1. Protar
    Offline

    Protar Active Member

    Joined:
    May 11, 2011
    Messages:
    603
    Likes Received:
    13
    Location:
    UK

    Emotionless Character

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Protar, Sep 11, 2011.

    So in my current WIP I have a fairly major villain. Basically in order to be able to focus on nothing but serving their master they purge themselves of age, gender and most importantly emotion. His/her only goal after that becomes to do whatever profits them best through use of logic and calculation. Could such a character work? I was thinking that the depth to the character could be their interactions with more emotional characters but I really wanted an outside opinion on whether it would work.
     
  2. prettyprettyprettygood
    Offline

    prettyprettyprettygood Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2011
    Messages:
    452
    Likes Received:
    46
    Location:
    Edinburgh
    My initial thought is that if this character is going to feature a lot in the story, it could get a little tedious. Of course you could very well pull it off in the way you describe, but I think it would be a challenge. Could the major villain in particular have some weakness, like he keeps getting waves of his old self and emotions, or something?

    Or, you could look for/at stories where robots play a principle role, and see how the authors make that work as it sounds like your character is almost like a robot. That kind of fiction isn't my cup of tea so I can't help with that, but just a thought.
     
  3. Protar
    Offline

    Protar Active Member

    Joined:
    May 11, 2011
    Messages:
    603
    Likes Received:
    13
    Location:
    UK
    woot 200th post.

    Anyway i'm not really into sci-fi, robot themed fiction either but I've found that most robots in fiction are either very computer like or have human (or at least simulated.) emotions. Neither are really like my character as he's intelligent and has human initiative and doesn't simulate false emotions. I'm not sure how much she'll feature yet but he's going to be part of a group of powerful villains: Think the Forsaken from WOT (Though hopefully developed to be completely different.). I think I will also delve quite a lot into the backstories of these villains so flashbacks are possible. Your idea is something worth considering though. Thanks :).
     
  4. Protar
    Offline

    Protar Active Member

    Joined:
    May 11, 2011
    Messages:
    603
    Likes Received:
    13
    Location:
    UK
    woot 200th post.

    Anyway i'm not really into sci-fi, robot themed fiction either but I've found that most robots in fiction are either very computer like or have human (or at least simulated.) emotions. Neither are really like my character as he's intelligent and has human initiative and doesn't simulate false emotions. I'm not sure how much she'll feature yet but he's going to be part of a group of powerful villains: Think the Forsaken from WOT (Though hopefully developed to be completely different.). I think I will also delve quite a lot into the backstories of these villains so flashbacks are possible. Your idea is something worth considering though. Thanks :).

    Edit: Woops double post. Messed up my 200th post for gods sake
     
  5. Hawwyboo
    Offline

    Hawwyboo Member

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2011
    Messages:
    40
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Yonder
    Most of these sorts of villains aren't human but robots, zombies, etc, so it could be interesting to see how it works in a human being. Being driven by logic and calculation, the protagonists could attempt to defeat the villain not by killing them or escaping from them, but by finding some flaw or loophole in the villain's logic which they can exploit to convince the villain to leave them alone or even help them. The showdown (if there is one) could then be a battle of wits, which personally I find always more interesting than battles of swords, guns, fists or accidents.

    I'd also be wondering why the villain wanted to serve their master at such a high cost in the first place. Revealing some things about their past which explain their decision to purge their emotions would constitute character development.
     
  6. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Vulcans. The Borg. The Androids of Mudd's Planet. And that;s from Star Trek alone.

    There are many examples of relentless, emotionless races and individual characters throughout fiction.

    Whether or not it works depends not on the character's gross attributes, but on the quality of your writing.
     
  7. VM80
    Offline

    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2010
    Messages:
    1,211
    Likes Received:
    43
    Location:
    UK
    It could be interesting. If he is controlled by this master, that would then create some kind of counter-point, as I presume, the latter will
    have some emotions.

    Otherwise some robot-human type fusion can work well. Think Daneel in Asimov's work.
     
  8. Gigi_GNR
    Offline

    Gigi_GNR Guys, come on. WAFFLE-O. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2009
    Messages:
    12,143
    Likes Received:
    250
    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    I think such a character could work very well, especially as a stark comparison to more emotional characters.
     
  9. Protar
    Offline

    Protar Active Member

    Joined:
    May 11, 2011
    Messages:
    603
    Likes Received:
    13
    Location:
    UK
    It was actually my intention to have him change sides at some point as a result of her emotionless. After his purge she's all logic so when he thinks things are turning in favour of the good guys the only logical solution for him is to change sides. I haven't quite fleshed out the why of them getting rid of their emotions but it's definitely something to work on I agree. Thanks for all the replies guys.
     
