1. Cdr. Bowlwinkle
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    Cdr. Bowlwinkle New Member

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    Revenge or Redemption. What makes for a better story?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Cdr. Bowlwinkle, Jan 15, 2015.

    So I've reached a point in the story where the development of my character has reached an intersection. It can go a number of ways but I am finding hard to properly develope his motivation for advancing in the story. The vision for the character that I have thus far involves a dark past. Some event caused his life to change forever and now he must decide to ( insert plot progression here). I've personally been a fan of revenge/redemption stories, but I also feel them to be rather cliché. A good number of movies and stories these days subscribe to these as a means of adding depth to a character, but would another revenge or redemption story really be worth reading? Would a combination of the both be as dull? ( redemption in revenge).
    If you would humor me; I would like to here opinions on the subject. Do you see yourself attracted to stories where the character is driven by revenge or redemption? Or perhaps would you be interested in something different? Any and all help regarding this matter would be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. thatoneauthor
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    thatoneauthor Member

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    What are his goals? It all depends what his goals are for you to decide what would make a better story.
    If someone has killed his wife, revenge.
    If someone kidnapped his wife, redemption.
    But of course, you must give him the call to action first.
    Let's say the hero is a total bad-ass but he's quit since he lost a child because he made a mistake of giving her location. Something like that.
    A call to action for him would be someone threatening to take his wife if he doesn't do an assassination job.
    Have him say no, build tension and make the readers root for him to go.
    Have him keep saying no, until, you guessed it, they finally take his wife.
    Now he has a goal, and a cheer from the reader as he does the assassination.
    But of course he isn't going to get his wife back from that, because they already killed her.
    There's a plot twist, and a huge motivation to seek out revenge and kill everything that moves.
    A happy ending could be that he see that is daughter is still alive and was just kept in the bad persons possession, but then you would have to say the hero didn't know if she died or not.
    Sorry for getting a bit of tangent. lol
    Thanks for the read, let me know what you think.
     
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  3. koalasium
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    koalasium Member

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    I actually really like stories where the MC is driven by revenge or redemption. I don't mind the cliche of all of it, because it's fun when a character is driven by revenge (or redemption, which ever one you're going to decide to do). I mean, it's a cliche and a stereotypical character in fiction, but revenge and redemption isn't an old cliche. So my opinion is to go for it and have the character driven by revenge.
     
  4. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Maybe the word you should be working towards here is 'resolution.' What would best resolve the situation you've set up? What would seem to make 'The End' satisfying to the reader?

    It's impossible to say what pathway is best for your character to take, because we don't know your story. (And no, even if you tell us what your story is in this thread, it's still something you need to decide for yourself. It's your story.) But keep in mind, very few resolutions are ever black-and-white.

    Revenge implies that somebody has done something bad to your character. It can be momentarily satisfying for him to even the score, but what kind of feeling will he be left with afterwards, if he takes that course? What will the impact be, not only on his life but the lives of others. Same with redemption. Redemption implies that your character did something bad to somebody else. If he 'redeems' himself by some action, who decides if he's actually redeemed? What if he does what he thinks is a redemptive act, but the wronged party doesn't agree with him and wants more? They want revenge! Or if he does 'the right thing' just to get himself out of trouble? That can be seen as selfish, if there is no true remorse.

    There are all sorts of permutations of both of these pathways. But you should always ask yourself IN THE CONTEXT OF YOUR STORY, what will make for the most satisfactory ending. Some issues can't ever be resolved. Often people can only move on. Bad things can't always be put right. A character can develop awareness and wisdom, which might be considered an improvement. Maybe that's what you should be working towards?

    At any rate, a discussion like this (do you like revenge or redemption best) is kind of pointless when it's taken out of context. You must decide yourself, based on what your characters are like and what your story contains.
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2015
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  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Not enough information to say. Seriously, good books are not about some boiled down formula, they are about how the author tells the story, be it revenge or redemption or something else.
     
  6. RachHP
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    RachHP Contributing Member

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    I'm with Jannert, you can go for either but if you head down the revenge avenue I'd be more interested by what happens AFTER the revenge is taken. To me, revenge as a motive is totally understandable but it's not exactly a 'healthy' decision and is bound to have unforseen consequences/wreak havoc even if successfully executed.

    In these kinds of scenarios this quote always comes to my mind...
    “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

    That's what I would be considering in a plot like this. To me, whichever route you choose (redemption or revenge) the character's journey will be the most fascinating element (ie does it heal/destroy/poison others, etc.)

