1. mashers
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    mashers Senior Member

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    How to ensure my characters' attitudes are not mistaken as my own?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by mashers, Jun 20, 2016.

    One of my characters has some very sexist attitudes. Such as in the following extract:

    They are his inner thoughts so are of course not expressed in dialogue, and I don't want to litter the passage with "he thought" to make it explicit. Will it typically be obvious to the reader that these are the views of the character? I don't want the reader to think that these are my views.
     
  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    In that excerpt I certainly think it's clearly his voice, his thoughts.

    In general, I get my impression of an author's attitudes from the book as a whole rather than a single passage or character. So if you have a character thinking this way but also have competent, three-dimensional female characters, I wouldn't worry about it. If you have passages like this and all your female characters are ditzy bimbos? I might start to question your world view.
     
  3. mashers
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    mashers Senior Member

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    Thank you @BayView, I appreciate the confirmation. I did suspect as much, but wanted to make sure I had interpreted the reader's likely reaction correctly. This character has a female mentor character who is the main agent in helping him to resolve his crisis, and through the bond they form she helps him to change his views of women. So I hope this will make it clear to the reader that the sexist views are those of that character only!
     
  4. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    Yeah, I think most readers are clever enough to see the difference between how your character feels about women and how you actually treat women in the narrative. You have to realize that some of them will still say "wow, this character is an asshole, I don't want to read about him" but you can't win'em all.
     
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  5. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Actually, by writing, "He even allowed himself to sneer . . . " you're tripping over yourself to say, "Look, look! These attitudes are not mine, the Author's! See how bad he is! I don't approve of him at all!"

    It'd be sufficient to say, "He sneered internally at the woman in the adjacent booth . . . " [though wait a minute, is he tall enough to see over the seat backs? Wouldn't it be the booth opposite? Or has she left the booth and gone to the cash register at the entrance?] Or even, Typical woman. So much makeup and crap in that handbag, and she waits till the last minute to . . .

    As @BayView said, if women are portrayed three-dimensionally elsewhere, there will be no confusion about where you the Author stand. And even if it's entirely in your sexist character's POV, it can be fun writing an unreliable narrator in such a way that it's obvious he has reality all wrong.
     
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  6. mashers
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    mashers Senior Member

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    @Catrin Lewis
    The 'even' refers back to a previous sentence. The character is travelling home from a consultation in which he has been given a terminal diagnosis, and the 'even' in context refers to the fact that he is having relatively normal (for him) thoughts despite this devastating news.

    WRT the booths, I don't understand what you mean by not being able to see her or seat backs or a cash register. He's not in a restaurant :confused:
     
  7. MichaelP
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    MichaelP Active Member

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    That's the big question, isn't it? Even Stephen King gets hate mail for his characters.

    Who cares? In a recent critique of one of my stories, someone called me "misogynistic" because the protagonist, who is a bit sexist, called a woman "sugar tits." But you know what? You need to write honestly, and sometimes that entails offending the International League of Prudes.
     
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  8. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I'd be worried about THAT attitude leaching into your work.

    The phrase "sugar tits" sets my teeth on edge and it's nothing to do with me being a prude--I write explicit sex scenes. I'm not daft enough to think a character automatically reflects the author's attitudes, but I wouldn't want to spend 90,000 words with a protagonist who called women "sugar tits." I think you need to worry more about keeping the reader on board with your protagonist than about their views of you as the author.

    Edit: Just realised MichaelP isn't the OP. Got confused with the identical non-avatars! Masher, this isn't directed at you.
     
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  9. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Agreed. As the OP wrote it, and with just this excerpt as guide, it's quite clear.

    _____________________________________________________________

    To the OP:

    Lord Foul's Bane. It wasn't the fact that the MC seemed to shrug off a rape he commits in the story. I was ready for that. The MC is an unlikable MC. He's a dick. He has his reasons for being a dick, but still... dick. What finally made me put that book down was the way everyone else in the story shrugged off the rape. There's only one person in the story who reacts to the rape in a way that befits the crime, and that person is made to look like he's overreacting and told to go home and stop making such a fuss.

    See the difference? I can totally deal with a character who doesn't understand the gravity of the crime he committed, but a story that doesn't understand the gravity of a crime committed therein is something very different. That's not the character. That's the writer.
     
