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  1. AJSmith
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    AJSmith Senior Member

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    MC with few flaws

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by AJSmith, Apr 30, 2011.

    Okay... so I think I may have figured out why my protagonist has felt so flat to me and I'm more connected with the antagonist.

    My protagonist is a young character (18) and she has lived a pretty sheltered and protected life. She's grown up in a very healthy family and her internal conflicts, though they are there, do not impact her significantly. In the real world, she would come across as a well rounded, healthy individual.

    This is intentional as it fits with the plot. As the story develops, she begins facing the first hardships in her life and dealing with more internal conflicts, therefore I have found myself connecting with her more.

    Unfortunately, I'm over 80,000 words in, and I know that a reader is not going to wait 80,000 words to connect with the MC.

    When doing my revisions... what should my aim be in an attempt to preserve the plot and essence of my character, but also make her more accessible to readers?
     
  2. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    ... Nothing worth reading about happens for 80,000 words? I think we've established the problem...

    Write just enough to establish the character before shaking her up. Maybe less than enough. :p
     
  3. AJSmith
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    AJSmith Senior Member

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    Oh no.. sorry. Things start happening right away, but the impact and changes to her life don't change her instantaneously, so that change happens slowly over the story. Does that make sense? :)

    I think about it like a real person. Plenty of people have things that impact them in major ways as children, then there are plenty that have those things happen as teens, as young adults, etc. My story starts before my character has baggage. The story is the development of her baggage (along with the rest of the plot), but a character without baggage... can a reader connect to that?
     
  4. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe just start dropping hints she will be affected by it sooner? A few words in the opening chapter suggesting she's open to change/baggage could be enough.

    With my main character in my current thing, she's pretty happy-go-lucky, but within two scenes the events of the story have turned an awful lot against her. She's not exactly running for her life, but she feels the universe is paying her a lot of undue attention and suddenly she's in the middle of all the trouble. Rather than having any personal baggage her struggle is "Why me?" through most of the novel. She has plenty of personality and stuff that she's engaging to read and with events being as they are it's not like any reader should get bored if I do my job right. Yet aside from a small moment of anxiety about her mental health halfway through, she remains cheery and silly throughout. She's kinda my Mary Sue that way. :p After writing a ridiculously angsty main character all the way since Christmas it's such a relief to have a good summery story to focus on now the weather's nice. :p
     
  5. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    That depends. Is she charasmatic? Interesting as a person?

    There needs to be 'something' that grabs the reader's interest from the beginning. If you have that, then - in my opinion - it doesn't need to be baggage from the word get-go.

    Saying that, how long do you think your book will be? If it takes 80,000 words until she is affected by whatever-is-going-on, I would avoid having such a long build-up, in fear of making the 'interesting' parts feel too rushed.

    It's hard to tell as I don't know what your story is about. Is there a lot of back story? Too much? Why do the 'hardships' occur so late in the book? What is she up to before then?
     
  6. teacherayala
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    teacherayala Contributing Member

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    I came from quite a stable family. My dad was a pastor of a local Baptist church. I grew up, as far as I'm concerned, with a healthy frame of mind and respect for my own body. However, I definitely also confronted the real world in a rather hard way at one point because I was in transition from the more protected world of my parents to that of ¨normal¨ people. Despite my healthiness, people made fun of what they perceived as overidealistic ideas about people and the world. I was a bit gullible about trusting people. I was still a little shocked about the amount of drinking that people did. I was still a virgin at that time as well, and some of my peers found that worthy of ridicule. I didn't understand most sexual jokes. I didn't use profanity, and profanity somewhat bothered me to hear it among my peers although I never told them to stop using it or tried to boss them around. I found it more difficult to make friends because kids who were popular were often into partying and such. I, quite literally, felt a little clueless. And while I didn't experiment with things in front of people, I started to experiment with cigarette smoking in private, wondering what all of the fuss was about. I felt a bit lonely as if having values and idealism were something to be despised. I even felt at one time as if I were trapped by them.

    Perhaps this could help you develop your character. If she's quite stable and all's good, perhaps you could show some of her relative shock in meeting different people from the beginning. She might even be slightly judgmental toward people until she gets a clue, measuring people by the standard that her parents had instilled in her.
     
