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  1. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    Conflicts with "shy" main character

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by agentkirb, Sep 29, 2009.

    My question is kind of hard to explain, but I'll try.

    I'm trying to write a series of mystery/suspense stories where the protagonist is this very introverted character. Kind of like Monk from the TV series and book series, except he's not obsessive compulsive but just shy.

    Throughout the series he's going to struggle with his own problems while he's trying to solve the mystery. Maybe he has some trust issues, or he doesn't believe in himself or whatever the story might be. And to illustrate the point further, I draw a lot of my inspiration for this series from the TV show "House MD", except Dr. House is MUCH more of a direct person when dealing with his problems, while my character isn't.

    That's kind of the problem. My character is this shy, anti-social person, so I couldn't have him argue with other characters in the story because someone that is shy and anti-social wouldn't turn around and have this dramatic "soap opera" argument.

    So my question is... do I just have to change the character's personality to make it work? Or perhaps change the type of conflict so that it's not aired out "soap opera" style.

    I hope you guys understand what I'm asking here.
     
  2. Fox Favinger
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    Fox Favinger Contributing Member

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    I say if you have a shy investigator have him be a listener, have him use a bare minimum amount of and have him absorb every detail of everything people say to him. And when people argue with him, just have him nod his head so he can get through the day. Perhaps give him a photographic memory. Have him work alone and only engage in conversation when he absolutely has to, like when he has to interview witnesses. Make him an interesting man of few words, rather than an insecure person.

    Just some suggestions of mine. I am working on a very shy character myself, he keeps other away with this sort of empty persona of his.
     
  3. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    What does your character want? What's standing in the way? That's the basic recipe for conflict. Your character doesn't have to argue with people.
     
  4. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    Actually, rather than the photographic memory angle... I was just going to have him really be good with logic. He's shy, he likes to be alone a lot, so he's always thinking.

    But like, he couldn't ever interview witnesses because he is uncomfortable around people he doesn't know. Instead he writes questions down and gives them to the guy interviewing witnesses to ask. He couldn't be in the interrogation room with the suspect, he just watches from outside.

    I suppose when you put it that way it sounds very easy. I just need to figure out a type of conflict that will work with a shy main character.
     
  5. Pallas
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    Pallas Contributing Member Contributor

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    That sounds like a good series. Will the character eventually evolve another mindset?
    I'm also curious as to whether the shyness is rooted in some physical deformity or the trauma of some past event.
     
  6. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    There is a HUGE difference between shy and anti-social. Why do you feel you need those arguments anyway? You don't. I've seen plenty of mysteries, stories of every kind, that don't have the kinds of arguments you're talking about. The conflict IS the struggle with the shyness. I wrote an entire novel about a girl who NEVER speaks up, never defends herself. The conflict was that she has to learn how not to be afraid and finally stop living in her own safe world and TALK to the boy who she knows like her. In your case, she's solving a mystery, some sort of criminal activity I'm assuming. The conflict is that she is investigating crimes and she doesn't have the tools most people do to confront the bad guy and go to the authorities.

    Then again, take a look at the shy tailor in Fiddler on the Roof. No matter how shy a person is, they will yell when it matters enough.

    As well, I'm just wondering if you really understand how shyness can affect people if you couldn't figure out a conflict with a character who is shy.
     
  7. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Any conflict. Throw an obstacle in his path. Any obstacle. He has to deal with it somehow. . . That's life. Even if his answer is suicide, you'll have conflict + resolution.

    I can't imagine why you need a conflict tailored just for him. . Drag him out of his comfort zone kicking and screaming. Force him out of his element on purpose. That's when stories get interesting.
     
  8. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    I couldn't agree more.

    As noted in one of the first posts, you could also have your character be a listener. May I point out that that could become boring (not definitely, obviously depends on how you write it). I mean, your character is just to stand there and take in everything? Unless he's humoring the readers with what he thinks about whoever is acting/speaking, I think it would be quite dull unless spiced up. If I'm missing something, someone feel free to make me look foolish...
     
