1. Phoenix Hikari
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    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

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    Is such MC More likely to be hated than liked?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Phoenix Hikari, Feb 26, 2012.

    I'm starting on a new novel, finished first chapter and my MC is fully formed in my head.

    He's a 16 years old boy, cares about no one and nothing. He's mischievous and vengeful. His complexity comes from his father's early death and his physically and emotionally abusive uncle (With whom he lives) and his mother who he thinks isn't trying to make life better for him. His family is supported by his uncle who enjoys reminding him of that and humiliating him. So he seeks to take revenge from his uncle by blowing up his car-sale garage.

    Anyway, it's a fantasy based story so he's going to obtain a kind of power later on in the story but he's going to remain angry and cold. He'll like a girl who doesn't like his nature and then discovers that he merely liked her because she's his opposite. He only have one friend who understand his reasons for being the person he is.

    The thing is he will change, slowly but notably, through out the story. He'll remain angry and cold though, secretive and closed.

    I was wondering, would that make him a hated MC? I don't want people to hate him, just maybe feel they can relate to him in some way.
     
  2. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    It's hard to tell based on this. It depends on how you write him. For instance, his voice. Does the narration voice come across as friendly (despite his negative outlooks) or really bitter? Also, does he go through the whole book acting angsty and full of overemotion ("emo")? If so, he will likely annoy lots of readers.

    For instance, although the narrator of "Catcher in the Rye" had a very negative outlook, I still actually liked him because his voice sounded like a real person who could be kind and likeable.
     
  3. Phoenix Hikari
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    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

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    He is not really 'emo', he has a very strong, controlling personality that causes many people to either fear or follow him. He's not wiped up, he doesn't fall into his emotions or weep about them but merely seek mischief and hurt unintentionally. I don't think he sounds friendly because usually those around him fear him for his cold tone and quick anger.

    He simply would do anything and take out anyone to achieve what he wants.

    Thanks for the feedback!
     
  4. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I generally don't like controlling people, but this probably applies more to real life than to fiction for me. If his motivations are relatable, I think you'll be fine.
     
  5. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Give him a soft spot. Something to which even he can't remain cold and angry, but that most people won't see. Like, maybe he has a dog or another pet that he really cares about and take good care of, or some other thing/activity or something that means a lot to him. I think the kind of character you describe need something like that to make people relate to him better. and it doesn't have to affect the way he treat people.
     
  6. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, make him like kittens or something :D
     
  7. TheWritingWriter
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    TheWritingWriter Senior Member

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    LOL @ Jazzabel. Make him like kittens. You silly goose, you.
    & I know I would dislike a character like that, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, in books, movies, & TV shows, there are characters that everyone just loves to hate.
     
  8. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    This lacks consistency. He can't "care about... nothing" and be "angry". If he's angry then he cares about someone/something in some way, shape or form otherwise he wouldn't have an emotional reaction to it.
     
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  9. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ok, fine, I was being facetious :D But seriously, I think you (OP) don't have to worry about "making" your readers love your character. If you feel for him/her, and know them as a person, you don't have to explain anything to the audience, they'll respond to the character the way you intend them to, as long as you general prose is well-written. People like to make up their minds, and usually try to like the protagonist. So I'd say, don't worry, just write them as a real person, and leave it up to the readers.
     
  10. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think at a further thought I agree with Yoshiko: how can he be so angry if he doesn't care about anything? Maybe he doesn't care about anyone, but to be angry he must care about something. Otherwise he would just be indifferent, I guess.
     
  11. Phoenix Hikari
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    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

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    Thank you everyone for responding.

    I do see your point and I’m considering it. I was thinking that he might tend to like to draw/sketch and vent about his inner conflicts through that. Other than that I considered a dog as a pet… not a cat xD that would be so unbalanced. Lol

    Agree, I think he’s just too complicated and deep for me to explain him in few sentences. He’s bitter but in a collected kind of way, he doesn’t show how bitter he is because he tends to react with coldness and indifference towards others. For example, one time one of those who form his gang got injured but when he found him and conversed to him no emotions were shown, he didn’t care whether that person lived or died.

    His anger usually fire up with his mother and uncle because he’s fed up with the way they treat him. Don’t get him wrong though, just because his uncle abuses him doesn’t mean he’s damaged and ‘emo’, he’s totally in control because he’s angry with his circumstances. He wants to have his revenge from the world for taking everything away from him, but without sounding cheesy.

