In short, I have a problem with characterization. My characters all come off as too saintly, too much like Jesus Christ. For example: I was writing out a brief passage in my fantasy (skeletal-structure, now, not really refined yet) that talked about race relations and how pain could blind both sides from logic. Bit of background: Mishu - Rejormi; a minority race. Samula- Alkorian; a majority race. In short, it's part of a theme I'm building up now that examines how internal pain can disrupt conversation between the person who was hurt and the people the person is trying to get to listen. I want to show and describe that by lumping all members of the same group as one and calling them all "evil" does nothing but cause resentment and anger, make them not want to listen to the person. For some others within that lumped group, they may decide to just forgo trying to be decent and be the bigot the hurt person thinks they are. Here's the passage, if you 're curious. It's short, though, and not very developed, just warning you. Spoiler: Samula discusses race and emotional pain “Pain has a way of blinding us to all logic,” Samula concluded. “All we can think of is the pain -- how we want it to go away. Perhaps it goes both ways.” “What do you mean?” He cleared his throat. “Well, if both sides are too caught up in their own pain, then they won't listen to what the other has to say. Take the two of us, for example. I bet that when we first met, you didn't think I would actually sit down and tell you to talk to me about your pain. I bet you thought that I -- like most other Alkorians -- thought you as hardly worth our time.” “Well, I-” “And it's okay if you did. Hells, it's understandable. I'd probably think all Alkorians were horrible if my whole life I was surrounded with the likes of Elder Gharim. My point is that, when we blind ourselves to our own pain, nothing moves forward. We're the victim, they're the aggressors. So we demonize them, we antagonize them and in turn, they stop listening to us because why should they? Why should people have to listen to someone who automatically assumes them evil before the conversation even starts? Perhaps we -- collectively -- must entertain the notion that no, not everyone is evil. There are people who want to help. Who want to listen, but they must be given a chance first.” “I gave you a chance?” “No,” he said, “I gave you a chance. I wanted to listen, but I had to first give you the chance to speak before automatically assuming you'd think me an evil Alkorian scumbag.” “But what if I did?” “Then I wouldn't have sat here listening to you talk. My point is, we all have some measure of pain to deal with, and even if the pain is understandable, we must give people a chance. You were the one that was hurting, all I did was listen.” So that we're clear here: Samula is a tavern employee. He's not a priest. He's not a demi-god in the form of a priest. He's a simple tavern employee talking like this to Mishu. Can you think of any employee in any food joint giving you life lessons like this?! Can you imagine someone at your local diner sitting you down and saying this to you after you've vented out your frustrations? The same is true for Kevin McKinley, the protagonist of a General Mysteries WiP. He's too saintly there. Here's a scene (the part where I was working out my inner demons) where he comforts his best friend when he finds out she had been cyber-bullied: Spoiler: Kevin McKinley, the Jesus Christ of our Era! All Hail the Son of Suns, the Son of God! <waaaaaaaa> “What son of a bitch told you this?” Kevin asked, his muscles tensing for a fight. She swallowed with difficulty. “A-A British person. An old man.” “You went to the UK?” “N-no, no, it was online,” she said hurriedly. “A history forum. He . . . his moniker was, H.Mortimer, he was from London.” Kevin nodded slowly. “And what did this Mortimer do?” “Every-every time . . .” She inhaled sharply as tears began to fill in her eyes. Kevin recognized pain when he saw it, so he remained silent, let her piece her thoughts together. “I posted, he would tell me how stupid I was. Ho-how much of an ignorant, selfish, entitled person I was because I was American. I didn't deserve to have an opinion. I didn't have the capacity to have an opinion.” She shuddered. “He-he did this when I wanted to learn about other cultures -- that's why I joined, to learn about countries outside my own. I-” she swallowed again. “I then decided to stick mainly in the American section of the forum, hopefully that would stop it, but then he got in!” Oh no . . . Kimberly went on, her pitch increased as the tears flowed freely. “He was worse in that section! He called me a racist, bigoted, self-centered, Republican American who thought she and her country were the only ones that mattered! He talked about how my pride, my ego would be cast down and deservingly so, that I wasn't even allowed to like talking about my own country's history. ‘There's no removing the glasses of arrogance from the Americans’, he would say. ‘Americans are the most selfish, self-entitled people on Earth. They don't deserve an opinion.’ He kept calling me this useless windbag, how my opinions mattered for shit. How so many people hated me and my kind.” All this to a young high school girl who just wanted to learn about the world . . . Kevin's jaw tightened with anger, his fingers itched to wrap around Mortimer's throat and throttle him until he was dead. You miserable son of a whore . . . “I . . . I'm just scared of history. I don't like it anymore. It's just people killing each other for stupid arbitrary reason, like freedom or national identities, like who gives a shit about any of that?” Kevin allowed himself a little nod. Fair point. “I'm scared of . . . I'm scared of you.” His mind went blank. Did he hear her right? “Of me?” he asked gently. “Kim, I've done nothing to you.” She shook her head. “B-but what if you do? What if you're . . . silently judging me? What if you're looking at me and going, ‘Wow, an albino Southerner, she must be a racist inbred. She's Catholic? She clearly hates gay people. Look at her studying the American Civil War, how arrogant of her. All Americans are arrogant!’” “K-Kim, I'm . . .” Horror was the only word he could describe it. Speechless