1. tristan.n
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    tristan.n Active Member

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    Assassin turned Saint... Too much?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by tristan.n, Jan 17, 2011.

    Okay, so he's not really going to be a saint or anything close to, but it is about an assassin. The title was just to get someone to read this. Made ya look! :) I'm just now starting to develop a new character. This one cannot be flat, but I don't want to make him a stereotype. I can't make him boring, but he's serving as an antagonist at first and then later a romantic interest for the main character. So far he's levelheaded, charming, handsome, smart, and quiet, but he's also arrogant, indifferent to others' feelings, and disloyal when it comes to friendships. He's a hit man who works with the police, so he thinks he's a hero distributing justice (hence the arrogance), but at the same time, he wonders if his methods may be a bit overboard. Throughout the story, the main character shares her values and wisdom, unintentionally helping him with his internal struggles. Though he's not particularly religious, he fears that his soul may be damned because of all of the people he's killed, so he always prays for each of his victims' souls, as well as his own. Later on, he realizes what it means to be hurt, thus realizing what an ass he is to other people. Also, he accidentally bonds with the main character's best friend, and when he is forced to choose sides between the main character and her allies or the people who hired him for his current job, he sees the importance of loyalty (but not through some epiphany, just gradually). In the end, he's still a little arrogant, but everyone has at least one flaw.

    Does this character seem like he could be hated at first but liked in the end? Does he seem like a fathomable character, or is he too typical in stories?
    All help/advice/suggestions are greatly appreciated! :)
     
  2. Crabapple
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    Crabapple Member

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    I guess it depends how you write it. I guess to me its a little cliche and these characters tend to annoy me, but its really just a personal preference. I suggest giving it a go and see what happens.
     
  3. tristan.n
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    tristan.n Active Member

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    What would make him less annoying? At first my main character does think he's self-absorbed and rude, so at first he's not really supposed to be well-liked.
     
  4. Crabapple
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    Crabapple Member

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    The whole "turning good" part for me. I guess with the things I (and again this is just my opinion) like to read, I want a bit of realism in my characters (as much as you can even in a fantasy setting). I kind of feel such a drastic change is unrealistic. But it doesn't mean that something like that doesn't work (as I do prefer a bit of darkness in my books). I think if anything though, don't make him such a 'goody two shoes', leave a BIG grey area, be it from a complete a**hole still or something of the like.
     
  5. tristan.n
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    tristan.n Active Member

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    I'm thinking about making him start out as a good character instead anyway. My main character has proven able to handle herself, and it would be almost degrading to have one measly person get in her way of doing what she needs to. Ugh I need to rewrite over half of my plot outline...
     
  6. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

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    Tristan,

    I'm sure that you can do something new with the character type, but I too am tired of the regretful hitman. I've known a couple of hitmen and they treated me very nicely, but they didn't regret killing the people they did. Just to clarify, I knew these guys from working in prison.

    The one man I'll never forget because many years ago I was having a serious health problem and my doctor gave me grim news. I mentioned it to the hitman and he was annoyed and gave me health advice that I decided to follow, it worked, and was a thousand times more valuable than the doctors. When I engage in this practice I always think of the hitman, who passed away many years ago. I'm not religious, but if I'm wrong I hope his good deed counted for something.

    I know that at least one hitman can be a very nice person, but I also believe there's something of the soldier about such guys and they don't mind killing as a way to eliminate a threat. A much more complex, and infrequently seen character is like the real person I just told you about. That's the hitman who doesn't care about his targets but still desires to do good deeds for innocent (as he sees it) people.
     
  7. tristan.n
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    tristan.n Active Member

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    I wasn't sure about this character in the first place because I've never written a character like this. Perhaps instead of the troubled hit man, I can go completely opposite and make him a super likable (and realistic) genuine nice guy? That might work out better anyway, since my main character isn't used to this type of person. Maybe I'll just write it and let my character be whoever the hell he wants to be.
     
  8. vanarie
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    vanarie Senior Member

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    I think you should make him an absolute loathsome character in the beginning. So bad that the reader wishes he was killed. It is basically what you mentioned but I am talking absolutely despicable. Heinous and callus. Make the reader's skin crawl every time they read this guy. I mean NO REDEEMING QUALITIES, whatsoever.

    Then do the conversion and try and get your readers to forgive him. All the while there are other characters that simply wont. It would be setting the bar for yourself as an author.



    Regarding if it is implausible...
    St. Paul was a murderer so if the bible can do it, there is no reason you can't write similar fiction.
     
  9. tristan.n
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    tristan.n Active Member

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    The biggest trick would be to get my readers to believe anyone could actually be attracted to him. haha
     
  10. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

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    The guy I told you about worked for a crime family. He was neglected by his real family and killed because he loved the crime family and they treated him great. I would imagine they looked at him like a soldier.

