1. Darcehole
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    Darcehole New Member

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    Redeeming qualities?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Darcehole, Mar 13, 2011.

    One of the main characters in one of my stories is not very likeable. She's selfish, manipulative and just not very nice in general. These qualities are fueled by her ambition to succeed because she will just trample on anyone who is in her way, and because of her wealth she is able to.

    She befriends a girl who is the complete antithesis to her, but only to help her to succeed, unbeknown to the girl (Kaitlyn). She figures that she will just destroy the Kaitlyn when the time comes, but I want her to not be able to, because even though she doesn't think it, or more so doesn't want to, she has become fond of her and doesn't want to destroy her.

    Is this enough to be redeeming you think? I would like her to have at least one good quality so to make her not all bad.

    Your ideas would be greatly appreciated :)
     
  2. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Perhaps you could explore why she is the way she is, instead of making her be that way as a result of a vacuum. If something in her past destroyed her belief and trust in other people, the reader would understand where she had it from, and then who can really blame her?
     
  3. Ice Queen
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    Ice Queen Senior Member

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    Well, even horrible characters must have some qualities which the reader can connect with, in order to make the character more real to them. Why is this character selfish and so on- is it perhaps because she was one of many children and didn't get enough attention from her parents?- making her want to do everything for herself later on. Maybe this girl Kaitlyn could remind her of herself when she was young? :D

    One of my protagonists is a bit of an ass- he's detatched and unsympathetic and so on- but this stems from abandonment issues in his childhood (His mother just got up and left one day when he was three years old and he still doesn't know why 19 years later)
     
  4. Ged
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    Ged Senior Member

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    I'd like to read about your character just the way she is. But I like my main characters a bit on the dark side pretty much always.

    Being unsympathetic != being unrealistic. There are complete arses out there who don't have redeeming qualities.

    If you really want to give her a redeeming quality, try to show her going through some positive emotions. Joy, happiness, giddiness. Just don't gloss over it and make it sound like a stock cliché who takes joy in killing puppies or crushing yet another soul.
     
  5. Jammo
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    Jammo Member

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    You can take that ever-growing fondness of which that character is experiencing, and extend it from there. Perhaps she has a positive side? Perhaps she's not all bad?
    But it is completely up to you as to how great this particular redeeming quality is and if it will completely change the overall effect of the character to the reader.
     
  6. Leonardo Pisano
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    Leonardo Pisano Active Member

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    Give her a soft spot for some remarkable characteristic in other persons, either physical (e.g., she cares about someone with a scar in her/his face) or character she herself doesn't possess (e.g., frugal; ability to smooth feathers of angry people; some talent).
     
  7. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    Understanding as a writer why your shrewish , self centered character is the way she is, what events formulate her defective character ,should loom large in your ability to create a bit of empathy
     
  8. fervish
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    fervish Senior Member

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    This is a challenge. One thing you cant have is your audience feeling complacent about a character. They either have to love her or hate her. Just as every lovable character has to have flaws, a hatable character has to have good qualities. I think, though, events are going to have to pull the reader onto her side. Maybe make them feel sorry for her at some point??
     
  9. Arathald
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    Arathald Contributing Member

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    I'm reminded, strangely enough, of Sue Sylvester (played by Jane Lynch) from the TV show Glee. She's manipulative, possibly evil, seems to have no redeeming qualities. The two things viewers are given, though, to question their hatred of her are that she sometimes doesn't take chances she has to completely destroy someone else (with regard to things like career and reputation), and sometimes even saves them, similar to what you're describing. The other element is that viewers see her interacting very lovingly with her sister, who has Down's syndrome. I think these two elements work very effectively to make viewers go from "I loathe her" to "I loather her, but...".

    (I swear, I also use examples from books... this just happens to be my 4th or 5th video game or TV example in a row...)

    Edit: Just watched a clip of an interview of Jane Lynch asker her why her character is so angry. She says that in her mind, Sue had an awful time growing up in high school, and dealing with having a sister with Down's syndrome, and she's more or less acting out now because of it -- a backstory like this, if you reveal it a little more, might also give your readers a sense of sympathy for the character, even if you don't give her an explicit redeeming quality (though you can certainly do both).
     
  10. Darcehole
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    Darcehole New Member

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    Thank you so much for your replies everyone, they're great!

    I was thinking, she comes from a very wealthy family but her parents don't really care all too much about her. This could be why she distances herself from other people, and why she wants to win, because if she's a winner, then her parents might pay her some attention and be proud of her. Is that too cliche?
     
  11. Arathald
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    Arathald Contributing Member

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    I wouldn't say it's cliché. Maybe we've seen it used a few times already, but, I don't think it's overused, and, as long as you treat it in an original way, you can certainly pull it off. One thing in these kinds of plots that can help move them away from the mainstream is to give it a little bit of variation on the theme. I think pulling that backstory in can help her get your readers' sympathy, and you can give it just the right touch, so that they still don't like her, though they're sympathetic (or whatever feeling you're going for).
     

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