1. Abel2bCain
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    Abel2bCain New Member

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    Good guys are boring. How do you get excited about writing them?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Abel2bCain, Mar 5, 2016.

    I find good guys hard to write about. Does anyone else have this problem?

    I know that he needs a flaw and I think I have some good ones in mind. But I am more sympathetic with my antagonist at this point than his foil. It's like I can't help but think, "Yeah, I know what you mean, he's so annoying" about this "good guy".

    My story involves rivalry, so they have to be compared to one another, they're doing that themselves. But I really want to them to be strong characters independent of each other too. They can't only exist in relation to each other.

    Bottom line: How do you get excited writing about someone who is good and basically normal? Any mental exercises or sources of inspiration that you can direct me to?

    Thanks!
     
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  2. NiallRoach
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    NiallRoach Contributing Member

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    I don't have to go l do anything different to write about normal, good people. If I struggled with doing so, I simply wouldn't.
     
  3. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Write him so he's not annoying. I mean, that's the power of being an author, right? If a character does something annoying, hit the delete button and make him do something else.

    In general, maybe introduce some humour, some back story, some reason for us to care about him. Don't have him be a generic "good guy", make him a three dimensional character with his own challenges, strengths and weaknesses, goals, fears, etc.
     
  4. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I'm with @BayView. I feel like you're describing a Marty Stu more than a "good-guy". Yeah, Marty Stu wants a kick in the teeth, no doubt. That's why we name him and point him out as a problem. Maybe stop thinking of your guy as a "good guy". Shitty people do good things and good people do shitty things. That's reality.
     
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  5. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    I recently had the same problem, starting in on a WIP with a boring character. Yeach, the first scene was really disgusting to write! I wanted to throw the notebook out of the window and go back to shelling peas! ;)
    I couldn't scrap this boy because I knew that he would eventually become my second MC, the catalyst in my whole story. Without him around the sun would figuratively not shine. I had to keep him!

    You know what I did? When it took me a week to just hash out what I wanted to say about this MC in the first scene? And I wasn't able to write because I was so disgusted with this character? I gave him a problem, one he couldn't avoid or dance around. Or let someone else solve it. I choked him on it and man - it felt so good :D

    And my character grew, a little. And a little more. Soon I will be able to look at him with something close to sympathy ;)
     
  6. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    In one of my larger WIP's I had a character who was to be a housekeeper in a large estate home. She came to me sooo vividly as a pretty country lass, innocent as a leaf and not much brighter than one. I wrote an entire chapter about her to get to know her, her voice, her thoughts, her her-ness.

    And then I realized that I had completely miscast this character. Maybe the pretty country lass will be someone else, but she most certainly cannot be the housekeeper in this large house wherein the Lady is a profoundly formidable person. This country lass would never be hired for this role and even if by some chance it were to happen, she wouldn't last two seconds under the withering consideration of Her Ladyship.

    I cast someone else in her place. It just had to be. The roll and the story demanded it.
     
  7. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, that is exactly what I was talking about! Characters need to fit to the story, and if they don't, either make them to fit or scrap them. For my innocent, blue-eyed college student, I sure kicked him out of his rut ;)
     
  8. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    Yes. In my current WIP my MC started off as Mr Generic Good-Guy. Dull, dull, dull. So I gave him a drug problem. Instant interest. Problem solved.

    This. A thousand times this. Give him a flaw. A big fat juicy one. Give him a bucket load.

    Don't. Forget about good and evil. Write about people with flaws who have conflicting goals. Much more fun all round.
     
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  9. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    Don't 'give him a flaw' just write a person. All people have flaws. No-one is normal. Everyone is crazy, everyone has a bucket of issues and is at best three meals away from revolution.

    If someone feels boring to you then you just need to look deeper at them. Ask yourself if this normal middle class life is what they really wanted from life? Remember, normal doesn't mean happy.
     
  10. Abel2bCain
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    Abel2bCain New Member

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    This sounds so similar to my case! I know I can't let the character go, but I love your suggestion to "choke" him on a problem. Maybe I will just try writing him a little catastrophe of his own that will never make it into the story, but could help me get to know him better.

    I also wonder if I should consider this. Maybe I have to stop imagining Josh Groban (;)) and just start over...maybe run with Josh Groban too and then decide what I hate the most and replace it with something else...?

    Also loving this! I want to step away and not control the character so much that I'm "giving" him a flaw.

    Any ideas on how to organically "find" the flaws of your characters? I really like to see myself as discovering rather than creating the characters. I'm very interested in any mental exercises that anyone uses to do this. Or sources of inspiration?
     
  11. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    Oh, that is a right difficult question. Because if you have a strong character the flaws will jump out on their own completely without prompting, and for a weak character *shrug*.

    For what it's worth, when I immerse myself in my characters I always listen to music. Sometimes the songs take my mind down a new path and the characters grow in 3D. Sometimes not.

    Sometimes it helps me to free-write. To give myself a question and I answer back in writing. Like 'Why is this person so pliable?' and answer 'Because it is the easiest path' and so forth. Avoid bimodal answers like 'yes' and 'no'.

    Sometimes it helps me to think about their past. What was their life like before starting on this journey that the author calls a novel? Or where would they go at the end? For my current WIP these kind of questions gave me the outline of a whole complex prequel (which I will write as soon as I finish the current one - whenever that will be).
     
  12. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    He doesn't need "a" flaw, he needs a personality. A personality is a tangle of good, bad, depends on the situation, neutral, and huh?!

    One thought: write a scene that has nothing to do with the plot, that has everyday frustrations. He's hungry, he's cranky, the restaurant is out of the dish that he's been looking forward to all say, the waitress spills a glass of tea on him and doesn't seem all that sorry.

    Then write another one.
     
