1. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    Inconsistent Character

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by KhalieLa, Apr 29, 2016.

    I keep getting feedback that one of my characters is inconsistent. However, this comes from the same group that thinks my MC is incapable of picking strawberries on her own because she's "just a woman," so I'm not sure I trust this feedback. Hence, I'm asking all of you.

    Calamity Jane is/was a whore. She has vocational sex in chapters 1, 2 & 4. However, she does not like her job as a whore, so she signs on with Jesse James and the Younger Brothers. By chapter 11 she's well on her way to developing a relationship with Jim Younger. In chapter 14, she and Jim finally have sex.

    It was pointed out in chapter 14 that this was inconsistent behavior for Jane, who displayed an ardent dislike of sex early in the book. I blew off those comment thinking there was a world of difference between vocational and avocational sex, so it would not necessarily be inconsistent to not like one, but enjoy the other.

    I got this feedback again in chapter 17.

    At the beginning of the chapter Jane and Jim head into town on their own and take a room under the guise of a married couple. The village wives notice Jane doesn't wear a ring and the men folk notice Jim is particularly adept at the card tables. Because Jane and Jim seem like an unlikely couple they assume that he won her in a hand of cards, so she isn't really his wife. Lacking a village whore of their own, two men approach Jane and demand sex, if not for pay, then taken by force. Jane refuses to the extent that they find themselves buried in the back forty. However, at the end of the chapter Jane happily snuggles up to Jim, looking forward to a roll in the hay. Unfortunately, there's no time for that because they need to skip town before those bodies are discovered.

    Is this actually inconsistent?
     
  2. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    For me, not at all.

    Speaking personally, I don't like casual embraces or touching but I love it if it comes from my partner. A whore would have to differentiate between what she does/did as her job and what she is emotionally involved with - so no, for me there would be no inconsistency. You just have to explain the character well, but in itself it makes sense to me.
     
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  3. newjerseyrunner
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    newjerseyrunner Contributing Member

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    I don't think so, during major life events, people often act in ways that are inconsistent with their long-term behavior.
     
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  4. halisme
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    halisme Contributing Member Contributor

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    I, I don't think you have a good writing group. They don't seem to understand the difference between sex as a job, a purely financial and physical act, and the emotionally intimate act between two people who have feelings for each other.
     
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  5. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't know exactly how you expressed her dislike for sex early in the book, so maybe it felt generic and you need to make it more specific to disliking sex with someone who isn't a chosen partner. Maybe.

    But re the second example, someone who can't figure out that the same woman can (1) choose to have sex with a partner of her choice and (2) object to being raped, is too stupid to be allowed to go outside on their own.
     
  6. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    I would say that I have the WGFH, but in my quest for other groups I actually managed to find worse. I try to glean what I can from their comments and move on.

    I thought it was a pretty obvious distinction myself. Since sex as work was in the early chapters and I spent the intervening chapters actually developing the relationship I figured it would be okay. Now I wonder if I went wrong somewhere and need to put in more character development in the middle chapters, especially as it comes to her reactions to Jim's dogged persistence.

    I'm glad it makes sense to someone.
    In the early chapters I made it pretty clear that Jane found no joy in paid sex. But then I tried to tease together a relationship with Jim based on trust. The first hint of that comes in chapter 8, four chapters after joining the gang of outlaws. In chapter 10 she cries on his shoulder; Chapter 11 Jim asks if he can hold her and Jane agrees; chapter 12 they discuss the possibility of sex, but as the pill and condoms have yet to be invented, other precautions must be taken, they settle of heavy petting instead; chapter 14 ultimately results in sex.

    I thought that was a slow enough build to, "Hey, these two like each other." Then having her not want sex and want sex in the same chapter apparently confused the heck out of everyone.
     
  7. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    Hm. 'Everyone' is a broad definition. Maybe give out this specific chapter to an Alpha who is not of your critique group? It should be pretty obvious even in this one chapter if it works or not..

    Not to say anything against your group, but I wonder if they are right for you?
     
  8. theoriginalmonsterman
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    theoriginalmonsterman Pickle Contest Administrator Contributor

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    How much time passes between chapter 11 and 14? I think the issue might be your writing group may believe that it's inconsistent for her to have sex with Jim, because such a small time has passed between her being a whore and then developing a relationship with Jim. Depending on the type of character Jane is it might be wise to go back and re-evaluate the relationship between Jim and Jane, but focus more on Jane's perspective of the relationship than Jim's. Perhaps you'll be able to pinpoint details about Jane as a character that don't make sense.

    However, in my personal opinion I don't see what the issue is. Some people are just naturally more adapt to change than others. Maybe make this more obvious about Jane as a character? Although I have no clue how your story really goes, so my opinion may be of no use. These are just some things to think about though.
     