  10. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm actually OK with reading, watching, and writing about sociopathically horrifying villain protagonists, just as long as the narrative makes it clear that the villain is wrong about how people should be treated.

    Like my new Urban Fantasy WIP starts with the first-person narrator making more than a little deal about how he's trying not to stare at a bank teller inappropriately but that it's spontaneously happening anyway against his will ... while he is in the middle of robbing her workplace by threatening a shootout. I have a very strong problem with people who not only objectify other human beings, but who also pretend that it's not their fault that they're doing it, so I'm using my villain protagonist narrative to, among other things, address the people who believe that garbage and to show them "that's not the attitude of somebody who recognizes the humanity of others, that's the attitude of somebody who sees other people as resources to take advantage of."
     
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  11. BC Barry
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    BC Barry Member

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    I agree with the other posts, it's obvious that those traits belong to that particular character. Now, if EVERY character in your book had the same feelings, I'd think those traits belonged to the author.

    I once read a book where every single female in the story was a weak, shuddering, teary-eyed, frightened doe who needed a big brave man to protect her. Even the strong women were strong only because they chose the strongest man to care for them. The smart ones were smart only because they did whatever their husband told them to. Throughout the entire story. That made it rather obvious exactly how the author thought of women.
     
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  12. MichaelP
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    MichaelP Active Member

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    No offense, but it seems as if a person's tolerance for negativity depends on how much hardship they've endured in life. If "sugar tits" offends you to the point where you would close the book, then I can't imagine how you deal with people in everyday life.

    Have you ever read American Psycho? Every character is a deplorable pig. It's a great book.
     
  13. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    I'd imagine by avoiding those types of people, as she's proposing for that type of book. It's far easier to avoid a book, and poor readership would presumably be another hardship for whatever poor author does their best to tolerate such negativity in a life of constant struggle. What a pity we can't just force people to read our drivel.

    It's also a biting satire in which the reader isn't led to identify or sympathise with the characters, unlike the majority of books out there. It may be a great book, but it doesn't have the wide appeal that many aim for via character identification and sympathy.

    And it seems there are also those who fail to tolerate even the slightest hardship (e.g. someone on the internet expressing a differing opinion) and resort to self-pity and passive aggression.
     
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  14. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Unless the author makes it clear she is editorializing or intending to promote a message through a character, one should not assume that the attitudes and beliefs displayed by characters in a novel belong to the author. I wouldn't worry about writing fiction tailored to the crowd that doesn't understand that aspect of fiction.

    The work as a whole may give some idea of the author's attitudes and beliefs, if that's what the author is going for, but there's not reason to simply assume that any given character represents the author.
     
  15. MichaelP
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    MichaelP Active Member

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    I agree. People here do get bitter when I go against wishy-washy lets-all-get-along writing "advice."

    Anyway, the thoughts expressed in my post were first encountered in Stephen King's On Writing. Yes, he does use the N-word in The Stand, and yes, there are prudes who whine in the Amazon review section because of it. The willingness to write honestly is what separates the great writers (like King and Murikami and all the others who will be remembered a century from now) from the mediocrity lining most bookstore shelves.

    But hey. If it angers you to read a character say "sugar tits" in a novel, then stick with Twilight or whatever.
     
  16. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    Only one person in this thread has been bitter, although while trying to spell out Tenderiser's point for you (apparently a lost cause) I did mock your abrasive attitude and ankle-depth insight, as I'll continue to do now (mostly in an effort to wring something useful from your posts for whoever else may be reading).

    If you use transgression to make a point or challenge popular views in some way, sure (and yes, prudes will complain). Otherwise you're being edgy without bringing anything else to the table. As you didn't mention the former, people have assumed you're proposing the latter. If you're honestly just a prick, rather than being offended or angry, your audience will be apathetic, bored and irritated at wasting their time wasted. That doesn't create memorable books or sell them. Ditto forum posts.

    At no point did I mention a personal objection to 'sugar tits' or fondness for Twilight, but at least you've got an imagination. I'd help you improve your reading comprehension, but I'm too apathetic, bored and irritated for pity. No further comment from me on this line.
     

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