1. GrottyStatute74
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    GrottyStatute74 Member

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    Countering the "Tough Guy" cliché

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by GrottyStatute74, Jul 3, 2016.

    Right. I have problems with writing lately. I can make the writing nice, plot interesting, however, I am shit at Character Development... And I am hell bent on changing that.

    A good starting point would be the protagonist. I am the type of person who finds it hard to get the creative juices running, but when they do, ohhhh, I pray that they stop.. Anyway, here's the deal:

    What I am looking at is a stereotypical tough guy, amazing swordfighter dude, your typical "Geralt of Rivia" (if anyone has heard of him). That's bad. I want my protagonist to be special, definetly not the emotionless "Tough Guy" stereotype, and certainly not a copy of someone else's work... So, help me forums, I have tried, but ultimately failed at making this character deep and interesting... Everything I think off is either a well known trope, or has been used in "The Witcher", one of my favorite franchises...
     
  2. CrusherBrooks
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    CrusherBrooks Member Supporter

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    Well, if he has no weaknesses, give him some! My tough guy is an alcoholic and has a soft spot for women (then again who doesn't). Alternatively you can turn his strength into a weakness where his emotionless actions put off the reader or backfire plotwise. In my current WIP, emotional characters get to out-vote my tough guy and get away with it because he's got a bad rep as an alcoholic. Should be doable, I've noticed that characters are easily influenced by changing details rather than large plot lines, especially in the first impression. The earlier you introduce a weakness the more apparent it will seem. Then again... Who wouldn't want to write someone like Geralt? :p
     
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  3. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    I have a tough guy character who's tough in that he's physically strong, unbothered by pain, and a skilled marksman, but he's also terribly romantic and lovelorn, has a massive soft spot for kids (is heartbroken because he can't have them), and actually puts most of his effort into not having to play the tank and hurt people - he's good at 'tough guy' stuff and often ends up in cornered in that role due to circumstance, but it's not what he really wants or enjoys. He started out as a much more cliche cool/tough guy. IMO the best way to develop this kind of thing is to be aware of tropes and purposefully play with them. My guy functions like a lone wolf bruiser type, but in reality he's desperately dependent on his family and constantly trying to work smarter, not harder. He's great at what he does, but gets no joy from it and frequently fails just because he hates doing it. He comes across as jaded and stoic, but in reality he's always hoping for something better and spends a lot of time beating himself up over the one that got away.

    I'm not gonna tell you my guy's unique or has never been done before, because at the end of the day I'm still just playing with tropes, and it's not a trope if it hasn't been done before. The idea is just to assemble your tropes in an interesting way. Instead of being emotionless maybe your swordsman is dramatically emotional, all the time. Maybe he's highly emotional but when on the job he keeps a lid on it, then we see him go home to his family and deal with ptsd. What's the opposite of the thing you'd expect him to be? What's he like if you switch them around, or come at them from a different angle?
     
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2016
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  4. FireWater
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    FireWater Active Member

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    Maybe he has a really, REALLY weird habit that he does when he's by himself, and it's somehow related to a trauma or some kind of deep issue from his past.
     
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  5. Holoman
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    Holoman Member

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    Make the tough guy thing a front, he acts that way but deep down there are things he really cares about. Maybe hes lying to himself about how much he cares. Just an idea
     
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  6. halisme
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    halisme Contributing Member Contributor

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    The thing that you're forgetting about Geralt is that he isn't actually emotionless, he questions what he does and what would happen if he hadn't become a Witcher. If you've played the third game, you might remember the snowball fight with Ciri, which for me was the defining moment of the game.
     
  7. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    I would argue there are no original characters in the superficial sense we're talking here. Originality is only achievable in the details. Or else it's just short-sighted to think no-one has done it before. And besides, even in the details, it's not that important. It will find it's own originality. Just do what you want to do. And occasionally you might play with tropes as @izzybot mentioned, in order to create a subversion of expectation, but even those are not inherently better and can happen without being forced. It's not so much what's original as what's cliche. Tropes are fine, they are everywhere. There is no such thing as a tropeless tale. Not at all. And there's nothing wrong with categories, it's what genres are. Or "human."" The key thing is again the details. Familiar details are so much more damaging and if you look at cliches the cliches that leak into the plot are the most hated. The superficial things like "tough guy"are too broad to be important.
    If you want your character to be good, then I would suggest you start with thinking of him as a person. I always advocate this. Stop thinking of him as a role and start connecting to him. At first the characters will be a bit of a role but as you develop them they should feel like a person. You won't be thinking of them as "the villain" or "the hero" or anything like that anymore. Think of them as their name, as a person, and sympathize with them. Even consider changing their role. That's how you expand them into more than a cliche.
    If you want interesting tropes or ways to subvert them, look here; http://tvtropes.org/.
     
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  8. GrottyStatute74
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    GrottyStatute74 Member

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    Thank you so much for answering! I was thinking kind of a younger, cockier version of Geralt in my story... And when I pile on the weaknesses like, as you said, weakness for women, making him a somewhat terrible brat... But, as the book advances, he becomes the new Geralt... Hopefully a bit different (such a temptation not to write Geralt :-D)

    That sounds a lot like Geralt... Anyway, thanks for answering!
    If the Witcher didn't exist, I could easily make my character... However, whatever I think of, I scrap because I think people will notice Geralt 2.0

    He counts the stars when he's alone :-D... Not weird, just not going with the "Tough Guy" theme :-D.
     
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  9. GrottyStatute74
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    GrottyStatute74 Member

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    Thanks for answering! Belive it or not, I was thinking about the same idea.

    I wasn't thinking exactly emotionless. If you want people to care about you're character, you need to give him some life... CD projekt red have done that amazingly with small gestures, facial expressions etc.

