1. La_Donna
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    La_Donna Member

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    Do love interests alter characters?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by La_Donna, Jan 12, 2013.

    Right, I know that in conventional romance stories two characters fall in love and are altered from the experience (they learn life lessons, they realise they're being selfish etc). But I am having problems that mean that when my two lead characters fall in love they seem to suck all the character out of the other. Is there something with my writing that I could do that would save the integrity of these characters?

    To start off with, my idea is set in 1930s Germany. There is this character who comes from a small town but who gets sent off to boarding school in England. She only comes home every summer. Not only is she rich, seen as cultured, and thinks highly of herself, she is also really pretty (always one!), and because of the few times they see her, she is almost seen as this wild, exotic "opportunity". However, I want to make her unlikable to start with (she's self-obsessed, haughty, and doesn't care about "big" things) and that everyone is only in love with the image of her, and that through her experiences as she meets friends, falls in love, has kids etc. she eventually realises how vapid and selfish she has been her whole life, and the protagonist falls in love with HER.

    This narrative is causing two problems. Firstly, my antagonist is a really evil guy, does crazy stuff, is generally a menace and does it all in the name of obtaining her (and something about an inheritance) but I find myself backing him because he goes to such extreme, clever and devious ways of achieving his twisted goals. In contrast, my protagonist (who I tried to make the quiet, shy type) is such a wet blanket because of his inability to stand up for himself and all this mooning over her he does that you really just want the antagonist to win.

    Secondly, I find it REALLY hard to write "nice" characters, so she goes from being this cutting, witty but generally not nice person, to, once she goes through her experiences and falls in love with the protagonist, a wet blanket who just moans the whole time and gives up everything that made her a character.

    So what I want to know is, should I change her love interest in the hope it would save her character (because her "bitch" character really works)? Or is it just my inability to make an ending where he can retain his quiet, intelligent nature while she remains cultured, outgoing and sophisticated? Is there something, maybe a technique or exercise, that could sort out this problem?

    PLEASE HELP!!!
     
  2. Scarfe
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    Scarfe Member

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    Ok, you write your synopsis well. Have you ever watched Pans Labyrinth? Watch it. That is some inspiration for your evil bastard. He has to have some good, or your story fails. We need pathos- that is a requirement. I think you should just write, you have some pretty language.
     
  3. SuperVenom
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    SuperVenom Contributing Member

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    Yeah Love does change a character but it doesn't have to be till nearer then end, and they are allowed to keep some of their original characteristics as it is what defines them and it is probably the reason why they fell in love with each other in the first place. The only thing I could add is not to rush the full change if you can.
     
  4. Oswulf
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    Oswulf New Member

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    As Scarfe said, it sounds like you need a bit more shading in your characters. Even 'nice' people have some kind of dark side.
    As it stands, it sounds like the girl and the antagonist are well suited to each other. Maybe introduce another girl who the protagonist can discover he is REALLY in love with, or spice things up and have him fall in love with the antagonist instead!
     
  5. kev675
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    kev675 Member

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    I believe that love changes the story but what type of story are you writing




    I am the Warlock
     
  6. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    You don't mention a reason for setting the story in 1930s Germany, but I find your choice very interesting and rife with possibilities for resonance. Nazi Germany embraced elements of Germanic myth that supported their Aryan notions, and in so doing rejected much of the German romantic philosophy of earlier times, embraced by writers such as Goethe. This philosophy focused on the notion of man as imperfect and saw life as a struggle to try to perfect oneself. So, in this setting, imperfect but essentially likeable characters, attracted to each other but struggling with their imperfections, could be seen as not only looking to help each other with improving (if not perfecting) one another, but also struggling against a repressive state that views itself as already perfect. Also remember that it is our imperfect nature that makes relationships difficult, hence the kinds of up-and-down elements we usually see in love stories that keep readers enthralled.

    Which is to say that I think you need to make her less bitchy and more likeable. Why is the shy, intelligent guy drawn to her? Hint: it can't be about the money.
     
