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  1. Eli
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    Eli Member

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    I need people to hate her, but just enough.

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Eli, Jan 21, 2009.

    Well I'm struggling here and could use a dose of simple advice.

    I'm branching out from my normal fluffy, simple, women's magazine type short fiction to begin my 'serious' work; a short novella-type peice on the flaws of vanity and the pitfalls of genius.

    Now my narrator, though not the most important player in my story needs to go through a transformation in the course of the story, realising that she isn't going to be a famous dancer but can still give people joy through what she does.

    The problem is that when I showed a partially completed draft to some impartial friends they said they really didn't like her, and even though she had redeemed herself through the course of the story and it was believable they still weren't convinced by her.

    I was just wondering if anyone else had stumbled on this problem whilst writing a 'hateable' character and how we can cause the reader to believe in them again.

    Thanks very much, and hello!
     
  2. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Watch House.
     
  3. Penny Dreadful
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    Penny Dreadful Senior Member

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    Lol, well House is very likable... but only because he's hillarious. I think I've mentioned before that I'll forgive a character of some pretty terrible things if they're funny enough.

    Were your friends female, btw? Females tend to be very hard on other females. I know I am, especially when they're fictional, and I can't say nasty things behind their back. The sad truth is that a lot of readers are probably going to dislike a female character (nevermind that she's a dancer, though that certainly doesn't help) for no good reason.
     
  4. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Eli: There's the answer for you right there. If the MC is witty, the reader (or at least, I) can forgive them for their flaws because they're interesting and so the reader won't give up on them.
     
  5. Mcarpenter
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    Mcarpenter Contributing Member

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    If you can reveal a flashback of something tragic that happened to her in her child hood--showing how she was horribly treated by her mom, abused by dad, or picked on mercilessly by a bully--that usually helps. Have her break down crying and then come to that moment of resolve that she will never allow anyone to ever touch her soul again.
    She could open up to another character about it and disolve into tears and suffer a near panic attack. :rolleyes: That always gets me.

    OR make a vicitm out of her some other way--stalker attack, mugging, bus runs her over...okay, I'm being facetious. ;)

    Selfless acts are also great. Have her give her favorite winter coat to a homeless person when 'no one' is around to witness it. Something like that.
     
  6. Penny Dreadful
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    Penny Dreadful Senior Member

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    I have to disagree here. In moderation, sympathy works all right in getting me to hate a character a bit less, but sometimes it has the opposite effect. It's also tough to get that happy medium. Often I find myself torn between, "What's she complaining about? I've had it worse than that." or "Maybe my time would better be spent watching a soap opera."

    When my characters are careening toward the unreedemable... I have a tendency to kill them off in a pitiable way.

    That last bit wasn't advice, btw, just a realization... oh, dear. :(
     
  7. Daedalus
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    Daedalus Active Member

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    House gets away with it because he's hilarious. If you want to see a bad character who isn't particularly funny, but still very likeable, I'd say watch Dexter.
     
  8. Eli
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    Eli Member

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    Yes, the ones who picked up on it were female... the problem is that I came up with her as a spoilt, selfish rich kid so that I could show people the dirty world of the other characters through a fresh set of eyes. She only redeems herself at the very end.
     
  9. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    I haven't seen Dexter, so I can't comment there. But with regards to House, there is a lot more to it than him being funny. He's a character that you shouldn't like. He's arrogant, racist, sexist, rude, abusive toward his colleagues, and a drug addict. He even experimented with treatments on babies, knowing that it would kill two of the four babies he was in charge of. But underneath, you know that he cares. He doesn't just want to solve the problem to satisfy his curiosity. He does it becase it's right.

    He talked to a girl who would have a miserable year at most with cancer and not the condition she was seeing House for, days with it. She wanted to stay alive because her mother needed her, not for herself. He cared about what she wanted for herself, that is not to suffer anymore. In one episode he managed to get through to a non-verbal kid with autism. In another, he got a guy who was raising his younger brother and sister to admit he didn't want to have the responsibility and for only that reason, didn't tell the younger brother that his bone marrow could cure him. If all he cared about was solving problems, he would be in research, not directly treating patients.
     
