1. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    too perfect of a character

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Rumwriter, Jun 17, 2012.

    So, this is my dilemma.

    I've got a character that I want to be like, the super best swordsman/fighter/strategist in the world etc. Pretty much, I want him to be unstoppable. The reason for this is that because eventually he is going to switch from the protagonists side to the antagonists, and at that point I want the "s" to hit the fan.

    My problem is that until that time, I've got my main party with a character that is unstoppable, and seemingly has no weakness. I have this underlying fear that if I give him a weakness that later on he won't be as much of a threat, or that it will be obvious to the reader that that weakness will be exploited. Should I do it anyway? Thoughts?
     
  2. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    Weaknesses like any other quality of a character emerges when the character is put in a situation, so its okay if you don't state his weakness right away. The weakness can emerge later at an opportune time.
     
  3. Lovelina
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    Lovelina Member

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    This reminds me of the main villain Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII. He started out good, we get to play with him for a short while and experience first hand how mighty and powerful he is. Then he turned bad. :D Even though he doesn't have any physical weaknesses, he has a huge baggage from the past and his back story is hauntingly beautiful. Another guy that comes to mind is Darth Vader.

    My point is, this scenario is not totally uncommon, maybe you could draw inspirations from these good-guys-turned-super-villains types and see how the pro storytellers maintained the balance of power and vulnerability in a super villain.
     
  4. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    YES! I've thought about both of these characters, and why they work (particularly sephiroth). But one difference with Sephiroth is that he is only seen in snippets. We get a few flashbacks of him, and he comes in and out every so often, so even though we know he's so great, we don't see it. But my character was going to be more prominent, and be a central figure...like the Ron to my Harry.

    But, Idk...I'll work at it more. Emotional baggage isn't bad, I'll think on it.
     
  5. louis1
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    louis1 Contributing Member

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    Here's an idea. it might not fit you story but anyway.
    how about this guy is not invincible, he's a good guy blabla trains hard and one day learns something that makes him invisible and then, power trip he becomes evil.
     
  6. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    What on earth does this mean?

     
  7. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think he means that 'the s--- to hit the fan'
     
  8. nhope
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    nhope Contributing Member Reviewer

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    ahh ... but that is where you are wrong. He does have a weakness, he just hasn't revealed it to you yet. Give him time.
     
  9. ithestargazer
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    ithestargazer Active Member

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    I agree with the above posts that just because his weaknesses might not be obvious, or even known to the MC or narrator, doesn't mean he doesn't have them. Everyone has weaknesses and if you write them well they'll come out as the conflict does or might not even seem to be a weakness at first.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    So keep your character as he is, and come up with someone who finds a way to defeat him. Perhaps the new guy analyzes your character's previous fights, and sees a way to exploit the character's best move.

    Every attack exposes a vulnerability. If the character has never lost with a particular move, he may become overconfidant, especially if the new guy can not only anticipate the move but entice your character to use it at a time of the new guy's choosing.

    In other words, don't make the undefeated guy weaker to make him easier to beat. Make the new guy smart enough to beat him under specialized conditions. The new guy doesn't need to be a better fighter, only better at the right moment.
     
  11. Program
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    Program Member

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    You've talked a lot about "physical" qualities, such as he's a good fighter, but you can always consider mental qualities. Also, it doesn't have to be the main character getting 100% credit in beating the powerful guy. Sometimes, I see the "bad" guy having a very bad characteristic, such as arrogance. Sometimes I see the "bad" side breaking down due to bad internal relationships (maybe the "bad" guy's friend posions him?)
     
  12. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    I was thinking it over more, and Ender is a good example.

    Ender is a character that beats every obstacle that is thrown at him. He is miserable, but he in my mind is a character that can't fail -- and Card never has him fail. No matter how hard the training gets, or how unfairly the odds are stacked, he figures out some way to overcome it.

    So why does it work in this situation? Is it because the book is more than about how good the characters are at battle, but more about human relationships?
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    In fact, Ender is a character who MUST always overcome the obstacles. The story demands it. The requirement for perfection, and what is at stake, are key elements of the story.
     
  14. Justin Richards
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    Justin Richards Member

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    If you're going to give him a weakness that can be exploited later, try thinly veiling it. Hint at it slightly throughout the book, use or hone your skills you've picked up. You'll want to gradually develop him, and not just info dump everything in the first couple of pages then hope to God that no one spotted his one and only weakness. Sometimes keeping things simple is the key, but in this case I think nailing the complexity of this particular character will be vital. Maybe spend some time writing side stories with him to develop some history, things tend to unravel themselves when you just write. Kurt Vonnegut said that 'every character should want something, even if it's only a glass of water.' Find what he wants the most and use that. Character development is bloody hard, and it's one of the things I struggle with most. Good luck to you.
     
