1. Ryan Elder
    Offline

    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Messages:
    1,613
    Likes Received:
    78

    Does my character cross too much of a line here?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Ryan Elder, Jun 11, 2015.

    Some people did not like a character in my screenplay. I have talked about it already with a couple of people on this site, and thought I would get some more opinions on what to do. Basically he is a cop, who is investigating a case, on the trail of a serial rapist. He feels very connected to the killer cause he too has a problem with rape in the past, which is introduced in the beginning of the script. He hasn't committed it but has his demons and came close once. While catching the villain, he ends up conquering his demons and redeeming himself.

    However, a couple of readers felt that the character has too much of a flaw, which makes him totally unlikeable and unredeemable. They said that maybe I should make him an ex-hitman instead or something like that. But personally I don't see how that is better with having a problem with rape in the past compared to murder.

    Plus by having have the same demons as the rapist villain, I feel that makes him connect with the villain on a more personal level, rather than him having a very different demon of different themes.

    Plus this character is also around the 5th main character, and so far he is only in seven sequences, the way I have constructed my outline. There is still twenty sequences without him in so far. So does the 5th main character have to be as likeable compared to the main 4 more so? What do you think? Is this a problem and he is unredeemable by popular opinion? Or can I somehow let the reader know that even though he is trying to redeem himself, that you don't have to agree with it, it just needs to happen so he will do certain things to set the plot in a certain course, that it needs to go.

    I think it's okay in fiction, in fact it's common for a character to have a moral flaw of course, and I think that they are often necessary for characters to do certain things out of that motivation to drive the plot. But how can I make the reader accept or, what can I do to fix it if it's a problem?

    Thanks for your input :)
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2015
  2. J_Downloading
    Offline

    J_Downloading Member

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2015
    Messages:
    35
    Likes Received:
    12
    Location:
    Australia
    I think your couple of readers should go screw themselves. That is a very interesting flaw and you're right, on the moral level - people are fine with murder being a character flaw but not rape? That's just a cultural relic from Victorian prudishness. Oh, it has to do with sex, how inappropriate!

    I'd be very interested in how havign almost committed such an act would weight down on the character and how you would have him be redeemed. It's a theme dealt with so little, yet is so prevalent in society, relative to something like murder which is dealt with all. the. time.

    His connection to the killer also sounds like a particularly poignant idea.
     
  3. daemon
    Offline

    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2014
    Messages:
    1,361
    Likes Received:
    982
    I am struggling to understand how overcoming temptation makes someone unlikeable and unredeemable.
     
  4. BrianIff
    Offline

    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2015
    Messages:
    1,294
    Likes Received:
    433
    Location:
    Canada
    The problem is twofold as I see it. The crime is not just polarizing but a moral absolute for most people and rightly so. I don't know how openminded people would be about being presented a favourable character who had those urges. Which leads to the second problem of how someone could come close to doing so and be a believable good guy. I would not say your character is impossible but has some challenges. Maybe if you say he had a drug/alcohol problem, or a makeout session ended in her pushing him off because he was going too fast, but I don't know if that would be enough.
     
  5. Ryan Elder
    Offline

    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Messages:
    1,613
    Likes Received:
    78
    It's what I was told but not just on here. I was told this on two other sites, by seven readers in all. Now when I saw this to be clear, I do not mean to judge them at all, I appreciate all the feedback. I am not going to tell anyone who reviews my work and gives me advice to go screw themselves. I just want to get as many different opinions on it as possible so I can get as many ideas as I can of what to do. I thank them all for their help and their input is just as valuable as anyones.

    As far as giving him specific reasons, since he is not as main of a character, I was thinking maybe I could leave it open to interpretation and not as much of an explanation? Or do I need one?
     
    J_Downloading likes this.
  6. Simpson17866
    Offline

    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2013
    Messages:
    1,735
    Likes Received:
    1,285
    That depends more on how tightly the investigation ties into the main plot than on anything else.
     
  7. No-Name Slob
    Offline

    No-Name Slob Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2015
    Messages:
    1,232
    Likes Received:
    925
    Location:
    Dallas, Texas
    I get the feeling you might not do well with constructive criticism, or opinions that differ from yours.

    I'd venture to say that's not it at all. How many times in casual conversation have you said, "Ugh! I'd kill them if they ever did that to me"?

    Now, how many times in casual conversation to you talk about rape?

    On some weird level, we can relate to a killer, not that we'd ever actually kill someone. But we might sympathize with the kind of anger it might require. Rape, however, is not the same. It's not relatable to most readers.

