1. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    How can I make readers hate a character?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Gallowglass, Jan 26, 2012.

    There's this character - Cael - who is supposed to be an unmitigated tool of the highest order. He's one of those obnoxious people who throws their weight around for no good reason and uses his physical size to intimidate others, and bullies them for their 'weaknesses' - loss of limbs, disfigurement, and being female chief among them. He also inflicts unnecessary amounts of pain in battle and constantly shows off the fact that he has 'no face' owing to frostbite. But, the thing is, all these personality flaws are explained by events in his life - what the Norse did to his family (his father was killed trying to save his mother who became trapped in their house; he blames her) and it's really hard to keep him as the heartless barbarian after revealing that.

    It's essential that he's hated, of course - his slaying is a bit of light relief from an otherwise gruelling battle that claims several of the other major characters.
     
  2. jc.
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    jc. Contributing Member

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    I feel empathetic for him just reading all of this. I can't help but feel sorry for him... It makes him hard for me to hate.

    I don't really know what to say, but I think it would help if instead of him just blaming his mother for his father's death (implying he once had a heart and was hurt) he is just simply disgusted by his father's stupidity for going after his mother whose weakness got her killed. Cael sounds like the kind of guy who likes to feed off of people's pain and weakness. He probably thinks that the weak are responsible for their own suffering and that it's his duty to exterminate the world of sickening people like that. Hell, he probably believes he's doing everyone a favor when he drowns babies.
     
  3. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    I find the best antagonists are the ones we can both love (or like or at least empathise with sometimes) and hate. Your character seems to fit that.

    But I have more disdain for a character who reacts inappropriately to tragedy by making those around him who had nothing to do with the tragedy suffer.
     
  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, I would dislike him if he were faced with the knowledge and the ability to change, and he chose not to, or chose to revert, for a selfish reason.

    Let's say that he gets to know a woman (that is, a despised female), and in spite of himself he starts to respect her. Maybe he starts to question his attitude toward women, maybe he sees her as an exception; whatever it is, it's at least some progress and development. A friendship develops.

    And then he betrays her for some stupid, selfish reason, rather than for a reason based on his painful background. Maybe to win a race, or to gain a valuable object, or to improve his reputation. It has to be something that _doesn't_ go to his deepest core, something that we can't excuse based on his earlier trauma. It's just plain "I want it" selfishness. It makes us realize that sometimes a bad person is just a bad person.
     
  5. Reggie
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    Reggie I Like 'Em hot "N Spicy Contributor

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    To be honest, I don't think a writer can make a reader hate a character. If you take Browser, the antagonist of the Mario Bros series, you may feel bad for him for once when he constantly fails at keeping Princess Peach and always lose. But depending on his reason to kidnap the princess depends on his motivation. It's up to you as to rather you like him or not. That goes with every antagonist. All antagonist has a reason to be evil, and people either like what he does or not.
     
  6. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    The best villains are the ones we can empathise with, to a point. Nobody will feel completely sorry for a sadist and a bully (as long as you portray their hateful side well enough), but to give some explanations, mitigating factors, will only enrich him as a villainous character. From what you wrote, it sounds to me like you struck a good balance. You shouldn't be afraid of making your villains believable. Because nobody is a nasty piece of work for no reason. Everyone cruel and bad was an innocent child once, who suffered greatly - from violence, neglect, all sorts of things.
     
  7. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    I object to this kind of emotion stirring.
    You have to try and imagine that some readers/people do not harbour hate inside so to expect them to hate is in a way teaching them to have those feelings they have never had.
    It is not the writer's responsibility to ignite or provoke feelings of a negative sort.
    It is the writer's role to ensure that his reader are ultimately content and relaxed and not the other way around.
     
  8. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    This is quite frankly wrong. First off everyone feels hate at some point and secondly the whole purpose of fiction is to invoke emotions. This doesn't always involve hate but more often than not it does. After all you want people to hate your antagonist. Do you not have villains in your story Cacian? And if you don't were is the driving force of the plot?
     
  9. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I agree - not only do you not have villains, but do you also not have any type of moment that involves suspense and potential danger for your main characters?
     
  10. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    yes I agree. I feel not so much hate but dislike towards something, but that is what happens in reality.
    I was suggesting that I personally do not wish to feel hate when I read a story because I am trying to escape everyday reality.
    That is fine if that is your style.
    I write my characters with the idea that they are all liked.
    It is just a different I like to do.
    no I don't. I know it might sound boring to you but I like to bring something different to the table.
    so no villains in my stories I am afraid:)
    The driving force is me my imagination the characters and the way I outline the story.
    PLus it is easier for me to concentrate on one thing only and thatis how I use language now I have agreed with myself that all my stories are villain free.
    I can concentrate on words,humour,with plots and characters of a newer fresher kind, characters that some readers will look up to.
    Nothing heroic just perfect beings.
     
  11. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    A writer is supposed to make readers feel relaxed? Well gee, there go most conflicts. If readers are relaxed reading my stories, I've definitely failed. It's a writer's job to convey the emotion most appropriate to the story, and that will not always be relaxation and contentment.
     
  12. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    Iknow...that is something that I prefer.
    I guess it takes all sorts of writers otherwise the world will go around one way and that would be boring right?
     