    Speaking of which, I recall soldiers saying they had to cut enemies in half with machine guns and weren't allowed to stop and soldiers in general have to kill many or huge amounts of people. The other side might view them as monsters while at home they're heroes. Thus, you hitman may have people who think he's great because of his brutal qualities.

    The anime Golgo 13 might provide some ideas.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It depends on how well you write him. On how well you sell him.
     
  12. vanarie
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    vanarie Senior Member

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    Allegro hit the nail on the head. His expertise in the field draws valuable insight.

    A common perception of general society is that criminals have no redeeming qualities. But they often only interact (in a criminal manner) with people who are enveloped in the same life style. The solve their problems with actions that are deemed unacceptable by Society as a whole.

    To clarify on this, I am referring to organized crime and career criminals. There are many that have no scruples whatsoever. But at the end of the day everybody has to live, everybody wants to live with their head held high (for the most part). That being said, there are plenty of crime figures that have good family values (be it slightly skewed) And there will always be people that look up to them, or people they would treat with the utmost respect.

    I think as a writer, you can portray a violent/criminal character in a dark light and then show the reader (later on) the character's redeeming qualities. This creates a moral conflict within the reader.

    'Am I supposed to like this guy because he enacted revenge on someone who hurt his family? Am I supposed to like him because he just took to his daughter to a soccer game, bought his parents a house and spent three days supporting his friend dying of cancer? The man just killed ten people in the beginning of the story!'

    Another thing I would like to see more in fiction is a character that is respectable in the beginning but slowly, it is revealed that they are no better than the antagonist of the story.
     
  13. tristan.n
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    tristan.n Active Member

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    One of my characters is sort of like this (not the one I'm having trouble with). My main character looks up to him and views him as a role model in her life, but as time goes by, she starts seeing many of his flaws and sees him in a new, not so shining light.
     
  14. vanarie
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    vanarie Senior Member

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    That's very cool. The destruction of character, in characters, is great.
     
  15. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

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    Vanarie,

    What you said about "skewed family values" is right on target. The career criminals I've known dislike guys they see as unethical criminals, they're the kind of guys that if you need something they will help you, but they would be ok with scaring the hell out of shop owner with a gun in his face. What about him where's his good stuff? Most of the guys I met have a soldier mentality in that they're machine gunning people to "protect" others as part of a mission.

    Many have told me they did it for their family, and then I'd point out that you're now in prison and no one is taking care of your family. I was in the Philly area and it's not like some suburb where your family is going to be okay, there's people floating around looking to prey on children with no father, etc.

    I see many criminals as a mirror subculture of regular people in that they have the same rationalizations for doing unethical things as the norm, but their means of achieving their goals is very self-destructive.

    Of course, I've also met many bizarre criminals whose actions make no sense, are super violent, and so on, but they aren't career criminals. No one's going to call a hitman who just kills everyone.

    Chickenmen:

    Years ago, I had some training on these Italian Mafia guys called "Chickenmen". I can't find internet referrences to them, but I saw photos of what they did, and they might be close to what you're looking for. I hesitate to explain, but I will anyway.

    These guys were called in to torture people who were in violation of something. Their technique is like a surgeon in reverse. They would slowly strip the flesh from a person without killing them. Thus, the muscle tissue would be removed and the veins and arteries left intact. So, while the person would remain awake they get to watch themselves dismembered slowly. The goal of the torturer would be keep the person alive as long as possible while doing max damage. They would take photos and then supply them to the person who paid for the hit.

    Again, I've never met such a person but did have training on the subject.

    I told you that one, because that's not just some version of a James Bond hitman, it's extremely bizarre and heinous, thus making it hard to come back from.
     
  16. vanarie
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    vanarie Senior Member

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    "and then I'd point out that you're now in prison and no one is taking care of your family"

    That is the zinger right there.
     
  17. UberNoodle
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    UberNoodle Senior Member

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    Perhaps if the story itself was about how he turned into a 'saint'. That would have great potential for drama and conflict. Perhaps it could hinge on a string of 'last jobs and then I'm out' type of situations. Perhaps there is some loyalty of his that acts as barrier to his reform.

    You don't read Rurouni Kenshin by any chance?
     
  18. Julz
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    Julz New Member

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    Please avoid:
    * I do these bad things so I can get out once and for all.
    * The assassin being given jobs that are essentially 'morally easy', because the target is a very bad person.

    An assassin is going to do the dirty work.
    You need to know (before you start writing) how it is that they deal with it.
    My guess about real assassins would be 'indifference' - essentially making them evil.