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  9. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    My alpha doesn't think sex belongs in a novel period, so she's not a good judge. And no, it's not the right group for me, but I've yet to find a better one.

    ETA: my Alpha is in chapter 18 of book 2 and still hasn't figured out that one of my characters is gay. Worse, she keeps insisting Jane is sleeping with the gay guy because they share a tent. shakes head.

    the entire book is 21 chapters, approx 110K words, so they are long chapters. Not sure on exact length of time, but it's a while.

    I'm writing in limited 3rd person, everything is from Jane's perspective.

    see below

    @ChickenFreak
    It was along the lines of,
    chapter 2: Jane hated servicing Vlad. He was old and wrinkly and his breath stank, but she needed the money.
    chapter 3: "When I reached the landlord’s place the only snake he had to show me was the one in his trousers." Recounting how she had been violated left Jane emotionally exhausted. She wasn't interested in servicing anyone, regardless of how much they were willing to pay.
    chapter 4: After impressing Cole by effectively using sex as an interrogation technique, she says, “Sex is work. I don't think about it, I just do it. No different than mending a shirt or sharpening a knife.”
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2016
  10. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I'm with pickleman - could be a transitional thing. You either have to develop backstory that she doesn't like sex with clients but her feelings have been stirred by other men and they're stirring for this guy Jim. Or she indifferently agrees to having sex with Jim because she likes him and then grows to appreciate their relationship on a more intimate level.
     
  11. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    No--Jim manages to stir feelings first. Otherwise there would be no sex w/o pay.

    I have a scene somewhere in the middle where she takes a purse off a dead body and Jim says, "You needn't rob the dead as long as I have silver." She rather bluntly refuses him. Later that evening they talk about her feelings regarding sex as an occupation. And he ask, "Does it feel the same when I hold you?" Jane recalls a night when Jim had slipped his arm around her after picketing the horses and admits, "No, it feels different. But I know I can trust you, with other men that isn't the case."
     
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  12. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't read those as a general objection to sex, no. Not even the last one, because she spoke it--if it were a literal thought, I might see it as more general.

    I think that you can't tell whether this is a real problem until you have readers who aren't, well, idiots.
     
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  13. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Seriously, just quit that writing group. I don't belong to any and it's fine, you can still write, and you can still get critiques and betas! If all fails and you really want one, start one online to widen your net. Just please, quit that group! Getting poor feedback like that can be more damaging than not getting feedback at all.
     
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  14. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    The difference between consistent and inconsistent is motivation and reward. Give Jane (I'm assuming we're inside her head at some point?) a good enough reason for wanting to sleep willingly with Jim and readers will accept it.

    With that in mind:
    What does she want/expect to get from sleeping with Jim?
    Make it clear that she won't get that from sleeping with anyone else.
     
  15. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    And yet, my demons hold me back. I've yet to find a better group, trust me, I've tried. Sending copies of my work anywhere electronically terrifies me.

    During graduate school my major professor submitted one of my term papers to a journal under his name. I didn’t know until I was searching journal articles for a subsequent project and came across my paper. Imagine the gut wrenching feeling that comes from seeing my work published sans my name. Thankfully, I still had the graded paper in my possession. It took 3 months of mediation with the school’s ombudsman and the journal to get his name removed and replaced with mine. So, with that demon in my past, I've been dealing exclusively in paper.

    I've shared snippets with @Lifeline and the world didn't end. :) I got some good feedback, but it's baby steps. I've got trust issues when it comes to intellectual property. As the saying goes, once bitten, twice shy.
     
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  16. Greenwood
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    Greenwood Active Member

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    Haven't read the whole thread, but my 2 cents.

    This isn't inconsistent at all. I'm not a whore, and neither am I a woman, but still;
    I can imagine there is a huge difference between having sex for profession or having it with someone you actually like. A salesman may hate his daytime job of selling computers, but may be passionate about any off-time selling of books or jewelry, just to come up with an example. Just because your character doesn't really like to have sex for money with men she doesn't know does not mean she cannot like sex with a guy that she actually cares about. If your writing group can't understand this, you might want to think about switching your audience. Character inconsistency can be a major fault in writing, but that only is so when the motivations, goals, or events in that characters life are actually inconsistent. When it is emotions and feelings though, humans are complex, and any good writing group should at least be able to realize this. I say you go for it, there is nothing wrong with this in my opinion!

    Edit PS: And if that group really sends signals like "It's just a woman", they are probably some frustrated geeks that haven't spend enough time with women to realize that women are actually human. This should set off all alarms in my opinion. I mean, it's a writers group for crying out loud. What is a writer that can't emphasize with both sides of the human sexes? If this is really what these guys say, I rest my case..
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2016
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  17. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    Okay this is more difficult.
    Jane doesn't want or expect anything from Jim; she not looking for love, a husband, a sugar daddy or what-have-you. Yes, she finds him devilishly handsome, but that's not a reason to hop in the sack. Jim is pretty blunt about wanting in her panties. Paid or unpaid, he'd take it either way. Beyond that, he gifts her things she does not expect; trust, respect, friendship, etc. All things she did not get while working as a whore.

