1. Jessica Cantell
    Offline

    Jessica Cantell New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2014
    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    England

    Should my main character be popular or unpopular?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Jessica Cantell, Jan 11, 2014.

    I'm just in the process of planning out my first novel (so I'm very new to this!)
    Basically (this is very brief) The main focus of the story is the diary that this girl writes in. When she was 18 years old, a terrible event happens and everyone is very sympathetic towards her but 10 years on, her diary is discovered containing details about this event that happened 10 years previously informing them that she was the reason for the terrible event happening.. etc.

    Anyway, I was just wondering about developing this female character.. do you think I would be better off making her popular, then when the secret is discovered people hate her? Or should I make her unpopular from the start and then in the end when her secret is discovered she falls deeper into depression (or something like that?)

    Sorry if I'm making no sense or rambling, as I said I'm new to this and need advice.. thank you :)
     
  2. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,993
    Likes Received:
    5,503
    I'm seeing an issue here. "Popularity" is usually associated with a fairly closed society. A person's popularity can completely change when they move from one society to another--from junior high to high school, from high school to college, from college to work, from one workplace to another.

    And popular and unpopular are words that have far less meaning in adult life. A person may not have a lot of social friends at work, but that person can seek any number of other circles to find friends. They may or may not seek those friends, and they may or may not find them if they seek them, but all the same, popular and unpopular make more sense as words when you're trapped in a single social circle. For an adult loner, I would choose different words, because the situation would be truly different, even if it's still negative.

    And adults can be perfectly happy with very few friends--the inherent judgement that everyone must be part of a big circle is largely gone. So she's not necessarily going to be depressed if she's "unpopular" at twenty-eight.

    Getting back to the discovery of the diary: The circle in which your character is popular at age eighteen is quite likely to no longer exist when she's twenty-eight. Odds are that the people that she knows when she's nearly thirty really won't care what happened when she was nearly twenty. I think that the big reveal would have to happen much faster for the same circle to be involved. (And that makes me think of Harriet the Spy, but, as people keep saying, every story has already been told.)
     
  3. Jessica Cantell
    Offline

    Jessica Cantell New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2014
    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    England
    Thank you, this is true and something I didn't consider.. I had an idea that possibly it would be better to have less of a time gap between the event and the discovery.. possibly 5 years or less.
    Thank you for giving me these things to consider, I have not read 'Harriet the Spy' but will do a bit of research to what it's about.
     
  4. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,993
    Likes Received:
    5,503
    I think that even five years, even *one* year when you're starting at age eighteen, is likely to undermine your concept. At age eighteen, social circles dissolve. To keep that from happening, I think that you'd have to deliberately design your setting so as to keep your characters trapped--nobody goes to college, for example, nobody gets married, nobody moves on to adult life.

    Alternatively, you could start after a character has entered a fairly sealed social bubble in adulthood. I find myself imagining a "company town", or a job at a university where the character's social life is tightly tied to their work life, or perhaps the military. Those may not be the sealed social bubbles that I imagine--my envisioning them that way may just reflect my ignorance of them.

    Another possibility would be to abandon popularity and unpopularity, which to me refers to a rather large impersonal circle, and instead work with a few specific relationships.

    (Harriet the Spy, just to offer more detail, is a children's book about a schoolgirl and how her friendships are threatened when her "spying" notes--essentially, a diary--are found.)
     
  5. rasmanisar
    Offline

    rasmanisar Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2014
    Messages:
    129
    Likes Received:
    29
    I like the concept, but I agree that the time period needs to be vastly shortened. I'd say 3-6 months, which gives time for people to recover from the aforementioned tragedy, and to start being bitter about it. One way you could work the 'popular/unpopular thing is if her diary is stolen by children/teenagers that are still in school. That would provide the closed social circle etc necessary for such things, and also gives you platform for the extreme levels of prejudice that can form within adolescent social circles. Maybe she is a teacher/classroom assistant? They could then go on to tell their parents, etc... Leading into a more complex study of how adult common sense can be suppressed by anger and gossip etc.

    Oh, and go for positive to negative. Gossip is so much more juicy when it's about someone popular, and the switch from positive to negative is great for getting the emotions going.
     
  6. Echoesian
    Offline

    Echoesian Member

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2014
    Messages:
    53
    Likes Received:
    22
    Location:
    Michigan
    I think this premise might be able to work in a small town setting. Even though people move on and go to college, etc, small towns remain tightly knit, and everyone-knows-everyone still stands even when kids leave for school. The parents are likely to stay, and if this character was involved in social groups, like church for instance, those will remain intact after a person leaves. As a result, the news could still get back to her old friends via gossip, regardless of whether they remained friends after graduation. It could still affect the town in a big way, especially if the "terrible event" affected many members of the community.

    In this sense, I guess "popularity" in some kind of circle would be best, because gossip doesn't spread very far about recluses. But maybe it could, if the event affected enough other people.

    I also like the positive to negative, especially if she's not a very likeable character to begin with. That's what it's all about, right? Torturing our MC's? :)

    I like the idea. Would be interested to see what you do with it!
     
  7. SuperVenom
    Offline

    SuperVenom Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2010
    Messages:
    478
    Likes Received:
    72
    Location:
    South Wales
    I think it would be more effective being popular as the change through out the story will have more effect. If she wasn't popular to begin with why would they feel anything? BUT just thinking out loud the effect would be much more devastating for the surrounding cast if she was unpopular, the event made them take pity where she grew popularity and then through the diary they feel duped and taken advantage of. Either way I think she has to be popular at some point :D
     
    TheApprentice likes this.
  8. TheApprentice
    Offline

    TheApprentice Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2013
    Messages:
    1,198
    Likes Received:
    154
    If you make her popular, you should have her secret found out at the beginning.

    If you make her unpopular, have little bits be found out at a time, and have her fall deeper into depression throughout the story, as opposed to all at once at the end.
     
  9. JayG
    Offline

    JayG Banned Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2013
    Messages:
    642
    Likes Received:
    358
    Location:
    Philadelphia PA
    No one cares if she's popular or unpopular. They care that she and her problems are interesting enough that they grapus emotionally. The idea is to make people see the situation as she does, and so share her emotional outlook, her desires, and her concerns. A worried reader is a happy reader because they want to see what they're trying to have happen will work as planned.

    That's why your format, if I interpret it properly, may have a problem. If you're telling this as a series of diary entries, it might be tough to pull off, because few people write a forty page diary entry. They don't generally go into that much detail. And by nature, such entries are often told in overview, and we can't be in the protagonist's POV in overview.
     
  10. Shayla
    Offline

    Shayla Member

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2014
    Messages:
    27
    Likes Received:
    4
    I think the story will develop more if you make her popular and then unpopular as that shows a vast change in character development and the story will be able to go in a new direction.

    It would still work if you made her unpopular and then even more unpopular but at some point she would need to gain popularity.

    Everybody loves a rise and fall!
     

Share This Page