1. CMastah
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    CMastah Active Member

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    Kind of worried about my two mcs

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by CMastah, Aug 21, 2015.

    Well it's not just my two MCs to be honest but I'll start with THAT problem:

    My male MC was always going to be written to be a crippled scholar who's quite cowardly. He's got a good heart, and almost always steps in to save lives when he can (even of strangers). Before he becomes crippled, he even refuses to learn how to fight (and this is a fantasy world where a fight could happen at any moment) because the thought of violence or committing it fills him with dread. He would never step up to any violent challenge and wouldn't defend his pride if it meant getting hit.

    The female MC on the other hand is going to be written to be a capable combatant and eagerly learns to fight. She would never back down from a fight and has a very strong personality compared to the male MC and won't accept a bad word to be said of her. She's ready to put her life on the line change a status quo she's against (the same scenario happens to the male MC but he chooses to run from it instead) and she even goes on a quest to change it. Overall, there's supposed to be a contrast between her bravery and his cowardice.

    My original plan was to have one story that switched back and forth between each, but after I was done writing the novel, my beta readers (the adults among them, I've yet to hear from the teenager (and there's only three readers total)) told me the characters don't act believably and the side characters are badly designed (I actually agree, I was so concerned with following the plot that I realized too late that ALL the characters were written badly, to write them accurately would require a complete re-write of the story).

    I've decided instead to write each character to their own story (until their stories converge later on) and to explore each one individually (as it stands I've got two MCs and eight secondary characters. The MCs aren't written well and the secondary characters are all acting in a way that serves the plot rather than following their own individual motivations). My worry here is that if I don't nail the male MC down correctly that the readers may get put off with his cowardly and pacifist ways, is this worry valid?

    The other issue is that I failed to design my side characters properly.....actually I failed completely at it.
     
  2. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    We all like a character that does something, as opposed to sitting around and having things happen to them by chance. Your male MC falls in the former category; the right category. He doesn't sit by and watch, he acts. It doesn't matter that his action is running away, it's still an action. Not every character has to be bold and fearless and brave. Wouldn't Harry Potter lose some of its magic if everyone was a Gryffindor?

    What you need is a convincing motivation for his cowardice. Why does he choose to run whereas your other MC chooses to fight? She needs a convincing motivation too, by the way. We don't accept characters' actions, brave or cowardly, without question. Both of them need to be well developed.

    I do think your readers will expect him to "man up" at the end and do something brave. We expect each main character to undergo a story arc: selfish to generous, angry to forgiving, headstrong to thoughtful and considered, cowardly to brave.

    If you really get to know him and give him convincing motivations for his actions, I don't think his cowardice will be a problem.
     
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  3. crowtv
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    crowtv New Member

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    the way I write (and this is definitely a double edged sword, but it's what works for me) is plot being an extension of character, not the other way around. I couldn't imagine being so focused on the plot I lose sight of character, but I suppose it's somewhat different in fantasy.
    If you have your character well established and developed in your mind, and write according to what they would do, you'll have a good plot no matter what. That applies to side characters too. how many fantasy stories have a defining moment be a minor-ish "good/neutral" character betraying the protagonists/a minor ish "evil/status quo" character betraying the antagonists? it's character and growth (as Tenderiser said) that satisfies the reader. imo, and again it's different with fantasy, the amazing plot should be almost an afterthought, you cant have a good story without good characters. so, his cowardice IS a problem, thats the point; it's the problem he must face to grow.
    sorry that was so badly articulated, im very tired haha. good luck!
     
  4. CMastah
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    CMastah Active Member

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    @crowtv , I originally came up with the story and characters LONG before I started to put anything down on paper, so at the time a lot of stuff made sense but then I forgot the how and they why and just remembered the overall plot. As for the cowardice, I'd been hoping to make him a lovable coward. As his life goes on, secrets begin to be revealed to him and he actually takes a darker path and becomes a hateful person (though hopefully someone the readers can sympathize with).

    @Tenderiser , The other MC (the brave girl) becomes brave because she has someone who pushes her to be self confident and gutsy. The boy on the other hand was supposed to have been adopted and raised by hard and uncompassionate folk and he never gets any self confidence (there's supposed to be a clear contrast between how the two are raised and who they become because of it).
     
  5. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Just reading through this thread quickly, it strikes me that your male MC is anything BUT a coward. He sticks to his principles, even when the principles make life difficult for him. He steps in to save others, even at cost to himself. He's definitely not a coward. Very few pacifists are cowards. They are people of principle, who, in times past, could be jailed or even executed for their stance against violence. Being against violence in a violent society is anything but cowardly. I'd call that courage of a very high standard.

    He may be physically weak, but that doesn't make him a coward. I'm surprised you see him that way, unless I'm missing a big chunk of his character.

    I'd say your problem may be that you're trying to engineer characters to fit a particular plot you've created. That can be done convincingly, but it takes a lot of time to see (and portray) them as real human beings, not role-playing characters whose personalities are determined by a throw of a die, or simply the requirements of the plot.

