1. Top Cat
    Offline

    Top Cat Senior Member

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2010
    Messages:
    114
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    England

    Sympathy for Bunny

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Top Cat, Nov 14, 2010.

    Right.

    One of my peers suggested that having an old woman of about 60+ would make it hard for an audience to identify with.

    On one hand they may be right - but on the other it works quite well thematically as the story is about loneliness, death and fragility.

    So yeah - how do you make an old woman in the 50's sympathetic and interesting to a young, horror audience...that's mostly used to seeing teens get slashed up to pepperoni.
     
  2. Elgaisma
    Offline

    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2010
    Messages:
    5,337
    Likes Received:
    92
    You are in England did you ever watch Last of the Summer Wine? Think of the characters in that.

    I am guessing you are too young to have watched Alan Bennetts Talking Heads? There was an amazing one with Thora Hird I think called Cream Cracker under the sofa. She had fallen and couldn't get up, she was becoming weaker and weaker and could see a Cream Cracker under the sofa. Look up Talking Heads that will have some ideas about how to take your character.

    Main thing is humour. She can still be beautiful. She can have a story that makes you invest in her.

    There is the song Labelled with Love by Squeeze as well may give you ideas.
     
  3. Top Cat
    Offline

    Top Cat Senior Member

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2010
    Messages:
    114
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    England
    No, but I do remember the one with Mrs Bucket and the letters :D

    Will be certainly good for -research- ; ).

    I suppose it's because a film, and it's horror. So, I'm a bit worried no one is gonna give a...care for some old woman on the edge of the mortal coil anyway. :p
     
  4. Elgaisma
    Offline

    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2010
    Messages:
    5,337
    Likes Received:
    92
    I think with anything if you give it humanity people will warm to the character. Give her the little touches the things she says. Does she have a nervous habit etc. My main character in my current story throws his alarm clock on instinct at 4.45 am even though the person he used to throw it at died five years ago, snot is his version of kryptonite, he can be caring for a small child and all he can think of is the way the snot is burning him. He also has humour and fun. They are the things that go into making him. Could your character have a fun trick of speech like a malaprop etc?

    Everything about (it is Cream Cracker under the Settee) Thora Hird's character in that should have been miserable and unlikeable but her bravery and strength comes through.

    As long as I can invest in a character I love a story.
     
  5. popsicledeath
    Offline

    popsicledeath Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2010
    Messages:
    1,037
    Likes Received:
    71
    Don't worry too much about sympathy, as it's something so dependent on the reader/viewer that it's hard to really plan for.

    The more important thing is empathy. Make the reader/viewer able to understand what the character is going through, and people will naturally identify with her. People want to make these connections with other people, so if you provide them they'll exist. Then, even if a character isn't sympathetic, they can still be understood and a reader/viewer can still be engaged and even moved by their experiences.
     
  6. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,968
    Likes Received:
    5,491
    I'm inclined to think that you're pretty young. :) I certainly wouldn't call sixty "the edge of the mortal coil". Yeah, it's certainly past the halfway point of one's life expectancy, but, yikes, are the remaining twenty to forty years left to that person really that insignificant?

    Come to think of it, I suppose that might be the key to producing the sympathy, - looking at her plans for those years. And maybe tying them back to her young self. Maybe there's some life goal that she's always had, since she was a child, but she was never able to pursue it.

    She wanted to paint, or write, but she had to earn a living in a more reliable way. Or she's an incredibly gifted cook but women couldn't be chefs when she was in her prime, and, again, she had to earn her living some other way.

    Now, she's retired, or she's gotten an inheritance, or the husband that forbid her to follow her interests has died, and she's ready to chase what she's always wanted.

    Oh. Hey. Grab a copy of _The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax_, by Dorothy Gilman. A perfect example of an engaging old lady that the reader can really care about, one who's always done what was expected of her, and suddenly breaks out and does something else. It's a series, but this first one is the one to read.

    ChickenFreak
     
  7. Top Cat
    Offline

    Top Cat Senior Member

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2010
    Messages:
    114
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    England
    Sorry, I'm being typically facetious ;) - though my mental age might prove you right. :rolleyes:

    It's identification I'm interested in - so yeppers, it would be empathy. I suppose if she were innocent we would care more if predators were after her...