    Read the Standford prison experiment, on how good people turn evil and how the evil become saints. It is a real world example of how our brains quickly use cognative-bias's to justify our actions - (for a while at least).

    J
     
  19. tristan.n
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    tristan.n Active Member

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    Julz: The only job depicted as part of a scene in the story is where his target is a man who escaped from an army after being drafted to save himself. He had to kill a few of his men to do so, and he is extremely remorseful of it. That particular army made him do terrible things to people, however, and he ran away because of that. Nevertheless, the assassin realizes that a job is a job and sees it not as a gray situation, but clearly black and white. He tells the main character that he's doing his job, not siding with the enemy. He would just as quickly kill the person who hired him to kill the escapee if it meant getting paid for it. And yes, I've read about the Stanford prison experiment... it's scary to think that hierarchy can change people so quickly, isn't it?

    Noodle: He's not really turning into a saint, but he does give up his job. So perhaps I could put emphasis on how he wishes to change his method of thinking and acting because he realizes what a cold, calculating person he's become... And no, I've never heard of Rurouni Kenshin.
     
  20. Tesgah
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    Tesgah Member

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    I'd say it's possibly to pull off, but you can't make the reader genuinely hate the character, in those cases it's difficult to change the reader's opinion about him later on. In my opinion you would have to give him certain characteristics early on which makes it logical that he has such a change in his point of view.

    It's hard to pull off, but it can be done.
     
  21. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sincere regret goes a long way. If people are deeply penitent and ready to do whatever it takes to make up for past mistakes, then it's kinda hard to keep hating them. But be wary of selfish motivations for the same -- if it's possible to trace their penitence back to some sort of gain for themselves, or to simple self-pity, then it'll fail. They'll still be vile, self-serving bastards only now with tears on their faces.
     
  22. Pen
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    Pen Member

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    I think "epiphanies" are a bit too much- the character has to remain consistent, and so you'd have to examine the reasons as to why he was what he was. From the initial description, he sounds like a bit of a stereotype, the lawful assassin who kills out-of-hand, but only "criminals".

    First, it's hard to imagine out-of-setting that the police would work with such a man, unless perhaps he was a policeman who slowly turned to murder out of expediency and a sense of upholding order at all costs and as the police start to lose out in a battle with city crime, they start to weave a myth about him and refuse to follow up on clues that the killer is among them- it being something of an open secret in his department that he is the man.

    As such, I'd imagine such a character to be very uptight, perhaps to the point of repression, and on the quiet side. This could come off as aloofness or indeed arrogance, and considering that he knows what he is doing is in some ways wrong, he might overcompensate in being immaculately turned out and following petty laws to the letter- hence a sense of arrogance and aloofness.

    Redemption for such a character might be in realising there are things he cannot control, especially through force, and a sense of perspective, but he may look like something of a karma Houdini should he escape punishment for what he's done (after all, he was a murderer).
     
  23. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Agree. Bad guys can see their flaws and try to make up for them, but they rarely (if ever) escape their fate. Once a character has blood on his hands, he's a tragic character. Of course there are exceptions, but it's almost a universal law in stories. Especially in movies you'll know almost for sure: if the main character kills someone in the first act, they themselves will die in the third.
     
  24. Birmingham
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    Birmingham Active Member

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    Irnoically, sometimes the most flat characters are the most intriguing ones, while those who are deep and struggle can be very cliche and boring.

    I've seen two out of four seasons of Prison Break. So I apologize for major SPOILERS and I ask you not to give me any regarding season 3 and 4.

    Anyway, in each of the first seasons you could see one person, who kills innocent people, supposedly for a higher cause, and then has a change of heart, and has some sort of a transformation.

    In the B-rated movie "Freeman", starring Mark Decascususususususususus or whatever his name is, you can see an assassin who suddenly falls for an intended target, and goes against the people who sent him.

    Now, in season 2 of the show "24", when Jack is tortured late in the season, by some tall guy with glasses, we see that the guy has no depth as a person. He has so much b*lls that he talks back to the people who hired him. He's emotional, he doesn't see humans as humans, he doesn't try to impress anyone, never says please or thank you. And it's intriguing to see this guy, just as a complete psychopath who isn't deterred by anything.

    I'm not saying you shouldn't go for your idea. And I'm not saying that the assassin with the change of heart is always a bad idea or that the heartless assassin is always a good idea. Naturally, you don't want to create a flat "sunday morning cartoon villain". But you don't wanna go to the other extreme either. So, I guess it's not the "what", but the "how". I feel like I might be all over the place, or not explaining myself properly. So, I hope what I said is useful for you, or anyone else.

    Overall I think your idea can work, but you gotta tread carefully.
     

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