  13. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    So let me get this straight from what you've said in this thread an others. Your stories are nothing but happy, perfect people doing happy perfect things with no threat to their being or tension whatsoever and no antagonists? That to me is absolutely the most boring thing I could imagine as a story and I'm sure others would agree. I can be happy and content in real life I can hope. In fiction I want a thrill.

    If there aren't any problems in your stories then why do your characters do what they do? Or do your characters not even have an objective? Remember an antagonist does not necessarily have to be a physical being, it could be an abstract concept like say depression (not that'd you'd ever write about depression.).

    I'm also honestly curious about what books you read. I can't think of any story that has no sort of antagonist (physical or abstract.) or some sort of driving conflict, even the most innocent children story ever.
     
  14. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    Cacian, it's essential to the plot: this character isn't necessarily on the 'bad side' and he's certainly not a 'villain.' There are no good or bad sides here, it's a brutal insurgency against an equally brutal occupation. But he's the one who the MC wrangles with the most and his deposition is the catalyst for the MC's ascendence.

    Thank you all for your replies so far: you've given me a lot to think about.
     
  15. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    Hahaha.

    Just roll your eyes, yawn and move on.
     
  16. Mjolnir
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    Mjolnir Member

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    There's nothing wrong with trying to evoke "negative" emotions in your readers. It is a an excellent way to get them emotionally invested in the story. that being said, it is also fine and even desirable for a character to evoke multiple emotions, both positive and negative. From what you've described it doesn't sound like you have a problem. It sounds like you have a three dimensional character, something that's a real struggle to create for some writers. As long as the dynamic between the MC and this antagonist works the way you want it to, then let the readers draw their own conclusions as to how to feel about them.
     
  17. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    Haha...my stories are not happy, they are just different from your everyday life.
    I don't see why I should replicate what already happens around me.
    I do not find it exciting to read about something I already live.
    It is for me too dull to think that I am going to pick up a book that will reflect excatly what I go through in real life.
    After all it is up to me to decide what books I want to read and to tell you the truth there si not much around for me to read so I decided to write my own.
    The kind of stuff I like to read are things that do not exist , things that may never happen all the more for me to write about them.
    I live and breath emotions deceptions and hurts, why do I want to go and read about them too?
    A story for me is a place where I can imagine a better easier lighter cleverer and wittier world where perfect witty beings exist.
    That is where my imagination leads me to.
    That is me.
    Oh no there are 'problem solving', questions and mysteries and explorations only no villains and no death.
    There is suspense/laughter/wit/problem sovling/discoveries and intrigues but there are no death and no negative feelings and definetely no killings.
     
  18. CH878
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    CH878 Active Member

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    We appear to be writing completely different things, my novels are positively full of death and killings:D That's fine though, I'm not going to condemn anyone's style of writing, variety can only improve the literary world.
     
  19. Fajita Jim
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    Fajita Jim New Member

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    Betray the reader. Make them expect...want even, something from a character and then have that character deny it to them.

    Bob may have been seemingly grooming Ted as an apprentice for much of the story, but you suddenly reveal that he merely wanted to awaken Teds inner strength so he could enjoy tearing him down. Make the reader throw their hands up and shout "no!"
     
  20. Exclusive
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    This is certainly one avenue. Ultimately, the reactions that your antagonist will receive will be highly dependent on how well you've built your protagonist. You could try making your protagonist a character that your audience will be able to relate to. This is the person who's past needs to be delved into in order to provide context for his motivations. Then, have your antagonist do "something" to break him or her.

    Personally, I've always despised (in a good way) villains who force a protagonist into making a difficult choice. I've never gotten the psychology of it. I think it's the fact that this situation forces me as a reader into introspection... and makes the protagonist (as well as myself for being so invested in them) seem so vulnerable.
     
  21. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    We grow to hate character for much the same reasons we hate people; they do or say something offensive. You want your reader to hate a character then have the character betray a friend, sell out to the bad guys, hurt people or you name it. Althought the best bad guys are the ones who love their mom and hug her goodbye. Then beat up a nerd and steal his lunch money. In other words have something redeeming about you bad guys.
     
  22. elious ranhale
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    elious ranhale New Member

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    I think you're doing pretty good at setting mist readers up to hate him. Some Kay sympathise with him to some degree but in the Ned his death will be a relief and maybe even a blessing in the eyes of the readers. My suggestion is to not let him have emotions toward his lost mother and father. Make it so that he viewed the loss as an inconvience for him.
     
  23. Dragon Boy
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    Dragon Boy Member

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    If you want your readers to hate him you can have a martyr : a kind and honest character who's a bit too naive and maybe too weak to defend himself. This will make him prone to the intimidation of your antagonist and people will feel sorry for the helpless victim.
     
  24. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    better use the character to project that and not on you I would say as the reader.
     
  25. polorules
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    polorules New Member

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    People often empathize with villains. They can see their evil acts as understandable or reasons why that character is interesting and fun. Even if they are completely despicable, they will have fans. Especially if they are charismatic or 'cool' in some way.
    In my experience, the characters who have gotten a lot of hate are the insecure or failure characters. People hate what they don't want to become. If he isn't trying hard, or taking the easy, immoral way out a lot, if he is cowardly or whiny, people will hate him. However, their hatred will be more disgust than fear. If you want people to look down on him, that is how you do it. But if you want him to be feared, he will also be respected by a lot of people who will call him bada** or something.
     

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