horror. “I-I never once thought you were beneath me because of your albinism. I'm hearing-impaired, my cousin is. I volunteer at a school for the deaf and blind. I don't think any of those children are . . . inbred. Good Christ, no. I don't think you're racist, I've seen you hang out with Adrian and his buddies all the time, and they seem to like you. He wouldn't have let you anywhere near them if he thought otherwise.” “What of the Catholic thing? A-and the . . . Civil War?” Kevin took a deep breath. He knew from prior experience with online gaming chat centers that she was looking for either his permission, or a reason to continue with this vicious cycle. He also knew she was very vulnerable, having just spilled out a horrible secret she kept bottled for years. “Kim, I want you to listen to me,” he said, using the same tone he'd reserve for Emily whenever she was upset. “There are assholes all over the world. They'll use whatever problem they can find -- real or not -- and use it to bully others. He obviously had an axe to grind against America and decided to take it out on you, a girl whose only crime was being born in this country.” She nodded slowly. “This country has problems, huge problems. That I think we can freely admit, and we do. But taking it out on a random person is the wrong thing to do. It-it'd be like me taking my anger out on Adrian because in middle school, I was beat up by a black kid because I got too close to his girl for his liking. Like he thought I was about to make a pass on her or something.” “What does that-” “Just let me finish,” Kevin cut her off with a finger. “My point is: we're responsible for our own emotions. Even if we're angry at a country for actual issues, or think someone's getting too close to our lover, we're still responsible for our emotions and how we act on them. Mortimer clearly couldn't grasp this basic concept. I mean, my God, I know blind toddlers who can get that.” She chuckled, to his relief. “I may be Canadian, but I'm not your enemy, never was. Now let's go get smoothies.” Kimberly sniffled and smiled. “T-thanks. I . . . I'm sorry for-” Kevin gripped her shoulders. “Hey, hey, not your fault. It was the troll's fault; you didn't ask to get shit on by an xenophobic old hog. You're free to research whatever the hell you want: American history, Persian history, whatever. Now c'mon. We've got drinks with our names on it.” - - - “Everyone has pain, everyone has their own battles to fight. You, me, Adrian, that old couple way on the other side there, we all do. Some are greater than others, yeah, but we all have one, and mocking others just adds to that pain they have to deal with. And this isn't some ‘New Age’, twenty-first century talk; this is stuff Plato himself talked about thousands of years ago.” “Guess things don't change.” Kevin shook his head. “Not the core things, no.” “The other thing I just realized was that, with me and the kid, it was a one-time deal. After that little fight, I never saw him again. I'm not sure if he got transferred or expelled or something, but it wasn't relentless like yours was. He didn't make it his personal quest to make my life miserable over one girl.” He took a sip from his straw, then continued. “I think that's how the Hate Train keeps going.” “The ‘Hate Train’?” Kimberly laughed. “Bully someone enough times, and they just might give in to their anger to use a Star Wars term. After all, why try to be a decent person when it feels like half the world either is giving you actual shit, or is just standing there letting you get beat on?” “Even on a forum?” “Doesn't matter if it's real life or an online forum,” Kevin shook his head. “I've read of people who committed suicide because they were bullied online. The mechanism may be different, but there's still a human being hurt.” “It's just easier, I guess.” “It is,” Kevin agreed. He's supposed to be a college-aged, hearing-impaired football player transfer student from Canada, and here he is not bothered at all that she's basically just said, "I hate/fear all non-Americans, including you, because of what one person on an entirely different part of the globe did to me!!" Yes, he's very empathetic and sensitive to other people's feelings, but Christ, to this level?! I don't hear a college-aged kid, I hear Jesus. I hear Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Do you think any college-aged kid, no matter how kind he/she is, would say the things Kevin would say? That's my problem: I've these messages, these lessons I want to impart and what I'm doing is creating quasi-Jesus Christ sorts of characters to act as my mouth piece. Samula isn't the only 'Jesus Christ' in my fantasy who guides and teaches Mishu: Lord Gregreo Valmorn, a rich Alkorian, does the same exact thing. I don't stop to wonder if he has any personal bias or bigotry, no, the minute Mishu steps into his house, he's all "I will give unto thee, young one, life lessons!" Hell, he even has the double-whammy of: "Oh, you're an orphan? Then live with me, child. I will not consider the consequences of attempting to raise a handicapped Rejormi in an Alkorian-Skoviri household, in a country that hates your kind, and consider the scandal that would incur upon my adopting you. To the hells with that, come live with me. Because if I don't, I'm clearly a racist douchebag." It's a trio! I'm surprised I'm not having them get crucified on Mount Golgotha, die for our sins, and resurrect three days later. How do I impart these kinds of lessons without making them sound so preachy and archaic? How do I write empathetic, compassionate characters without making them appear almost to the level of Jesus Christ, or Gandhi? Help? I really like these characters, I really want to demonstrate the messages I want to tell in those stories, but I don't want them to be saints! I want them to sound real. Empathetic and understanding, but real. How can I do this without making them appear so godlike that it's insane? Am I just scared of seeing them as imperfect? Am I just scared that Gregreo might actually dislike Mishu and tell her to get the flork off his land? That Kevin might lose his shit when Kimberly basically lumps him in with the cyberbully? Am I just scared to see them as human beings with actual flaws that I might not like?