1. Meteor
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    Meteor Active Member

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    Indifferent characters vs. compassionate characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Meteor, Aug 21, 2013.

    Hello everyone and thank you for taking the time to read/reply to this thread if you so choose.


    I'm here today to ask about how your typical good guy should react to someone whose indifferent towards things like killing and death. For example, one of my characters was thrust into a world of war at the age of seventeen. It horrorfied him, broke him down and the only way he was able to get over it was to essentially turn off his compassion. Seven years down the road he meets another character who is basically the opposite and I'm not sure what to do with them. Should I make them angry at one another over conflicting veiws? Should I make my compassionate character passive and understanding towards how my indifferent character feels? I'm just a little lost here. On that note both characters are warriors. Any help would be greatly appreciated and thank you again!
     
  2. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Just look at married couples. Some are completely opposite in terms of views and opinions, and even what they like. But they love one another, and it doesn't matter what the other one thinks if that is so. Of course you'd get arguments between them, but I wouldn't go so far as to say they wouldn't get along.

    I'm not saying your characters should be in love! I'm just saying that they could easily be friends. Ask people you know how they resolved their differences, or whether they simply ignored it altogether. Having said that, is the indifferent thing vital to your plot? If no, then fine. If yes, then you'll have to dig much deeper in terms of relationships and arguments. But there are plenty of libraries and websites, so you're all good. ;)

    Hopefully this helps.
     
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  3. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    How would you react upon meeting and when spending time with a person who isn't compassionate, ie. doesn't give a crap about human suffering? Would you ask them "why"? Would you right out condemn them? Confront them? Calmly or aggressively? And why calmly? Why aggressively? Would you try to change them? Or would you think, "well, as long as their views don't hurt anyone, whatevs"?

    How realistic do you want it to be? Fry is Bender's best friend, yet most of the time Bender doesn't give a crap and wants to kill all humans -- except Fry.

    If the good guy has seen war, s/he'd understand where that indifference is coming from, and perhaps s/he'd try to help that person to feel compassion again. With indifference comes plenty of ugly feelings too; bitterness, hopelessness, self-hatred, etc. The good guy might not want the indifferent person suffer with such demons.

    Just my 2 cents.
     
  4. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    The first thing I find my self thinking is: Since you've already established that one character is compassionate, it would be natural for him to have some degree of empathy and understanding, so if there is to be conflict from his side you'd need to have good reason or create one hell of a misunderstanding.

    Are there plot elements that are likely to cause a wedge between the two? Are there choices to made made that sets one against the other? Are they likely to cause minor bickering or "Have at ye!" swords at dawn kinda repercussions?

    In the case of the character who lost his compassion, what does he see when he looks at the other? Does he see a soft, naive fool, or does he harbour secret admiration that his counterpart has come through hard times without compromising who he is? And while I'm on the subject, is this even a correct assumption?

    Is it possible that they simply bond because they both recognise traits in each other that have undergone a full 360? Perhaps they see each other how they once were before war changed them.

    I think it really depends on your level of investment in both characters, their relationship, and how you wish to proceed. If it were me, I'd be looking at this from further down the timeline, examining both characters' roles and working back. Would the end justify the means? Is your story going to benefit from some extra aggro, trust issues or worse, or would it better suited to a bit of sturdy camaraderie and understanding? It's possible that the plot might even benefit from choosing not to expand their relationship in too much detail, leaving the reader wondering as to the true nature of it.
     
  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    "Whose indifferent" should be, "who's indifferent."

    If it is a contraction for who is, use the apostrophe. If it is the possessive, (Whose toy is it?"), then use whose.

    As for my opinion on the characters, each can do either. People come in all shades. Think what you want the characters to be like and make them that way.
     
  6. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    For me it depends entirely on the scene. The compassionate character could have empathy but not sympathy for the indifferent character meaning he understands but doesn't agree. And compassionate people aren't always oozing understanding sometimes the situation calls for some righteous anger. Likewise the indifferent character, maybe he doesn't want to be indifferent - does he stick up for his actions but underneath wants to get back to feeling again?

