1. primalpeace
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    primalpeace Member

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    Tips for vulnerability and weaknesses

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by primalpeace, Jan 29, 2013.

    I am trying to find out how to create the main protagonist and how to add her vulnerability and weakness. In some cases, in novels, you dont require a weakness because any fault can cause the person to collapse. But I want it to be a way so that, in normal circumstances that would be true, and the character doesn't survive purely on luck, but on their skill and way of thinking. While being full of faults.

    The Character: Alaska
    (Notes: This story is about a group of people trained to take out everyone and complete their objective under any circumstances. They are trained at birth to serve an unknown branch of the U.S Military. They are masters at hand to hand and long range combat. Including use of swords and other weapons.)

    Alaska is the worst of all the people in this group. The group is named "The Defenders". She is a master at combat in all means, but she is the worst in their group, she isn't as smart as the rest. Her I.Q is at a 237 while the person who is smarter than her has an I.Q of 253. She has a competitive nature, but other than people in her order, she is, as far as everyone else knows, the best fighter in the world and the best sharp shooter.

    Any other required information, just ask. Thanks.
     
  2. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I feel a character that is the "best in the world" at anything is likely to be a really boring character. Eliminating challenge eliminates excitement. Eliminating challenge and then adding it in again by introducing impossibly huge obstacles takes the story to a level of unreality that again very often eliminates excitement. I would drastically reduce the power level of all of these characters.
     
  3. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    The one weakness I can think of just off the top of my head is upper body strength.

    Some suppressive weapons are heavy. A 'SAW' weapon has a large box of linked ammunition. Old BARs with spare ammunition packs weigh almost 70 pounds, complete.

    I doubt a woman can "hump" in hostile terrain long enough to engage an enemy carrying all of that and still control the weapon under full recoil.

    The crux of your "weakness" could be your heroine's struggles to excel with limited attributes.
     
  4. prettyprettyprettygood
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    prettyprettyprettygood Active Member

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    I'm not sure I understand the issue, if she is less intelligent than the others is that not her weakness? Competitiveness can also be a weakness, especially if she needs to work as a team. Are you looking for additional weaknesses, or have I just missed the point? :p
     
  5. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    You could maybe make it psychological rather than physical - maybe her weakness is she doesn't realise the value of non-superpowered people, and the story shows her that you don't need a 200+ IQ and Kill-Billish levels of weapon proficiency to be valuable in the team. I find it hard to see her angsting over her own weakness with skills like that, even in the company of people who are slightly better than her at most things.

    In general, though, I agree with what ChickenFreak said. Sounds like you've got a team of Mary-Sues, and that kind of character tends to make the story suck.
     
  6. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    I think you hit it!

    The guys I've seen that take a drubbing in bar fights could be classified as "book smart and street stupid."

    For history, look at the Nazis trying to take Moscow. Superior tanks, German craftsmanship, "Aryan breeding," and they get their butts handed to them with essentially peasant technology. The Russians beat them with pure numbers--and the frozen mud outside Moscow.

    "The body follows the pain." You're notice an IQ is never mentioned. You don't out-think this female lead, you punch her in the nose, and then tell her you're going to do it again.

    Maybe that's the hook for the story. This Mary Sue thinks she's going to set the world on fire being physically and mentally superior. Her first fight, she gets pommeled. Her rude awakening is the "weakness."
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Weaknesses and vulnerabilities are not necessary for making characters come alive to the reader. Look instead for unique attributes and quirks.

    I'm not saying characters should be perfect. But it's sufficient that they can't anticipate or prevent every possible setback. Artificially imposing flaws is just another way of creating shallow characters. Even a difference priorities is an adequate source of conflict and struggle.

    Always trying to define a flaw is a flawed approach.
     
  8. Chirping Cricket
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    Chirping Cricket New Member

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    I enjoy writing a normal person and letting their flaws define themselves. Doing otherwise makes the character feel artificial.
     
  9. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    I played against type with my lead character. He thinks he's normal. Slowly thoroughout the tale you learn little things about him, seemingly minor.

    He has perfect teeth, unusual scapula, he likes to watch redtail hawks glide, he's a tad taller than most, and he heals fairly fast.

    Oh, and then there's his fingers...
     
  10. Rafiki
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    Rafiki Active Member

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    Some vices miss what is right because they are deficient, others
    because they are excessive, in feelings or in actions, while virtue
    finds and chooses the mean.

    -- Aristotle
    Nichomachean Ethics

    Push a trait that she is proud of to excessive means and you will have her "weakness".
     
  11. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Genius level IQ is 140. The world record IQ is 228 or 210, depending on your source. So all of these characters have a higher IQ than the world record, higher than the estimated IQ of Leonardo da Vinci or Isaac Newton, or the measured IQ of Albert Einstein

    The difference between IQ 237 and IQ 253 is probably testing "noise"; I can't imagine that it could even be perceived in interaction with the people in question.

