1. AdurianJ
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    AdurianJ New Member

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    How can i let bad things happen to characters i like?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by AdurianJ, Mar 23, 2011.

    I´ve always liked to write things since i got good with keyboards because i have a bad handwriting. I write mostly for myself i´ve written short fiction or dramatic statements in MMO´s and such for the fun of it and those have been well recieved.

    The thing is i can only get myself to write short stories or isolated events withing a context we will never see in writing.
    Whenever i try to write longer stories i can´t get myself to let bad things happen to the characters i like, and as you all can understand this is horrible for any suspence or any enjoyment of reading the story.

    I can think through what should happen but when putting it on "paper" and in a good litterary way i get a mental block for anything other then very stunted factual descriptions.

    Lately i´ve been trying to harden my psyche by writing stories where only bad things happen, i can´t say i´ve made progress but i´ve isolated the problem to the final act when an event get irreversible and not just a prank dream etc.


    Can anyone share their insights or do i need to see a psychiatrist :eek:
     
  2. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Have the MC come out on top in the end. The fact that you say your bad events in stories have turned out to be worse then you'd planned is good -- it means your plot is taking you in new places and you're encountering twists as your MC faces unexpected problems, which is a huge part of writing.

    Seriously though, haven't you read a book or seen a movie where the MC is bullied, or raped, or abused at home, but then they end up being the ultimate winner? Just because you put them through something bad doesn't mean their life is over - plus, even though it seems otherwise, it's not an actual person in real life whose fate you're responsible for. :)
     
  3. AdurianJ
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    AdurianJ New Member

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    Yes i can see it and i can read about it and i like the plots when other´s like it.
    However when i do it i get problems, i´t might be because i empathise wit hthe character too much it´s not just my MC any character with a plotline.

    I run a simulation of the characters in my head when i write and i essentially become the person i write about.
    I set a large number of criteria to how the person is and what has happened to it so that i don´t make the character i make the universe that has shaped him/her in my head so i can know what they will do.
     
  4. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    It hurts - I have sobbed my way through some scenes, procrastinated one that I don't think can be beaten as the most difficult scene I will ever write, felt sick about others.

    I keep in mind that if I skimp and write it badly or don't write it then I make them a poor character and I don't want that. I have to do the scene justice.
     
  5. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    This makes sense - when you're watching a movie or reading a book, you aren't as attached to the characters as you are to your own because you didn't create them. Your characters can be like your baby sometimes. It's a good point.

    Think about it this way; don't make them a victim, make them a survivor. I know it seems like two words for the same thing, but there really is a big difference that relates to the mindset, how the person/character handles it etc.
     
  6. Booker
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    Booker New Member

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    Only a likable character who wrestles with terrible events and situations can be called a hero.
     
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  7. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    I can not tell you how, I can tell you why. No matter how masterful a plot may be, with no bad things (often subtle ) we miss the dramatic tension that allows us to expose charater depth. How our characters act and reaction to the conflicts they encounter following the storyline gives us the oppurtunity to evolke the passion (good or bad ) needed for readers to indentify (on a broader base than the Lava Spewing Japanese Vampire niche.)
     
  8. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    Reading discussions about Mary-Sues might help you. One characteristic to watch for is getting emotionally invested in your characters. A Suethor will often react to criticism of their character as a personal attack.

    Your characters are tools. They are there to be used. Think about that one coffee mug that you always grab if it's clean. It might get stained or cracked if you keep using it; you might even break it. But should your favorite coffee mug be put on a shelf never to be used?
     
  9. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    Like Eglaisma, there are some scenes that I have a terrible time writing. You just have to push your way through it. The more you do it, the easier it gets. Try writing a short story that you think of more as a movie, see if you can do it that way?
     
  10. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Yes, this. Wow, what a great post.

    Killian Russel brings up a good point, too. Without anything bad happening to your character, or at least the constant impending risk of it, there's no tension. And if there's always the risk, but nothing bad ever happens, it will seem unrealistic, or like your MC is a Mary Sue who always evades bad situations and has annoyingly perfect luck. You need to have high stakes, because no one wants to just read about kittens playing under a rainbow all day long.

    EDIT: Smoke and Trish and I all posted at the same time, so I didn't see some of the earlier posts - but the suggestion of looking up Mary Sues is a good idea. A good place to start is with the litmus test, which can easily be found via google search.
     
  11. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    double post
     
  12. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Only one of my characters is a Mary Sue (a seven year old boy called Johnny - he is what me as a kid wanted to be).

    I am 100% emotionally invested in most of my characters - I have one I actively hate and a few I dislike. I have others I adore, others amuse me. It kills me to hurt them on every level. I have been physically sick writing one scene knowing what it ment for a certain character and that at that point couldn't even promise him a happy ending. And yes when you criticise my characters it feels personal - I can take all sorts of criticism of my writing, plots etc but some characters I struggle with anything hurled at them. Last thing I want to do is see them as tools, whilst I maybe aware they are it's not something I think about.

    I just think it's a sign of a good author/character relationship. Look up a song from the City of Angels called You're Nothing Without Me. It is a song about an author and a character and brilliant.

    I find if a character is protesting about something bad happening to them or they are refusing to die there is usually a way to write that event out of the story. I've had one character have me rewrite an entire novel to resurrect him. When it is the right path for the character then I generally find they insist or are resigned. In my current wip one of my character's was resigned to his awful fate and I had one flatly refuse to let me save his life.
     
