1. nippy818
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    nippy818 Active Member

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    Hero's flaws

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by nippy818, Sep 30, 2015.

    Recently one of my ten beta readers read through a chapter involving my MC torturing a man for information. My MC does it out of necessity and its an important turn in his story arch and character growth, but my beta has stated i have lost all sympathy a reader would have given my MC and that i need to change the course of action. I can give more details if needed, but what I am really after is, as readers and writers, whats the worst the Hero can do that you would forgive, given reasonable character growth and whats the worst your mc has done.
     
  2. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think the trick isn't seeking the how much/how awful limit, but working to make the readers understand your character.

    If your readers can understand why a character behaves a certain way, they'll be sympathetic. They might be horrified, and certainly would not do these things themselves, but they can understand the character's reasons for doing them. They will begin to want things to change for the better for this person. Forgiveness isn't what you should be working for. Understanding is.

    You should let the readers in on your character's thoughts and feelings as he tortures people, or does 'terrible' things. You don't have to give away backstory, if that's going to hamstring your plot, but let us know his thoughts and feelings as much as you possibly can. You've indicated that he's not a bad person, that he's doing these things because he has to. So let us get hold of that feeling as we read. This is not what he would do under normal circumstances, and he certainly doesn't enjoy torturing people for fun.

    There is a tendency in modern writing to just show events happening as if we were watching a movie. This is not what writing is all about. Don't re-create a movie in print. Dig in. Dig in deeply. Whatever YOU feel about your character needs to come out in the way you write him. At the moment, your readers are just watching the action and judging from that. Get us into his head and open his heart to us instead.
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2015
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  3. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Agree with all @jannert said. What did your other nine beta readers say about it?

    I could certainly forgive a character for doing this, even though I very much doubt I could ever do it myself no matter what the stakes were. As long as I understood his motivation and felt it was strong enough to justify the actions.
     
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  4. nippy818
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    nippy818 Active Member

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    the other nine beta readers found that it was an important part of the character growth. @jannert I did exactly that, but my one beta doesnt seem to be able to look past that lol
     
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  5. X Equestris
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    X Equestris Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that's fine. You won't be able to get everyone on the same page all the time.
     
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  6. Brandogg12
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    Brandogg12 Active Member

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    @jannert makes some good points here when it comes to what a MC can do and get away with. It just involves the actions before and the actions post to understand and sympathize with the character. It often helps too to just put yourself in that situation and ask yourself what you would do. We often see in popular culture renegades who are willing to do whatever it takes for the sake of good even if it means doing some unsavory things. Redemption can then be the basis of their actions- what do they do with the information and how well does it serve them. If they are looking for this information for money or personal gain then this is not the right approach for a hero, but if they are doing it to save lives or prevent harm then maybe this is the heroic thing- but it will take time for forgiveness and the best way for them to be forgiven is for them to do well with the situations they face. We are moving away from 1 dimensional heroes in popular culture- Just think of Dexter Morgan from the series Dexter or even Batman. Both have codes of conduct where they will not cross a line. There is still a line that heroes cannot cross yet to be viewed as such... However, understand that there are some villains that we sympathize with too, with that, there is even more of an expectation placed on the hero because good and evil are perceptions based on our personal experienced as well as our own expectations. I'm kind of just stammering on now.
     
  7. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Forget about the one. Seriously. 90% reader approval is excellent and you will never get 100% unless you're sending it to a bunch of yes men who don't want to upset you. All readers have their hang-ups that they can't get past. I can never forgive a character who rapes, but when one of the protagonists in a favourite series of mine raped his girlfriend, it didn't seem to bother most people whose reviews I read. You really can't please everyone.
     
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  8. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I'm with @Tenderiser in thinking you might be best to just ignore that 'one'...after giving the issue a bit of thought.

    If somebody had a problem identifying with your character, you MIGHT look at ways to make that character's motivations a tad more understandable. Just a word or two in the right place, or an extra sentence that makes the character's motives clearer and more acceptable might be enough to shift that 'one' dissenter.

    However, if a reader is prejudiced about violence (or whatever) and will automatically turn away whenever they encounter it—no matter the circumstances—then this person is simply not your target audience. Forget them, and write for the others instead.

    Part of getting beta readers on board is to discover your target audience. I'd say 9 out of 10 positives is an excellent result, provided they were all being honest.

    ..............

    One of the most useful exercises you can do, when dealing with beta feedback, is make an honest effort to address their concerns. If they don't like something you've written, do what you can to make their objections go away. I don't mean change your story, but perhaps change something about how you're presenting it, to make it more acceptable. Sometimes it's a very easy thing to do ...just a matter of tweaking a few words here and there.

    It never hurts to at least think about how you could do things differently. However, your goal should never be 'pleasing' a dissenting beta, but making your MS better. Don't rush to make the changes they suggest without having a good long think about it. If you end up keeping your original because you know it's better—or is necessary to the story—you will at least have thought the issue through. If you didn't realise there was an issue in the first place, at least now you do.