    Lastly, there is a difference between murder and rape (not that one is worse than the other), in that most victims of rape survive to live with personal trauma and triggers, whereas victims of murders do not live with that trauma. You do not walk amongst murder victims. Murder victims won't be reading your story, trying to relate to a guy who has fantasized about murder.

    OP - I can see how it might be difficult to relate to the character for many readers. But it does depend on how you write it, I suppose. I'm not suggesting that you censor yourself or your work, but maybe do a little research on the subject to see how that specific quality might affect your market, should you try and publish.
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2015
    peachalulu and GuardianWynn like this.
  8. Ryan Elder
    Offline

    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Messages:
    1,613
    Likes Received:
    78
    Okay thanks. However, my character doesn't even rape. He just comes close, and by that I mean some forced kissing at best and then he backs off and lets the woman be after he realizes that it's wrong. Or I could have him just think it and come close, but then stops, before he even touches her. He doesn't even go through with it, so I thought that was not as bad compared to going through with murder. I guess a crime that is not actually committed (accept maybe forced kissing), was better than a crime actually committed.

    I can change the character if that's best, but I was told by other readers that changing his motivation will change his actions, and changing his actions, can cause two significant plot holes in the story. I am not sure if I would have to rewrite the whole story to fix them or if I can change the character but still have him do the same things logically, and there would be no plot holes therefore. But I have to figure out what about this character we need to tweak first, before I know what to do. And since this guy is only in seven sequences and is not as main of a character, is that necessary?
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2015
  9. J_Downloading
    Offline

    J_Downloading Member

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2015
    Messages:
    35
    Likes Received:
    12
    Location:
    Australia
    That's true, but there are also families and friends of murder victims and victims of attempted murder who might read a book where they have to relate to a character who committed murder. This isn't stigmatised like rape is, why not?

    Personally, I think there's the assuption that all murderers have different motivations. This person was murdered by her abusive husband, but this character murdered this person because of this reason. There's a difference between my personal experience of murder and what is being presented in this book. Whereas with rape, the motivation is assumed to be homogenous - a strain of pathological thought that manifests in broken individuals, or 'born rapists'. I would suggest that the two are not so different. Not because rape is justifiable, but because murder is so pervasive in our society that it is too justifiable compared to other crimes.
     
    KaTrian and Some_Bloke like this.
  10. Ryan Elder
    Offline

    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Messages:
    1,613
    Likes Received:
    78
    Okay thanks.

    Well I wrote it so that he has never been with a woman before, cause he is socially awkward and has problems. This relates to the villain he is investigating and he knows the villain from his past cause they both shared this problem. So I wanted him to have the same connection with him as a means to him knowing, which I also need for the events to work. But is that not good, or could I do something better? He is a victim of loneliness and is angry at the world because of it. Other people can perhaps relate to not being with a member if the opposite sex, if they have a problem with it of course. Is that homogenous or is that from something that has happened to him from other people? Can I play that angle?
     
  11. J_Downloading
    Offline

    J_Downloading Member

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2015
    Messages:
    35
    Likes Received:
    12
    Location:
    Australia
    That seems plausible to me.
     
  12. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,968
    Likes Received:
    5,491
    Let's put this along with other crimes:

    "has a problem with torturing toddlers"
    "has a problem with pistol-whipping the elderly"
    "has a problem with rape"

    I see those as very similar. They're all about someone who is driven to, and takes pleasure in, inflicting pain and terror on other living beings.

    Those crimes may be less serious, legally, than murder, but I can imagine feeling some connection with a character who commits murder, at least for some possible reasons, and I can't imagine feeling any connection with a character who commits or even wants to commit any of the above crimes. Wanting to commit those crimes means wanting to inflict pain and terror on a living being. It's a struggle to feel any empathy with a character like that.
     
    peachalulu and BayView like this.
  13. Shadowfax
    Offline

    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2014
    Messages:
    2,511
    Likes Received:
    1,340
    To the OP...

    Let's assume a degree of social ineptitude - especially around women - perhaps his mother was domineering or something. Let's assume some alcohol. Let's assume he's just been listening (he doesn't speak because he's got nothing to contribute, so listens attentively to try to be part of their group) to some guys bragging (and I mean exaggerating) about their sexual experiences. Let's assume a pretty girl gives him a bit of a come-on. Let's assume he realises that he's going too far and stops himself - perhaps even before ANY intimacy. Let's assume he goes home and beats himself up because he thinks he nearly raped her. And that guilt lives with him, and becomes a demon that stops him EVER getting a girl because he's worried about the monster he'd become.
     
