1. BBCotaku
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    BBCotaku Member

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    I'm scared i'm too mean to my characters...

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by BBCotaku, Oct 4, 2015.

    After reading over my draft I'm becoming scared I am being too mean.

    First the MC loses his right arm, leading to it being replaced by a steampunk-style prosthetic, he then later finds out he has a Bad Luck curse, one which causes all the story's conflicts.
    I.E His best friend and love interest having his soul ripped in two, the mayor of the town where he lives becoming cursed to rot from the inside out, the other "half" of the best friend's soul having their love interest killed in front of him, and then later being torchered half to death resulting in him going insane and attacking the MC causing him to lose two fingers (middle and ring fingers) and his legs (which are once again replaced.)
    The vice-mayor also loses her voice completely after being given holy water to drink by the MC by accident.
    ...I could go one as this isnt even the half of it.

    Am I going a tad over board?
     
  2. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    It is all about context. Though stories are about conflict. If you are extra harsh on them I would hope that leads to a more fitting ending.

    But extra harsh is well something that context gives. See a dystopian future novel that might have everyone losing a arm. Well then him losing a arm is standard.

    A really good example is Hercule from the DBZ franchise. He is a joke character because he sucks. But he only sucks in context. He is a world champion level fighter who is strong enough to pull 4 buses at once. Fast enough that the untrained eye can see his movements and can punch through a steel door. Yet he sucks. Well the other characters in DBZ can fly, blow up mountains and resist planet bustering explositions. Next tot that? Yeah pulling 4 buses is well weak. lol.

    I had a moment like this myself. I did take some of the trauma away from the girl. Not because the trauma was bad but I realized that she had like 5 events that were all sucky as heck and no one else in the story had even 3. So she was having way more bad luck than anyone around her. While it was valid to her character I realized 4 was a more reasonable number.

    If that makes sense?
     
  3. bumble bee
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    bumble bee Member

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    Well your story gives an explanation for why it's happening which takes out the implausibility element!

    Is it meant to be comical (in a dark way!) or are we supposed to be sympathetic or is there another plot- alongside the events (e.g. we are following him on a quest which keeps getting disrupted by the curse)? Is he eventually redeemed from the curse or learns to make his peace with it?

    I suppose it depends how it's written and how much detail you go into in each case.

    I wouldn't be interested in reading a story in which the main character just constantly had bad things happen to them and then sat around feeling sorry for himself afterwards, however justified his self pity is, I'm likely to get tired of hearing about it!

    For what it's worth, I think the idea is intriguing!

    For comparison Lemony Snickett's Series of Unfortunate Events or Gena Showalter's Lords of the Underworld Series (paranormal romance about cursed immortal beings) both have characters with constant bad luck- you could see how they deal with the issue?
     
  4. BBCotaku
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    BBCotaku Member

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    I'll be sure to check those out!

    And no he doesn't sit around sulking after his love interest basicly tells him to suck it up. The MC adopts a idea of action rather than pity probably summed up in the line "Saying sorry and sitting around on your arse isn't going to fix this."
     
  5. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    In the wise words of @Tenderiser , make your characters suffer. It's the only way they'll grow. Make them suffer, make them hurt. Make us hate the people hurting them and cheer as your characters overcome their pain (either physical or psychological or both) and curbstomp the pricks inflicting this pain on them. I already like your MC. A determinator, the sort that doesn't quit no matter what. But yeah, as others said, it's all about context. Context will give meaning to your character's suffering so it isn't just misery for misery's sake.
     
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  6. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    Sometimes I feel the same, but no pain is no story.
     
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  7. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Keep in mind though that they must change from this experience in one way or another. If they're exactly the way they were beforehand, then some readers might be put off by it.
     
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  8. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Overboard" is a weird term with fiction. We kind of exist in the realm of "overboard" on purpose - our job is inherently fantastical, especially if you're in the realm of fantasy, sci-fi, horror, action, etc.

    Now, as to being "mean" to your characters - that's OUR JOB. Nobody wants to read a story where everything is fine and stays fine. Novels usually show characters at the most trying moments of their lives, showing us how people overcome big problems (or get consumed by them in the case of tragedies).

    A lot of people will say that you should feel absolutely no moral responsibility to your characters, as that would prevent you from doing horrible things to them and hence make your story worse. I personally am NOT of that school, but there are good writers there - George R.R. Martin being a big one - and those people can spin incredibly twisted and violent tales that tell you a LOT about the human condition.

    Where I come down on it, and where I advise others to come down, is to not engage in sadism against your characters. You can, should, and must do bad things to your character - and remind yourself that they're not real, will never come over for dinner, and probably would punch you in the face if they ever met you. However, that doesn't mean you should always enjoy it - nor should you do it capriciously or "just for fun". First off, capricious violence without meaning holds your story back, just as surely as if you'd purposefully been non-violent. More importantly, avoiding sadism has nothing to do with the characters and everything to do with you as an author.

    It really doesn't matter if a character suffers and dies a horrible death - again, they're not real. However, they are real in our minds. Writers and readers both relate to characters as if they are real people. If you find yourself deriving enjoyment or giddiness from the suffering and pain of a character - rather than the overcoming of that pain - that's the point at which you should stop. Again - that's not because the character is suffering....they can't suffer...but because sadism is always bad.

    Satisfaction should come from the character's REACTION to suffering, not from watching suffering itself. As long as you're on the right side of that line - and your question indicates your are - write away.
     
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  9. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Depends how you do it. And whether or not it turns your character into a whiner or into a fighter. Plus there should be some balance - successes, triumphs, celebrations.
     
  10. Renee J
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    Renee J Contributing Member

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    At the opposite end of nothing bad happening, is when too much bad happens. The terrible things should advance the plot. If the story is just "here is a character, now look at all the bad stuff that happens to them," it won't be a good story (in my opinion).
     
  11. Kata_Misashi
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    Kata_Misashi Active Member

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    That moment when you think your characters would hate for putting them through all the s*#t we write them in :superthink:
     
  12. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    No.
     
  13. Masterspeler
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    Compare to one of mine...History is changed so the timeline was altered. All this character has is just a feeling that things arent right. She was a captain at a top secret research facilty. (think Skunk Works, Lockheed, Area 51) She's got an IQ of the charts which follows her to the new altered timeline. She returns from first contact with one alien species only to be caught up in their war against another species. (The first and only species other than humans in world) She loses half her crew but returns victorious only to be shot in the face by another character.

    With time changed, shes a prostitute against her will. She has been for many years to the point she sees how she had been broken, no will, no self esteem, and on top of it, intellect to realize her situation, and knowing she should be more.

    Then on top of this suck salad, sprinkle on the bacon bits (I love Archer) of having beligerant aliens attack Earth, being far more powerful in the changed timeline, as Earth was no longer a power, and the shift in the galactic balance let the aliens progress.

    But things to get better for the poor gal, and she finds cojones, that she cuts off one of the bad guys (figuratively!)

    Now do you think you're too mean? In fact, now I wonder a) if all of you are crying over that poor womans luck and b) thinking "Dear God, what is wrong with you for conjuring up something like that?!"

    AB
     

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