  7. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    My question would be is the story centering on the 18 year old female set in present day ?

    I dated a girl who grew up on a 100 thousand acre cattle ranch, the isolation prompted a wild side once she left home for college
     
  8. Ophiucha
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    Ophiucha Member

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    I think you can distinguish a flat character from a (temporarily) static character. Your character doesn't change, not for quite a while at least. That doesn't mean they can't be very developed, though. You may not have her grow until that 80k mark, but you can reveal, to the reader, details of her life, things we cannot see just by observing. Give her more personality, give her some history, give her some friends and family. Even if she stayed the same until the very end, you can make us care about her.
     
  9. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    If she is the main character, the reader (i think) will need to connect with her early in the story - if they do not, then is she really the protagonist?

    There needs to be change in all stories and that change usually comes near the end.

    To make her more interesting could you give her some kind of flaw or quirk.
     
  10. Ophiucha
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    Ophiucha Member

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    Fix'd.
     
  11. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    EXCUSE ME!

    If I was seeking critique, I would have posted in the review section.

    IMO Something needs to change in all stories - if nothing changes, then the story will end up no different to what it when it started -where's the point in that?
     
  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    You are correct, Triby. Something changes over a course of a story. It if doesn't, you probably don't have a story.
     
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  13. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thank you, Steerpike.
     
  14. Kio
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    Kio Contributing Member

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    Make the reader connect with your MC. Sure, she's sheltered and she might be awkward when a problem actually presents itself, but make the reader feel what she is feeling. Most human beings are the same when it comes down to it, background and upbringing aside. Make the reader know why the MC is reacting in such a way and, by doing so, you might create a connection. That, and an interesting personality makes for a memorable character.
     
  15. AJSmith
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    AJSmith Senior Member

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    Thanks everyone for the responses!

    Teacherayala: That perspective is very helpful for me. Thanks. :)

    Killian: Good point...in this story she's still "on the ranch", but thanks.

    VM80:
    Thanks, I will keep that in mind. I do think she has interesting point in her personality... I just need to develop it more earlier.

    What I have in the book is a smattering of back story about other characters and events, but not so much personal back story... Would adding some of that in be a helpful way to connect with her earlier in the story?
     
  16. AJSmith
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    AJSmith Senior Member

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    That makes sense. :)

    That's funny. sometimes I am much more interested in my antagonist because she has more life history, quirks, motives... But no, my protagonist is actually my protagonist.

    That is sort of what my intention was. By the time everything is over, she will no a lot more than she had, have had some life altering experiences, and be a different person in some ways.

    I like this.

    Kio: Thanks, I will try to make sure her reactions and feelings are coming across clearly in my revisions. I already focus on that, but I will be aware that it creates a consistent personality.
     
  17. AJSmith
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    AJSmith Senior Member

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    I just saw Melzaar reply to another thread that gave me an idea in this one.

    When the character encounters a situation, they tend to be reminded by something in their back story... revealing more about the character, developing the character, defining the character's personality.

    In revision, would adding in these personal back story memories, specific responses based on past events be a good way to help develop my MC and make her more easy to relate to?

    If so... this is where I feel like the problem of her having very little baggage weakens the connect-ability. If a character had been nearly mugged once, it might explain why they choose certain routes and times of day to go walking alone... not so in my MC's case. (just a random example)
     
  18. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    When the character encounters a situation, they tend to be reminded by something in their back story... revealing more about the character, developing the character, defining the character's personality

    I need to do the back story dance now. My Katrina is looking for something else and she sees the chainsaw that she used to cut up the bedroom set of her cheating X bf Jared, my only reason for doing it is too texture in some less saintly traints to my beer swilling, sailor cussing, violin playin' superhero

    How good a student is your MC, I use Katrina's hatered of math

    Not sure if this helps but my X's ranch was so isolated the family owned a small plane to run the herd and go into town for errands
     
  19. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    For a well rounded character you (the writer) need to know everything about them- even things that will not be mentioned in the story.

