Have I done too much to this character?

  1. Yes

    0 vote(s)
  2. Yes- use plot points on someone else

    0 vote(s)
  3. No

    1 vote(s)
  4. Hardly- no such thing as being too cruel to a character

    1 vote(s)
  1. Ms. DiAnonyma

    Ms. DiAnonyma Active Member

    Jan 23, 2015
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    Too cruel to mc?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Ms. DiAnonyma, Sep 9, 2015.

    I've only written some of this character's story, and he might get two... The problem, (it looks like), though, is that nothing good can happen until the second story- everything bad, everything bad, then finally things start looking up. Perhaps the general story is too cliche or overdone anyway- would appreciate hearing what you think...

    • Father and tutor friend executed after failed coup to retake their country from an oppressive empire
    • rest of family's fate unknown, except for sister (co-MC), whom he struggles to raise
    • loses friends and hope in fighting empire that took his country (his father was fighting against)
    • eventually retakes home country, only to realize it can't be home
    • finds mother dying, learns of other brother's existence (born in prison), but none of his brothers' fates are certain
    • tries to make normal life for sister- (fails in regards to himself- gets involved in dangerous intelligence business against same empire again).
    • Leaves that when it jeopardizes his unwitting fiancee, (who at first is convinced he's crazy, then that he's dead)
    • After several childless years (hard on both) he's found by the intelligence people who want him back- goes on mission (at wife's encouragement) gets captured, presumed dead.
    • When escapes and returns, finds wife just buried after died in earthquake(no one tells him she was pregnant w/twins, b/c no one knows she gave birth to them and that they were taken to safety by someone else).
    • Overcomes suicidal thoughts and continues to serve in dangerous missions against empire
    • Wrestles (as throughout story) w/purpose of his life, why he lives when so may die (he's way too intellectual and introspective for what he does)
    • Finally feels he's fulfilling his life's purpose when he takes suicidal mission(to save someone else from it), gets predictably captured and killed
    • ...Well, not quite; enemy doctor pityingly gives him poison after torture, but when MC is rescued (and doc captured), doc gives him antidote and resuscitates him... book ends when a friend of MC finds he's not dead... but story doesn't end there...
    In the second book, the separated parts of the family start finding each other again, and while more bad things happen, (completely loses his memory, [w/gradual, painful recovery], best friend gets murdered, etc.) there's more general upside.

    Does it just feel like I'm throwing bad things at this character? (albeit, not in a short time, and not with too many particularly nasty villains). I realize that difficulties are supposed to make characters more relatable and empathizable for readers, but perhaps this would distance instead? MC's biggest benefit/asset is his mind/memory, which is incredibly sharp, and responsible for both getting him into and out of dangerous situations; however, it makes all his painful memories tortuous, and his personal relationships more difficult...

    Anyhow, I appreciate your taking the time to give your thoughts!
  2. Voice

    Voice Member

    Sep 7, 2015
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    I think what you have described, Ms. DiAnonyma, is a character that keeps on going no matter what because he has hope.

    That's a very powerful thing - hope.

    As long as a reader gets that, I think you'd have no problem throwing whatever conflict at him.
  3. Commandante Lemming

    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

    May 8, 2014
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    You're fine. We're all cruel to our main characters - by definition what we do is take someone and put them through one of the worst tests they've ever faced.

    Whenever the debate about emotional attachment to one's characters occurs, I always come down on the side that says it's good. I have an emotional connection to my characters, don't want to hurt them, and want what's best for them - and I think that's good because it prevents me from doing sadistic things to them (which sadly is what I think happens with a lot of people who oppose the idea of having attachment to the characters - they use them to gratify the deep sadistic portions of their brain.)

    But at the end of the day, it's still my JOB to put my characters through the wringer. I think we all would like to think that our characters would be friends with us if they met us - and that's garbage. My protagonist and I would probably be friends if we existed in the same universe and I had no control over her fate. But if she actually met me as her author, I'm pretty sure she'd punch me in the face for what I did to her sister, how I messed up her career, repeatedly put her in traumatic situations where people die, and gave her a tortured relationship history that leaves her romantically unfulfilled for the better part of a decade.

    I think it's good to engage the emotion of compassion toward your characters - but only to a point. At the end of the day they aren't real, and putting them though hard times is what makes their story compelling. Compassion should come primiarily in the service of anti-sadism - and that's not to protect the characters, it's to protect YOU. The characters aren't real. If you torture them to death, technically nobody's been hurt and no suffering has occurred - but if you purposefully tortured them for pleasure, watched it in your head, and enjoyed it, then I think you've done something to your head and your mental state (and those of your readers) that you probably oughtn't have done. Your characters aren't real and don't have feelings or biochemistry - you do, your readers do, and those things are indeed manipulated by reading fiction. That's when you should worry about not employing torture and sadism as story devices, not when you feel bad that the hero is encountering hard times.

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