?

Can characters with no sadness still be good?

  1. Yes

    11 vote(s)
    73.3%
  2. No

    4 vote(s)
    26.7%
  1. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    No sad emotional characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by MilesTro, Nov 13, 2007.

    If you have characters without sad pasts, emotional situations, or crying parts in your stories, would your readers still read about them? Or would they all prefer characters to all have sad problems no matter what genre you write.
     
  2. adamant
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    adamant Contributing Member Contributor

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    I feel that a character doesn't particularly need a sad history - which may coerce you to focus more so on an adrenaline-filled present or a goal for the future. However, there should be some emotional conflict as I feel it would readers to get a better sense of your character's psyche.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I'd say it depends upon the genre to some degree. You can have an ebullient character breezing his or her way through a comedy, leaving a trail of devastation in everyone else's lives. Or a children's story could center around the adventures a happy-go-lucky character.

    A story like Starman could have a central character who is essentially a blank slate, or more accurately a mirror, revealing very little of himself but revealing everything about those who interact with him.

    In general, though, I think a character with no pain in his or her past generally comes across as unbelievable,and unsypathetic. A character like that would almost surely seem flat.
     
  4. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    I would say you don't need your character to be sad to make them good. I personally like characters with a wealth of emotional or psychological problems they have to work through (I can relate cause I had a rather dark emotionally unstable phase in my life a few years back).

    Do you need a sad character? No. It certainly does add something interesting and makes the character more believable though.

    I can think of few people who havn't had one or more traumatic episodes in their lives. I grew up in the army and my dad had a battalion command during war. I have seen men go away and come back in bags. Even if it wasn't my dad I could see what happened to the families since those who died were my dad's soldiers.

    Trust me everyone has something traumatic in their lives to work through. It just makes a character more believable to have something sad in their lives, though they don't have to be some whiny jerk who does nothing but complain.
     
  5. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    What if your characters are not believable, but they exist.
     
  6. adamant
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    adamant Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think Cog took the meaning of 'sad' differently than I did. To me, it was more of a tragic (rape, murder, etc.) aspect of their life. However, as I was going to say earlier along with the more broad definition: Living that long, something is bound to happen. Thus, it would appear that there should be some facet of conflict in that regard -- though it could lead to the person becoming more apathetic and stubborn, which I believe may serve to your wants in a character.

    If you just have an existing character, there is not much a reason to read about him. Without the existence of depth, there is no connection, and thus, not capable of dragging the reader along for the journey.
     
  7. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    Why's there's has to be a reason? What is the reason why life exist?
     
  8. SoccerChamp11
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    SoccerChamp11 Member

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    Whoops. I accidentally voted no.
     
  9. crashbang
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    crashbang Active Member

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    i could name a few.

    willy wonka
    danny from 'danny and the champion of the world'

    both great characters that didnt really have sad histories. they can lack a sad history, they could have present problems. imagine a character whos never had any problems before trying to cope with a whole spate of problems? would he shrivel up and die? or would he rise the stronger? would he get sympathy from other characters?

    but they need SOMETHING. dosnt nessecarily have to be a sad element. hell, could have someone whos had wild parties all their lives and tries to spice every day up with strange things.
     
  10. EyezForYou
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    EyezForYou Active Member

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    Characters with sad past does not necessarily mean it's bad--but it can greatly add layers of depth to your character.
     
  11. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    No sad characters for me. I'll work on them the way I want them to be.
     
  12. MarcG
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    MarcG Contributing Member

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    There are other ways to describe negative emotions than 'sad'. Personally, I can't stand the word. It's such a generalization that you can't truly empathize with the character because there are so many varying degrees and types of sadness. Melancholy? Depressed? Just a bit mopey?!. The list goes on, but in the end, if a character is just sad and it's not a target audience of children, whatever depth could've been added was essentially lost. They may have well just been mad, glad, or happy.

    When someone tries to make a sad person, if it's not done in a whiney way, it's interesting. But in a book (like Jane Eyre, the first few chapters) where the main character does nothing but whine about their admittedly priviledged life, because of a few things that many people who were far worse off dealt with every day without moaning about it, it does bother me because there are things that are simply laughable that they're crying about. So while sadness can be used to further illuminate the mindset of a character, it can also be used to annoy the reader to no end. :p
     
  13. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    What about drama?
     
  14. MarcG
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    MarcG Contributing Member

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    So long as they can make it dramatic without the character crying over the mediocre offenses life has dealt them. ;)
     
  15. Domoviye
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    Domoviye Contributing Member

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    Characters can be good without being 'sad'. Many people in the world have a pretty good past. It doesn't have to be all flowers and candy, but nothing really bad has happened to them and they are still interesting people to meet.
    So why should a character be interesting only if they've been beaten by their parents, seen their parents die horribly in a house fire they accidentally started. Suffer horrible abuse at the hands of relatives, social services and teachers as they were shuffled around like unwanted garbage, being backstabbed by all of their friends. When they find true love losing both her and the unborn baby to a horrible car crash, that leaves the character to wallow in self pity, suffering from alcoholism, drug abuse, abusive relationships trying to fill in the void, and a little bit of cutting added to the mix, oh and his dog bites him and is run over by a car. Then when the story is about to start they have yet to recover from their horrible past but as the main character we know that everything will turn out all right for him in the end.
    Really sad characters have been done so often that they have become almost as annoying as the 'I'm better then you could possibly ever be' fantasy elves. Sometimes people can still pull it off, but too many writers keep pushing the sadness for all its worth to the point of silliness.
    If a character is real, not perfect, not (usually) a complete loser, with real problems (or some unreal problems depending on the plot), they can be very interesting. It's all about balance, and good writing.

