

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    I think you have to consider the practicalities. Is the method you're using, and the message you're hoping to convey, too far outside the mainstream to attract an agent's attention, on the first hand, and the reader's on the second? Personally, I believe the archetype will still have to be multidimentional in respect of illustrating that life, existentially, is meaningless. In fiction, the story is essential to achieving understanding, isn't it?
     
  6. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Archetypes often are flat, but they don't have to be. With practice, you can do it. Nobody, as far as I know, has ever called a character in Pirates of the Carribean flat, and it has some archetypal characters. The villain (Barbosa) who is such a badass he'll shoot his own man, and the Hero (Will), and the trickster (Jack). The way to use them well is to use them as skeletal guidelines while still making them indivisuals. I still don't think they should be thought of as tools to convey a message. The best messages are often unintentional, anyway.
     
  7. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh, I didn't mean to use stock characters. By all means, characters need to be varied an complex. My point was that I prefer them to be consistent and tied to whatever message the author is trying to convey. And manipulating the environment works, too, of course.
     
  8. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    The touble is, if you focus on message, and manipulate the characters and settings for the sole purpose of sending a message, there is a high risk of the characters being flat and their actions being forced and unnatural.
     
  9. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hm. I've always thought that it would make them more natural. People do things and say things because they believe them. People act in accordance to their beliefs and moral standards. Why would characters be any different?
     
  10. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    When I want to make characters, I consider Dragonball, and Dragonball Z.
    People LOVE those two shows, and an INCREDIBLE degree of that love stems DIRECTLY from the great characters.

    We have characters that, on the outside, sometimes seem like archetypes. (The ignorant, innocent boy who is a really great fighter)

    But as the series continues, you learn all kinds of new things about the characters. Motivation, likes and dislikes, strengths and weakness, and so on.

    It is just plain FUN to watch these characters. Whether they're fighting or standing about talking, or eating, or goofing around; it is simply enjoyable to watch them and all of their characterization.

    Moreover, I have NEVER comprehended, or even ATTEMPTED to comprehend, a metaphorical character whose entire existence symbolizes something else.
    The entire concept of being 'deep' is lost on me.

    "Oh, wow! He said that humankind is nihilistic in a roundabout way! Amazing!"

    No. Just silly. Is the joy in figuring it out? Is the joy in knowing that the author did it at all? What is the POINT?
    I prefer characters RICH in entertaining personality who are led along an intriguing plot at sporadic pacing; that is, sometimes things are intense and fast, and other times leisurely and slow.
    That's what I like to read.
     
  11. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's different because characters who are being manipulated to send a message are being forced to do so, and it's not natural if they are being forced. With real people, it's happening naturally because they are (generally) not being manipulated to be that way. It's better to let it happen naturally. That's not to say, don't consciously put morals into your stories. But it means more if it's not being thrown in your face or done in any overt way. If you want your characters to be real, treat them like people, not tools to teach a lesson.

    As well, themes, lessons, and morals, often come out whether you mean them to or not simply because that is what you believe in. There is a book called Perfect that was written by a woman who had Bulemia as a young teen. She wanted to write a book with girls who had eating disorders because there were none that she knew of, and she knew that there were girls who needed it. The author's goal was not to teach people about the dangers of eating disorders. You get that in health class. She cared more about telling a story that girls could relate to. In the end, you still see how dangerous eating disorders are and what it does to the people with them, and their families.
     
  12. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I think the biggest risk is coming off as preaching. At least to me that is the danger.

    I prefer a novel have a theme, heck several of them. Deep is good, as long as it never feels like I am being preached at. The first half of Stanger n a Strand Land was really good. Then the main conflict was resolved, and the second half, which is basically book two has a new conflict. The second half I felt preached at. I didn't enjoy it as much.
     
  13. jack_is_cool
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    jack_is_cool Member

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    Speaking of anime, I can actually think of one show that fits exactly what I'm trying to express. Neon Genesis Evangelion. The characters in that particular show are exceptionally archetypal (as seems to be the case with most anime), but these characters do grow, however, in the latter part of the show they seem to regress. Although there is characterisation, the characters suddenly seem to become symbolic of certain psychological and/or philosophical ideas.
     
  14. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    YA novels do it all the time successfully. It seems teens like archetypes.
     
  15. Addicted2aa
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    Addicted2aa Senior Member

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    I've never really felt people were that simple. For example, I believe lying is bad and yet from time to time I will find my self manufacturing a story to a friend and passing it off as truth. These lies aren't for any particular greater good, they just come out in an attempt to seem cooler. Hypocrisy is part of human nature, so it would make sense for characters to violate they're own moral codes both consciencely(Sp?) and without their knowledge.
     
  16. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    A perfect example of why you shouldn't treat your characters as tools for a moral. Every person is an individual, so every character should be, too.
     
  17. JavaMan
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    JavaMan Senior Member

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    Excellent topic!

    All in all, I've always beleived that an archetype is 'flat' if used incorrectly. The man who coined the word archetype said that there seems to be an indefinite amount of them - they also can vary a bit with person to person. The strenght, I beleive, in using archetypical symbolism is that it is largely classical in symbolism. Naturally, that will mean that if they are used correctly, the written work will greatly appeal to the critical reader.

    Archetypes, again are not nessicarily flat if we view them as living, breathing 'things' or 'people'. By that I mean archetypical symbolism, by definition, is the language of the uncounsious of psychoanalysis. Follow me here: what you immeidiatly have are two things to meld together - the basic blueprint of psychology and the induvidualism of existentialism. Properly put together, characters, themes, plots, settings are both original and relatable.

    Of course, to add, there is nothing wrong with adding a few Fruedian (or othersuch) spices into the mix.

    Forgive me for rambling, but I'll leave you with this point:

    Any religion of the world is almost completely full of such symbolism or characters. It would easy to argue that the success of any such beleif system, as in many cases with millions of people over thousands of years, rests of the idea of such a archetypical model.
     
  18. x_raichelle_x
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    x_raichelle_x Contributing Member

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    I dont think you should try really hard to convey any kind of deeper meaning to the reader. Give them some credit, and if you write it well, your story will give way to the reader analysing the themes & characters & getting their own meaning from this. If you deliberately try to showcase a particular moral I think the characters and the actual storyline will lose out because of this. Just make sure your characters are well developed as an individual character rather than somebody there just to underline a particular ideal or theme, and their inner feelings are well portrayed to the reader, your reader should be able to understand any kind of hidden or deeper meaning through this.
    Just my opinion though :) x
     

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