    True dat. However, if I look at him as a person, I have basically a copy of one of my favorite characters... Thus, I must change many things about him.
    And yes, there wasn't a tropeless tale. However, I'm intending to make something fairly unique. When I wrote classic fantasy story, I quickly lost interest, seeing how boring it would be to other people. But here, even my monsters aren't, basic, instead, I dive into mythologies, change them a bit, and I have something unique.

    Thanks for answering!
     
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  10. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    What's wrong with the tough guy cliche? Tonnes of women fall for that type. It's good to make your character 3D but I wouldn't worry too much over it being a little cliche. Anyway, best way is to give him a back story. How did he come to be who he is? What's his childhood and background? He wasn't always tough and aloof, and he wasn't always an amazing sword fighter, was he? How did he get into swords? How did he create his reputation for being legendary? Does he have any regrets, trauma, hopes and dreams? Is he disillusioned and how/why? What happened to turn him so cynical?
     
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  11. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Find a way to show he has more to him than being mister McStabby badass. What are his faults? What little known details about him that cast a softer light on him?

    I have an MC that is "hell on wheels", when it comes to being the tough guy kicking ass for a fashion. But he as a richness in the fact that he has regrets. Raised a war orphan that becomes the scariest first star general ever conceived, by what she has endured. Has a dark sense of humor, that comes out at inappropriate times. Sought vengeance for a tortured cyborg, and has inadvertently killed a lover by having her use his weapon to kill herself. And still makes time to have a stiff drink and relax, as well as work on an awkward relationship with a bio-engineered alien that made the decision to leave behind her life of sadism in favor of becoming a soldier and medium Armor pilot.

    Perhaps someone needs to study the likes of both Indigo Montoya and Edmond Dantes, to find a middle ground between being a cold swordsman being light hearted. :p
     
  12. hawls
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    hawls Active Member

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    Consider that a lot of what makes a character clichéd or stereotypical is in the way he or she influences the world and people around them, and how the world and the people respond to him or her.

    You have your tough guy. He's strong, skilled, charming. But that doesn't mean everything has to go his way.

    He could try to talk his way out of situations, but the people around him a too dumb to grasp the subtle wit. He could jump in to stop a barfight, but instead of targeting the assailant, he mistakenly targets the victim who is only fighting in self defence. He could try to flirt with a sexy woman only for her to say she's not interested. Then he says "What if I do your loyalty mission?"

    No. He doesn't say that. He just respectfully accepts the rejection.
     
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  13. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that one way to make the character much more interesting would be to ramp him down. For example, you could eliminate the "amazing swordfighter" and make him just pretty good. "Just pretty good" gives him vulnerabilities, and fears, and the need to decide what risks to take. It's one thing to rescue the damsel or the puppy when you know for sure you're going to win; it's another thing if you know that capture or death is a distinct possibility.
     
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  14. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Have you seen San Andreas? I was watching it yesterday (I'm a sucker for disaster movies) and it struck me that the protagonist in that is a really good example of a 'tough guy' who's not just a cardboard cut out. He's vulnerable, he treats both men and women with respect, but he can also knock out a guy armed with a gun with his bare hands in two seconds flat.

    Might be worth watching for some research? :)
     
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  15. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    This woman usually says "eew" about that type. :) I'm just saying.
     
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  16. Shannon Rowe
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    Shannon Rowe New Member

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    I guess any good character needs a combination of positive and negative characteristics, so that you can explore internal conflict to make them more well rounded. That doesn't mean your tough guy has to be a wuss deep inside, although moments of self doubt can work well. Similarly, the MC might be tough but a bit of a jerk - think about James Bond for example, cool and indestructible, but you wouldn't trust him around your missus.

    Or to call on a more stock trope, perhaps the MC's weakness is how strongly he feels about the people he's trying to protect, be they family or fellow villagers or whatever, that a villain could exploit by taking hostages etc - the internal wavering between action and protection that results can give opportunities for character conflict.
     
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  17. Wexeldorf
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    Wexeldorf Member

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    One of my favourite protagonists was a guy called Ciaphas Cain in a series of novels written by Sandy Mitchell. He's basically a selfish army officer who, through looking after his own safety, would find himself thrown into dire odds and survive. For example, while in a battle against an enemy he would be at the HQ trying to scurry out the back door only to find himself face to face with an ambush from an enemy assassin/kill squad, and have to battle them to save his own life. He would then be hailed a Great hero for saving the battle/stopping the assassination etc.

    He is basically a hero more through luck than anything, although he has the training to look after himself, he's not actively looking to be a hero, but becomes one anyway.
     
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  18. Auger
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    Auger Senior Member

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    Maybe the tough guy doesn't want to be tough, but it's the only thing he's truly good at.
     
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  19. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Well, you've read the Witcher books, right? He's more than an emotionless tough guy. In The Sword of Destiny things get pretty mushy and cute with Yen, and mushy and cute aren't generally considered tough guy attributes, afaik. And he clearly cares for Ciri too if you look at the way he's committed to protect her. I'm not sure but it's possible the books reveal more about him than the games, but then again, I haven't played the games.

    Don't worry too much about writing a copy-cat. I don't think that's gonna happen if you map out your character's history and development, and make him a multidimensional character with strengths and weaknesses. It might seem kind of obsessed, but that's what I do so I get to know my characters and why they act the way they do. Why they seem to be emotionally crippled. Why they seem to not be afraid of conflict. Why they'd be characterized as tough guys by either readers or other characters.

    You could also engage in "tough guy" activities to get some ideas, like join a fencing class? Sometimes I do stuff irl I want my characters to do in fiction. I'm not saying it's necessary, but it can be useful. :)
     
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