  13. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    Okay, stop right there. You are their GOD. You control your characters. Sometimes they may come up with something allowable, but only if it genuinely amuses you to allow it.

    Your children want to skip their bedtime and stay up half the night? Put your damn foot down. They are never going to suggest something that isn't perfect and happy unless their sugar-coated existence drives them to start sitting in the corner and cutting themselves.
     
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  14. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    You bring out that small inner sadist or masochist you shut down during some part of you life and let it run loose. It doesn't make you a horrible person. :)
     
  15. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Because when writing, the bad things that happen or has happened to your MC is what shapes them, what makes them the persons the turn into. If they are never faced with a problem, minor or major, there will be no character development and then you will end up in a situation that isn't very different from what you had in the beginning. Characters MUST change, the situation must change for the story to have a meaning. Even in real life no one is 'immune' to bad things, its how they handle them that is interesting, and how they come out in the end. How could they end up as winners if they didnt go through something tough to get there? to be a winner you have to face obstacles. It doesnt have to be physical, (pain, death, grief) it can be any kind of obstacle to what they aim for, their goal. And even that they must have for a story to be interesting.
     
  16. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Why should I stop right there ? My characters are good. I have with their assistance written two full length novels in a year, with other first drafts written that I probably won't pursue and a lot of fannying about because I had never written before. My characters have good instincts have yet to regret listening to them. Even with the arguement Socrates and I had over him learning to sew, he forced me to come up with better reasons about why I should make him sew. Angus is more compliant than Socrates usually the promise of cake and a night with Bea (his wife) gets most things achieved.

    Socrates was the character that made me go back resurrect him from his watery grave. It was a good decision. Although he is a blooming headache argues everything. When i came up with the scene that made me physically sick however he was resigned to it, just made me promise not to leave him out of his mind.

    But then i don't parent like you would approve of either! I have three fantastic easy, happy, healthy and very well behaved children under seven. Don't need to give them a bedtime, restricted snacks, restrict TV etc they are responsible with how they do all of the above. They know if they are not they will face restrictions. Like with my writing the end result shows me that what i am doing is working. Not about to mess with it.
     
  17. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    I love my characters so much I shop for situations to test their nerves...1st thing I say when I wake up.. "Good Morning Y'all lemme see how I can torture you today." When over coffee they tell me Darcy is in the bathroom obessesing over the scale. I reply "A-ha, just wait till I ballon lil Darcy from a size two to a size twenty two, any of you other mudder phuckers want a piece of me ?"...... "'bember fools I am the one with the pen! "
     
  18. Moonshine
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    Moonshine New Member

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    On a personal note, I believe that every character should have a tragic floor. It could be something simple like ignorance, impulsiveness and such. This allows you to make you character get into bad situations.

    If your characters doesn't get into bad situations then they don't seem human. Mainly because no one is calm, we don't always wins, we aren't ever sad and we aren't always happy. It's just not realistic and doesn't allow the reader to understand the main character. There always has to be some form of downfall.

    Seeming as I've gone slightly off-topic, I'll get back on track. You just need to make your character have something which makes him/her not perfect, so it allows you to discover new sorts of plots (which could possibly end up in some sort of bad situation).
     
  19. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    Sorry, I figured that going into villian-mode for an object lesson would bite me, and it turns out that I was bitch-slapping the wrong person.

    In one of my stories, my muse presesnted the story in very simple terms. Then when I started writing dialogue for one character, he went berserk and ate my muse. I dragged him to author-space and screamed at him for a few minutes, then decided to explore the jackass interpretation of him. However, that's still a case of my willing cooperation for the sake of interest, and it introduces conflict.
     
  20. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    :D It depends how you approach it, every writer is different.

    My characters tend to have good instincts so I let them tell their story. It is important to get things right with first person (which my first two novels have been, next two I think will be third) and keep the character's consistent.
     
  21. Ion
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    Ion Senior Member

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    I have no problem giving my characters a tough time. If you have difficulties though, maybe you should focus on making a character that does stuff to your protagonist--that way it's not really you, it's this character you have.
     
  22. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    I've actually heard that good flaws in a character mean that they occasionally cause themselves problems rather than suffer from external sources.

    Having anger with the ability to control that anger isn't a real flaw. Having bad things happen just for the heck of it can cause interest if they lack the ability to automatically fix it, though. External vs Internal conflict, I guess.
     
  23. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    In my book, I had planned to have the antagonist kill off a few minor characters to motivate the MC even more, kind of like "this is personal!" When I finally got to writing the scene in question, it was 4am and I was already extremely sleep deprived, and I found that I had come to love one of the characters that the antagonist was about to kill. I suddenly got really emotional, and I actually started tearing up! I got really mad at myself for killing her off. Then I was like "Oh yeah, I can change it! Cuz I'm, like, writing this thing and junk."

    So, I just had the bad guy wound her to the point of near death, but then she gets better.
     
  24. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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  25. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    Actually, most of my stories (may be even all) wouldn't have existed if I didn't put the chars in a spot or some kind of hardship. I'll say this, if you find it hard to find something bad to happen to your chars, you are not digging deep enough inside the char's psyche. The only smiling face in a room could be the saddest person, if you dig deeper. Once you find that weakness in your char, it'll be easy to put him in a bad/uncomfortable situation.
     

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