1. Nighthunter
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    Nighthunter Member

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    Flawed Main Character?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Nighthunter, Dec 18, 2011.

    Hello there!

    I have a small question,
    Currently my main character in the book i am working on has a few major personality flaws when we start to get to know him. He is a bit arrogant and egotistical, and this goes on for a bit - showing how he acts and what he does. Funny thing was that it was the plan for him, but it came natural when i wrote him that he should be this way. But one thing i have is another persons PoV that builds him up as the bad guy through rumors and such. I dont know if that can be forgotten ^^

    What i would like to know is if anyone else has encountered this?
    Also, do you think readers would be able to follow his transformation to the better or will they continue to hate him should they not agree with him at the start?

    Sincerely, Night
     
  2. Justin7
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    Justin7 Member

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    Plenty of characters in novels go through transformations to become better people. If a reader doesn't like a character for something the character used to be, that's just a silly reader.
     
  3. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    I think most readers will only hate it if the character doesn't make sense. And the "transformation" has to make sense as well.
     
  4. Bran
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    Bran Senior Member

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    It sounds great, if you write it good.
     
  5. Metus
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    Metus Senior Member

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    An egotistical or arrogant character would annoy me, but not to the point where I would stop reading if the book was good. However, I wouldn't buy a sequel unless the protagonist showed some signs of changing. So I agree, change is important.

    Also keep in mind, that if he has good reasons to be arrogant (you say it just keeps happening, so I assume that there are various situations which he can be arrogant about), you may be dealing with a character who is too perfect, and knows it. That might get really irritating, really fast. I'd personally rather read about an imperfect character who is arrogant than a perfect character who is arrogant, as strange as it sounds.
     
  6. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    While I can't really speak to your personal opinion, I can speak to characters in popular TV shows that are well recieved by fans. House comes to mind immediately. The show has been on for like 8 years, I think Hugh Laurie has won an Golden Globe (or at least nominated) for best actor on that show. And that character is the definition of egotistical and arrogant. There is also that show Dexter, where the main character is a serial killer.

    And if you think about shows like that, one of the things those two shows have in common is that they explain why the MC is the way he is so that you understand that he's an ass but you also know why and it makes sense. And I think that is important because compare that to shows that have the cookie cutter bad guy character whose sole purpose is to be hated (just think of every evil villain in a suspense/action story). The thing those guys usually have in common is that they don't explain why they are dicks.

    So I totally think you could get away with have a dick as a main character but you have to defend/explain why they are that way and it has to make sense.
     
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  7. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    I agree - whatever their flaws are, they have to make sense.

    Likewise, if it's a choice between an artificial-seeming change of heart or no change of heart, I'd pick none. Character growth is awesome if done well, but if done poorly it really turns me off. In one of my stories, I have a fundamentalist Christian vampire who believes that if she just keeps on doing what the Spanish Inquisition brainwashed her into doing, she'll find redemption someday. Originally, I was planning for the events in the story to lead her to a change of heart, but I realized partway through that she was far too rigid to change her ways that quickly. So instead I had her stick bitterly to her beliefs and leap headlong into disaster, and now I'm working on a sequel where she might start rethinking things a little bit.

    However, keep in mind that one of the worst things is when a character comes off as a jerk we're supposed to like (Edward from Twilight is a prime example). If the characters make me want to scream at them, and yet their world seems to think they're awesome, I can't bear to keep reading. If you write a flawed character, make the reaction to their flaws be realistic.
     
  8. Anarchist_Apple84
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    Anarchist_Apple84 Senior Member

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    Flawed characters are sometimes the most fun to write, and people lap them up more often than not.

    It really depends on the person's flaws and how they come across in general, the key is to have enough redeeming features so the reader can get behind the flawed character from time to time.

    For instance, if your main character is a shameless serial killer targetting young women, it will be VERY hard to get people to like him, and quite rightly so! A good sense of humour and being a Simpsons fan just isn't going to cut it!

    Now, if you have a character who is generally arrogant or maybe overly confrontational, but is the first person to back up his friends, or even strangers, in apinch, it gives the reader a sense that maybe they're not a complete lost cause.

    People are complicated creatures, everybody on this planet is flawed in some ways... it's just more obvious in some than others!
    A well constructed character with good points and bad points is going to come across a lot more realistic, if they have more bad points than good, you'll have your work cut out for you getting any real empathy out of your reader but that is not to say it's impossible.

    One of the characters who was the the focus of a number of my short stories was called Seth Winters. I'll quote from a blurb I wrote about him:
    "Seth Winters is a thief, a liar and a cheat. Possessing loose morals and questionable judgement he has no qualms about cheating on his doting girlfriend with her closest friend while mercilessly exploiting the pair of them at every opportunity. Rooted in an eighties clubber mindset, Seth refuses to work, sofa hopping through life while shirking all responsibility and ensuring a constant stream of narcotics prevent him ever landing in the real world."

    I had a ball using this character through several stories and a lot of my friends really liked him. It went beyond him being just another bad boy, he was an insecure and deeply flawed character, but he'd generally get around to doing the right thing.... eventually, even if it was in the wrong way!
     
  9. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Flawed characters are human characters. Do you want to write about people or robots?
     
  10. Ross M Kitson
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    Ross M Kitson Member

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    I think I echo all the prior sentiments and I also think in your heart you know the answer. A flawed character who undergoes a journey through your book is a dramatic mainstay- the trick is to make him almost totally unlikeable, but not completely. There are few readers who would be put off by the initially unlikeable character if they can see some hint of change or potential for change. It'll be down to how you write it.
    Literature is replete with such characters- I'm reading Donaldson's Thomas Covenant at the moment and he's pretty much a nob at the start of the book and even now, half way through am I starting to like him a little.
     
  11. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    Hannibal Lector would beg to differ. He was hugely popular.
     
  12. Anarchist_Apple84
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    Anarchist_Apple84 Senior Member

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    My point was it'd be harder to get your audience to like a character that deeply flawed, not that they will never be liked.

    Hannibal Lecter is an iconic character, in literature but largely in cinema thanks to Anthony Hopkin's performances. He is a well rounded, macabre character; he is liked because he is cunning, abnormally intelligent, has near supernatural observational skills, has a fine taste in art, music and is extremely eloquent, but happens to be a vicious serial killer and a cannibal.
     
  13. miss sunhine
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    miss sunhine Member

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    One of my fav fictional characters is Scarlett O'Hara from Gone With the Wind.
    In life i would hate her she's vain, conceited, cunning and sly determind to get her own way with everything, jealousy, unloyal, a real little madam.
    Then her home is attacked and she has to rebuild it.

    Some of her flaws fade away but others are sharpened. You don't like her determination at the start but without it she would have never gotten herself or her family through, she had to be cunning and put herself on the line.

    Flaws make a character more real, nobody is all bad or good but the personality must fit the book and fit into the story.
     
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