  15. afrodite7
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    afrodite7 Senior Member

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    -Okay,I personally say,make the character someone with serious psycholgical issues.But build it up.As the story goes on,the reader will start to realize all is not as it seems,their perfect hero might be a bit psychotic.I don't know if you watch anime or not,but Naruto is a good example.At first,one of the protagonists Sasuke seemed like a good guy and we got glimpse of the fact that he had problems.Then he just completely derailed and now has chronic backstabbing disorder,questionable sanity,post traumatic stress disorder(actually,he always had that) and is a complete bastard.

    See? It can work
     
  16. Darkkin
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    Darkkin Reflection of a nobody Contributor

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    Psychology is one of the more interesting ways to stir things up. Maybe your character's perfection becomes his own obsession, blinding him, ultimately becoming his only true weakness.

    - Darkkin
     
  17. Complex
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    Complex Senior Member

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    Its not so much of a problem if you do it properly. Just don't create a load of Mary-sues and such by having them be plain and emotionally dead. Though a major point is, if you are making anyone be 'godlike' at least know fully why and what makes them so powerful. A godlike commander should not be like Zero in Code Geass (obvious relatively recent example) which uses deus ex machina to do things otherwise impossible and never shows any actual strategy independent of 'my cool special ability'. If you are a fan of superheroes, then realize that even the strongest can be helpless in certain situations. Superman doesn't need some deus ex machina stone to render him impotent, but a moral dilemma or hostage circumstance usually works (unless he plays God with that whole time reversal trick). Even Dr. Manhattan from the Watchmen was 'defeated' in such a manner.

    A classic example of a good about-face is love related. Feelings of betrayal or ideological ones can push people to different sides. A god-complex and general superiority leads to a sense of 'I know what's right and what's wrong', which can easily be perverted into some horrible crusade. Just do not bore the reader with a robotic god who never falls into any interesting dilemma or displays any unique problems. Even the fall from grace is interesting. I much rather read about a 'super-soldier' who's last mission becomes his undoing and renders him a rogue psychopath after certain atrocities (real or fake) are used to ostracize and try to destroy him.

    Make it interesting.
     
  18. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    I suppose part of my problem is that I think far too generally than I do situationally. For instance, I always size my characters up as "who is the better strategist? which one is stroner? who can beat whom?" when i should probably scrap all of that and think more in a situational circumstance. If I were writing Sherlock Holmes, I would think "Is Sherlock or Moriarty the better brain? Who can best whom?" but that is not the way to look at it. It's hard for me to not think that way though.

    But I find that one thing that I love in a story is a mentor figure. Yoda is a great example. Someone who just appears to be on top of everything, that you can always turn to. I want my mentors to seem Godlike, because they present a sense of confidence. My concern when writing is that if I make my mentor fail, he no longer has that status that people see him as infallible.

    How do I get around this?
     
  19. Complex
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    Complex Senior Member

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    Yoda is not really a good mentor figure when you think about it, he's very strange and while nurturing, operates on a completely weird premise and fails to explain the important things. Let's take the example of a strategist. How would someone be mentored into a good strategist? Some weird old man telling you to 'feel the force?' or actually instructing and teaching the character to understand and think for themselves?

    What about geography? What are the advantages of terrain and position. Having the sun at your back when you attack is one thing, but what about smoke screens and decoy tactics that can cause confusion with the enemy? A good strategist should seek advantages in every situation and use every resource to push for maximizing effectiveness. This is something you cannot think of in abstract terms of 'who's smarter'. If you cannot envision their actions and what to do, how can your characters? Read the Art of War, its a good starting point and interpret it to your setting and characters. Books on guerrilla tactics are good to read as well, they often show very simple and effective weapons, defenses and tactics which can be taught quickly and utilized by everyone. Also study actual battles in full detail that share a common tech or premise with your own story, the tactics are valuable and will be rooted in battle-tested conditions.

    A mentor should also provide scenarios in which sides can be switched easily, playing out how best to achieve victory against the enemy and recognize weakness before it can be exploited. A strategist must always be aware of the limitations and risks of their own actions, while making the most of a presented situation.