  7. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Like Ed, I am curious about your selection of 1930s Germany as the setting for your novel, given the unique situation at that time, which had huge effects on everyone. The boarding school issue is a tricky one, as is the girl's well-off family status. Are they supportive of or resistant to the Nazi regime? How is it that they were financially well off, given the overall economic situation in Germany, and in most of Europe during that time? Not that this didn't exist, but the reasons for the family's good fortune will impact your story. You say the antagonist is an "evil" guy -- is this evilness tied up with being a Nazi? Is the girl or the boy not Aryan? Are they Jewish (even partially Jewish?) or gypsy? Or in any way in any group that would be deemed "undesirable" by the Nazis? This is all going to have an impact on what's going on, so you're going to have to really know the factual and social history. For example, the Nazis were encouraging Aryan Germans who were living abroad (such as at a boarding school) to return home. The fact that your character's family isn't doing this means either that they don't totally agree with everything the Nazi regime is doing or that they somehow believe that it is still okay to do this because other considerations outweigh this action that could be viewed as unsupportive. Or do they not care what the Nazis think? Are they defying them? Do they want to defy them but feel they can't because they have too much to lose?

    I only point this out because you've indicated your setting up a complex interpersonal situation with your characters, which is great. The situation is made infinitely more complex by setting it in Nazi Germany. That is also fine -- very intriguing, in fact, which all makes for great storytelling. But this comes with a danger -- by writing a historical novel, you have to make sure you have the history right, and you'll need to know that time period inside and out. I don't know you, so maybe you do have a passion for history of this time period, are very knowledgable about it, and chose this setting because of your knowledge and interest. But if not, you might want to consider a different setting.
     
  8. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    double post
     
  9. La_Donna
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    La_Donna Member

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    Hi guys, thanks for the great advice. I'm really into the history of the period, and have been researching so much that I'm almost afraid to start writing!

    My female character's family are one of those families who go along with the nationalistic side of it, and embrace the who Germanic myth ideas that go along with Nazi ideology at the start, but become increasingly disillusioned. I even have them going to Bayreuth to see some of Wagner's Ring Cycle. However, they are slightly uncomfortable with the anti-semitism, anti-gypsy etc stance that the Nazi's take, so really aren't the most natural Nazi's. They don't agree with the SA thug tactics of the early 1930s, and almost think nostalgically back to Bismarck. My female character is apathetic, and being away for years makes her detached from her heritage. However, she is initially attracted to the protagonist because he's the only one who doesn't go on and on about politics. On losing everyone, she realises what a coward she's been and eventually does her own tiny part in rebelling against the regime.

    The protagonist is Jewish, as are all his friends, but I'm going to have him be a quiet and clever boy who is a pacifist and an intellectual. He eventually becomes an unwilling participant in the war and his previous ideology gets destroyed in the face of war. He likes the female character, in spite of his own ideas, just for her looks, but he ends up helping her find her inner depth.

    The antagonist is most definitely a Nazi, and is my only "true" Nazi. He believes in the ideology 100%, and finds Hitler charismatic. His one weakness is his obsession with my female character; not only does he fancy her but she represents everything he wants - money/wealth/social status - because his father has always treated him like dirt. I sort of see his relationship to my female character a bit like Daisy and Gatsby - it's not so much love for her but an obsession with another world.

    Do you think that explains the relationships between my characters and is a solid reason for their love triangle thing. I'm a bit worried that my protagonist has not got enough depth to him. What do you think?
     
  10. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Wow -- okay. I'm glad you've got a passion for the history of this particular setting, because it is one that I am very interested in as well. But, with respect to the two quotes above -- given that your protagonist is a Jew in Nazi Germany, it's going to be quite a feat to pull this off. If you can do it, that will be very impressive, but beware this road is fraught with peril. I'm curious how his previous ideology is destroyed -- does he become a sympathizer or accomplice to the Nazis or does he believe war is necessary, when he didn't previously, in order to defeat the Nazis? It's hard to be a pacifist if you directly are being attacked. It sounds like you've given your antagonist some complexity, which is a good thing -- it's not interesting to read about a character that is simply 100% evil. You're walking a fine line with your Jewish protagonist and the situation he's in, as well as her family's attitude toward him, and your antagonist's attitude toward him, as well. He's not in a situation where they can make long term plans. Maybe her family attempts to help him or hide him and she starts developing feelings for him, whereas she had dismissed him earlier? I'm not certain about him "mooning" over her but you could certainly write it in a way that would convince me.

