1. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Finding Bad Stuff Out About Your Characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by cutecat22, Aug 21, 2014.

    I recently had to write a flashback that takes place a good few years before my main characters get together. It was about one of my MC's and his interaction with a different character who turned out to be mega nasty, like mouth dropping 'you did what?' nasty.

    I realised after I'd wrote it, I'd done it completely wrong and had to re-write it. The thing is, although the re-write is spot on and how it should be, it's shown my main character in a light I don't like. It's shown him to be, at that time, a soft centred walkover with no clout whatsoever. A man happy in a job with no real get up and go, a good job but with no interest in moving forward. A somewhat kind of lapdog person where his lady is concerned. He will do whatever she asks, regardless of whether or not he wants to.

    I know exactly why he's like that because what happens to him, changes him into the character he now is, more determined to reach the top of the ladder, focused on his life and making himself happy but still retaining an element of doing things to keep his new lady happy, unless it means doing something he's not happy about in which case, he would stand his ground.

    But just for the time I was writing the flashback, I really hated him. But it also made my test reader hate my evil character even more that she already did!

    Have you ever found out something about you character that shocked you, something that you never initially intended?
     
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  2. Amanda_Geisler
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    Amanda_Geisler Contributing Member Reviewer

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    Everybody has a bad side in real life, it should be the same for characters in books. There are moments in my books where some of my good characters are very thoughtless. It helps to create a sense of realism if the readers are able to see the bad in your character not just the good.
     
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  3. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think that's the upside of not over-plotting a story at first. Let your character develop naturally. It will strengthen the story if you do.

    As I wrote my story, I discovered sides to my main character that I didn't know were there. Nothing major that altered his basic self, but personality quirks that made him more human.

    I discovered that he could be snappish when goaded or pressured, and was the sort to brood and withdraw if he was upset about something. I had intended him to be more forthright—and he is forthright when he speaks—but I thought he'd be less bottled up inside. The introspective part of his nature gave me some powerful stuff to work with.
     
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  4. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    That's what I thought and as I'm aiming for something that's fictional but could be real, I'm on the right track (I hope) but that still doesn't stop me hating him for a minute, or hating myself for making him so flawed.
     
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  5. Amanda_Geisler
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    Amanda_Geisler Contributing Member Reviewer

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    A flawed character is always more interesting.
     
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  6. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    I do love it when that happens, that lightning bolt moment when it hits you why your characters do what they do and say what they say. (I especially love it when other characters tell me things about my MC's that I didn't know) but for some reason, this one just got to me.
     
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  7. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Well I'm glad the momentary dislike revelation wasn't such that you stopped writing, or stopped writing him. I think, just like real people, characters need accomodation and understanding. If they are 'perfect' they aren't as interesting, are they? The trick is to get the reader to empathise with an imperfect POV character. What the reader thinks of other characters depends on the plot development, but if they cannot empathise with the POV, I don't think they quite engage with the story at all.
     
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  8. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    It's good you didn't start rewriting that part to keep him 100% good. Sometimes you just have to let your readers see their inner demons. Regardless of how vile and nasty their inner demons are, it makes the character more human. It could be something as innocent as them being a hypocrite, they'd support the same thing they'd detest if it were happening to them. See Jack Sparrow and the subject of mutiny. It's totally the #1 worst thing any human could ever do ever if it's happening to him, but if he's the one doing it? All aboard the mutiny train, lads!
     
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  9. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    That's absolutely right. After I'd re-written it, I sat and actually shook my head and shouted at the laptop "how the hell can you sit there like such a whimp? Stand up for yourself man, can't you see what she's doing?"

    But then, after a few years, she'd turned him into the guy that thought so little of himself, he actually felt grateful that she gave him the time of day.

    Fast forward back to the present and it's easy to see how he transformed himself professionally, but had to wait a little longer for his emotional side to catch up.

    There is absolutely no way I could've come up with this as his back story, until his present story unfolded before my eyes.
     
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  10. Sheriff Woody
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    Sheriff Woody Active Member

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    A flawless character has no means for growth.

    Also, if you don't know your character's backstory or how to present this character in such a way, perhaps you should not be writing this story just yet. It sounds like you have more preliminary work to do.
     
  11. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I thought I knew what the lead protagonists of my sic-fi WIP would look like. And then I found out that one of them is a bloodthirsty serial killer and her best friends are afraid of her :eek:
     
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  12. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    No, I didn't quite mean that. I knew his back story, per say, I just didn't know how it had really affected him and as book one is published and has been out there for a year, the question of this flashback never came to light until I needed to write it as part of book two.

    We know in book one, what happened to him, what made him the way he is but had never explored the whys and wherefores of what happened from the point of view of the person who did it to him and what he was like before it happened because that never came up as part of the story of book one.

    The mistake I made when I initially wrote the flashback, was to write him as he is now, rather than as he was then.

    If that makes sense.
     
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  13. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    There is no absolute truth in fiction. One of the great pleasures of reading fiction is that I can have two completely different interpretations of a character and I appreciate them both equally. In one light, I see a character as a hero. In a different light, I see the same character as a villain. Neither interpretation is right or wrong. Twice the options for interpretation means twice the fun I get out of reading.

    You should have the same spirit when writing. Make the character consistent, of course, but when you "find out bad stuff" about a character, just catalog it and file it away with the rest of your thoughts about that character.
     
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  14. PensiveQuill
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    PensiveQuill Contributing Member

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    Yes but I would like him more for giving up being a wimpmeister and finally growing a spine. Its the emotional equivalent of the dorky kid at school suddenly losing the puppy fat and becoming an unexpected hottie. The juxaposition would make me want to know how this transition occurred and increase my interest in your story.
     
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