1. Venicia
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    Venicia New Member

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    looking for opinions on the morality of a character's actions

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Venicia, Sep 5, 2014.

    There are five people who all live similar lives, and the lead has reason to believe that one of them is planning a large scale attack on a city, but can't prove it. When the lead tries to get the authorities involved they don't believe the lead and ignore the warning. The lead decides to kidnap the five and interrogate them, but they all insist on their innocence even in the face of torture. The lead starts killing them off one by one in hopes of scaring the others into confessing. Only when four are dead does the fifth admit to his plans and there's just enough time to stop the attack, but now the lead is a killer and can't go to the police anymore.

    That's the basic idea that wouldn't leave me alone last night, but before I g any further on trying to plan it out, I'd like some different opinions on the character and his actions. Figured, best to get them now, before anything is set in stone.

    Would you consider this character a hero, a villain or something in between?

    Assuming the character's actions save hundreds, maybe, thousands of lives, would you consider his actions justified?

    What if he fails to stop the attack?
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Unless all five are bad guys for other reasons I can't see the readers liking your lead character.

    Either make them bad guys or, provide a plot twist and have four of them be in on the plan to trick the 5th into confessing.

    Welcome to the forum. :)
     
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  3. Okon
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    Okon Contributing Member Contributor

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    He isn't 100% sure, because he couldn't prove it. "Reason to believe" isn't good enough for four innocent lives IMO.

    Though I do like your ambition to create a protagonist that isn't a total saint, who knowingly goes against her morals to achieve her goal. Those ones are always the most interesting.
     
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  4. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    He did an evil thing by kidnapping, torturing, and killing them just on suspicion. But if I lived in that city, then I would thank him for doing that evil thing.
     
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  5. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Let me understand this...he thinks that one of five people might be planning an attack. He doesn't go to the police, who would be able to monitor their movements and thus verify any suspicions and prevent the attacks, and he clearly doesn't have any special insight, because he tortures and kills four innocent people before the guilty one confesses (by the way, torture is an inherently unreliable way to obtain information, which is why the US has a right against self-incrimination). And then, when he does find out the truth, he's more worried about the four murders he's committed than saving "hundreds, maybe thousands of lives."

    I don't see how anyone could justify that.
     
  6. Empty Bird
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    Empty Bird Member

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    Yeah, I agree. Killing a bunch of people based on suspicion does not make him a good person.

    I suppose he could be a kind of villianous hero...not quite anti-hero but not quite hero. But your main character sounds interesting. If you make him a complex character and the others complex (like how he actually managed to kill them, going against natural human morals) I don't think it would matter.

    Complicated, interesting individuals are usually the most enticing to read!

    It sounds like a briilliant idea and I wish you the best of luck.
     
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  7. Mike Hill
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    Mike Hill Natural born citizen of republic of Finland.

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    I think that this story sounds quite unrealistic, but you can certainly make it realistic.
    I would consider him quite evil like the main character in TV series 24.
    This is very interesting but it's hard to make him hero or even sympathetic. I don't think you have to.
     
  8. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just make the reader certain he has the right guy each time. Make it more shadowy the whole thing - in the UK we had Henry v111, he didn't chop all six of his wives heads off, but that's the general impression. Your protagonist has one serious enemy and step your way towards the showdown.
     
  9. Venicia
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    Venicia New Member

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    Thanks for your opinions. They're giving me angles, I likely wouldn't have seen on my own.

    While his questionable certainty isn't enough for the police, it is enough for him to think he's doing the right thing.

    Honestly, right now every character mentioned in my original post is just a blank sheet waiting to be developed. Every single one of them could turn out to be the most disgusting person ever to walk the earth (Not that I really think "killing the killer" makes the action a more noble thing. ) or the friendly neighbor with a who raised the lead.
    While I think, this story would be most interesting if told from inside the current lead's head, I haven't excluded him being "just" another POV.



    He does go to the police , but for reason's I haven't come up with yet, they ignore him. I considered giving him a know paranoid disorder or something, but I don't really want to go down the stereotypical insanity explains all route. At the same time, I'm not sure a person like that could be completely sane.

    Call me weird, but the second sentence made me laugh. I never realized just how much that part of the idea sounds like "Kill X to save X. Fine." -- "But turn myself in to do the same. Never." Especially since I don't really see a way, he'd escape being locked up anyway. I'll have to look up the laws on that once I settle on a location, but I doubt it's legal anywhere.
    Fully agree on the torture, though. There just aren't all that many ways of getting someone to confess once you've ruled out the legal ways.
     