    These characters are, I say again, so overpowered that I can't imagine any way to make them interesting.
     
  12. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wonder how someone with an IQ that high would even act....
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    People with very high IQs often test poorly, because they tend to see options and solutions not considered by the test designers.
     
  14. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    When I develop a character and build in a weakness I usually do it not just for the one character but for others as well. An example would be to make one character a spaz and the other character extremely reliable. You could make one character really stupid but likable, and another intelligent but judgmental.

    I would use that poor student angle. Super Soldier stories rarely focus on the lowest test scorer. I would play up an impulsive, short tempered personality but make her determined. Create a rival. This is where the short tempered piece would play a role. Create someone analytical, steadfast but indifferent of other people. Her only value is completing a mission.
     
  15. primalpeace
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    primalpeace Member

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    Thanks a lot for all the feedback on this to help me on character development. I will put all of your advise to good use.
     
  16. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think that having IQ of 237 can classify a character as "not as smart as the rest". Anything over 200 will be in a "total genius" category, and the difference numerically in their scores won't reflect the level of "smartness" but simply different abilities and how suitable one and the same test is in testing all of them accurately. If you wanted her to be "not as smart" either her IQ is 147 and the smarter guy is 253 or if she is 237 then he needs to be like 300+ and the smartest kid around 400.

    Also, "best in the world" puts your character squarely in the "Mary Sue" category, conceptually speaking, so I would bring it down a notch.

    Vulnerability is usually defined in terms of physical (if a person is weak, or susceptible to a disease or some physical agent. For example Jam-Hadar from Deep Space Nine were dependent on a certain substance for survival, which made them vulnerable to their masters, The Dominion, who were in possession of the powder). Vulnerability can be emotional, sexual (naive, easily taken advantage of), risk of self-neglect (like an eating disorder, or forgetting to eat, getting too thin or not going to the doctor when sick) all those are vulnerabilities and you can creatively apply any of them to give your character depth.
     
  17. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Jazzabel, I'm with you 95% of the way. The issue is the concept of "healthy athletes."

    I'm healthy, but I cannot jump as high as Michael Jordan. Most right handed NFL quarterbacks have difficulty on passing plays on the right side of the field--you'll hear color commentators say, "He can't go to his right."

    But in neither case are the examples those of illness or lack of fitness. There is a bell-shaped curve even for the gifted.

    Somewhere out there is the worst Navy SEAL who was at the bottom of his class. In the roles of Mensa there's a guy the membership calls, "The dumb kid." Some Miss America contestant placed 51th--most likely from The District of Columbia for pretending to be a state.

    All of these guys surpass us. It's a comparative value.
     
  18. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Unless we're all working with different scales, I don't think that 400 is even human - I don't think that anyone has ever had an IQ of 400.

    But the 147/253 distinction makes me think, hey, this character would be _far_ more interesting if she were dead average intelligence, around 100. Bump everybody down to a human level - give her a 100 IQ, make the super geniuses still below 180 IQ, and make them merely quite good fighters. (Or - much, much more interesting - make some of them completely useless at fighting.) Make her a much, much better fighter than the others, not the flat-out best in the world, but perhaps good enough to have a shot at making the team if there were Olympic events in her fighting disciplines. Then she really does have a natural, meaningful weakness in relation with her peer group, and her peer group, being inferior to her in fighting, have a natural, meaningful weakness in relation to her.

    OK, to some extent I just recreated some of the characters in Leverage. But the Leverage characters are moderately interesting, while superhuman characters would struggle to capture my interest. And, in fact, Leverage is a decent example. Parker isn't most interesting when she's demonstrating her near-superhuman ability as a thief; she's most interesting when she's completely flummoxed about normal human behavior.

    Parker: You remember Peggy from that jury duty job? She moved here from Boston last year, so we've been doing brunch and other normal people stuff.
    Sophie: And we're very proud of you.
    Parker: Well, brunch isn't hard. I mean, there are forks.


    Sheldon, on Big Bang theory, is similarly mostly interesting when he's completely confused; his tremendous intelligence isn't _interesting_, it just provides context for his interesting social and emotional issues.
     
  19. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Of course they aren't human, I was just extending what is human to make the comparison more like real life. Never mind, if you didn't get that, no point in me explaining.
     
  20. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I realize that the 400 was for the sake of argument. I was concerned about the OP perhaps being confused about human IQ ranges, since the original IQ presented, for a character whose weakness was proposed as relatively lower intelligence, was higher than the historical world record.
     
  21. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ah, lol, sorry, I misunderstood. Thanks for expaining :)
     

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