  14. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    I think it would take a lot of skill to pull it off, but the truth is, if you manage to pull it off, I think the rape demon would be extremely interesting. It's one of those risky things that really does make or break your story, and you'll simply have to be aware that your choice will polarise your readers. There will be plenty who will hate the character all because of this, and plenty who would find it very honest and interesting food for thought. I'm of the latter school.

    There was once I read a crime novel by Henning Mankell and the whole theme was on domestic abuse. During the course of the book, it was revealed that the MC Wallander actually once punched his ex-wife, and he's still terrified of what he's capable of. The whole idea was that because he was otherwise an upright citizen, nobody needed to know, nobody would ever question him. Yet he's aware of this and battles with his demons.

    I found it incredibly courageous of Mankell to have his very own MC admit to something as despicable as that, and to dare to explore such an issue with a character that close to the reader. The impact is all the greater precisely because the character wasn't just some secondary or minor character, like ah well never mind, or someone we'd love to hate. This was the MC whom the reader has loved and followed through several books.

    Rape is a very taboo topic and for a man to admit to being capable of it but refuse to give in to those urges - that is courageous. And I'd personally find it an extremely interesting read.

    Just be aware you'll polarise your readers and you'll get a lot of hate for it. But that doesn't mean you won't get a lot of love for it too from readers who like to see reality and to think about these sorts of issues. I'd certainly be interested myself.

    However, the tip here might be to not reveal your character has such a demon right at the beginning. First impressions are paramount. If you establishes him as someone capable of rape and that's the very first thing we know about him - it is very hard to redeem him later on. Better to let the reader relate to him first, come to love him, and then gently reveal his demon. In Mankell's book, you don't find out about what Wallander did till at least over halfway through the book - and this was a very well-established character with many books before that one!
     
  15. plothog
    Offline

    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2013
    Messages:
    639
    Likes Received:
    514
    Location:
    England
    I've not read your screenplay to know for sure, but one challenge you've got is if your cop feels a connection to the rapist, does it look like he's condoning the actions of the rapist.
    How much regret and disgust about his previous tempations does he convey.
    I've not tried writing a screenplay,so maybe I'm missing something, but this sort of thing seems easier to do in novel form.
    What sort of cop is going to talk out loud about how he once considered rape?
     
  16. Ryan Elder
    Offline

    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Messages:
    1,613
    Likes Received:
    78
    Okay thanks. And exactly, it's much easier to do in novel form. I am limited to showing his emotion through actions only pretty much. He admits what he did and how he is connected, to the main character, later when the main character points a gun at him and demands to know what is going on. But even then I don't want him to go too off on a tangent about it, cause I don't want the speech to come off as 'preachy', you know? Plus during this situation when the main character busts in on, him, he knows there is not much time to talk since the villain is around looking for them and they are in danger. So they are not going to want to talk for too long logically.

    And since he is only in seven sequences so far, I would like to keep it that way if possible since he is more of a minor character. However, the story I am telling is in chronologically a straightforward narrative type. This character contemplating raping the woman and then stopping himself, was the first scene. This could have been what polarized readers too much about the character when they read it. But since he is a minor character, I am not sure what to do with him before that scene happens. I mean he doesn't have any plot before then, and I want to use the majority of the time to develop the MC, if that's best. I also wanted to start out with a bang or the crime that gets everything started. The hook as they call it. So I felt that having him stop himself from raping in the beginning would grab the reader right away. Even though he is a more minor character, it's this crime with the villain particularly, that starts the chain of events off, and for the MC to investigate afterwards.

    I could write it so that the reader does not know that it's the same character, because maybe he's wearing a mask and then later, after getting to know the character a bit more, I can reveal it was him in that mask in flashbacks. However, there are other scenes in the first act that are about him being a part of the opening crime. Like for example, when the MC and the other cops are talking about a two perps being a the scene for example, he gets nervous cause he knows that one of those perps is him. He also was the first to arrive on the crime scene, but that's only because since he was part of the crime, he was close by, before the other cops got there, and he responded to the call first. This causes him to have to creatively lie, but the reader will also not know what he is thinking, if I reveal it till later.

    I know a lot of times surprise twists are a good thing, but there are times where it is fun knowing that a character is bad, cause it's exciting to watch him get nervous and have to lie as he goes. Since him coming close to rape, is the crime that starts it all, how should I approach getting to know the character first, before revealing that to the audience?
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2015
  17. Reilley Turner
    Offline

    Reilley Turner Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2015
    Messages:
    209
    Likes Received:
    34
    Location:
    In my room, writing.
    Ask yourself this: "Am I okay with this type of content in my book?"
     