    It’s too complicated. xD
     
  12. Kseniya
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    Kseniya New Member

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    I agree about giving him a soft spot, sort of, but not if loving his kitten or any breathing thing will be inconsistent to the story, as it seems it would.
    Rather than a soft spot, I'd try more a chink in his armor. An armor is how I perceive all that anger and coldness. It tends to be a way to stay in control. The angrier he is... perhaps the harder his battle to stay in control? So, what would make this clear and make him terribly human is a momentary lapse. Or maybe the memory of a lapse? Maybe when he was younger and abused, he didn't react to it as coldly as he does now and maybe his old reaction is now perceived as pathetic or terrifying and he will stop at nothing to make sure he is never turned into a weak person or a victim again? Or maybe he saw his mother become a victim and never wants to be like that? Anyway, as I write all this, I think something from his past would do well enough, but it would not be nearly as succinct and powerful as an incident in his present. Perhaps he sees something awful or meets someone really good (a girl?) and has a twinge of feeling, which makes him panic and suppress it as fast as he can. That can be done in a few sentences, very quickly, but from them on the reader would know how important it is for him not to slip. So, in the future, when something similar happens and he acts coldly and inhumanely, the reader won't need to be told what's happening inside him at that moment.
     
  13. Erato
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    Erato Contributing Member

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    If you tell the story in the first person, the audience will sympathize; in the third person, the audience will sympathize less. If you don't want him to be hated the reader must be taken into his mind. Don't try to show everything about him, because as we all know, we see ourselves differently than others see us. Tell what he sees and show the rest by what he says and how people react to it. This is difficult, so if it's easier to reveal his character in the third person, that's perfectly acceptable.
     
  14. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    If he's "totally in control", as you say, he wouldn't be angry and have a quick temper. The whole point of an "anger problem" is that you cannot control your anger. If he is living in anger because of his circumstances - no matter the way he lets it out - then he is not in control. If he's in control, he wouldn't be angry. You experience anger when either, 1. you don't get what you want (so lack of control) or 2. something happens to you that is unjust, unfair (which is again, a lack of control over your circumstances).

    And if he has such cool control over his expressions of emotions, then he wouldn't be an angry person. To be an angry person you'll need to react in anger, which is a loss of control.

    Now to your original question - just write him. I wrote my MC and in the end, heck he was too emo and now I'll just have to go back with a rewrite and tone down his emo-ness and flesh out the other aspects of his character more. But basically, what I'm saying is, quit worrying, get writing, and once you have a draft, you'll see all the flaws and then you can get busy tweaking, correcting and rewriting until he is NOT a character your readers would hate :D Get all the negatives of your character out in the air first, and then rewrite rewrite rewrite! That's why we have first drafts :D
     
  15. Phoenix Hikari
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    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

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    Interesting, you described him better than I did. xD

    Well, he does encounter many situations that rock his inner emotions and make him change and perceive things differently. He comes to realize how mistaken he was and how awfully he has reacted to his situation. There are also going to be many times in which he experiences a flashback, or the plot switches to the past to show key events that formed his personality. He shall meet a girl and she will be the main reason he changes.

    I don’t really like telling the story in the first person. I’d rather watch than narrate, if you know what I mean. Besides my English isn’t so polished that it’d help me do that.
    I also think that using the first person might make him less mysterious which is not something I want. I enjoy how incomprehensible he is sometimes.

    That’s a fairly good point! His anger though, is not a fire-up, shouting and spitting kind of anger. It’s more like a menacing kind of anger, people fear him and stay away from him because he threatens them with his manner of speaking and acting. Just like I said before, he doesn’t care if a comrade lives or dies, he’s angry but he enjoys it.

    I seem to understand him more and more as you guys keep bringing up flaws and possibilities. Thank you!
     
  16. Jowettc
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    Jowettc Contributing Member

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    He sounds like a spoilt little jack-ass and I hate him already. Is he going to learn anything during this or be permanently mired in his own self-indulgent world - which it sounds like he is?

    If he is a bully - which it sounds like he is - why would anyone want to identify / understand / sympathise with him and where is the character progession? I'm not sure it matters whether we like or dislike him at the start, the middle or the end as long as there is some progress in his character from a point to another point.

    I read a very well written book this weekend about a drug addict / alcoholic criminal in rehab and the journey he has there. He isnt a likeable character and he's a bit of a jackass himself but he eventually understands why he is the way he is and vows to change it - but i still think the guy is a bit of jackass. Did that bother me - no it did not. American Psycho goes to the other extreme and turns the MC into a complete nutbar and did that bother me - no it did not. It does not matter what the MC is as long as the story goes somewhere - but yes - I hate your MC.
     
  17. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    This is an extremely good point. His anger (whether he shows it publicly or not) indicates that he does, in fact, care, even if that's the opposite of the image he strives to give off to those around him.

    If the root of his anger is something people can relate to or empathize with, then yes, he'll be relatable. It's very natural to like a character, even if you'd hate their actions in real life, if you can empathize with where they're coming from. The only time I'd hate a character despite their motivations is if they do something awful, like rape or seeking to violate someone's basic rights.
     