    For example, Reinhard in LOGH's first example was in the Battle of Astarte. The Alliance had roughly 40,000 warships to Reinhard's Imperial 20,000. The Alliance had split their forces up into 3 groups of 13,000 each. This was done to encircle and destroy the Imperial fleet in the same manner as was done before, minimizing losses in the process. Because they split up, Reinhard pressed on with the entirety of his fleet against the first segment of 13,000 and overwhelmed them with a vicious surprise attack. Completely annihilating them before a counterattack could even be mounted. Now turning to the next fleet (still unaware of the situation) they proceeded to destroy them as well with minimal resistance. The remaining group's commander was injured in battle and it proceeded to the strategist Yang who mounted a counterattack and forced a battle of attrition with the fleets, rather then whittle each other away and waste lives in the process, both retreated and ended the battle with a major victory going to the Imperial side. Reinhard pressed an advantage and claimed victory in a key battle even though he was outnumbered and going to be encircled by rushing into the unprepared enemy when they were unable to back each other up. This is a very basic example of strategy in fiction that shows the intelligence of both commanders. For one side Reinhard made a massive victory against the odds, and Yang (outnumbered now) managed to save lives, force the end of the battle and save the fleet when he was outnumbered almost 2:1.

    A mentor would present the situation and teach about every side, advantage and disadvantage in terms of present knowledge which could be discerned at that time. It does little to say historically that so and so did this, but didn't do this for some unspecified reason other then being unaware of its existence. A real life battle, such as Battle of Midway, is a great example of strategy (even by individual commanders on the carriers) to win a decisive victory. Mentors should be knowledgeable and actually know about what they speak, if not, the paper thin facade will not be convincing.
     
  20. Frusciante
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    Frusciante Member

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    "But I find that one thing that I love in a story is a mentor figure. Yoda is a great example. Someone who just appears to be on top of everything, that you can always turn to. I want my mentors to seem Godlike, because they present a sense of confidence. My concern when writing is that if I make my mentor fail, he no longer has that status that people see him as infallible."

    That's the best part of a mentor, though. The realization that there is no infallibility. Characters can be wrong, the mentor had a message and you hope the protagonist got it, but even if he did, the fall of his own beginning will make him question everything. It's a rebirth, a chance to become the Hero, or maybe he's just destined to fall into the role of a Mentor to some other person in the world. Maybe he'll never vindicate his mentor.

    At least, that's what I find fun about the mentor archetype. :p
     
  21. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    It all depends on what you want to happen to your MC. Do you want the "good guys" to win? Or do you want the MC to win all the time. Write him as he comes to you. If he is unstoppable then he is unstoppable. Let him reveal his own weakness to you. then you can check the scenes that would be best to hint at it. It doesn't have to be a physical weakness, it could be a moral flaw like pride or an emotional attachment, or perhaps like achilles, he's got serious issues living for anyone but himself. It will come to you as you write. Or maybe he has no weakness, maybe his character flow makes him switch sides but he remains unstoppable.

    I'm playing around with the same idea to a point. not making my hero unstoppable but having him realize himself in becoming the villain and thus becoming unstoppable. It all depends on what you learn about your character as you write, and how you want his story to end. Don't give him a weakness, but if you want him defeatable, maybe the guy who defeats him catches a lucky break.

    As for those discussing the mentor archetype... Mentors who are seemingly flawless are great, but you have to give them a reason not to join the conflict themselves. or a reason they can't settle it on their own. They have to have maybe not a weakness, but a stipulation that prevents them from doing what the apprentice has to do... Like in AVATAR THE LAST AIRBENDER, Avatar Roku was human, but he was a fully realized Avatar. He had flaws we didn't discover until near the end of the series. So assuming he was flawless through the rest the only reason he could not directly do Aang's job was because he was dead. So he had to assist Aang :p
     
  22. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    I agree with Kill Bill on his points but there's personality flaws inherent to all people. It doesn't make the character "weaker" to have them; in fact, it makes him or her more human. If he or she doesn't have any weaknesses it'll turn the reader off. Readers like to see a character arc in the story along with the actual plot arc. He or she needs both personality weaknesses along with either internal or external challenges to work through during the course of the novel. How you chose to do that it up to the individual writer, but there's always weaknesses-even when wanting to set up a perfect character to turn evil or fall.

    This probably isn't the best example of it, but take Anakin Skywalker for example in the "Attack of the Clones" and "Revenge of the Sith." There's a character arc that shows how he changes from good to evil. What helped that change along are the weaknesses he had: anger, fear, love (even love can be a weakness in the right context). Ultimately his fear of losing his love near the end of "Revenge of the Sith" forever changes Anakin Skywalker to Darth Vader until the events of "Return of the Jedi" (which is another character arc.

    So let the MC have weaknesses like all people, you'll find he/she will thank you for it.
     

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