1. jo spumoni
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    jo spumoni Active Member

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    Making my character likeable?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by jo spumoni, Nov 8, 2010.

    Hello all,

    I have about 5 minutes to finish this post before I have to leave for class, so here goes:

    I'm in the very early stages of writing a book that takes place in WWII Germany. My idea is that there's 2 artists, one of which resists the Nazis and becomes blacklisted, the other of which becomes very popular during the era. I want both characters to be likeable because I really want to make the point that not resisting did not necessarily make you a bad person. But in all of the little prewrites I've done, it's kind of failed. The guy who resists is the one who gets all of the sympathy, and I'm having trouble making the audience sympathetic to the non-resistor.

    I realize that's a hard answer to give offhand, but if anyone has tips that would be great. Thanks.
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Make him human and kind. Have him do something that shows he is not a bad man, something as simple as helping a lost child, give him an elderly neighbour. And have him have understandble very human reasons for not resisting.

    Plenty of good people were Nazis - very few were nasty and evil.
     
  3. Taylee91
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    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

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    Making your non-resistor likeable? Hmm...show his/her vulnerability. A common weakness or flaw that someone can sympathize with. Hope this helps, jo.

    P.S. Did you like that link I sent you about resolutions/climaxes?
     
  4. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    The problem is in conflict - your resisting character has his conflict ready made. You need to emphasise the conflict that your non-resisting character goes through, and make that maybe even more key to the plot or emotional development then the resistance of his friend. Resistance to the nazis is way way more explored. Going along can still provide character depth that is breathtaking if done right.

    If your going-along-with it character merely coasts along as his friend suffers for his beliefs, then of course he will look more sympathetic. Find out WHY mr going-along-with-it chooses not to resist and milk it for all its worth.
     
  5. Auty
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    Auty New Member

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    hmmm im doing nazi germany at the moment for my A-level history you could do something like helping hide jews from persecution.
    just an idea helping the jewish community. in those days you werent allowed to shop at jewish stores. so, you could have it so that the non-resistant character, is secretly helping the jews. OR, the artists son is in the hitler youth thats why he cant resist he resists the child tells the nazi youth the parents get sent to concentration camps.
    just some quick ideas.
     
  6. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Make the character who resist, resist for unsympathetic reasons. Most resisting the regime didn't do this for humanitarian reason but because of other political reasons. He might been into another fascist ideology, or a communist or something else, Loads of strange political ideologies blossomed during that era.

    Or for some narcissistic personal reason, like hating his sister or brother who is a devout nazi.
     
  7. Renegade Folk Hero
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    Renegade Folk Hero New Member

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    Start by showing a slow build. Not everything the Nazi’s did would be apparent from the start. Have the truth start to come out as rumours, which are so outlandish every reasonable character denies them. Have the truth mount, and show people struggle to rationalize it.

    Then display the danger of resisting. Have someone else resist, and suffer dearly for it. Maybe the non-resistant artist sees someone dragged out onto the street and beaten. Maybe the SS kills someone for speaking out against a the party, or burn a family alive. Show the danger of standing up. Make it so it’s not a question of is this right or wrong, but “Would I give up my life for this? Would I let my neighbours suffer? My friends? My parents and children?” Make it a question of what people are willing to sacrifice, and show him choosing safety, possibly to protect someone important to him.
     
  8. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    The non-resisting guy is not being asked to shoot people. He is perhaps only dimly aware of the atrocties. He is however successful and is moving in exalted circles and is being socially non-resistant; he's laughing at very off-colour jokes, and not raising objections when horrible things are spoken of. He's complaisant, a people pleaser, not overbearing, happy to go with the flow, hates to upset others etc etc Most of these are characteristics that folk warm to.

    You might need to drag the other fellow down a little - perhaps best achieved in an argument with the non-resistor. Is he maybe too sure of himself, hectoring, sanctimonious, too fond of the martyr role?

    More broadly, perhaps give thought to the the seemingly odd phenomenon, often observed, that folk with far-ranging compassionate ideals are often cold and unsymapthetic in their immediate sphere, while kindly and warm folk often hold very callous opinions on wider matters.
     
