1. PeterC
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    PeterC Active Member

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    Finding a character's conflict

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by PeterC, Aug 16, 2011.

    My story is a science fiction story that explores the relationship between humans, with advanced technology, and a race I'm calling the dunari, with 20th century level technology. The story is told entirely from the dunari point of view.

    I have a dunari MC and a human MC who eventually become friends. My dunari MC has a pretty clear conflict. He's a young research mathematician who is trying to establish himself. He discovers some results that prove useful to the humans and by doing so eventually gains professional respect. It's complicated for him because his dunari colleagues don't at first acknowledge his work, etc, etc.

    My problem is with my human MC. She doesn't really have a conflict. Many dunari fear her (she's an alien, after all) and she has problems because of that. She even gets kidnapped at one point. Yet those problems aren't of a very personal nature, and the character doesn't feel well developed. On the other hand, the story never takes her direct POV. We never see events through her eyes. Maybe leaving her personal problems and motivations mysterious is appropriate. I even have my dunari MC speculate at one point about what is going on inside her "alien mind."

    I'm not sure if I should explore my human MC's conflicts more or not. I do have an idea for a conflict that I think is interesting. It would require giving her some character flaws. I think I know in my heart it's the right thing to do but I like the character so I'm finding it hard to give her problems.

    Perhaps I just need to bite down hard and do it.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Without a conflict or opposition, there is no plot. A plot consists of four elements:

    An actor
    A goal or objective
    a motivation
    an opposition

    I suspect you are taking too narrow a view of conflict.

    I find it interesting that your dunan is more relatable than your human. For a reader to feel a connection to a character, the character must exhibit human challenges the reader can relate to.
     
  3. Radrook
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    Radrook Contributing Member

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    What I do is give the characters flaws I have seen in people I have known or have observed closely or studied about and even some of my own. Or I draw on my knowledge of abnormal psychology and provide the character with a certain syndrome or other quirk that distabalizes the MC personality. For example, in my space opera type sci fi novel I have the emperor dressing flamboyantly. Sort of like a Liberace personality that seems to place clothing on a pedestal and appears to equate it with prestige. Another personality, the mc, is affected by his upbringing on an isolated mining outpost where he never saw a human female except his mother. That in itself is something that gnaws at him. Think in terms of a certain upbringing and the character flaws will follow.
     
  4. Solar
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    Solar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Perhaps the conflict is staring you in the face? Could her conflict be the hostile social environment in which she finds herself? Put yourself in her shoes: she has problems because she's feared. Do they treat her differently?
    Does it affect her mentally and emotionally? Being kidnapped sounds like a problem; what is the root cause of the kidnap? How does it affect her?

    Or are humans so advanced they've eradicated emotions and mental instability, and this is in fact a story contrasting two visions of humanity?

    I'm just brainstorming. Hope you find these questions useful.
     
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  5. DBock
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    DBock Member

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    Maybe check out Planet 51 to get your gears turning. It's a similar plot idea (funny movie too) and might get you to come up with some ideas. I like reading/watching similar plot lines to get my brain working. Sometimes it just plain comes to a hault. LOL!
     
  6. PeterC
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    PeterC Active Member

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    Thanks for the replies. Your comments have helped me to realize that my human MC has more problems than I realized. Yes, the social situation she finds herself in is difficult for her. In fact, when her dunari host realizes that she's afraid at times as well it's a turning point in their relationship. He starts to sympathize with her and begins to regard her as a person rather than a monster.

    The story is about the idea that even very strange people are not all that strange when you get to know them. Both of my MCs have complimentary roles to play in developing that idea.
     

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