    Perhaps you're trying to write your story too quickly. I don't mean you're writing too fast, but that you're galloping between plot points a bit too quickly. Give all your characters room to breathe and time to develop. If you want your secondary characters to be more than just spear-carriers, you'll need to develop them as well. Give them scenes with each other, with the main characters, and loosen up enough so they can be 'themselves.' Strong secondary characters can really help to boost interest in a story, but if they are just 'the helpless sister, the evil ruler, the harsh father, the stupid sidekick' ...well, they won't really grab a reader. Try to help them break out of cliches and allow them the freedom to surprise you a bit. Make them do something you wouldn't have expected them to do, even if it's just a little thing, or a personality quirk, or a sudden fondness for baked beans on toast.
     
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  6. CMastah
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    CMastah Active Member

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    His character is indeed intended to be brave and to stick his neck out only when a life is on the line, but my two beta readers saw his pacifism as a mark of a coward and I assumed it would end up painting him harshly. To best illustrate: If someone stuck a sword at his throat the MC may freeze in fear, but if a life was at stake (even a stranger's) he'd go as far as doing something stupid/reckless/suicidal to stop the guy. He'd rather solve his problems without violence essentially.

    As it stands, my story the way it is is unsalvageable (primarily due to weak characterizations and it being obvious in their actions and dialogue), I hate having to 'bin' the work I've done (I actually finished the story after a year's progress) but it's incapable of being published even if I redrafted the whole thing (too much stretching of the imagination). I'm now re-doing the story from scratch and trying to first design the characters properly (too many important secondary characters got no fleshing out whatsoever, and others had personalities that felt too fake), and I'm giving the main character room to breathe and grow into his personality. Truth be told, the other section of your post is what was happening: I WAS rushing the plot AND the character development. Even the dialogue only serves to advance the plot, there's no life to it, there's no give and take or simple chatting. The dialogue (and weak characterization) got so bad that at one point I simply changed the speaker to a DIFFERENT character because the lines of dialogue wouldn't have changed.

    When I came up with the story initially, I never recorded the lines of dialogue or scenes I went through in my head and consequently forgot it. To put things in perspective, I didn't start OUTLINING the whole thing until two years after I'd already thought it up (at THAT time, I didn't have the courage to consider becoming a writer, I got that encouragement later).
     
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  7. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Please don't think of this as "binning" a year's work. Think of that first draft as your outline plan, which did its job perfectly - showing up inconsistencies and directing you in making the story better. Your outline was just a little more thorough than most. :)
     
  8. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    The longer you spend writing all sorts of scenes for your characters, the more you'll get to know them. And the more you get to know them, the more they'll come to life during the moments when you REALLY need them to be there. Don't be overly concerned about getting to the end too quickly, or worry if what you're writing diverges from the plot you've planned. It is the journey that really matters.

    I know some people think that writing in this wandering fashion 'wastes time,' but it doesn't. It's a way of focusing yourself on your characters and letting them assume personalities, and it gives you a lot more to work with. They may lead you into some wonderful ideas.

    If dialogue is your problem, see what you can find that will teach you the way to write good dialogue. I maintain, however, that if you get to know your characters, the dialogue will come naturally. What your characters say won't feel forced if you know them well.

    You probably need to relax a bit about developing your plot. Once you get your characters in your head, plots will start to develop anyway, so don't force it. Of course you can keep your original plot in mind, but don't feel you need to stick to plot points at the early stages. Just play with your characters and see what they do to each other. Does one character make another character mad all the time? Does he intend to do this, or is it just inadvertent? What is a confrontation between them like? Play around with this kind of thing. Write a scene between two characters, even if it doesn't 'fit' into your plot. See what develops. This is the kind of exercise that can give you major 'eureka' moments. Suddenly you understand what makes a character tick. From then on, it's a skoosh.

    I think you're smart to ditch the story if it's not working and try re-writing it. But unless you change your method of approaching the process, you're likely to end up with the same kind of result the second time around.

    Good luck!
     
  9. C. W. Evon
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    C. W. Evon Member

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    Looks like everyone has given some great suggestions already. I just want to add that choosing not to physically fight isn't necessarily cowardice. For example, no one calls Atticus in To Kill a Mockingbird a coward. When Bob Ewell spits in his face, he does nothing, and that actually makes him a stronger person than had he punched Ewell in the face.

    Your character is willing to save the lives of others whenever he can, and that's certainly not cowardly. So maybe instead of writing him as a complete coward, show how he is brave in other ways. Sometimes the decision not to fight requires bravery if everyone else is pushing you to do so. Maybe instead of the contrast between his cowardice and her bravery, you could do a stronger contrast: the contrast between two different types of bravery. The loud, conventional kind, and the quieter kind that at first glance could look like cowardice. That's a lot deeper and opens the way to some intriguing themes.
     
  10. Capricorn42
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    Capricorn42 Member

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    This sounds like a contradiction:

    "..If someone stuck a sword at his throat the MC may freeze in fear, but if a life was at stake (even a stranger's) he'd go as far as doing something stupid/reckless/suicidal to stop the guy..."

    As a reader, i would want a very good explanation as to why this crippled 'coward' would risk his own neck for a stranger. Maybe you should stop thinking about what he does and instead concentrate on who he is. How does he face each and every day? What motivates him? Where does he come from? Get those things sorted and the detail of what he does will follow.
     

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