  10. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, there's always Angelica in Rug Rats. Proves some females are born mean and don't need any 'childhood trauma' excuse.
    A truly bitchy female like What's-her-name in 'The Devil Wears Prada' can be awesome.
    In fact, the more I think about it, the more I realise I love hating female characters!
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    For TV examples, you'll find few better "people you love to hate" than J.R. Ewing of Dallas. Here is a thoroughly despicable human being, but slick as Teflon. You find yourself secretly rooting for him to find a way out of the latest predicament he's brought upon himself.
     
  12. Eli
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    Eli Member

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    Ha, my dad used to call me Angelica whenever I was a bit of a cow as a child.

    What about characters that don't really change even if you want them to? I've drafted and redrafted this so many times I don't know if it's utter **** or not. Perhaps I'm trying to tie everything up too neatly in the end. Would a narrator put you off a book if she had no redemption even if there were more likeable characters in there?
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You are the writer. You have complete control over the character's development. The most common problem new writers have in character creation is that every character becomes a mirror of some aspect of the writer, or the writer's idealized self-image.
     
  14. Eli
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    Eli Member

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    Yes, agreed.

    My problem is that I've hated myself being a hack for so long, writing these silly little 'coffee break fiction' storys just for the money and loathing every second, wishing I could murder every whinging housewife, and give all of them a terrible unhappy ending. That now I've vowed myself off it and set to writing something decent I'm trying to make it entirely different, not letting a single stock trait into any of my characters that I'm focusing too hard on the mediocre details and it's turning into something preachy and moralised.

    Here is a warning kids, never write just for the money - you will begin to think you can't do any better.
     
  15. Dcoin
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    Why not give the character a positive quality that transcends all their evils? That way the reader will see something good and make the transition to redemption a little easier.

    As a side note, I'm not sure I agree with your advice, but that’s for a different thread.
     
  16. lostpyrate
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    tough position to be in, for sure. In reality, people don't change very much, so it's human nature to be suspicious of changes in others. Even when we have a history with someone, both pre- and post-change, we still find it hard to believe they can really change. But the fact is, people can and do change, no matter how rare it may be. I think it might help, if possible, to enlighten the reader to her personal thoughts and the rationale she uses that causes the positive changes in her. Letting the reader in your narrators head where thoughts are private may help in getting them over the hump and believing she has really changed. Change is first a mental decision that eventually becomes an action. If you let the reader see the mental side, they may believe the outward expression.

    Who knows, I'm probably completely off base and have no clue, then again, you never know when inspiration may strike.

    Good luck!
     
  17. Callire
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    Callire New Member

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    I think the key factor here is honesty.

    House is a bastard, but he doesn't pretend to be anything else. He says what he thinks, even if it's vulgar or abusive. House admits that he (and everyone else) lies, and the character is such departure that we all love him. Dexter, too, is all about honesty. He admits he's a serial killer, but we see the reasons why, and his childhood.

    If you go with a bitchy character, then make sure you fully commit to it and really show the reader everything.
     
  18. Mcarpenter
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    Mcarpenter Contributing Member

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    LOL, I call my oldest child "Veruca" when he acts snotty. Then I break into song "I want the world...I want the WHOLE world!" Violet wasn't much more likable--but I almost pittied her when she became a giant blueberry. Almost.

    Sorry this doesn't help answer the original question.
     
  19. laciemn
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    laciemn Senior Member

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    I realize you are joking but I want to give my opinion on the first part.
    I am a woman and I get extremely annoyed with characters, especially women, who are utterly stupid and helpless and repeatedly victimized. This characters are incredibly naive and basically a waste of page time. It is character abuse. It is horrifying to many women(and me) who haven't read anything better than some of the pathetic female characters I've read. The male counterparts are almost as annoying to me, but not quite. I can't put up with hot-headed jerkoffs who think they're God's gift to whatever realm they inhabit, either.

    It's not that hard to make an unlikable character likable. Just develop her more. If she has a certain characteristics like bitchiness or being overly slutty(dancer -it will make people think she's slutty unless you prove otherwise), then you've got to balance it out with her being particularly witty or charming. Make sure you are realistic and consider human psychology and your character's personality, background, and circumstances when you decide her actions, otherwise no one will like the character because it won't be believable.

    On a side note, I really don't see why people like House so much. He can be a laugh, I suppose, but he's mostly just a pretentious bastard. Just my opinion, though. I almost always roll my eyes at the show itself though. It's basically the same every episode.
     

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