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  13. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    This ^^

    Okay, @Abel2bCain, so your character reminds you of Josh Groban. In public he's cheerful, sympathetic, generous, and talented in a generally-appealing way. So imagine what someone like Mr. Groban might be like in private, and in the privacy of his own mind. Don't make him a secret abuser of baby chickens: that's cheap and contrived. And don't make him a screaming hypocrite: that'd look too much like you getting personal revenge on him for his public niceness. Rather, what would make him lose his temper? Or give him ulcers because he's learned that losing his temper isn't nice? Whom does he envy? What does he really want to do and can't because of what "they" would say? Again, not necessarily something illegal or immoral, just something that eats at him in the middle of the night and affects his behavior towards others. Is he a perfectionist, who expects everyone to perform at the level he does? Or maybe he was trained to believe that perfection is Level Zero and the only way to go is down, and he secretly despairs because he can't come up to the level his parents taught him he must achieve. That might keep him from attempting things he should, because he's afraid to fail. If your "good" character is talented, what would he do if he couldn't use that talent any more?

    If this guy is really a main character, there must be something he wants that he doesn't yet have. And something in his personality that keeps him from overcoming the obstacles to getting it right away. And something that landed him in the situation with the antagonist in the first place. Those, too, will be keys to his flaws.
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2016
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  14. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    This is exactly how you should be thinking when you develop characters.

    Part of the human condition is the duality in our nature. Even if we are happy with how we are now that doesn't mean we'll never want more or that everything we have was exactly what we wanted. These little bits of pathos are really important in a character; they are the thing that we really recognize in a character much more than their happiness. Few people are happy; everyone is sad in some way. Loss of loved ones, the ex that got away, the promotion you didn't get, the ambition that you put on hold for your family; you can find the sadness in your characters pretty much by saying 'Ok but what if that's not what he wanted?'. So just think about the people you know and the sad little things they never talk about that might have left a mark on them.

    I know it doesn't fit every story but from my point of view every single character is crushingly unhappy and starting from that makes it really easy to find the inherent sadness in them, the problems they have relating to people and the world around them. You maybe don't want to get as dark as I do (in no particular order my main characters are: a heroin addicted manic depressive, a baby-crazy woman who has a kid with her adopted son and a girl who lies about having cancer which slowly erodes her sense of self and certainty until she's not sure if she's sick or not) but you really might want to try dropping one of these unrelenting misery bombs on someone. It's easy to back off a bit from the extreme 'drink alone and cut yourself' level stuff; but it's much harder to turn a minor concern into something that's wrecking your life.

    Once your story goes black you never go back. Because you'll kill yourself.
     
  15. King_Horror
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    King_Horror Member

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    As an echo from some earlier replies, what I'd do is just not write him/her as a good guy/girl. Maybe have him/her be rebellious to his/her parents, (if he/she has any.)

    Or you could make him/her dress funny; the choice is yours.
     
  16. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Good guys who aren't tempted to become the bad guy aren't interesting to me.

    Good guys who are tempted to become the bad guy but who find ways to resist the temptation are my favorites.

    Although good guys who gradually give in to more and more temptation until they finally become the bad guy are also a close second.
     
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  17. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    You and I have very different ideas about what's interesting to write :p

    Personally I like bad, broken, selfish, resentful people who struggle and try and eventually fail to do the right thing.

    That's where the really good stuff is; the stuff that makes characters ask if the world would genuinely be better off if they killed themselves.
     
  18. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    But then you wouldn't ever have hope...
     
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  19. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    Ah well, they don't give up. As I've said else where; I like writing because I can fix my characters problems. But you have to take them right to the absolute depths of suffering, as a result of their own failings and inadequacies, before you can pull them back up and force them to change.

    You got to make them bawl like a baby then slowly put them back together. That's genuinely why I can actually keep writing; because doing that kind of stuff is very life affirming to me. I write pitch black stuff where everyone is a terrible person but even inside their terribleness they can find happiness in their own terms. I am rather less good at making that happen in my wider life but I kinda need to write these stories where messed up people look into the abyss and walk away to be happy.

    It gives me hope.
     
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  20. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I didn't say I make it easy for any of my characters. Trust me, their lives suck :D I just like having a few that keep trying anyway to be better than the world around them (in addition to a few that give in to the world's corruption).
     
  21. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    The world doesn't corrupt my characters; they corrupt themselves. It's always got to be their fault.
     
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  22. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I do that too ;) The world was corrupt first, but it was the specific characters that chose to give in to the corruption where other characters chose to keep fighting the exact same corruption.
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2016
  23. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    Nah man, all my guys made their own problems. Even in a perfect world they would have ended up miserable, lost people. I think philosophically the idea of 'giving in' to the outside world goes against how I write characters. The world sucks constantly but it doesn't have agency. N0-one gives in to the outside world because the outside world isn't trying to do anything particularly; it just is what it is. All your demons are the ones you made for yourself; the one voice of criticism you can't ignore because you know it's true and it knows just how callous and uncaring and lonely you really are. You don't give in to that either; your default state is being overwhelmed by your inner demons. You strive to do better, to prove to yourself you are a better person than you think but somehow you never quite manage to get there.

    And that tells you everything you need to know about me and how I see the world.
     
  24. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Actually, if I could say exactly the opposite of what I've been saying:

    The sci-fi story that I just finished was written with the viewpoint that I've been describing this whole time, but I just remembered that all of the horror stories that I've written have all been about the main characters completely failing at everything that really matters.

    Apparently my sci-fi story is at the forefront of my mind right now if the conversation didn't make me think of my horror stories.
     
  25. HelloImRex
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    HelloImRex Contributing Member

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    You get excited about writing them by knowing you are eventually going to kill them off.
     
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