1. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Does your protagonist have friends?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by jazzabel, Feb 15, 2012.

    The protagonist in the novel I’m writing is a bit messed up. Lots of reasons, but she is a loner, has issues with trust. She is reasonably sociable and gets attention from people, but she shies away from friendships.
    All I managed so far is to give her a sort-of friend, an ex Special Forces sniper guy, who becomes sort of an “Arthur” to her “Batman”, Giles to her Buffy, mentor with a purpose kinda guy. She has tender feelings for him and he treats her as a grandfather would. She has no family to speak of, so this was kinda logical.

    But, I know that “a friend” is a great plot device, and I think the issues with moving forward that I have, might have to do with the absence of more allies.
    But every time I try to write her some, her overwhelming shyness and distrust, coldness and vulnerability makes it implausible.

    Has anyone written such a protagonist before? How did you deal with this issue?
     
  2. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    My current protagonist is a cop. His best mate is his partner. He has a few other small-time friends as well as his only brother.

    I usually deal with more solitary protagonists. They're alone through most of what happens. Friends are unnecessary in their plotlines.
     
  3. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    My current protagonist is a cop. His best mate is his partner. He has a few other small-time friends as well as his only brother.

    I usually deal with more solitary protagonists. They're alone through most of what happens. Friends are unnecessary in their plotlines.
     
  4. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    With cops, the partners are the logical ally. I was considering starting the story at a different time, more in the future, and giving her a steady job and some such that would generate logical friendships, but in my mind, the story really starts with her leaving home and trying to reach the safety of a different country. So I have her get a temporary job, meet a toxic lover and all that, but all the people around her at this stage are users, more than anything.
    Oh, my poor protagonist :D I'd be her pal if I could, but I cant...
     
  5. Jamez
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    Jamez Member

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    My protagonist is a dead guy who doesn't know anybody in the world of the living - I guess that makes him a bit lonely. I do plan to develop some non-antagonistic relationships with the people he possesses throughout the story, but I wouldn't call those friends. It's kinda hard to call someone your friend when he takes over your body! ;)
     
  6. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    Mine usually got tons of friends I can kill off to make the protagonist miserable. ;)
     
  7. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    @Jamez: wow, that sounds like an interesting story! I see what you mean though, he must be a lonely guy :D

    @Show: awww, see, that's what I would like to do, but she is just too unfriendly to people :D
     
  8. xsavannahh
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    xsavannahh New Member

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    Even though she is unfriendly, she can have a friend.
    There are so many unfriendly people in the world that do have friends.
    Maybe because those friends are just like them, or because those friends know that the person in question can be nice.
     
  9. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Friendship doesn't have be about warmth and cuddles and sharing cookies. Your character could meet people who have the same guarded jaggedness that she does, or who have traits that she respects or can relate to.

    Also, there's a huge difference between allies and actual friends. She could hate the other person's guts, and the feeling could be mutual, but they could still have to work together for some solution that they both have a vested interest in. Maybe they could become friends through having to work together, or maybe not.
     
  10. Jowettc
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    Jowettc Contributing Member

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    I generally write about only slightly messed up individuals. Enough to give them a humanism but not enough to make them completely unlikeable or disconnected so I'm not 100% on your level.

    I wrote a story about two guys, hunters as it happens, who have a very close brotherhood / friendship bond. I played their characteristics off each other. One was quite big and strong and an expert with weapons; the other was more weedy but a great tactician. The dialogue interplay was very interesting and I'm still fine tuning the details but it was interesting for them to be so reliant on each other and still try and keep them individuals.

    Perhaps the fact that your character is so vulnerable might be an introduction to this other character? At the end of the day, as The Boss says, 'No one wants to be alone...' Everyone needs to find solace somewhere. The broken usually, but not always, end up with the broken: so drug addicts end up with other drug addicts and so on. Perhaps in your case she uses this relationship as an emotional crutch - turning up when she is at her worst low, taking some small measure of advantage of this guy and so on...dunno.
     
  11. Rafiki
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    Rafiki Active Member

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    I seem to always have one friend that hangs around the main character. I use him as kind of a mirror in which to highlight the changes that take place in the main character, rarely as a means from which to move the plot forward. If you imagine the main character as a car traveling down a highway the best friend is the phone pole that he passes by, he serves as a gauge for how fast the main character is moving. Of course as I get better I will probably expand character development to multiple characters and the best friend role might simply disappear but for now it is a valuable crutch.
     
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  12. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe that's part of the reason WHY she is unfriendly? Maybe she lost somebody. Maybe being unfriendly is just her way of staying detatched?

    And who knows, maybe her anti-social behavior could endear somebody to try to be her friend and you can create circumstances that could force the two to have to spend time together. It sounds like you want this to happen, so I am sure there is a way to make it happen.

    If you want me to take a closer look at the character and offer suggestions, I'd be glad to.
     
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  13. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    It's okay if she doesn't have friends. Interesting people can have no friends. But it is nice to see characters doing things in their environment, with people, and even talking -- you don't have to have friends to have dialogue. In fact, I'd like to see how she pushes people away.
     