  9. Sillraaia
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    Sillraaia Senior Member

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    I have to disagree. I tend to be very shy and anti social, if I am not careful, I could easily turn into a hermit and be very happy. But given the opportunity and enough provocation, I am not afraid to argue with someone about something I believe in.
    Granted, I normally try to avoid the conflict, because when I am inside the conflict itself, I cannot always get my PoV across to the opposing party. If given the opportunity, I would rather digest it for a day, then come back with guns loaded next day, knowing exactly what I am trying to say, and the best way I can think to say it.
    But being shy and anti-social doesn't necessarily mean afraid to argue.

    It could also mean he just doesn't bother arguing. A lot of times, you just have to realize it takes all types to make a world, and anything you could say about something - expressing your own opinions on something to someone - is not going to change their beliefs, or probably even have any impact on them at all. People will believe whatever they choose to. So maybe he just believes the argument is pointless because in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't really matter.

    But - any argument I feel motivated to actually go through with is more likely to be the big dramatic soap-opera style thing, because I am upset not only at the person I am arguing with, but also with myself, for being unable to express things the way I might have preferred.

    Take the character out of his comfort zone - force him into an argument as such. Have someone approach him accusing him of something he finds repulsive. Maybe they will hit a nerve, giving him enough anger to blow up. Maybe have the argument building over time - like, he knows the person who has a problem with him, and knows what the problem is, and maybe he has been avoiding it - until he can no longer because they are in his face screaming at him, and he has no other escape but to return fire.

    Have fun with it. :)

    edit: oh - and if he is really that shy, he would have to be questioning his ability or desire to stay in that line of work, if it continues to involve confrontations. Not saying his being there is unrealistic - just saying he would need some strong motivation to stay, to counter his instinctual desire to remove himself from the contact. I took a very people oriented job once, specifically to overcome my own shyness. While I learnt a lot about myself in the process, the job itself didn't last me.
     
  10. Dreamer85
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    Dreamer85 Member

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    The character doesn't necessarily need to say much to analyse a situation. I, myself, am usually introverted, but will analyse a situation after its happened and figured whether I could've done something better, and try to learn for next time.

    What your main character will need is people around him/her that will help the main character to develop or regress, in one way or another.
     
  11. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    Well... what I mean be "tailor just for him" is, I can't have a conflict where he resolves it by being confident and direct and solves the case and all that jazz. That would be un-characteristic of someone that is shy and introverted.

    So I suppose the answer is that he needs to solve the conflict in his own way. Maybe "solving the conflict" to him is just accepting the situation.

    I think I have a good handle on this, thanks for your help guys.
     
  12. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    I think I posted "chapter 1/part 1/whatever" of the story in the novel review section of the forums. So if you were curious about that. The thread was created like 2-3 months ago, but now I'm closed to finished with the first "episode".

    I don't really know where I'm going with it. I don't really want him to completely change, but perhaps just a little. The idea behind the first story is that he's originally a game designer/developer/programmer, that has made a career out of making strategy games for the past 10 years (thats where the whole "he's good with logic" thing comes in). His job sends him to his home town for the first time in 15 years, and he finds himself caught in the middle of a murder investigation where he's the prime suspect. He's reluctant to do anything about it, but is eventually convinced by an old friend (who happens to be a detective... what are the odds?) to try and find the real killer.

    Yada, yada, yada, they figure it out and at the end of the story he's offered a job as a consultant/detective/assistant (havn't really decided yet). So I guess in that sense he does kind of change because at the beginning of the story he was just fine making games. But he's still going to be the shy, introverted guy like usual.

    The short answer is yes. I'll make some reason up eventually. I have a few ideas.

    This is a good idea. I'll have to think about this.

    Thank you everyone for responding. I didn't respond to everyone's post but I read them all and it was all helpful. I don't mean to sound overly-thankful, just... I didn't think this many people would respond because I thought my question would be too hard and too narrow to really give any advice on.
     

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