  18. jeffm
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    jeffm Member

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    What motivates him? If he doesn't care about anyone or anything then what drives him to do anything? Usually that type of person is a downtrodden street rat who only cares about survival and may not even know why they try to survive. This can work as a diamond in the rough character, but they have to have some way to show off that they shine. This means heart of gold, Strong moral fiber, or some other heroic trait to make them better then a simple bum.

    You mention he's in a gang, why? Does he want to control the gang? Does he want power? You make him seem to care about the people in the Gang, why does he care about them and nothing else? Doe he need the gang at some level? Like surrogate family? Did they save him? Is he beholden to them? Does he just do what he's told? If so then he doesn't sound in control.

    Who is he angry at? The world? The people that killed his parents? Does he want revenge? If so then at least that's something that drives him.

    It sounds a lot like you are just describing Batman. That's not a bad archetype to base something on, but you need more motivations then just brooding and anger. Batman at least has a sense of justice. That thirst for justice is what drives him to be a hero. All heroes have a drive, that's what makes them heroic. If he didn't have that motivation he'd just be an emo rich kid that would have found some way to kill himself by the time he was 15. That's not to say the batman isn't trying to to just that, but his sense of justice keeps him in check and prevents him from becoming too self destructive, and that conflict is where good story comes from.

    If you just do brooding you end up with a boring character that ether just gets pushed around or is a complete jerk to everyone he meets. Nobody likes those kinds of people and your readers won't be able to relate to him. If a reader can't relate in some way to a main character then they have no emotional investment in what he/she does and then your story doesn't matter.

    I think you need to answer a lot of the questions about why the character does what he does and that will give you a better sense of who he is.

    One of the best things about character development I've heard recently was;
    "What does each character want, and what does each character need".

    Knowing those 2 things will help you understand why a character does what they do and end with a much more believable person. Having the character find out that what they want is not what they need is a good story element and leads the reader on a good journey of character development.
     
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  19. JPGriffin
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    JPGriffin Senior Member

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    I'd love to see a story about self-discovery, which is what I'm picking up from your description, and one of my favorite books takes your idea in a 180-degree turn. You learn to love the character at first, but as he becomes corrupted, then you WANT to love him- the idea is to conflict the reader over the character. Why does this work? The reader will remember the character's roots, and where they came from, and seeing that past will want them to love him. They keep looking into the character, looking for that light, but as the author draws the character further and further in, the reader only looks deeper, until *clink* they can't get enough.

    Sorry for the digression, but it might help. In your case, the idea is to give the reader something to love right off the bat (or is it back? Gah... darn culture...). Their first impression WILL last, and if you reveal this "soft spot" early on, before you go too far deep into his darker side, then you'll have them hooked, for the same reason above. I wouldn't worry too much about the relationship, just be aware that if you introduce the love interest too early, readers will love THAT character over your MC, assuming that character will be a happy-go-lucky ray of sunshine.

    I'd save the love-to-hate idea for someone you'd describe as "wicked," not "conflicted," because conflicted means that readers can choose either way; a truly heinous character with some odd trait will do the trick for the aforementioned concept. To make a very good example, if anyone here's played the video game series "Portal," the main villain (GLADoS) has this cynical sense of humor and constantly insults the player in the most polite fashion possible; to say it did the trick is an understatement. Without the politeness or the humor, she would just be another villain trying to kill you.

    I apologize for the length and indirect points, but hopefully something here helps!
     
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  20. Phoenix Hikari
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    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

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    I did say this before:
    He’s not a bully or a jack-ass. I’m not writing it in a way that only shows how he’s bad but also how he’s good at heart. He’s just masking his own personality.
    It’s not a real gang but merely a bunch of kids he gathered around him from school. He’s their leader and he needs them because having them around makes him feel less lonely, even though he’s not nice to them and doesn’t really care about their welfare (or so he implies).

    He’s driven by revenge from his uncle, that’s why he blows up the sales garage but he’s not a batman. xD
    I really just wanted to go into a different level with this character. He’s not a hero, just a person who’s striving to find himself, find his purpose and on the way realizes how important it is to have human ties and that he should show emotions because they don’t make him weak at all if they were well balanced.
    Actually, the more I look at him the more he seems to resemble people I know in real life.

    Indeed, that was what I was aiming for. He goes through rapid periods of change to see what he couldn’t see at the beginning of the story. Thanks for picking on that. =)


    I am not sure he’s hate-able now but maybe merely difficult to understand for the reader. His universe is formed inside his inner conflicts.
     
  21. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    Reading this, and your other responses in this thread, does not imply to me that he is a complicated character but instead it is giving me the impression that his creator does not understand him well enough yet.

    Out of curiosity, if you had to describe this character in 15 words or less (in a complete sentence) what would you say?
     