  14. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    None of mine do.

    Somerled is a guerrilla, shoe-horned into the movement by right of birth. No friends in the old boy's club.
    Jazzrow is on the run from a human trafficker she's also hunting: can't have friends. Not a very likeable person anyway.
    Ghazi (yes, I know what that word means - that's the point :)) is a conscripted mujahid who wants out. He has no friends at all.
     
  15. TheTranskinator
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    TheTranskinator Member

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    I think that if you're going to make your character be friendless you should give a good reason for it. If you give the readers a reason to relate to the character and show plausible reasons as to why they'd be a loner, then I think the readers would be much more receptive to the shyness and trust issues. For example, my protagonist is "friendly" and "likable" but really doesn't have any true friends. This stems from past experiences that include a betrayal of sorts from his closest friend, the murder of someone he really cared about before his very eyes, and the slaughter of his entire family and village. Because of those three past experiences it makes my protagonist's distrust of others and inability to make friends not only plausible, but expected (at least in my opinion it does)

    Those are just my opinions and an example of my protagonist.
     
  16. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hey guys, thank you so much! So many interesting suggestions I never thought of myself.

    @Rafiki: that's a really good way of looking at it, it doesn't have to be a cuddly friend, just someone who cares about her and isn't her lover, I think I can work with that, for sure. Thanks!

    @Jowetc: that's a great idea, and I think I might be able to introduce someone like that in the next book, but I need first to get her to trust people a bit more.

    @xsavannah and Mallory: thanks guys, I think I was too "romcom" about allies and friends and I didn't even consider different possibilities. I think I have an idea though, a girl from work, they hate each other's guts because both of them are so shy, they compensate with aloofness and arrogance. I think they might get along really well, given half a chance :)

    @show: oh totally, she comes from an emotionally depraved family, then goes through war and gets traumatised along the way, but I don't like to dwell on that in the book, the angst is shown more in these kinds of issues. But thank you, I just might take you up on that offer :)

    @joanna: that side of her will definitely be explored throughout the book, and I don't expect miracles, but I am hoping to get her to accept at least one real friend by the end of the book. And she is out there, working, socialising with people every day because she has to, so there's lots of opportunity for dialogue and internalisation. But I am keeping her thoughts and pov somewhat under the radar, she is the protagonist but I would like her to remain a bit of a mystery, at least her thoughts and feelings.

    @Gallowglass: I love it, it's unapologetically comfortable with the misanthropy. I always find that difficult for female protagonists, i think that's part of my struggle. I don't want to make her into O'Ren-Ishii, but she does have a few things in common...
     
  17. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    You know where to find me if you need any discussion about it. It sounds like you already got a pretty good idea of what you want to do. You might just need to talk it out one on one to help finalize the idea in your head. I'd be glad to help you figure out a way to get the desired outcome for your character. :D
     
  18. Yuri Strike
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    Yuri Strike Member

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    My current protagonist has a bunch of friends, including her childhood buddy, her senior sister apprentice, her friendly rival, etc. After all, it's an action-filled shonen!
     
  19. cold grave
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    cold grave Member

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    Even Lizbeth Salander had a friend. Everybody has circles of friends. Workout friends, friends you never go dancing with, friends you ONLY go dancing with, etc.
     
  20. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's true. Although, Lizbeth was still in her country, my protagonist is a refugee of sorts, so she lost her circle of friends.

    Aww, that's nice, good for her :)
     
  21. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    It depends on which protagonist of mine you talked to. For the most part, their friends are loyal and treat them with respect, and they do the same back. They defend each other (even to the point of saving each other countless times from peril!) They're there to support each other in worst times, and to celebrate in happier times. Sure, they argue and get into fights, but they make up for it.

    Only one of them doesn't have a friend, mostly because he lives in the middle of nowhere, and the closest person he called a friend got himself killed trying to get everyone to safety. He has people who support him, but no one to talk to.
     
  22. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    One of my protagonists in my WIP is pretty much friendless and doesn't really want to form friendships either. He has a companion, but they're certainly not friends. I really only introduced her so that his chapters weren't completely without dialogue and so far it's working quite well.
     
  23. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's a really good point about the dialogue. And you are right, it is a companion, more than a friend, that may be useful. I have the idea for a little subplot in the middle (the dreaded 2nd act) where she travels to find someone. She interacts with people along the way, and that provides plenty of dialogue, and my gut feeling is to portray her travelling as a loner, like so many male heroes on a mission would do, but this would be girl-style.
    But then I start to wonder whether she could do with a sidekick, for comic relief more than anything, but it feels so alien to her (to me, for her, lol).

    That's exactly it :) my MC's problem.
     
  24. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    Maybe a pet or something. I expect someone with emotional issues might find it easier bonding with an animal, so a faithful dog could work.
     
  25. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Haha, you are reading my mind! Yes, That's an option, not just a pet but a vampire pet :D But then I think to myself "Nah... can I? Surely not. Or maybe..?" etc. etc.
    But I have the dog character, just not sure who she belongs to yet .
     

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