    I'm making notes on all these suggested texts by the way - thanks! :D
     
  8. Mallory
    Offline

    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2010
    Messages:
    4,274
    Likes Received:
    191
    Location:
    Tampa Bay
    The stuff about being free from the past's gender role restrictions or stifling husband might work, but here's the issue for me...

    I much prefer when female lead characters are strong and independent....if they're weak or passive, fine, but I expect it to be portrayed as a character flaw, not as a good thing....

    So if the MC's reasoning is "I'm free to do what I want now, now that the days of gender role expectations and my husband's telling me what to do are over," then that would cause me to lose interest in your MC because of the fact that she let those things stop her in the first place.

    Again, this is simply personal opinion and it's just me. But still, just sayin.' ;)

    As far as making young audiences feel for an old woman, I don't think it'd be that hard. I've read lots of stories about old people and I could relate to them, and I'm pretty young myself.

    Here's the thing to keep in mind. Don't use a "stock character." You know, the old man who's grumpy with his pipe and only cares about fishing, or the old lady who sits in a rocking chair and knits in front of the Lifetime channel.

    Now, I'm not saying that an old man can't like fishing or an old lady can't knit, but don't just base the old person on stereotypes that scream "typical."

    Everyone has the same emotions, and everyone can relate to emotion as long as it's portrayed well and powerfully. A just-out-of-college-aged person may become nostalgic by seeing pictures of a long-since-drifted-apart childhood/teen/college best friend, and an old person may become nostalgic by seeing pictures of his/her deceased spouse, but the same emotions will be evoked if you play your cards well enough.

    As far as making the MC engaging, maybe she's gotten a bit depressed as a result of realizing her old age, but she decides to fight it. Make her life engaging and exciting, and do what she wants to do, to hell with age. But then her age does turn out to be a roadblock. Maybe she has a heart disease or something that makes her weak and it frustrates her.

    I'm in a weekly evening workshop class, and someone wrote a really touching story about an old man who desperately wants company and to be able to communicate his stories for his great-grandkids to read, but his hands shake from a disease he has and he can't write. The writer pullled off the story really well, even though she was a 22-year-old girl writing about an old man.
     
  9. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    speaking as an 'old lady' who's a dozen years beyond 60, i don't see why you're worried... has being an old lady stopped mrs. marple from being so popular that films are still being made and remade of her adventures?...

    and bloodthirsting, horror-loving kids aren't the only ones who buy movie tickets, y'know!
     
  10. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Jessica Fletcher was also popular for many years, as were Matlock and Barnaby Jones.

    The network was concerned when Star Trek: The Next Generation planned to have an old, bald captain aboard the Enterprise, but Jean Luc Picard is arguably the most popular of all the commanders in the Star Trek franchise.
     
  11. Top Cat
    Offline

    Top Cat Senior Member

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2010
    Messages:
    114
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    England
    I'm thinking like a producer, I suppose...

    I have no doubts that old characters are not appealing - but I'm thinking of audiences, and genre, which can be quite important.

    Like Jessica Fletcher is a successful protagonist, but the audience for Murder She Wrote I'd argue are probably not teenagers :rolleyes: I would suspect...my mum has the dvd boxset! :p And again with Miss Marple, and Columbo. They existed in their own genre, and that genre had a certain target range and audience.

    Oh, I don't know what I'm waffling about. :p But in terms of horror - how many older protagonists can one think of?
     
  12. popsicledeath
    Offline

    popsicledeath Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2010
    Messages:
    1,037
    Likes Received:
    71
    Golden Girls?

    It wasn't just watched by old people. It was watched by people, because they made the show relevant to people, because it was [at times at least] relevant to us all.

    That's why empathy is important. Make characters feel like real people, and we're bound to find relatable things and develop a connection with the characters, even if they aren't sympathetic. Make characters feel like cardboard cutouts of caricatures, and we may still read/watch if the character is hot or cool or exactly our demographic, but we won't resonate with them in the same way and most likely the experience will be a fickle one easy to dismiss when we get bored or don't sympathize with them anymore.

    What 'target audience' do you want? People as a whole, or a very limited subset of people?

    Then again, I'm not keen on writing stereotypical fiction (I don't use the terms 'literary' or 'genre' anymore, as they both have uninspired, stereotypical stories at times). I don't want my readers to enjoy a story because they enjoy -insert genre-, but because they connect with the characters and story in a meaningful way.