  22. jeffm
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    jeffm Member

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    It is interesting that you have responded to most questions about the character with more examples of what he does in various situations and little about why he does them. From what you have said about his motivations it sounds more like he wants power and respect and is willing to do anything to get them, except earn them. If you are going to give him actual power somewhere in the story, what will prevent him from just wrecking havoc on the society he loathes? This sounds more like a super-villain not an anti-hero. If you have him make radical changes to his outlook and reactions in the story with out something to explain why in the back-story or character description then those changes will come across as forced and weak.

    I agree with Yoshiko, I do not think you know this character very well yet.

    To me is sounds like you have fallen into a trap I have found myself in. You have a series of situations where you know how you want the character to react and are trying to construct the character around those reactions. This can lead to unbelievable or boring characters.

    I think you need to ask yourself this; What about this character makes my reader interested in his adventures?

    If the reader is not interested, they will have no reason to read.

    Once you can answer that then you will have a better idea of who this guy is and you will be more confident about him.
     
  23. Phoenix Hikari
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    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

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    I agree that I might not be in full view of his character yet but this thread has actually brought me a long way now. I tried to write a biography for his character, as I will do for the other characters. It helps... A LOT!

    Here are the 15 words:

    Angry, conflicted with confusion about justice, shielding his inner-self with a mask of coldness and indifference. <-------- that's how I see him right now, after sitting for 2 hours trying to grasp his actions.

    @jeffm: He's not gonna inflect havoc on the world he hates because when he's given powers, they will cost him so much it'll bring him down to his knees. His heart will be broken by a very big event that he'll look down at himself for all he has done and seek to rectify it.

    I think what will be interesting about Kael, Kain, Ken or whatever his name is (haven't decided yet), is that he is mysterious. He can turn events to suit him and yet fall down when things turn against him. But he still gets up and try to correct what he has done.

    I like him very much, and I think the readers will learn a lot from him.

    These responses have really opened my eyes and motivated me to work more on this character. It's getting really fun. =D
     
  24. jeffm
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    jeffm Member

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    Writing should be fun, Best of luck with fleshing him out :)
     
  25. Joey Batz
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    Joey Batz Member

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    The problem with this character is that it's so easy to screw up. Even if a character has a tragic past, that alone won't allow a reader to forgive and enjoy a perpetually miserable, unlikeable character. Oftentimes, an author will give readers a "checklist" of reasons for their reasons to be cold/angry/vengeful/whatever. He lost his parents in a fire? Check? Just witnessed his girlfriend tortured to death by a gang? Check. Raped? Check. But then it will be nothing but an excuse, something added into the backstory so that they can write their beloved "dark and tormented" character that has no redeeming qualities in the eyes of a normal, average human being (which is what the readers tend to be made up of).

    Sometimes the tragic backstory can work if the character remains dark, but still working for a positive goal. Spider-Man and Batman are two very prominent examples. Being nothing but a juvenile delinquent that would be better off being thrown off a bridge isn't really going to capture the audience's attention as much. Oh, your daddy didn't love you enough? Well, that still doesn't make me forgive you for burning down that orphanage and gloating about it on Twitter.

    If you're a really skilled writer, this can work. But from what you're telling us in your OP, I don't see this character as someone the audience can relate to. An audience can relate to a flawed character, that much is true--in fact, I think they're more likely to relate to a flawed character than a perfect one because no one is perfect in real life--but only if the character also has good qualities to balance it out. A character with no redeeming qualities whatsoever (you even said that after his character development, he'll still remain pretty much unlikeable) is not someone the average person will relate to.

    The closest thing I can see to a character like this that would actually work is a Macbeth-type character; if your character rises to power through treacherous means (and, of course, whatever ACTUAL power you're going to give him) and then, once obtained, drives away everything and everyone that he wanted, thus making all his power meaningless, then that could work. He could still stay cold and angry, but the audience will learn through him the mistakes of being such a person and will thus relate to him (he must learn from his mistakes too, even if it's too late for him to change). Going from douche to slightly-less-of-a-douche isn't character development. What you're describing sounds to me more like Bella from Twilight; she's unlikeable and emotionally cold (except, I assume, to her whiny vampire boyfriend and the werewolf with a phobia of shirts), and the readers are supposed to relate to her BECAUSE of those qualities? It doesn't happen, and your character is sounding like a somewhat modified version of that. Of course, that's what I gather the very broad and brief beta-outline that you wrote, so take what I said with a grain of salt. After all, you know your character a lot better than I do. But from your concept, I don't have high hopes of such a character being liked.

    Also, the fact that he's sixteen might make him more unlikeable. You know how people just don't like child actors, and teenagers tend to be whiny. A teenager will think that his problems are the end of the universe, when at that age your problems don't really matter. So again, you may see a dark and tormented character, but the reader will see nothing but endless wangsting. Just like Bella from Twilight! See what I'm saying?
     

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