  10. Baba Yaga
    Offline

    Baba Yaga Member

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2011
    Messages:
    57
    Likes Received:
    3
    Hi there, I think it depends on whether they actually have some kind of futuristic sci fi method on removing their emotions, or whether the character themselves has chosen this path of emotionlessness, almost like a religion. In that sense, it could be interesting to see the internal conflict as they have a flicker of emotion in reaction to an event and then fight to stifle it. There are some psychopaths, who don't feel emotions in a way that other people do, but they still have desires, compulsions and impulses, that drive them towards action.
     
  11. Islander
    Offline

    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2008
    Messages:
    1,542
    Likes Received:
    59
    Location:
    Sweden
    I think a large part of the problem is determining what an emotionless character is. In Star Trek, the Vulcans have purged themselves of emotions like fear, hate and love, but they still have ambitions and curiosity. The android Data displays curiosity and surprise even before he has his "emotion chip" installed. In most cases, I think people really want a character who suppresses most of his/her emotions, not a truly emotionless one. A truly emotionless character would seem very strange, I think. And where would the character's motivation come from?
     
  12. Protar
    Offline

    Protar Active Member

    Joined:
    May 11, 2011
    Messages:
    603
    Likes Received:
    13
    Location:
    UK
    He keeps his ambition and self preservation instinct but that's about it. So that's where their motivation comes from: They serve the big bad because they believe it is best for staying alive and gaining more power. She literally has no other emotions (they were removed by magic.). He is supposed to be a strange character.
     
  13. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,683
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    How does one purge himself of age or gender? One is a measure of the time of existence, while the other is a biological fact (assuming a race in which gender exists). It's not clear from your OP what your motivation is (as opposed to the character's). What does your story gain by a character having no gender or emotions?
     
  14. Excise
    Offline

    Excise Member

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2011
    Messages:
    42
    Likes Received:
    1
    Having played a fair number of emotionless characters, you need to define what exactly that means. Sure happiness, sadness, and anger are probably out of the door, but what about things like curiosity? Ambition? Desire to see things through in a logical manner? Loyalty?

    Most emotionless characters aren't truly emotionless - they just are missing the key ones. If your character can still experience any of the above, then you can figure out what drives him despite the loss of his or her emotions.
     
  15. agentkirb
    Offline

    agentkirb Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2009
    Messages:
    494
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    Houston
    Agree^

    It really depends on what kind of "emotionless" character we're talking about. I've written a few stories where the protagonist were relatively emotionless, and usually it was the result of a few things:

    1) Fear of losing control of yourself
    2) Using logic and reason over what "feels right" to make decisions
    3) Motivated by curiosity/ambition like the (guy I quoted pointed out)

    I dont know if this helps you. But relatively "emotionless" characters are possible as long as there is a plausible reason.
     
  16. TobiasJames
    Offline

    TobiasJames Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2010
    Messages:
    203
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    England
    Have you read "The curious incident of the dog in the night time" ?

    It is written from the POV of an autistic child so he surveys the world with no emotion, because he is incapable of it. He registers the emotional reactions of those around him but does not show any emotion himself. Even when he does things that would normally rock a child's world (for example wetting himself in public) he doesn't seem to be bothered.

    Now, do you really want your villain to react like that, or do you want him to be cold-hearted and disaffected, carrying out his assignments with cold precision?

    The two are very different types of character. The first is genuinely emotionless, but it will be difficult for you to write dramatic scenes involving this character because the descriptive language you would want to use would be rooted in emotion. You couldn't use words like 'horrific', 'exciting', 'a sense of relief', etc. because this is not how an emotionless character would view the world.

    The second type is like someone who has been trained to supress compassion, but he would still feel the emotions of thrill, anger and hate. So hardly emotionless, but trained to be 'numb'. Description is easier with a character like this, and it's probably more believable overall, but the only problem is it's been done to death, so you'd have to be really good at it to make your readers recognise your character as an original creation.
     
  17. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,683
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    People with autism are not void of emotion (I've seen enough of them acting out to know, including my daughter). They are often incapable of expressing emotion appropriately, but they do express it.
     
  18. TobiasJames
    Offline

    TobiasJames Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2010
    Messages:
    203
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    England
    Thanks for that.

    The book of the Curious Incident, however, is written without emotion.
     
