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  1. Jack Kaiser
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    Jack Kaiser New Member

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    Is this character too much?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Jack Kaiser, Jul 12, 2010.

    I've been having trouble with one of my characters.
    We'll call him James.
    James is one of the central characters, protagonists, and villains of my fictional universe.
    (I write science fiction/fantasy set on earth with an alternate history.)

    I'll be rather brief with his description...
    James fits comfortably in the archetypal "yellow peril" villain.
    He's a tall Chinaman with yellow eyes, Fu-Manchu moustache and beard, and has mystical powers. (The ability to control the weather, create lightning, and pseudo-immortality.)
    James is also the head of an organized crime/terrorist network that eventually becomes a criminal empire with a military as time goes on.

    Now, he fits stereotypically into the Yellow Peril mold, like I said... but he doesn't wear long flowing robes, he doesn't wear a queue, and he doesn't use cliche styles of "Chinese torture" and weapons.

    James and his organization start off as well intentioned extremists who, throughout the nineteenth century, attempt to defy and fight British imperialism, notably in India.
    Although James’s technique of combating European rule in Asia and Africa is extreme and brutal, he genuinely cares about the native people keeping their identities separate from the Europeans.
    This, however, is to change as the years drag on, failure begins to pile, up and the twentieth century nears.
    After World War I, members of the organization begin to question the organization's future.
    James panics, feeling the threat to his power, and brutally purges these questioning members out of the organization and shifts towards heavy nationalism (for the countries he's "fighting for") and ideology. (Fascism/totalitarianism.)
    Once this shift occurs, things start to get a lot more brutal, but victories begin to stack up.

    This is all back story to later be explored.

    James is first introduced somewhere in the middle of my time line, which is set twenty minutes into our future in an alternate universe.
    At this point James has completely lost touch with reality.
    His "immortality" has made him cold and distant to the people around him, he's paranoid, power hungry, and cruel.
    Besides all that, he's begun to believe his own propaganda that he a god-king (that is beyond good and evil) and is destined to cleanse the world with his oppressive ideology.
    His mooks and footmen are convinced of his godhood, but his inner circle are absolutely terrified of him because they seem him for what he really is: a spoiled, trigger happy child who could kill anyone he wants with the wag of his little finger.

    Alongside all those damning traits, James is also a fantastic racist, misogynist, and closet homosexual.
    (Not saying that homosexuality is a damning trait, he just is.)

    So, the plot kicks in and James gets his power.
    James’s organization is given power over a good third or half of the world.
    His empire becomes a totalitarian nightmare.
    Entire nations are burned to the ground, James’s personality cult explodes across the globe, people die by the millions in labor camps so that James’s army can invade the other empire he has to share power with and the organization vows to avenge those who suffered under European imperialism by being oppressive bastards themselves.

    So, anyway, I'm trying to decide whether I've made him too unbelievably fantastic.
    Although he may sound like it, James is not a moustache twirling super villain who is constantly trying to top himself in evil deeds; instead, his act of walking past the moral even horizon and becoming a complete monster is a result of his past and surroundings.
    He begins to see the horrors of imperialism, he wants to fight it, failure begins to stack up, his immortality begins to take a toll on his brain, his power base is threatened, he reacts violently, he gets used to the violence, things begin to go his way, he begins to lose the idea of the value of human life, and then he is given power over millions upon millions of people with only revenge on his mind.
    Everything he does is coming naturally to James, much to the horror of those around him, and everyone is too afraid to stand up to him and, as a result of his propaganda, people begin to see the world through his ideological lens.

    Now, I know James is a complete monster, and isn't the only villain of the story.
    The one standing next to him is also the leader of an empire, but he isn't anywhere near as brutal and is portrayed much more sympathetically.

    I'm not trying to create a sympathetic character out of James; I want to have a character that brings out the hatred from the audience.
    I just want to know if I'm not getting ready to put the finishing touches on an over-the-top Villain Sue who will break the reader's suspension of disbelief.
    (Granted, this story has tons of magic in it along with robot armies and other fantastic things, but if a character is too extraordinary for his own environment then what is the point of writing him?)

    Sorry for any gross grammar mistakes, confusing sentences, or misspellings.
    It's late and I'm tired. v_v
     
  2. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It's impossible to tell if your character is too extreme without having more of the context of the story. If James were to appear in The Catcher In The Rye, then of course he'd be ridiculously over-the-top. But if he were to appear in, say, the Star Wars universe or some comparable fantasy universe, he might fit right in. You're the only one who knows your fantasy world, so you're the only one who can judge whether or not James fits in it.
     
  3. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    If your gut feeling is telling you that he over the top then he probably is.

    If you cant sum him up then less then an page then he probably is. (Compare with other great baddies you can mostly sum them up in 2-3 sentences even for the most well rounded character. Like the GGR Martins different Lannisters.)

    If you only give unsympathetic traits for him and then adds "closet homosexual" this will be seen as you add it as one more thing worth despising. And when you put it in the same context as all the damning traits rather then any neutral or noble or sympathetic traits you make it a damning trait.

    Sorry boy. If your not doing a Marvel comic that is over the top. And even for a superhero genre that would be a boring baddie, a unremarkable oneshoot easily forgotten under layers of demonisation and cliche. Compare with someone well wounded like Magneto, or Dr Doom. etc.
     
  4. Fantasy of You
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    Fantasy of You Banned

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    I'll tell you the same thing I tell my girlfriend.

    If you're not sure, I'm not buying it.
    ...It's too expensive, anyway.

    - Andy
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Why ask us?

    You've written a long and detailed profile, but a profile it remains. It doesn't matter one whit. What matters is how well you have written him, and how well he fits in your story.

    There are many over-the top villains in literature. Some work, some don't, but the credit or blame all rests in the author's lap. A great writer can make the most outrageous character acceptable to the reader.

    The question you should ask yourself is, Can I sell it?
     
  6. JTheGreat
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    JTheGreat Contributing Member

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    I agree with Minstrel, but if you're really not sure, take a Mary Sue litmus test. Those are actually pretty useful and work with male characters as well.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Or not. Take such "tests" with a very large grain of salt.
     
  8. OvershadowedGuy
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    OvershadowedGuy Member

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    I will echo what's been said so far.

    I think if you're asking that might be an indication. Just remember, you are writing fiction, it can be as over-the-top as you want it to be...

    My personal opinion (to give you an answer) is yes, you're character seems like a melting pot of stereotype's and distastefulness. But since you gave a super vague profile I can only go off of that and don't really know one way or the other.
     
  9. Jack Kaiser
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    Jack Kaiser New Member

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    I agree with all of you.
    If I'm unsure, then it's likely I've made him into too much of a ham without any real justifications.
    Since he's such a key character, I should reevaluate his characters, history, goals, and consequences before I really sit down to write him.

    Ha, Mary Sue litmus tests.
    I know those things pretty well.
    Before I posted this thread, I took one to just see what James (and his enemy) would score and they both scored a fifteen/"most likely not a sue".

    Anyway, thanks for the input and I'll keep working on him.
    He's far from perfect, but I really do want to be able to "sell him" to the reader.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    he's both the protagonist and one of several villains?... or did you mean he's one of several antagonists that the protagonist must deal with?
     

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