  9. jade.x
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    jade.x New Member

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    Just show that although he did something bad, he is still human, you could show regret in his feelings and show the emotions he goes through to create sympathy, show that choices arent always easy and doing the right thing isnt easy either. Try and make the reader see it from his point of view :)
    hope this helped.
     
  10. Last1Left
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    Last1Left Active Member

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    He doesn't have to be likable for the audience to like him, if that makes sense. Character development isn't the only thing that makes readers identify and like a character. Think about form maybe? For example, in Richard III, Richard is definitely a despicable, horrible human being, but because he's so eloquent and addresses the audience so frequently, one can't help but route for him while watching. Towards the end of the play when Richard becomes king, he stops giving his soliloquies and stops addressing the audience, breaking his link with the people watching. Needless to say, it doesn't take long afterwards for the audience to turn on Richard and hope for his downfall. Just some food for thought. Hope it helps :)
     
  11. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    Make him human; maybe he resists because he has a family to protect? Show that he doesn't like the Nazi actions but give him realistic reasons for not resisting.

    Will he change over the course of the story? If he decides to fight back in the end, it could make him sympathetic before that too. I say plant the seeds for people to sympathize with him and cultivate those seeds over the course of the story.
     
  12. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Your choice of words - that one character "resists" and the other doesn't - suggests that you're already looking at it from the former character's point of view.

    Try switching it around. Perhaps the character who resists is really just a lazy coward? Perhaps the character who joins the nazi party does it out of patriotism and loyalty?
     
  13. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    other alternative is to make him incredibly sexy - do that and no matter how evil he is he will have sympathisers.
     
  14. JeffS65
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    JeffS65 Contributing Member

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    Instead of predestining like-ability; characters, like people will grow. Both characters could have come from same/similar backgrounds and have the same sensibilities but circumstances could make them take very different paths. Instead of making the characters different, exploring how they are the same but on different paths could be a compelling dichotomy. They will have to wrestle with decisions that are both noble and selfish. It's life and people are not so delineated as good and bad but are the products of their history as well as current circumstances.

    So, how do you make the character likable? By utilizing the same mechanisms that make the 'good' character liked.
     
  15. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    Make him a spy.
     
  16. Anonym
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    Anonym Contributing Member

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    It kind of sounds like he's unsympathetic because he's essentially uninvolved in something as provocative as the Nazis/the prelude to WW2, in which case he's not unsympathetic, merely uninteresting, by contrast. So, perhaps, either involve him more in the intrigue of the story or try to make him interesting seperate from the setting (e.g. Nazi Germany).
    Just my 2 cents. Good luck.
     
  17. jo spumoni
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    jo spumoni Active Member

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    Thank you all so much for the thoughtful replies!

    Since I've posted this thread, I've actually begun a little prewriting, and I'm finding that a lot of this advice is useful. JeffS65 is definitely right that the character needs to be more developed. I think the main thing I'm having trouble with is that as an author, as much as I want to make the point that living a life without resisting in Nazi Germany was not immoral, I still have trouble seeing it that way. The resistance is so glorified and all who didn't resist are practically condemned in modern literature. In this day and age, it's so hard to see how it really was and it's so much easier to write a book about resisting the Nazi government.

    But with your advice, I see what I need to do. All in all, humanization seems to be the key. It seems silly that I didn't think of it, but I definitely need to make the audience understand why not resisting would be not only acceptable, but rational in this character's circumstance.

    So with that, I shall pick up my pen...after some serious turkey, of course :) Happy Thanksgiving, all.

    Oh, and Elgaisma: he's quite sexy; blond, blue-eyed, tall, good sense of humor. Every girl's dream...except for the whole closet homosexual part ;)
     
  18. jo spumoni
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    jo spumoni Active Member

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    ----
     
  19. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    LOL I see he has already developed from when we last spoke about your story.

    The whole closet homosexual part can give you a lot of chances to make him sympathetic. You have gone a long way make your character sexy, attractive and that allows a reader a way in.

    Women tend to find the whole idea of two men together attractive so that gives him an edge. Now you just need to hook the straight fellas :) Make him good at football/soccer - he is German so not unreasonable he would play Saturday footballs. And yes I know I am generalising.
     

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