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  1. Gammer
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    Gammer Active Member

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    Trouble with Development

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Gammer, Mar 20, 2009.

    So in my fantasy story, I have a character Kaiza, who is the leader of the army for the protagonists, but he has the mindset of a villain basically. When the main character first meets him, he sees his men as just pieces on a chessboard basically, and is willing to send them to their deaths if it meant defeating the enemy.

    But over the course of the story, I plan on having him see his men as actual men, and start to truly value them. Trouble is, I am having some problems, and major writer's block over what kinds of events that would make him have a major change of heart like that.

    Any suggestions?
     
  2. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    Well high body counts have a way of making one think about life...

    One suggestion: One person in his army, a close child hood friend, a brother, etc. Someone inside he actually does care about and tries to help him care about others but who is still treated like a pawn (Example: Wilson from the TV series House). This person dies and it sparks an epiphany moment.
     
  3. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    This may not be your cup of tea, but... I would start by figuring out why he is this way in the first place. Once you properly define the problem it's much easier to find a solution.

    Complete and total lack of empathy can be considered a mental disorder. Was he an empathic/caring person as a lad? What happened to change him? Maybe he has always been cold. In that case I would research the psychological condition - treatments in particular. If you know the clinical treatment, then you can apply this in your own way, setting up real life experiences/lessons that will cause him to develope realistically.

    Essentially what I'm saying is that it all comes down to psychology. You'll have to understand his state of mind. Whether you learn by researching the subject specifically, or just taking hints from other stories (lordofhats made a great suggestion, BTW) is up to you.

    It may seem like a load of unnecessary work... but the more you learn, the easier it will be to make solid characters in the future.

    Hope that helps.
     
  4. Gammer
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    Gammer Active Member

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    I already know how he becomes like that since I have most of his backstory planned out. Problem is how to get him out of his mindset.

    The basics of his back story: He was born an illegitimate child of a peasant woman, and a rather successful warrior. His mother died in child birth, and the warrior was cast out of his clan, and the army because of the shame the bastard child brought to the clan name and the army.(There were other reasons, but that was the main one.) The warrior became an alcoholic, and frequently vented his frustrations on Kaiza, so needless to say Kaiza hated his father, and wanted him dead.

    Kaiza's desire for his father's death became so strong that it manifested itself in a "Death Glare" ability, where Kaiza can trap his enimies in an illusion of death. He used it on his father, and the resulting illusion gave his father a heartattack and killed him. The people of the village then saw Kaiza as a "demon child" because of that.

    He joins the army when he's around eighteen, but everyone still sees him as a Demon Child. So he becomes rather unsympathetic to people in general, and becomes even worse when he becomes the military leader because he will do anything for victory for the Empire.

    So that's basically why he's like that, I'm not sure what kinds of events to stage that would make him have a change of heart.
     
  5. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Kas, that is exactly what I was going to say. Well, not exactly.

    Knowing why he sees them as chess pieces I think is the only way to figure out what events would change his views.

    Things that might change him are: Growing close to one of his men by learning about the man's past, life, experiences, fears, loves, etc. As he grows closer to this man he starts to see him as more than just a soldier. Perhaps he starts to fall in love with a female soldier as well. The more he gets to know his men, the more he starts to see them as 3D characters, but, ah ha, the more us readers start to see them as 3D characters as well.
     
  6. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Oh, a few other thoughts. Maybe, as he starts to get to know his fellow soldiers, some of them went through similar hardships in life, have similar backgrounds. We often sympathize with people that have gone through similar troubles.
     
  7. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    The disorder that Kas is talking about is called Conduct Disorder. In the wikipedia article, it showed that the pleasure centres in the brain show activities when they are watching someone beat up another person.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conduct_disorder
     
  8. Dcoin
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    Dcoin Contributing Member

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    Maybe one of his men saves his life or does something so unselfishly, that it jars him into seeing them as people and not objects.

    Any action that humanizes the group would do the trick.
     
  9. Prettyroser
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    What about the father?

    Well, atleast the father didn't abandon the poor lad if he hated him so much and if he hated him so much why wouldn't he have tried to kill his son. I think one key to understanding Kai might be understanding the father. What kind of knight thrown out of grace by a bastard son would still be willing to raise the son?

