1. JennaPeterson88
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    JennaPeterson88 Member

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    Making Readers Like a Previously Unlikable Character

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by JennaPeterson88, Jun 3, 2016.

    I have three "main characters" in my current project: my protagonist Kleeka and her two crew mates Glin and Ward (space setting).

    At the beginning, I want my readers to like Kleeka and Glin, but not Ward, and yet by the end I want them to be questioning how they feel about Glin, and starting to like Ward. I want the pivotal scene that makes my readers change their mind about Ward (which will be in the last third of the book), be the first time I actually take his POV.

    I think it'll be easy to keep my readers liking Kleeka, and by going into Glin's head every once in a while throughout the story it'll be easy to plant seeds of doubt about him, but I'm not sure how to have my readers dislike Ward right up until that one pivotal scene and suddenly change their minds.

    So, for anyone who has written something like this or recalls a book that does this well, any tips or ideas? How far can I push Ward's unlikable-ness without making it impossible to spin it around at the end?


    To give a little info without writing an essay, these characters come from a society where reincarnation in common, and adults without memories of at least one past life are odd. All three of my characters are "new souls." There's a divide in this culture regarding how new souls are viewed. Some think a new soul is a blessing on a family. Some think new souls are just people with sordid pasts trying to start fresh, and thus aren't trustworthy.

    Kleeka is a genuine new soul. Glin seems to also be a genuine new soul, but he's actually pretending. Everyone secretly suspects Ward is a fake new soul, because he rubs everyone the wrong way and seems shady, but he isn't. He's genuine. The point when the reader will finally get to see into Ward's head will be after he's lost both his crew mates, and is trying to get back home solo. One of the other characters will die, and it'll be told from his (Ward's) POV.
     
  2. christinacantwrite
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    christinacantwrite Member

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    This is a really interesting question!

    I think just getting the reader to understand Ward's point of view, the struggles he faces etc. should be enough, if he's genuinely a nice person. Maybe he's just not the most charismatic/not great at expressing himself to others? But then, once the reader gets to see inside his mind, they'll sympathise. We all do bad things in bad times, but that doesn't make us bad people.

    I'm not convinced about this... maybe I'm wrong here, but don't most people believe that they're the "good guy"? Sure, some people know they're shitheads and just don't care, but I think that's pretty rare. Unless this is the case for Glin, surely using his POV for making people slowly dislike him won't be effective? Apologies if I've misunderstood.
     
  3. JennaPeterson88
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    JennaPeterson88 Member

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    Yes, absolutely, Glin believes he's a good guy. What I want the readers to be shocked about is the fact the Glin isn't a new soul. He has a past life, and in that life he wasn't a good guy. He's ashamed of his past life, but also confused about it because his memories of it aren't clear. He remembers being punished for a major crime, but doesn't remember what the crime was. This is something I can show him struggling with after only being in Kleeka's head for a while, and only showing the kind, innocent, niave Glin that Kleeka sees. I don't necessarily want my readers to dislike Glin at the end, but I want them to doubt how much they trust him, and perhaps wish that the others knew his secrets.
     
  4. christinacantwrite
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    christinacantwrite Member

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    Aha I understand now. It's an interesting concept! Good luck in writing it :)
     
  5. halisme
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    halisme Contributing Member Contributor

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    Give 'em a dog. Or have him feed a puppy. If Sauron stroked a dog once in a while he'd have much better PR.
     
  6. GrimBarillian
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    GrimBarillian New Member

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    If you show Ward doing things or saying things that are open for interpretation by the others and often interpretted by one who makes assumptions it shouldn't be to difficult.
    For instance, you said Glin thinks of himself as a good guy right? Well often times a good guy who has a sordid past he wishes to forget or make up for he will overcompensate and end up going to far, sort of a "road to hell is paved with good intentions" kind of deal. Perhaps even though he isn't really a bad guy he thinks the ends justify the means and perhaps those means involve making himself look better in comparison with someone else, someone who already has a bad reputation, someone like Ward.
    Maybe Ward has so often been exposed to the harsh reality of the new soul, he is used to the judgement and cruelty and simply accepts it without defending himself or arguing. Leaving an impression that all the cruel statements are actually true or at least potentially true. Perhaps he does small things that seem suspicious like taking extra rations or food or whatever and it seems like he is stealing but in reality he is feeding a hidden pet, or a starving child or something.
    You mentioned a naive quality in Glin that Kleeka sees, perhaps it is her own naivety that misunderstands him, maybe he has presented seemingly innocent questions about Ward and his potential at being an old soul who perhaps is confused and just doesn't remember, maybe he just needs someone to understand...things like that that were really about himself.