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  10. yagr
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    yagr Contributing Member

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    I'm not a good representation of your prospective audience, but I would call him something in between.

    No.

    Then you have all the making of a sequel.

    Ed is correct in that torture is an unreliable way to exact information. Once physical torture begins, you've got about thirty minutes to gain access to the information before the likelihood of gaining accurate information plummets. Prior to that, the information is still suspect as people will do most anything to avoid it - including, of course, lying.

    One way to 'up the ante' in such situations, is to bring in a loved one of the captive and torture them. In such a case you have even a smaller window in which to receive reliable information. If you don't have the information after they've been hurt once, you're not getting it.

    You may want to keep this in mind as you go forward: Every pain endured during torture is an investment in not divulging the desired information. For instance, to divulge anything after three hours of torture means that everything you suffered up until then was for naught.

    Also, a simple solution to 'the police won't believe him any longer' is to videotape the confession and stream the file to Homeland Security or some other law enforcement organization over the head of the folks he originally went to.
     
  11. yagr
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    yagr Contributing Member

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    Oh, and the character who immediately sprung to mind was named Noah (I believe) from the TV series Heroes. He's a cold blooded killer but the fact that he does so to keep his daughter safe scored him many points with the audience.
     
  12. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes. His relationship with his daughter is the main reason why Company Man stands out so much from the rest of the series. The series overall is good (at least season 1) but not amazing, but Company Man would easily be in my top 10 TV episodes if I had a top 10 list.
     
  13. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've read and seen a lot of Villain Protagonists that didn't interest me. This one interests me ;) Go for it!
     
  14. Venicia
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    Venicia New Member

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    Yeah, I'll definitely look into different methods of getting information, because I'm not too fond of the idea of writing torture scenes. At least not physical. I do lova a good psychological horror/thriller, though.

    I never even thought of that. The higher ups certainly wouldn't know of his lack of credibility and he needs some sort of physical proof once he has his "evidence". Otherwise the fifth could just take back his or her confession. Might be a good way to escalate the issue upwards.

    I sure will, just have to find the road first.:unsure:

    PS and a little OT: I'm supposed to work on my outline for November not come up with entirely new stories (especially not ones that will require a lot of research to not become a disaster) ...
     
  15. Count Otto Black
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    Count Otto Black Member

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    There is absolutely no way that this will work unless your "hero" is a psychopath and this is the grimmest of satire.

    How, exactly, is he in a position to know that one of five people is personally about to commit a major terrorist attack, and to have absolute control over these people to the point that he can torture them without any of them, including the four innocent parties, contacting the authorities and having this madman locked up, and then hunt them down one by one, yet none of his "evidence" is good enough to convince the authorities to do anything?

    Frankly this sounds like torture-porn. The "hero" is an amoral monster who gets to do what he wants to anybody because he has the moral high-ground, and the way you're pitching it, we're supposed to feel sorry for the poor guy because, after he tortured five people, four of whom were innocent, then ruthlessly hunted them down and killed them until only one was left, who, coincidentally, was the only one who deserved to be killed, his life was ruined because, y'know, he'd tortured and murdered four innocent people for a really good reason that nobody will ever understand.

    You know the only way this story works? If the "hero" is utterly delusional, and the fifth suspect only admits to the gigantic and wholly fictitious terrorist attack he's supposed to have planned because he has ample evidence of how insane this guy is, and his only hope of survival is to be handed over to the police, who will of course immediately arrest the only genuine mass murderer in the room.

    In a nutshell: this synopsis worries me on an instinctive level.
     
  16. Venicia
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    Venicia New Member

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    I don't expect anyone to feel sorry for this guy. That's why I didn't just declare him the "hero". I mostly just used lead to avoid assigning a gender.
    If the only way I can find to portray a character like him that doesn't come over as trying to excuse his behavior (outside of his own mind) is as a villain, then that's what he'll end up as. I'm certainly not going to go in there to write the "poor" psychopathic killer who had no other choice, though, that's how he'd see himself minus the psychopathic.
     
  17. Mike Hill
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    Mike Hill Natural born citizen of republic of Finland.

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    I thinking about this and I feel that it's a really good idea to do this from inside leads head.
     

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