  19. Protar
    Offline

    Protar Active Member

    Joined:
    May 11, 2011
    Messages:
    603
    Likes Received:
    13
    Location:
    UK
    Well it's a fantasy so he uses magic. As for the motivation it's mainly to gain favour with the big bad. As I say this character hasn't been fleshed out much in depth but I reckon he was always rather stoic and good at expressing emotions. Perhaps he just realized it made him much more efficient so got rid of all of them. As for my motivation, well I thought it would just be an interesting part of the story, to give each of my group of villains a different flavour. Also I'm not planning any POV chapters on him which should make it easier.
     
  20. attackamazon
    Offline

    attackamazon New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2011
    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    0
    I'm actually working on a similar character, but in reverse. Mine has gone from a more or less emotionless state to experiencing emotions. :) As a psychologist, here are some things I would consider:

    1) Was the person more or less psychological normal before divesting him/herself of emotion? I.e., not a sociopath or possessing some other pre-existing emotional abnormality. If the person already had problems experiencing or displaying emotions, then I would find a complete divesting of emotion more believable than in someone who was emotionally normative previously, simply because it would probably be easier to accomplish. But then I prefer to portray magic as an imperfect tool like anything else in my stories, so in my mind it would be harder to completely excise emotion in a normal person and probably easier in someone who had less emotional activity to start with. I would think, with a normal person, you'd run a greater risk of missing some pieces, like missing microscopic bits of tumor during an operation. Or even botching the procedure and blunting other aspects of the personality as well.

    2) Has the capacity for emotion been removed entirely or is everything still there, just suppressed? Is there a possibility of reversing the procedure or of the "emotiveness" growing back over time or showing through in certain scenarios? I could see some interesting behavior coming out of a character who has to maintain their emotionless state by getting a "tune up" from time to time.

    3) If the person remembers previously experiencing emotions normally, what do they think about it versus their current state? Free of their emotions, do they recognize some instances now in which emotionality might have been a useful tool? Are they aware of the differences in their personality before and after? What do they do when forced to deal with other people's emotions? And are they able to successfully mimic emotions in order to respond appropriately to others even if they don't feel them personally?

    Also, you might find some of the existing psychological disorders with blunted emotional experience interesting reading to set the scene for an emotionless character. Schizoid personality disorder is one that I've used to model emotionally deficient characters in the past. People with SPD often report that they feel like they see the world from an objective view point, but that they have little or no motivation to interact with anyone or anything because they will derive neither pleasure nor pain from the experience. So, an SPD-like character might do things purely to avoid physical pain or discomfort, but any sort of more complex psychological motivator might be lost on them completely because they wouldn't see the point.

    Anyway, just some suggestions. Hope this helps. :)
     
  21. Protar
    Offline

    Protar Active Member

    Joined:
    May 11, 2011
    Messages:
    603
    Likes Received:
    13
    Location:
    UK
    Thanks for the suggestions. Probably the most in depth answer so far. I hadn't planned on the guy having any specific mental disorder but he'd probably be a bit of a psychopath to serve the big bad.
     
  22. TerraIncognita
    Offline

    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

    Joined:
    May 28, 2010
    Messages:
    1,339
    Likes Received:
    40
    Location:
    Texas
    This. ^

    I watched so much star trek and doctor who as a kid. I still avidly watch doctor who and my bf is getting me back into star trek. The cybermen (doctor who) are another example of emotionless characters. They pose a major threat to main characters for that very reason.

    Are the emotionless characters the most prominent characters or ones who have not purged themselves of their emotions? I really believe how it turns out will be based upon your skill.
     
  23. Quezacotl
    Offline

    Quezacotl Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2011
    Messages:
    342
    Likes Received:
    13
    Location:
    Ponyville
    An Emotionless Character is an oxymoron. A mindless force on its own is hardly an interesting topic, though it can work in a story where the focus is on the conflict between the major characters, not this villain.
     
  24. Protar
    Offline

    Protar Active Member

    Joined:
    May 11, 2011
    Messages:
    603
    Likes Received:
    13
    Location:
    UK
    Well he's not the main villain. A fairly major one but he's part of a group of villains (which serve the big bad.) so he'll hopefully be set off by them.
     
  25. Excise
    Offline

    Excise Member

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2011
    Messages:
    42
    Likes Received:
    1
    Just remember that he probably isn't actually fully emotionless. Why does he work for the main villain? Loyalty? That's an emotion. Desire to see the world be an orderly please? Emotion.

    I think the only way he could truly be emotionless is if he's a computer and simply does whatever he's told since that's what he's programmed to do. Whether he even counts as being alive in that case I leave for a different debate.
     

Share This Page