    Sorry about the rant. :D
     
  16. TheFedoraPirate
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    TheFedoraPirate Contributing Member

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    Sure characters without "sadness" can be good. Having an angsty past isn't something that automatically gives a character depth. In fact substituting "sadness" for depth is really a rather bad idea.

    In fact, unless it's really plot important, I typically leave off character pasts. The reader doesn't actually have to know. As a reader I'm annoyed when I'm getting to know and enjoy this character and the author suddenly goes "it's completely random, but in case you wanted to know, when Suzie was widdle her daddy didn't wuv and ripped up her teddy bear"...er, yeah...

    If your character has to have an ansty past in the very least make them have realistic reactions to it and keep the angsting to a minimum.
     
  17. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    When I read some Japanese comic books, their drama is very annoying to me. Especally the Harry Potter books. (NO SPOILER ON THE FINAL BOOK.) South Park has major drama, including the Simspsons. Family Guy as well.
     
  18. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    These people do exist, though. I wouldn't exclude them from a story just because they aren't very likable. I personally wouldn't make someone like that a protagonist, though, unless it were to develop the character beyond that.

    I never cared all that much for Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, because he was a perpetual victim. Even his victory over Lord Foul was little more than shutting out any influences that would make him come to terms with his self-pity.
     
  19. zerobytes
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    zerobytes Contributing Member

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    Every character has to have depth. Regret, history, range of emotion, etc. Sadness stems from conflict which is central to every plot. I vote "no". Even if you're writing a flat children's character, they're not going to have any success until there is sadness. I would say the real question is whether you have to 'show' the sadness or just make sure it's part of your character sketch.

    zb
     
  20. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    I believe it depends how you write your story.
     
  21. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Not necessarily. Some characters may be present only to move the story along. Even a character who is present in most scenes of the story need not have a history, ambitions, motivations, or even a voice. The hostage in a crime drama is a key character, but if he or she is not the focus of the story, you don't need to know anything other than you don't want his or her death on anyone's conscience.

    You may also have a mysterious central figure who moves in and out of the action, always doing or saying just the right thing to deflect people's lives along the right (or wrong!) course. That character need not possess depth, he or she is more or less a "meat prop" that connects the stories of the other characters and conducts their journeys along a desired path. An example might be a god in an ancient Greek play, who capriciously plays withe people's lives. The real story is more about the people affected, and yet the god may appear to be the central character.
     
  22. zerobytes
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    zerobytes Contributing Member

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    Fair enough. If we're talking about all characters in a story I will retract my no vote. There are some characters like The Reddleman in The Return of the Native who I really like BECAUSE they do not give emotion to anything in the book but remain aloof from all conflict. I would guess the same would go for most narrating characters. Perhaps I should have specified that good main characters require a degree of sorrow. Winnie the Pooh, for example, is sad when he forgets things (oh bother) or when he doesn't have hunney. Charlie Brown gets rocks instead of candy for Halloween and always misses the football. But I guess we have to define "sadness". Is it the actual presentation of sorrow in the writing? Or is it simply not having what the character wants? That could change answers as well. I guess I look at it as anytime something doesn't work according to the character's plan which generates a sense of sadness or regret. So there are characters that don't have "a plan" or story arc. That's fine, but they usually move around your main characters. These flat characters should be like the backdrop and scenery on your stage. The actors are 3 dimensional. Yes, you can write 2 dimensional (or 1 dimensional) main characters but I think it would be an artistic choice that would turn off the majority of casual readers (so then we get into a huge discussion of what is "good" - see this thread:2nd draft = 1st draft - 10% - Page 3 - Writing Forums). However, an example of this being done well is Data in Star Trek the Next Generation. But even Data eventually had feelings. Most people loved Data's personality-lessness. Similarly, most robot characters do not have feelings...which is usually the angle they play in the story. Still, the majority of robot stories include how the robot learned to feel sorrow (Short Circuit, etc.) But I guess you could argue that these characters have no feelings and are main characters. Sorry for the flip flop rambling here. Perhaps the answer is: if you want your character to change -at all- then sadness has to come into the picture. Any thoughts?
     
  23. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    What if they just plain funny?
     
  24. TheFedoraPirate
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    TheFedoraPirate Contributing Member

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    The question was actually "If you have characters without sad pasts, emotional situations, or crying parts in your stories, would your readers still read about them? "

    Personally I can name plenty of characters without sad pasts or crying parts that still captured my interest. The only unclear part of that question is the "emotional situations" part; but in context of "sad pasts" and "crying parts" I'm going to assume the "emotional situation" in question is a sad one. So, no, I don't think a character has to be "sad" to capture my attention and hold it.
     
  25. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    That's good.
     

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