1. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    What can I do to make this protagonist more interesting?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Ryan Elder, Mar 4, 2016.

    For my story, it's about a serial rapist killer type villain, who goes around committing crimes and the reason why she is because of constant rejection from the opposite sex, but it's also for how she feels treated differently from society, because of her mental disorder, which incapacitates her from normal relationships.

    So the protagonist is one of the cop's who is on the case, and pursuing her. He ends up becoming one of her rape victims, which deeply traumatizes and shames him, so he seeks revenge on her, using his police resources to get it.

    I got some feedback from a few readers and they said they felt the main character didn't have anything unique about him that sucked them into the story.

    He is just your average everyman cop character. Even though he is seeking revenge for what happened to him, it doesn't happen to him till about halfway through the story, and he is not interesting before that they said.

    I see their point. I wrote it so that he was the opposite of the villain, which sparks the villain's jealousy, as the villain gets to find out more about him as he closes in on the case.

    Unlike the villain, the MC is mr. popular with the opposite sex, and has it all going for him. But I was told that any character can be mr. have it all, and getting married is so common, that that is exactly why the character is not interesting, because he's too common, and wants what everyone else wants.

    The readers said the characters have be interesting before they enter the main plot, which I can understand. Since I am writing a screenplay, I tend to use movies as examples. One movie that comes to mind with a common everyman character, is The Fugitive (1993).

    In that movie Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford), has things going for him before his wife is murdered and he is blamed for it. So what was it that made his character interesting and unique that the audience liked about him before the murder happened?

    I guess I just need to come up with some sort of unique drive for the character, prior to the rape, or prior to him getting the case, even. What do you think?
     
  2. tristan.n
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    tristan.n Active Member

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    He needs at least one flaw and some pre-rape goals. At this point, your villain sounds way more interesting than your protagonist. Why is your character a cop? What makes him so popular? What's he hiding? You said he's always been good with the ladies--did he settle for a sweet, stable relationship with little passion, or did he find a sassy firecracker who keeps him on his toes but wears him out? Or did he go for the trophy wife with nothing to offer but beauty? Or perhaps his lover is just as dynamic a character as he is (or should be), and has more depth and personality than the stereotypes I just listed. What are his quirks? What keeps him getting out of bed every morning? What ignites him and fuels his fire? What makes him rape-worthy to your antagonist? Is he a jackass that everyone tolerates, or is his personality really quite magnetic? These are just some things to think about. :)
     
  3. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Well I came up with the protagonist, and her dilemma first. Then I thought well since she is a serial killer with the police after, her, she will need an opponent to catch her. I also wanted her character to be a mystery that is investigated by someone else, hence him being a cop.

    As for the woman he goes for it, would be the one with more depth and personality? He only has the one love interest, but it is suggested that he is good at getting women cause of him seducing her, and the villain being jealous of her.

    I'd say he is rape worthy, cause the antagonist finds him to be a stand up guy. He rescues one of the victims of the villain earlier, and that kind of turns her on. Well when it comes to fiction what is it that makes other protagonists interesting in their pre-goals before they get involved in the plot? Some characters are just everyday kind of people until they are victimized, which gives them their goal for the rest of the story.

    Unless I am looking at it the wrong way? I guess the reason why he doesn't have a flaw, is because before the rape, the story does not require him to have one that I can think of.
     
  4. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Just give him enough complexity and he'll be interesting. And he doesn't need any particular flaw, if he's reasonably complex, he probably already has one or two. Flaws can be anything. Limits. Things that make you mean or snappy or whatever. Things that tempt you. Insecurities. Fears. A bad sense of humour. There are many kinds of imperfection, because perfection does not exist.
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2016
  5. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Well one flaw could be how and why he falls into the villain's trap to be kidnapped and raped. But I guess that doesn't come till the second act though and he still needs flaws to begin with.