    Spend a little time with them even if it is only in your mind. Think about things like;

    What do they want and what is stopping them from achieving it

    What motivates them

    Do they have a secret - if so what is it

    What is their most treasured possession

    The more you know and understand your character the more you will be able to relate to them. Any passion and understanding that you have (or don't have) most likely will come across to the reader.
     
  20. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Sometimes a character rejecting opportunities to change can be just as healthy a story arc than a character who does change.
     
  21. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    To address the OP's concerns. It sounds to me you wrote out all your backstory. This is great for you to get to know the character, but not so great for the reader unless it's a biography of someone famous, that we care about externally.

    If your story is 'about' your character going through events and changes that occur 80k words in, then honestly you may want to start your story a bit closer to that 80k mark. And most readers won't keep reading no matter how many little quirks or how neato your character is.

    Imagine reading the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme and finding 20 pages before he falls that outline his entire life leading up to the fall. The story is about his fall from the wall, so you really need to start with 'Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall' not 'In his younger and more vulnerable years Humpty's father gave him some advice that he'd been turning over in his mind ever since" as the story is about him falling from a wall, nothing else, no matter how interesting or quirky.
     
  22. AJSmith
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    AJSmith Senior Member

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    Hmmm... thanks. I'm really not sure if that's the case or not anymore. I think I'm not being very clear in explaining the story/character, and so am making all of you guys who are trying to help me struggle to read between the lines. Sorry :confused: I don't know how to come across more clearly without outlining the story??

    I can try to outline it for you or maybe I'm at a point where I need to try to find a neutral party to read it for me and just give me some feedback. I will surely try to explain more clearly if anyone wants, otherwise, thank you, thank you, thank you all... despite my lack of clarity, everyone still gave me advice that will be very helpful.
     
  23. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    Although the unpublished chieftains on this site will claim there is no need for a character arc ,however interviews with the published claim otherwise, almost every author admits that art is imitating life and in our changing world our fiction characters are expected to do likewise. Many of the writers themselves professors in creative writing grad school programs claim some of their most gifted students will never see publication because the refuse to embrace the idea of a changing readership in our changing world. Y’all keep pointing to Mary Poppins examples, let me know how that works out for you.

    If you have any aspirations for the mainstream market, your main characters must have depth, flaws and vunerabilty

    I will go as far to say an unknown submitting a manuscript without characters jumping off the page is doomed no matter how stellar one's minimalist style is ( please note i refer to the mainstream not the fringe fiction genre.)

    Simply amazing published writer after published writer touches on writing for intended market, giving the people what they want, however amatuer after amatuer claims to be above such a thing, go figure. Maybe that's why the amatuers stay unprofessionals, ya dig ?

    Good luck do not feel like what you wrote was in vain, I am sure adding some muted tones to your MC will not be as hard as you think
     
  24. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    In the two Reacher novels I read by Lee Child, I didn't see a main character with much depth, or flaws, or vulnerabilities. But the series has been remarkably successful in the mainstream market nonetheless. You can find exceptions in the marketplace for almost any cited 'rule' of writing. For some of them, you can find a great many exceptions.
     
  25. Froggy
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    Froggy Member

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    As mentioned before - a sheltered life can be baggage in itself...
    I was 22 before I started realizing how little my sheltered upbringing had prepared me for real life. I am awesome at cocooning myself off from reality, but coping I have yet to master. It took me moving halfway around the world to gain a new perspective on things - like ingrained cultural prejudices, things you grew up to 'know' but have no base in reality.
    Being dropped into a completely foreign environment makes you get to know yourself all over again. We should do it more often...
    Having said all that, my family is happily dysfunctional, and having lived with several different families on language trips, I can honestly say I don't believe in perfect families - they are pure fiction.

    So look for the skeletons, who insists on getting their way? Why do they nor confront each other. Who is tired of being a pushover. Who hates the pattern on the couch. Who stole the last piece of cake.
    You cant tell me your mc was so brainwashed she enjoyed her chores. Or were they wealthy enough she didn't have to lift a finger? It all develops character. Mannerisms (muttering, rolling eyes, ignoring the person speaking...) heck, she was a teenager, how did she act out? For real or in her mind? When did the family pet die? Why did they not have one? Etc...

    The smaller her world, the more she'd be affected by 'minor' things.
     
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