    What kinds of things could Jane want from Jim that could only be acquired by bedding him and not his companions? I'm apprehensive about reducing this to some form of quid pro quo because that just feels like another form of whoring, which is what Jane is trying to avoid?
     
  18. Mikmaxs
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    Mikmaxs Active Member

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    In short, what everyone has said. This does not sound inconsistent, it sounds like your writing group doesn't understand how females work.
     
  19. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    70+ year-old unpublished asses who haven't gotten laid since the 1960's.
    Sorry couldn't resist.
     
  20. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't like the quid pro quo idea. Well, except if I turn it to say that the thing that she can only get from Jim is: Sex with a person that she likes, trusts, and finds attractive. The sex that she dislikes is sex with people that she doesn't like or trust or find attractive. But most people are wired to want sex, so the fact that it's been tarnished in other contexts doesn't mean that the appeal is entirely lost on her.
     
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  21. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sounds like you need to go for a long walk and think outside the box. All the reasons you listed are standard reasons we see in a lot of stories, clichés if I may be allowed to go that far and it makes sense you want to stay away from them.

    I do my best not to make direct suggestions to other writers because I think half the fun is coming up with ideas on your own. Your ideas will always have a bit of you in them whereas mine will always be tainted with bits of me. That's why I encourage you to find the answer on your own. Then it's yours and you'll be far more proud of the solution.
     
  22. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    This feels a bit too rational for me. Jane's previous sex has been transactional, but you want to distinguish the current situation from the past.

    In so far as you need a rational motivation, I'd say Jane's question isn't what she can get from Jim that she can't get from the others, it's what can she get from Jim that she can't get from herself. Right? She's not been kidnapped by aliens and forced to chose one man to have sex with; she's a free agent, and she's chosing between sex with Jim and not sex at all. And then her big character realization can be that sex doesn't have to be about getting something for herself, it could be about giving something to him. He's discouraged or sad or otherwise in need of comfort and as a sign of her character maturation she offers it to him, no strings attached. And then, I assume, she finds out she actually enjoys sex when it's being treated as a gift rather than a transaction?
     
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  23. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't follow this. Why does a character need fancy reasons to have sex, if that decision isn't a core part of the story? Sex is a part of many people's lives. It doesn't need an extra excuse to exist. If it is a core part of the story, that's different, but I see no reason why this character couldn't have always enjoyed sex with chosen partners.

    Characters wear shoes because they're expected, and because otherwise the ground makes their feet hurt. Those are standard reasons, and you could argue that they're cliches. But most authors don't come up with some other reason for their characters to wear shoes.
     
  24. Sack-a-Doo!
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    I'm guessing you haven't known many prostitutes.

    And I wasn't saying the reason had to be fancy, per se, it just has to be a reason the average person wouldn't come up with. Prostitutes aren't average people.
     
  25. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    @BayView
    I did something like that in Chapter 14. Jane gives Jim a blow on his birthday. He insists on returning the favor. Orgasm is not a thing Jane generally experiences during sex, because, occupationally, her pleasure is not required. However, Jim leaves her satisfied. Jane wakes the following morning snuggled up beside him and initiates sex. (I’ve always pictured Jane as a sex-in-the-morning kind of person because sex at night is too much like work.) After all, she likes him, trust him, finds him attractive, he's capable of bringing her pleasure, and here he is naked beside her, so why not?

    Bingo! Consensual sex is fun, because unlike clients, Jim is just as interested in bringing her pleasure as she is satisfying him.
    But how do you get this on the page in a way that readers can understand? Just because a woman doesn’t want to be a whore doesn’t mean she doesn’t want sex. How do you make it clear that sex with Jim is fun, prostitution is not?


    @ChickenFreak
    That’s why I’m struggling. This book isn’t a romance, I have other things going on for the main plot. I need them to have sex in order for things to neatly align with the rest of the plot later, but this is not the be-all, end-all of the book.

    I don’t mind clichés. Clichés work well for the audience, that’s how they came to be cliché.
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2016
  26. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    What POV are you in? If hers, you can just have her thinking about it - thinking about her clients with resignation or disgust, and then thinking about how things are different with Jim. I don't think it's a point that needs to be belaboured--it seems pretty obvious, really, kind of like the "woman can like sex without liking rape" thing.

    Honestly, my instinct on this is that either you're fine as you are and this was just another example of your readers being less than optimal, or, alternatively, that you might have overstated the "hates sex" part at the start of the story. I feel like there's enough of a societal bias in favour of sex that most readers would accept that she enjoys it, unless they were told, really too clearly, that she doesn't.
     

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