1. California Solo
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    California Solo New Member

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    How to handle those "woobie" characters?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by California Solo, Oct 13, 2015.

    I've always had a penchant for writing "woobie"(no idea if that's a proper name for them, but you know, those beaten-down, underdog characters you just have to feel sorry for) characters. However, until recently I've only really done very short stories of my own and a little fanfiction. I'm well aware that in the course of a longer novel, those characters will get annoying if they're there JUST to pull on your heartstrings. So my question is, what are some good ways to develop a character who starts out in the story as pretty pathetic(through no fault of his own), without just throwing that sympathy out the window and trying to make them an OOC badass or something like that? Cause that's not what I'm going for. Suggestions?
     
  2. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Wth is woobie? :bigconfused:

    Anyway. There's a series I like, Everworld. It's old, been discontinued, but it was great. They had four main characters, each of the twelve books being told by one of them. There was David, the strong wanna-be leader that made stupid and rash decisions. Jalil, the brains and strategic thinker. April, the cool, calm, and collected one. And Christopher, the pathetic, sarcastic, constantly making jokes "woobie" character. And yanno what? He was my favorite.

    I get really tired of reading about heroes all the time. They always know just what to do, how to save themselves and others, and never mess up. It's boring.

    I think characters like Christopher. He doubted himself every step of the way and was negative more often than not. He always said the wrong thing, joked too much, and ended up getting in a lot of fights with the other three because of it. Most of the time, they just wished he would leave but they were stuck together. And I loved it! It's refreshing.

    So to me, having a character like that isn't annoying in the least. But that's just my opinion. :bigtongue:
     
  3. California Solo
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    California Solo New Member

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    Thanks! :) Yeah, I didn't know how many people had heard of that term but nothing else was coming to mind. Here's a better definition: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheWoobie

    Actually, that's one of the main points I'm working on in the story, instead of a crew of solid "hero" characters these people really aren't cut out for the situation they're in and they are just trying to make the best of it anyway.
     
  4. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I thought a woobie was a blankie - from Mr. Mom. Gave the thread a whole anthropomorphic feel.
    My mc is a huge wimp. He's in jail and walks with a cane making him easy prey and dependent on others as the place is not exactly equipped to suit his needs. He endures because he eventually wants something that will hopefully make him relatable.

    It all depends on what you want your character arch to be. The arch doesn't have to be amazing - it could be like The King's Speech - he's not out to conquer the world, just overcome his own personal problem or even just lessen it a bit.

    Give the character a bit of drive for something, endurance, patience, a sense of humor. As long as you give them some good qualities - even when they lose they don't have to appear the loser.
     
  5. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Exactly. To me, a woobie is just an ordinary character with no special skills or qualifications at all and yet a whole bunch of shit had just landed on his/her shoulders and they just have to deal with it the best they know how. This character endures and keeps going because he/she wants something at the end. Or they know they must accomplish something at the end and by God, they're gonna do it.

    If you don't want them to be the typical "Whaaa please pity meeee!" character, give them some strengths. Something that they know they can do and put them in situations where that strength is exemplified.
     
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  6. Morgan Stelbas
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    Morgan Stelbas Active Member

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    I too am not a huge fan of the MC knowing what to do in every single scenario. One of my stories has an MC who is actually quite naive, and has a lousy judge of character (has trouble trusting the good guys, and has easily put trust in a bad guy). But they are learning with each mistake. I wanted to show that average people can be heroes in their own way, and it doesn't involve conquering an evil empire, or toppling an entire building.

    So your character can start out pathetic, but face certain challenges that force them to improve themselves in some way.
     
  7. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
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    Duchess-Yukine-Suoh Girl #21 Contributor

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    Don't make them whiny. A character can be sad, a character can be tragic, a character can be bad at things without being whiny.
    Masking pain is, honestly, a better way to make a character sympathetic then to have them talk openly about it. If they do talk openly about it, either make it rare, or have them talk about it with a close friend or mentor. But have them mask it for people they feel are more vulnerable.
    Even if they're not masking their pain, a character who shuts up and does what they're told and/or what the group needs them to do is a lot more sympathetic than a bratty character who complains.
    If they have a big brother/sister instinct towards a younger character, that adds sympathy, no matter how incompetent the older character is.
     
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  8. Lyrical
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    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

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    Arg, curse you and your links! I came here to find out what in the world a "woobie" was, and when I saw your link I knew I had to be careful. I've gone on some intensely long wiki-walks in the labyrinth of TV Tropes, but I also knew they would explain woobies well (which they did.)

    An hour later, I have clawed my way back to reality after getting caught up in that whirlpool again. I'm helpless there, it seems.
     
  9. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I concur.