    Let the scenes help dictate their interaction never let it go stagnate or think of
    them soley as the 'compassionate' character vs the 'indifferent' character. Focus
    on the characters goals and let their personalities shine through their opinions, conversations
    and choices.

    I've known some pretty indifferent people in my time - they've been cold, moody, provoking and angry but one had been known to snuggle a pet dog and fall asleep with it in his arms. People are never just one thing.
     
  7. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd need more detail about your definition of compassion. Does his lack of compassion affect his direct constructive actions, or just his reactions? To put it another way, is the difference between the two characters primarily in how they emote, or in what they actually do and get done?

    For example, I've heard people complain that someone--their husband, sister, mother, whatever--didn't seem upset upon hearing about a tragedy like a major earthquake, and didn't want to discuss their feelings about it. They felt that that meant a lack of compassion. And I didn't necessarily agree.

    I've always felt that if one person is upset and tearful and flutters around sobbing about the earthquake while doing nothing else, and another person is perfectly calm and even dismissive of the subject as a topic of conversation, but writes a check to help the victims of the earthquake, the second person is showing more compassion. They're just not showing that compassion by emoting.

    So does "indifferent toward killing and death" mean that Compassionate Guy mourns when someone is killed, while Heartless Guy shrugs and walks on by, but the dead guy is still dead either way? Does Compassionate Guy try to prevent the death, and does he succeed? Does Heartless Guy also try to prevent the death, but he just tells himself that it's his job and that he doesn't care?

    Now, I'm not saying that emoting, and empathizing, and comforting people, are never important. But sometimes people seem to evaluate just those things, and ignore concrete actions.

    And, even more dangerously, many people assume that the information communicated by emoting will match the person's actions. And that is very, very frequently not true. The warrior who pats the kid on the head and gives him an encouraging smile may be the one that wants to steal the village's winter food stupply, while the one who grumbles at all these darned grubby shrill kids may be the one that overrides that decision.

    The second guy may genuinely dislike kids, find them deeply annoying, wish that humanity could procreate without needing them, but he may _still_ have a deep ethical standard that keeps him from starving them. While the first guy might genuinely and honestly find kids likable, but not really care about their well-being after he's passed on by.
     
  8. Meteor
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    Meteor Active Member

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    Alright, I suppose its time for a tad bit of extra information on my characters. Loved the replies by the way. Thank you guys!

    When it comes to the case of my main character, the indifferent one, sees the way he is as an essential part of being a warrior. He saves lives, but despises when people try to thank him or praise him for what he's done. He sees his lack of compassion as a necessity to get the job done. He does emote, but has a short temper and it usually leads to him getting angry regardless of the situation and if it calls for anger or not. I also designed him as merciless and quick to take action. Unlike most bad guys I've seen who often wait to long to strike and let the good guy get away he's the opposite. When a fight comes to a close and the enemy isn't completely gone he finishes them immediately, no hesitation or delay. In his mind this prevents any chance someone might come after him for revenge later and get killed anyway, saving himself future trouble.

    In the case of my compassionate character ChickenFreak basically hit the nail on the head. Not so much crying or anything, but she recognizes that the people around her are very much alive. She despises the idea of killing needlessly and often weighs the situation before bringing her weapon to the ready. In some cases she mourns the dead and the very fact that she is killing. She sometimes struggles to believe she's moving towards a better world unless of course the enemy is a ruthless monster literally or hypothetically. An example among beasts would be a giant bull spider running amok and eating people. An example among men would be a power hungry tyrant massacring people through war or oppressing his citizens. I thought about setting her as much more emotional since I figured that would help drive conflict.

    Would prisoners of war make a good conflict? My indifferent guy doesn't take prisoners while my compassionate girl is sometimes eager to take them and even try to befriend them. Using cognitive warfare to get information and even change their mind about the people they're fighting, she's proven successful with few set backs.
     
  9. EmmaWrite
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    EmmaWrite Member

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    I think your compassionate character would at least trying to be outwardly understanding, but no one is perfect and he'll probably be a little turned of and maybe even angry. It depends on how much your withdrawn character shares about his past.
     

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