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  1. jacklondonsghost
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    jacklondonsghost Contributing Member

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    Making protag. more sympathetic

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by jacklondonsghost, Feb 10, 2010.

    Hey all.

    Alright well for my book I have two protagonists, one of which has already become totally 3-d and somebody that the reader will really cheer for. He's a good hero.

    However, my other protagonist/POV character, Jay, is in need of some work. He drives the story but he is not likeable, which is a big problem.

    He is 17, captain of the school hockey team, and in with the 'popular' crowd. His father coaches the team, and he is abusive to Jay. He isn't abusive physically, but rather emotionally. He has this obsession with Jay making the NHL some day, and makes him practice an insane amount. If Jay does poorly, his dad takes him out and makes him do wind sprints until he can't stand up anymore. If he does well, it still isn't good enough. His dad drinks a lot on top of that. Jay's mother left a few months before the beginning of the story because of the drinking and verbal abuse.

    Jay has lost a lot of himself in his attempts to please his father and to fit in with the other guys on his team. He is dating a girl he doesn't feel anything for, he parties and gets drunk, and any other spare time he has goes to practicing. As it is, he comes off as a jerk to everyone, trying to be aloof and cool. He sees himself acting the way he does, hates it, but feels he can't change anything.

    But now, he doesn't come off as heroic. The reader probably would sympathize with everything he has to deal with, but I feel like his cold attitude would make him harder to root for. Not to mention, a lot of the book relies on him and another guy falling for each other, and as it is Jay doesn't seem like the kind of person anyone would really want to be with.

    I need some help, if anyone has any ideas. I had a hard time covering the whole character here so if I need to tell more about his personality I can. Any ideas on personality traits that would make him more heroic/likeable are really really appreciated.
     
  2. thinking
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    thinking Member

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    First of all, wanted to say, it sounds like it could be a great novel!

    Secondly, a lot of this rides on what tense you use. If you write in first person with Jay being the narrator, just have him explain why he acts the way he does. If it's the love interest narrating, then just explain Jay's behavior through the lens of a person with a crush. If you are writing in the third person, which it sounds like you are, just describe what Jay does and leave it at that.

    Why does Jay have to be heroic? Most people aren't heroes; at least not in the traditional sense. People are just people, and some of them aren't likable. If you want to be realistic, I would let Jay be who he is. If he comes across as heroic, than great. If not, no harm done. Why does it matter who the reader "roots for?"

    The thing is, no matter how hard you try to make a character seem good, bad, evil, heroic, cowardly, much of what the READER "gets" about the characters lies in how he or she interprets what he or she reads. Of course, if you show Jay committing heroic acts, your reader will be inclined to interpret the information a certain way. However, what may seem heroic to you may not seem heroic to your reader. And that's good! Realistic characters are multi-faceted, and a reader should be able to see different sides of them.

    But let's examine my earlier question again: why does Jay have to be heroic? Does he do something brave in the story? Do his actions later on make him seem brave, at least to you? If so, just describe what he does. Your readers are smart; if the previously-closeted Jay saves his boyfriend from bullies, readers will interpret that as heroic (most of them will.) However, if you want Jay to appear heroic merely because you want readers to like him, I think you're going to have some trouble doing so.

    "a lot of the book relies on him and another guy falling for each other, and as it is Jay doesn't seem like the kind of person anyone would really want to be with."

    don't worry about this. Love does crazy things to people. Just because someone's not nice doesn't mean people won't fall for him or her. Once you get a crush on someone, he or she can be the biggest Jerk on the face of the planet, and it won't matter to you. Love is love. I wouldn't worry about it.

    I hope that helped! Good luck!
     
  3. cboatsman
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    cboatsman Senior Member

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    As thinking suggested, if this is going to be written in a first person perspective you need to dig into his head and let the readers know everything you just told us. He really doesn't want all this, it's just forced on him. That alone will make the character "likeable" while also allowing the reader to be even more happy for him once he comes out of his shell to allow himself to pursue what he really wants.

    Caleb
     
  4. jacklondonsghost
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    jacklondonsghost Contributing Member

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    All of those suggestions are really helpful :) Thanks. I think my problem is that I've been reading too many writing books and letting my gut instincts falter a little. I personally like Jay the way he is; I was just worried about him coming across as unsympathetic to the reader. The book is written in both of their first person views (they both have extremely distinct voices so I feel like it works well) so I think you both make a good point about just trying to get into Jay's head. At that level I think he is very sympathetic, since he is dealing with so many problems. I think it also makes a good contrast with the way the other character views him, without knowing his inner feelings.

    For some strange reason, I didn't think of this as a viable option. Even though I've been in a similar situation several times before. Now that you've said that it seems more realistic to let Jay the way I currently have him. It creates an innate conflict in the relationship, and more conflict is definitely good.

    Thanks a lot for the help :)
     
  5. InkDream
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    InkDream Senior Member

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    Not all heroes have to be likable. In the end it's their actions that make them heroes. Also, it's entirely conceivable that your character change and develop throughout the story into a better version of himself.
     
  6. TPie
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    TPie New Member

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    You have a strange character flaw... if his father's an alcoholic, it would seem more likely that he'd avoid it (at least that's what I've seen with friends).
     
  7. jacklondonsghost
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    jacklondonsghost Contributing Member

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    Not necessarily. I did think this through, and he drinks both due to peer pressure and for the same reasons his father does: to escape pressure and relax. He doesn't like that his father drinks, but he is finding himself falling into the same situation, albeit slowly. If this still seems unrealistic let me know though :)

    And I am going to leave Jay the way he is. I think I fell into the trap of reading too much into my writing books with trying to make him more "likeable." He's fine the way I have him now. Thanks for all the suggestions.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Children of alcoholics are often alcoholics as well. Not always, but very often.
     
  9. jacklondonsghost
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    jacklondonsghost Contributing Member

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    Yeah, that's the direction I was going with it.
     

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