    It sounds like there is a very messed up relationship there that needs investigating. Perhaps his father could have loving moments but when he got alcoholic he became a jerk. Or he neglected the boy. One of the few things that is known to make children truly despise their parents is neglect.

    What terrible things did his father say to him? Perhaps there was also an event that drove Kai over the top. Something is father did that finally went too far and Kai snapped.

    Maybe he tried to kill Kai finally or ruined Kai's favorite shirt, but something. And clearly it would have been public if everyone knew that it was Kai who killed is drunkard father and not just insanity.

    But I would investigate the man that raised Kai to figure what screwed up Kai's ability to feel empathy for others.
     
  10. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Hmm....... Let's look at the story in general. First, I don't think that what you've described should be back story in the first place. I'd like to observe Kaiza in his youth. I want to see how he develops from the beginning. What are his interests? Is he passionate about anything? Children, even in very abusive situations, usually have a certain youthful enthusiasm.. which is eventually crushed by the abuser. This opens up endless possibilities... sky is the limit. Maybe he had a passion for music once upon a time... and a certain female under his command is an accomplished player...

    Wouldn't Kaiza seek to prove that he is not as bad as they all think? Virtually everyone craves recognition.. except for people like mammamaia who have discarded all worldly wants and ambitions.

    I also wonder how a bastard in disgrace becomes a military commander in service to the empire. Seems like an epic story right there. I'd probably write a full novel before I arrived at your present dilemma. You could just keep the word count down and call it 'part 1' though.. Anyway, I think if you write this out in story form, the ideas will come to you. There's nothing like actually writing to get the creative juices flowing, I find..

    If you're familiar with R.A. Salvatore, consider his Drizzt character.. The first book started off with Drizzt on the surface with a few close friends already.. kind of in the middle of his story. But Drizzt was always a very likeable character, so it worked. "Homeland" was my favourite book, though, which describes his beginning. From what you've told me of Kaiza, I'm not sure if I could really sympathise with him right away. You've got a character with serious flaws right from the outset. What is there to counter those flaws? I'm thinking you'll just bog down your story in the present as you try to justify him with too much back story... but if you skimp on the background details, he'll just seem like a jerk..

    Looking at Kaiza as a military commander.. he must have done something worthy of note to achieve the rank. I would imagine that his death glare is insanely useful. If he has the sense the gods gave a goose, he'll be using that to bring an efficient end to conflict whenever possible.. Also, being cold isn't necessarily a bad thing in a commander. Soldiers are a limited and precious resource. If he's any good at all he'll be making efficient use of his resources, which means losing as few men as possible to achieve victory. Ideally, none at all.. (death glare!) It doesn't matter that he doesn't care about them emotionally. It's more important that he care strategically. That's his job, no?

    His men may fear and hate him to begin with, but they will eventually realise what they've got in Kaiza... a skillful commander (which means more glory and less dying) and a leader who strikes fear into the heart of the enemy. I would imagine that eventually they take a certain perverse pleasure in following a 'demon spawn' into battle. They might shout "Kaiza! Hell spawn!" as a battle cry and compliment.. A commander *must* earn the respect of his men, somehow. Otherwise he is not fit to lead.. See Sun Tzu's Art of War. So as his men come to respect him, and even praise him, I think his attitude may change somewhat..

    Actually, the cold commander thing puts me in mind of Lord Tywin, from A Song of Ice and Fire. I can't imagine Tywin Lannister ever developing a sense of empathy.. lol.. He is known to be cold, calculating, and hard as stone, but his men follow him eagerly because he brings them victory. He's a brilliant tactician, and that's more important than being loveable.

    And freaks are fantasy-favourite battle commanders. It only makes sense that his men will come to like him in time - if he's actually worth a darn. That others will still hate and fear him is actually a big plus.. if Kaiza is able to see that. Even Drizzt used racial fear to his advantage. So for your present issue I'd probably just focus on his military career and advancing the general storyline. You may find his emotional developement occurring naturally as the story unfolds.

    Also, the poster above me made a good point about the father. I would look deeper.. Abuse in general is never sufficient reason for such extremes.. There must be some love in that relationship for Kaiza to kill him. Otherwise he would have just left his father long ago, I would think. My brother left home and lived on the street for a while at age 12.. then wound up in fostercare. You'll need to work out those details.
     

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