    Sorry didn't intend to make such a long reply. Hopefully some of it was useful to you.
     
  7. JennaPeterson88
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    JennaPeterson88 Member

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    Interesting thoughts, thanks! I like the idea of having Glin overcompensate, and have Ward misinterpreted by the other two. I'll see how that works out as I'm writing them. Kleeka is definitely a little niave herself, so she could be seeing her own flaws when she perceives Glin as niave. She's the sort of personality who's very smart and a great leader when necessary, but way too trusting of people in general.
     
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  8. ToBeInspired
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    ToBeInspired Contributing Member

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    Pretty simple in my opinion. Lot of authors have done this. They turn it over with a plot twist that makes you reconsider your standing of not only the characters, but also the entire plot structure.

    Example:
    X religion is in force.
    M.C. is an advocate and helps the helpless. He's seen to be a good person.
    Antagonist is a rebel against the religion is seen to thwart the M.C.'s actions.

    Later you find out that the religion is not only corrupt, but immoral. Sacrifices babies and the whole nine. Now the antagonist is seen as the "hero" of the story. Of course you can resurrect the opinion of your M.C. later by treating him as a gullible victim.

    It's up to you, but you just need to incorporate some form of a plot twist.
     
  9. Seraph751
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    Seraph751 If I fell down the rabbit hole...

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    It's a lot like fishing, you bait (small actions/retorts, sentences, questions etc. that seem contrary to what the reader perceives Ward to be), cast your rod (build it up with with the actions here and there sprinkled sparingly through your novel), hook your fish (have Ward step out of the shadows if you will, this is the part where his strange actions and words make sense because at this point the reader is already kind of liking Ward already and this will just tip them over to his side). Does this make sense to you?

    Oh by the way, adore the names!
     
  10. JennaPeterson88
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    JennaPeterson88 Member

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    Thanks! I love the names, too. :) Kleeka's name took a lot of thought, but Glin and Ward just came to me. When I decided Kleeka would have 2 crewmates, and asked myself what their names were, it just happened.
     
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  11. ArQane
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    ArQane Member

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    Oh god, the plot twists in Hell's Gate.

    Making likable characters dislikeable...
    Making readers sympathetic to dislikable characters
    ^^These two lines may as well ruined the plot of Book 1.^^

    I'm itching to finish the novel.
    Just got to take my finals and then I'll finish and polish Hell's Gate: Hell's Gate.
    Then I'll post it. :D

    Until then, I'll settle with posting weekly chapters of Hell's Gate: God's Survelliance
     
  12. JennaPeterson88
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    JennaPeterson88 Member

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    I'm confused, ArQane. Are you telling me that changing my readers' minds about two of my characters may ruin my book, or are you talking about something else entirely?
     
  13. ArQane
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    ArQane Member

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    Oh theres nothing better than a major plot twist :D
    The protagonist's best friend turns out to have betrayed them half way through knowing that their side was losing which leads to him ending up nearly killing the other best friend of the protagonist, and then duels the protagonist and wins and after that is killed by another guy.

    Hope that run on sentence made sense :D

    Seriously though, do what fits your story the best :p
     
  14. JennaPeterson88
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    JennaPeterson88 Member

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    I just laughed when I read "Hope that run on sentence made sense" because I was thinking "wow this is one heck of a run on sentence" as I read it. :agreed:
     
  15. ArQane
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    ArQane Member

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    Mission accomplished.
     
  16. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    IDK what to say so...I'ma gonna post something random. (Perhaps the murder weapon of your poor character.):superlaugh:

    Gunsword.jpg A shooty stabby thingy, get the job done right.
     
  17. ArQane
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    ArQane Member

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    Gunblade from Final Fantasy was it? I'm getting old.

    Anyways, the character is killed by a mergeable dual sword. Fancy eh?
     
  18. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Nope @ArQane. It is a revolver straight kitana, from google image search for :gun and sword. But you were close.

    Mergeable dual sword eh? O_O Ooh, that is fancy. In my novel I have a 7 ft reptilian that use dual short swords. And in my Dark Fantasy Sci-fi, a female demon wields a demonic sword called Lecherous Tongue. (I geeked out, i like swords.) :p
     
  19. JennaPeterson88
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    JennaPeterson88 Member

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    Well, that's an interesting spin on a bayonet!
     
  20. ArQane
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    ArQane Member

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    Lemme find the name of his weapons for you. I have it down.

    He refers to the blades as a whole as: Unity
    The individual blades are: Solace and Luna, due to one of them being made out of the demon metal "Hellfire" and the other "Daemonium"
     
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  21. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Yep, that right there is a fancy pair for butchery. :)
     
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