    I have absolutely no idea. The only way to tell whether he has enough depth is to read what you've written. Just telling me about him doesn't give me that information, but what you have told me strikes me, initially, as unrealistic, or a little hard to swallow. Again, you could write it in a way that might convince me -- so I can't really answer. But I'm finding it hard to imagine a scenario where I would think of a Jew in 1930s Germany as a "wet blanket," or dislike him enough that I would prefer the Nazi character to obtain what the Jewish guy wants. Not saying it's impossible -- just that I find it hard to imagine as I sit here tonight. So you've got your work cut out for you.
     
  11. La_Donna
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    La_Donna Member

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    Thanks for this reply - I've just got back on this forum after a little while away. The Jewish's guy pacifism gets destroyed; he loses his whole family to the gas chambers (I've been to Auschwitz, and it was this that inspired me) but by a freak stroke of luck he ends up working for the resistance (this bit is still a bit foggy, but I might just attempt to write it and go with it). He ends up being a lot stronger for what he goes through. I think my problem is that I've made the antagonist quite complex and I am just so much more interested in writing him. In contrast, I am having difficulty portraying the protagonist's inner strength when he is such an introvert.
     
  12. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I'm new to this forum altogether, and picked up on this thread because it looked interesting. And it is.

    Leaving aside the wimp/nasty character interaction, and just play around with some ideas. Your Jewish protagonist. How would he feel about the state of Israel, when it was formed in the 1950s? Although I don't even want to scratch the surface of the Palestine issue, which is really a problem for all concerned, I do think that the people who wanted Israel to become a state where Jewish people could live in peace, safe from the persecution they suffered over centuries, might be something to think about. He might be an introvert, but unless he's a doormat, he must realise there is a time to stand up and fight, for your life if nothing else. Introvert, incidentally, doesn't necessarily mean wimp. An introvert can be an incredibly strong character. He just doesn't throw himself in your face all the time, so to speak. Rather than being agressive, he is able to stand firmly for what he believes in? Many Jewish people (and others who were persecuted by Nazis) were able to find that inner strength during that period. He has a golden opportunity, if he's joined a resistance movement.

    How will learning he is a warrior at heart affect the girl he's interested in?

    Perhaps your Nazi villain could prove to be a coward at heart? If there was some way you could engineer an interaction that shows this, it might be interesting. Many (actually most) bullies are cowards, and they don't usually pick on people who can beat them in a fight.

    It is hard if you've created an interesting villain, though. I've done that myself - you know, one of those characters who dominates every scene he's in. Maybe put him in very few scenes, but scenes that count, and make sure your protagonist is the one the reader identifies with. Get inside his head as much as possible, while portraying your villain from the outside.

    As for the girl ...humm. Can't quite see her yet. She has got to have a personality worth this Jewish fellow's interest.
     
  13. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    You really had me hooked untill you painted the jewish boy as shy, retiring, intellectual wet blanket - so stereotypical of Jews in pre-war Germany - why can't the jew start a resistance movement, or ally himself with the Nazis for personal gain? Or even pretend to ally himself with them but secretly help his own people - who don't all know what he's up to so to protect his identity and well meaning he has to battle both sides?

    For an example of how to manage a menage á trois in a wartime situation watch Michael Collins, the story of Ireland's civil war in the early 20s - not to far from your time period.

    Good luck with your story, I look for ward to seeing a snippet on the review page :)
     
  14. La_Donna
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    La_Donna Member

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    Thanks for all the replies! The other MAJOR issue I'm having with my protagonist is he has a twin brother who is everything you describe. He wants a Jewish homeland in Israel, he is interested in Marxism and at first the one my villain sees as a rival. But my story is dominated by extroverts; the twin brother, the girl, the antagonist and I just wanted a character who contemplated the situation in more depth. The amount of times I have considered just dropping my main character and replace him with his twin brother are too numerous to count, but it does leave less diversity with my characters.
     
  15. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    Personally, I believe the protagonist should be the female character. That is the person I truly care about in your descriptions.
     
  16. La_Donna
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    La_Donna Member

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    She is a POV character. The problem I've been having is that I have her character quite solid at the beginning, but it disintegrates as she falls in love. I know I have to make her character strong so it would be believable that two men loved her, but I'm a bit sceptical about whether my protagonist (I'll call him that for now) can keep up with her!
     

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