    Another trick to show how they can be strong is that they have a mantra they tell themselves when they feel like they're about to lose it. The Last of Us (yeah, I know it's a video game, not a book) had Ellie's be: "Survive and Endure". It would show that they have inner strength to keep themselves together even when they're bursting at the seams. They have coping strategies to keep themselves from spiraling into the whirlpool.
     
  10. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm with the Duchess and Link - avoid self-pity in the character. Let him suffer, sure, but make him get up again after getting knocked down.

    I also prefer woobie-esque characters when they aren't JUST woobies. Torture them all you want, but also give them some agency, some determination, some humour - something. They shouldn't just be a ragged blanket the rest of the characters drag around... at least give them enough strength to drag themselves around!
     
  11. FadedSpectrum
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    FadedSpectrum New Member

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    I agree with the avoid-self-pity policy. I have a character that falls into "woobie" territory, according to the people I let edit my stuff; but if he gets close enough to self pity, he'll get annoyed with himself and shake it off. People who wallow eternally in "poor, poor me" thoughts are more annoying than sympathetic.
    I think the best way to execute it is to show that the character is pitiable by outside cues in the narration and other character's reactions to them and their situation. Let the outside world pull Kick The Dog moments on them. Internal monologues on how sad their life is are what turn me off the most to pitying a character.

    Keep in mind that a woobie character is a person too. Try not to define your character by their woobie-ness too heavily. And, provide room for growth past it if that's what works for your story.
     
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  12. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Just to chime in with the rest, aren't all MC's "woobies" in one sense or another? Isn't the idea of a novel to give a framework and a venue for the character to grow or change? And, like the rest, I agree that asking the reader to pity the character just the way they are and think there-there to themselves as they read is not good. I have no idea who you are in real life when you step away from the keyboard, but I would offer the suggestion that you make sure you aren't using your story(ies) as a way to exorcise your personal "woobie" demons, asking us, the readers, to pity you. Again, I have no idea who you really are out there in 1st Life, just throwing it out there to anyone reading this. And even if it is a way to exorcise you personal demons, that can work too, so long as you are cognizant of what you are doing and don't fall into the woe is me trap. I can admit that one of my MC's in one of my WIP's serves this purpose. He murdered his wife and there is no twist where you find out that he didn't actually kill her. He most certainly did. He's every fuck-up and shitty decision I've ever made, and lord knows there have been many and they have been varied (though I never actually killed a spouse or anyone). But he's not there for you to feel bad about. He's there to get the fuck over himself and move forward in a positive direction because not doing so is the same as suicide without the balls to shove the knife in.
     
  13. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Okay, if nobody else is going to ask, I will. Why 'woobie?' What kind of a word is that? :confused: It sounds like some kind of incoherent mouth music ...woobie doobie doo ...la la la la la ...deedle deedle dum ...wah do wa doo doo ...woobie doobie doo ...wah doo wah doo wah DOOOOO
     
  14. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    *note to self, have your MC be annoyed at a small toddler bawling this out at the top of his lungs*

    Seriously, though, a woobie is a modern slang for someone who is innocent, cute, and you feel the urge to wrap your arms around them in comfort and protection when a lot of unfair shit gets dumped on them. It's also a term referencing a security blanket a child might hug if he/she is feeling particularly scared/stressed out.
     
  15. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Aye, I get the concept. But why Woobie? I get Feartie, because that's somebody who's scared of stuff. I suppose Woobie is no more meaningless than Wuss ...and we've all been around Wusses, or been Wusses ...but just wondered how 'they' arrived at the word Woobie for somebody who is borderline pathetic?

    *note to @Link the Writer - would a toddler be bawling out the words he can't remember (and rightly so) to Strangers In The Night?
     
  16. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Who says a toddler would care? If they want to bawl out a bunch of words thinking they're singing Strangers In The Night, then that's what they'll do.
     
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  17. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Kids, eh?
     
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  18. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Yeah, pretty much.
     
  19. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I know it's not a perfect phonemic match, but I had assumed woobie was a derivative of woe is me. :)
     
  20. Lyrical
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    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

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    Woebegone, perhaps?

    As for it being something a little kid says, yes. My cousin had this little scrap of silky cloth he found in his mother's sewing stuff when he was a toddler. He grew extremely attached to it and wouldn't sleep without it. He called it his woobie. This makes me think of sad characters walking around stroking soft silk scraps against their cheeks. It's a weird image.
     
  21. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I've been away too long....
     
  22. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    What exactly did you mean by "exercising" one's "personal woobie"?
     
  23. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Read again. ;)

    Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 9.08.35 PM.png
     
  24. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Oh, so you're not out jogging with your personal woobie, then?

    Sorry ...I'll just slink off now....

    Coffee, more coffee....
     
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