    Edit: Realised I never answered your question...Personally, I'd go for the revenge plot (i'd be most satisfied if it led to the MC ultimately realising that it didn't fix anything).
    x
     
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  7. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    My own very first novel is about redemption - and just think what classics redemption movies can be. Dark Knight, about the redemption of Gotham and perhaps the condemnation of Batman, and in Batman allowing himself to be condemned he hopes to redeem Gotham from the damage Two-Face has done. Shawshank Redemption too - people in jail serving life and some finding life after and others finding despair in freedom. Or think the novel and musical Les Miserables. The entire thing is about redemption - redemption of the protag as well as the antag.

    Even just think - an entire religion sprang up around the theme redemption - isn't that what Jesus Christ on the cross was supposed to do? Of course, being Christian, I believe it happened, but for those who don't believe, it's an amazing story that's basically hooked millions around the globe because it speaks something so powerful and profound that all these millions decided to create a religion around it.

    So no, I don't think it's dull. And yes, it's worth reading. There're some themes we will never tire of, and redemption is one of them.

    The revenge theme has been done often - I'm reminded of the musical Sweeney Todd and the anime Code Geass, both of them essentially about revenge, and the havoc the protag's goal of revenge causes everyone around them, wrecking the lives of those the protag loves and wanted to protect. There's a lot of tragic irony when it comes to revenge. Is there something new you'd like to do with this theme, or would it be along the same lines?

    Personally I prefer redemption - there's enough tragedy in the world, and I love tragedies that redeem the world and/or people. There's usually no redemption in revenge. But there's often tragedy in redemption - in the redemption theme you get the best of both worlds, in my opinion. That irony of death bring hope, for example, is something that never ceases to move me.

    Whereas revenge - it can only ever be tragedy. It is complex without ever giving any hope, anything other than tragedy.

    So I prefer redemption, as it can be sweet, or bitter sweet, depending on how you do it. But the result is equally satisfying whichever way you go. Whereas revenge themes leave me feeling spent and tired and they're not usually works I revisit, no matter how brilliant.
     
  8. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    For some reason the majority of novels or films featuring a revenge theme seem to feel compelled to have the protagonist either end badly or realise a the end the futility or evil of revenge.

    I don't see this at all. History is full of successfully carried out revenge plots. It just takes patience, ruthlessness and planning. I would like to see a well conceived and executed revenge with the "hero" having a happy ever after.
     
  9. RachHP
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    RachHP Contributing Member

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    I'd agree that revenge plots can work out successfully (in the sense that they exact their revenge and there aren't hideous consequences) but I think this kind of plot is hard to do if you're writing a traditional 'hero'/trying to preserve the MC's reputation.
    In my opinion, a successful revenge plot takes away your MC's position on the moral highground, and that makes them an 'anti-hero'. That's not a bad thing, but I figure you'd need to plan accordingly (ie maybe avoid making them squeaky clean until the point they murder someone...As a reader, I would find that really annoying.)

    For the sake of playing devil's advocate, I'll also add that there's the question of 'ethics in writing' - some people would feel uncomfortable writing a plot that glorifies seeking revenge/doesn't promote more 'acceptable' moral/social values.
    Personally, I wouldn't care. Fiction is fiction, after all, but it's worth bearing in mind ;)
     
  10. theoriginalmonsterman
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    theoriginalmonsterman Pickle Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Usually what I see in stories is revenge, so I would say to be a bit more original go with redemption :angle:
     
  11. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's a lot to do with culture. In Asian cinema and literature, vengeance is usually the honourable and proper thing to do. Those who fail to avenge their dead are the ones despised and who lose their reputation. On the other hand, isn't Count of Monte Cristo basically a story of a man who seeks vengeance and succeeds?
     
  12. RachHP
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    RachHP Contributing Member

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    Excellent point about cultural perspective, @Bryan Romer, interesting to consider what other 'belief' models affect the view on revenge vs redemption as well (religious and otherwise).

    I think Monte Cristo does successfull seek vengeance, but he inadvertently ruins the lives of innocent people along the way :/
     
  13. CedricMiddorick
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    CedricMiddorick Member

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    Cliché Smiché. So what if revenge/redemption stories have been done a million times before? If the story's interesting and the writing's good, who honestly gives a crap? Intriguing characters and plot development is a lot more important than worrying about whether or not your book will make it into tvtrope's black list.
     
  14. Jenurik Name
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    Jenurik Name Member

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    It really depends, particularly the redemption part. Did the main character wrong someone, and now they're dependent on earning their forgiveness, and in the process throwing away all semblance of dignity? Those types of stories can be tough to pull off because, if you're writing well, the reader sides with the main character, yet authors (and movies where this device comes up) always turn it into this self-insert self-flagellation fantasy where the victim's moral superiority is lorded over the protagonist.
     

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