  18. BayView
    Offline

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    5,643
    Likes Received:
    5,121
    What's your goal for your screenplay? Do you want to write an artistic film that challenges people but may find a small audience, or a Hollywood movie that a wide range of people would likely enjoy?

    If you're going for the first, be true to your vision. If you want the second, though?

    I'm with @ChickenFreak, as usual. Rape is different b/c it's a crime with no practical benefit to the perpetrator except for the enjoyment of the act. A rapist doesn't just commit a violent crime, he enjoys the violence, and is sexually excited by it. Your other option, a hitman, probably didn't enjoy killing, and probably didn't kill innocent people. To me, there's a difference.

    Not to say I might not want to watch a movie with a rape-prone character who overcomes his sadistic impulses. That could be really interesting. But you'd better be prepared to write the crap out of it, because doing a bad job could be really, really messy.
     
    Ussaid likes this.
  19. Simpson17866
    Offline

    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2013
    Messages:
    1,735
    Likes Received:
    1,285
    @Ryan Elder 1) The idea of the cop wearing a mask when the MC first catches him doesn't feel right to me: if he hates his compulsion as much as it sounds like you want him to, then it doesn't seem like he would plan specifically around following through like that.

    2) Has he ever tried to kill himself?
     
  20. Ryan Elder
    Offline

    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Messages:
    1,613
    Likes Received:
    78
    Okay thanks. As far as my goal goes, I think that Hollywood has made movies that challenge people where a lot enjoy it. Like in Silence of the Lambs, Red Dragon, and Seven for example, had characters who did bad things but the crimes had no practical benefit. You could even argue that in Red Dragon the villain was trying to stop himself in the end, and he was at least a bit sympathetic. So I feel there is already a large audience out there for that, if done well.

    It's just if I choose for the character to be a hitman or something with a practical benefit, the audience may ask why a hitman was hanging out with a serial rapist in the past.

    Oh the cop doesn't wear a mask when the MC catches him, he ditches the mask before, and changes clothes and hides the other clothes right before the MC gets there, so he can pretend to be a cop responding to a 'crime in progress'.
     
  21. james82
    Offline

    james82 Member

    Joined:
    May 15, 2015
    Messages:
    69
    Likes Received:
    31
    Location:
    Boston, MA
    A good example of this is the movie MONSTER starring Charlize Theron who plays a murderer essentially.
     
  22. Ussaid
    Offline

    Ussaid Member

    Joined:
    May 22, 2013
    Messages:
    34
    Likes Received:
    13
    I would totally watch a movie like that, very interesting and unique although it will only work as an art movie instead mainstream. I urge you to stay true to your vision, although I advise you make the attempted rape accidental, a heat-of-the-moment thing.
     
  23. Nicoel
    Offline

    Nicoel Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2015
    Messages:
    461
    Likes Received:
    330
    I really like the idea of this character having these demons.. You don't see it very often. There's such a social stigma surrounding rape that it's an "untouchable" subject. People talk about murder, theft, hell even things like skinning and all that with no fear of being judged. But rape is THAT subject. So to explore this will take a lot of delicacy and thought beforehand.

    In my opinion, a story where you either HAVE to love or hate it - is great. It makes you form an opinion. I want a reader to actively HATE my character, maybe even enough as to go on a rant as how stupid I am for even letting this character exist than to just have a reader go "Meh." That's because I did my job. :D
     
    KaTrian and Aaron DC like this.
  24. Ryan Elder
    Offline

    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Messages:
    1,613
    Likes Received:
    78
    Okay thanks for the input. How should I approach it though since his first scene is THAT scene though? Any thoughts? As for heat of the moment thing, I might be able to do that, but the woman is a kidnapped hostage, so the main villain would have had to planned that. Not sure about this character though, whether or not he should know before going in.
     
  25. Shadowfax
    Offline

    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2014
    Messages:
    2,511
    Likes Received:
    1,340
    OK, so you don't want to tip the audience to the cop's identity right off?

    Opening near-rape scene, all the shots are of the back of his head, so he's never definitively identifiable. But plenty of shots of a distinctive tattoo on his wrist. So it's not too obvious until...the Big Reveal - to the audience - is when he goes to strike the MC, who grabs his hand, and there, in full view is his tattoo.
     

Share This Page