    Whatever you do, don't be defensive when a trusted beta gives you constructive, but negative, feedback. Don't rush to judgement; take it slowly. Give what they say due consideration, and be honest with yourself. Can they possibly be right? If they are, you lose nothing by taking their ideas on board and making changes. You'll end up with a much-improved MS.
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2015
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  9. nippy818
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    nippy818 Active Member

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    All great advice. @jannert you seem to have lots of experience with betas lol
     
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  10. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Well, I have, actually. I was sitting here a few days ago trying to remember all the people who have read my novel and given me feedback. When I hit 30 I quit. Some of these people read my very first draft (and I do apologise to them; it was awful!) and three of them have read it again since. One person has read it three times. Many people read it in its various edited versions (which have been ongoing since 2002.)

    I have never asked somebody to read it for me. Everybody who has read it has offered to. So I feel pleased that folks have been interested enough to offer, and certainly value the incredibly helpful feedback I've received.

    Some of my willing readers have never got back to me about the story at all, and I assume they didn't like it and it wasn't their thing. I made it clear when I gave it to them that a reaction like that was perfectly okay, and would not alter our relationship in the slightest. In fact, I've been more surprised by the people whom I thought would hate the book who actually seemed to like it (although they all found flaws, which I've worked on correcting.)

    Although my book is VERY long ...way too long to consider a first-time traditional publisher ...I had some people dash through it in less than a week. Some gave me ongoing feedback (more so now that I can submit it to people via the internet.) Others waited until they were finished to give feedback. Some feedback was detailed, other feedback was more general, picking out high and low points and discussing the characters and 'what happened' in the story, rather than focusing on sentences, word choices, etc.

    The ongoing feedback was interesting to me, because it gave me insight into how the readers were thinking as they plowed their way through. What they assumed was going to happen, etc. This helped me direct things a bit more efficiently. If they started going off track at some point in the story, I tried to tweak it so this didn't happen again.

    There will always be people who miss certain things, or who get the wrong impression about something. I have to take all the feedback into consideration. Readers do read differently. If only one person gets the wrong impression, I'm less likely to panic ...although I do try to tweak clues so nobody else gets the same wrong idea they did. If, however, I get feedback from several people about the same issue, then I do have a problem. That's the value of having many beta readers.

    There have been two sticking points for me, where I've had to disagree with several betas for the sake of the story.

    One has to do with the weaponry my main character carries. A couple of people thought he should be more heavily armed than he is. I have made a case in the book for why he's not, contrasting the fact that other people do carry more weapons. I've stuck with my original vision. While I made a bigger deal about why he's not carrying a sidearm, so readers won't think I've just forgotten to give him one, I'm not changing him. His reluctance to carry makes his use of a weapon later on in the story much more pivotal than if he'd been prepared to start shooting at any time.

    The other sticking point is my inclusion of sex scenes between my two main characters. I think it's incredibly important for the reader to see how the characters are with each other in that respect (especially as one of them has had a rather different experience in his younger days, and the experience between the two main characters will change as the story moves towards the end.) Interestingly (and I didn't expect this) all the people who objected to these scenes—some got bored with the length and detail, and some think the 'door should always be closed' —were all from the UK. Not all betas from the UK objected, but all the objecters were from the UK. My USA betas either didn't object or actually praised the scenes. So there you go. Cultural difference? I thought there might be an age split on this one, but there wasn't. It was definitely The Pond.

    I did delete a lot from sex scenes in my second draft, because I agreed some went on too long, just from a story point of view. (I deleted or reduced many other kinds of scenes for the same reason.) I also removed one or two that were repetitive, but then added a couple of short new ones that weren't. If folks want to see the story as 'Erotica' simply because there is some frankly-written sex in it, that's okay by me.

    So yes, I've had a lot of experience with betas. I can honestly say my story would not have been possible without them. I am so so grateful that they took the time to give me their opinions and suggestions. They helped get me on track and keep me there.
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2015
  11. nippy818
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    nippy818 Active Member

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    @jannert that's really helpful. My story has more of a Noir style, so i keep the sex scene behind closed doors. but i can see where your coming from with disagreeing with some beta thoughts. I wish i had 30 plus betas at this point lol
     
  12. Daemon Wolf
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    Daemon Wolf Active Member

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    Anything that I would think of as bad. I think personally morals are very grey and that it all depends on the situation whether something is good or bad. That being said if it seems like your MC is doing it just to do it then I will lose sympathy but if he REALLY needs to for getting information or whatnot then I would be completely fine with it and still sympathetic. I hope that helps.
     
  13. nippy818
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    nippy818 Active Member

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    The scene was mostly used as a set up to show how far the character would go, show the guilt he has for going that far, and is the beginning of his turn around. i think i have the chapter posted here for critique (though it was draft two I am on 3 now using the advice i got in the workshop)
     
  14. Daemon Wolf
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    Daemon Wolf Active Member

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    I personally would still feel sympathetic for him. As it sounds it is an important part of the story so I wouldn't really change it.
     
  15. nippy818
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    nippy818 Active Member

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    I don't plan on it, its pivotal point that even plays a huge part in the full circle in book 2.
     
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  16. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Have you seen Taken? (The first movie). In the movie the mc is actually torturing another person and quite badly too. And yet I (and I guess lots of others given the success of the film) never lost sympathy for the mc even for a minute. I agree with Jannert. Work with the motivation and make sure the readers will be on his side in whatever he does. If he's actually torturing someone for a minor offense I guess it wouldn't help readers sympathize for your mc so make sure he has a damn good reason to.
     
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