    Think of the fact that The Road, if poorly written and subjected to cliches, could have just ended up with a very narrow reader-base that will read anything post-apocalyptic. Instead, I know people of all ages and demographics that were moved by it, because it wasn't a story about a genre or demographic, but about people, relationships, hope. These things can be found in any story, despite the subjects or themes or demographic of the main character.

    I don't know if it's an art vs business decision, or however people want to construct the argument, but I do think there's a difference between a good horror story, and a good story with horror. If you just want to write a good horror story, then maybe stick to expected conventions and axe the older main character? (hah, axe, nice pun)

    We all have different goals with our writing. Me personally, I would go for a good story with horror, because I don't want my stories to potentially resonate with all readers, not just fans of a genre.
     
  13. Elgaisma
    Offline

    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2010
    Messages:
    5,337
    Likes Received:
    92
    Golden Girls was scary - not sure it was a horror :) ?
     
  14. Top Cat
    Offline

    Top Cat Senior Member

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2010
    Messages:
    114
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    England
    Ermm, eeer...hmm.

    Well, I can't deny I'm writing a film - so genre and audience is one first things I get asked about when I go to a pitching meeting. :rolleyes: It's unfortunate. (You're raising the debate of film genre vs genre film. I don't know how to respond...:D) Genre is merely an expectation and a set of conventions - it's not a writing guide. My story has no real threats in it - there are no knives, and I don't think there's even any blood in my story. And it even has a little musical number in it with singing insects :-D.

    I think I'm writing a story with horror, but I'm gonna pitch it as a horror with a good story - if that makes sense.

    Anyway, I'm just being sensitive ;). Really, I just ought to ask young people what memorable older characters they met in their life and why. It's all speculative as I write up the treatment.
     
  15. popsicledeath
    Offline

    popsicledeath Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2010
    Messages:
    1,037
    Likes Received:
    71
    This is the reality of everything these days, for better or worse. Worse because it can compromise creative blah-blah, better because it makes writers more aware of what lies beyond the writing. But most writers usually do have to answer that question with anything they produce. I guess from a creation standpoint it boils down to whether a writer wants to write what is marketable, or potentially struggle marketing what they want to write.
     
  16. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    get your mind off the calendar and focus on what really matters... which is what/who this character is and what she does, in re the plot... not how old she is...

    a high concept plot, an interesting protagonist and a well-written script will succeed, regardless of whether the m/c is a clueless kid or an experienced-to-the-gills 'oldster'... and for heaven's sake, 50-60 sure ain't old, when most of screendom's top stars, action heros and sex symbols are already up to and over that hill...
     
    1 person likes this.
  17. Top Cat
    Offline

    Top Cat Senior Member

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2010
    Messages:
    114
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    England
    Sir, yes sir! :D
     
  18. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,968
    Likes Received:
    5,491
    For what it's worth, I first read _The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax_, the Miss Marple books, the Hercule Poirot books, and had a crush on both Columbo and Quincy, between roughly age thirteen and eighteen.

    ChickenFreak
     
  19. digitig
    Offline

    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2010
    Messages:
    2,502
    Likes Received:
    79
    Location:
    Orpington, Bromley, United Kingdom, United Kingdom
    Do the members of your audience have mothers and grandmothers? Would they care if they got slashed to pepperoni? Would they care if they were stuck on her own with nobody to talk to, nobody to help them? You get sympathy for a character (and this probably doesn't just apply to elderly characters) by showing their interconnectedness and the loss of such connections.
     
  20. digitig
    Offline

    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2010
    Messages:
    2,502
    Likes Received:
    79
    Location:
    Orpington, Bromley, United Kingdom, United Kingdom
    How old is Dracula? :D
     
  21. Top Cat
    Offline

    Top Cat Senior Member

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2010
    Messages:
    114
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    England
    Good example, though I'm sure Dracula wasn't an old lady :p
     
  22. Top Cat
    Offline

    Top Cat Senior Member

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2010
    Messages:
    114
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    England
    See - now they are the kind of little suggestions I'm looking for. :rolleyes:
     
  23. popsicledeath
    Offline

    popsicledeath Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2010
    Messages:
    1,037
    Likes Received:
    71
    That would be Drag-ula! Queen of the night!
     
  24. Top Cat
    Offline

    Top Cat Senior Member

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2010
    Messages:
    114
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    England
    I vant to suck your...blood!
     
  25. Elgaisma
    Offline

    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2010
    Messages:
    5,337
    Likes Received:
    92
    why am I envisaging Michael Ball in the part lol
     

Share This Page