    I think the problem is though, is that he needs a theme. A theme that is related to the story. I mean when you have a villain who is going around doing what she is doing, what should the hero be in relation to her? There has to be a connected theme, between the two, if that makes sense, and I think that's the problem, that there is no connected theme?
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2016
  6. Feo Takahari
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    Feo Takahari Active Member

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    This might be too dark for you, but I could see the cop being a "socially accepted" rapist, someone who's lax about consent when alcohol is involved, but hasn't been tried for rape and wouldn't consider himself a rapist. The villain could set him up for a dose of reality, showing him what it's like when the shoe is on the other foot.
     
  7. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks for the idea. But there is already a cop who is a socially accepted rapist, and he is a police mole, working with the villain. It's unusual that a serial rapist killer would have a mole, but this one does, who is not working for money but believes in the cause originally. So if I make the MC one as well, will it come off as repetitive to do that to two cop characters?

    However, the other character does not experience the shoe on the other foot by being raped himself. He feels the shoe on the other foot, once he hears that his fellow officer has been raped. But some were telling me it's a bad idea for the cop to tell his superiors, cause it complicates the plot too much, and he should keep it secret. It complicates how the villain will get away with the crime, if he tells his superiors, so I was told by others, to just have it so that he is too ashamed to tell anyone.

    But if I write it like that, then the second cop, will not see the shoe being on the other foot, if the MC cop doesn't spill the beans on what happened to him.

    I was considering maybe making the second cop, the MC instead, and have him get raped as the shoe being on other foot. But there are three possible problems for the plot I see with that.

    1. I wanted the MC to solve who the villain is, and if he is a mole, he will already know. Unless he can be a mole to a serial rapist, and not know who he is reporting to, cause the villain wants to be secret, but the mole still believes in her cause?

    2. If he gets raped and sees the shoe being on the other foot, would the reader think of his revenge as hypocritical as a result?

    3. If I make the mole the MC, he has less action and suspense scenes, since he is working with the villain, and there is less cat and mouse between the two, where as the villain will have more cat and mouse suspense, with another cop as a result.

    Or I could write so that there are two cops who are socially accepted rapists, but would that be too coincidental or repetitive that two characters have the same flaw and are both cops, and both learn of the shoe being on the other foot from one of them being raped, and the other one sympathizing?
     
  8. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Come up with a different way of making the MC interesting. Just make him human, make him real, make him have other things going on in his life; personal issues, and flaws.
     
  9. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. One person suggested to me that I should make him Mr. popular with the opposite sex, and that way he will be the opposite of the villain, forced to see the villain's problem I guess he meant.

    But do you think that might make him kind of shallow? What's better, mr. popular vs. the lonely jealous rapist, or a rapist who redeems himself, by getting revenge on and stopping a a rapist?

    Or since I already have a socially accepted rapist cop, who is the mole, I could have him turn good in the end, and they could both fight the villain. But which one of them should be the rape victim who wants revenge as the MC?
     
  10. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Don't repeat the rape thing. Just give him his one interest. Stop thinking of him as a tool, characters are people. Think of him as a person. That's my philosophy.
     
  11. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    When you say don't repeat the rape thing, do you mean do not give two cops the same flaw?
     
  12. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Yep. Diversity my friend. Just do something else. There's a lot you could do to make him more layered. What is his relationship with his parents like? His siblings? His wife? Is he more spontaneous and creative, or organised and efficient? What's his moral code specifically? His politics? Does he have any major insecurities and/or fears? How does he react to stress, to fear, to anger, to pain? Anything and everything? He's an MC, there should be plenty of room to make a very layered and well-expressed character.
     
  13. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    When you say don't repeat it, is it because giving two characters the same flaw is bad, or is their another reason at all I shouldn't?

    I wasn't planning on alluding to his siblings or parents. Since he is out for revenge, I thought it would be best not to concentrate on them since he is risking leaving them behind. I wanted to give him a wife or gf, but I was told by one writer that it makes the revenge much more implausible, as a man wouldn't leave a woman he loves to avenge a rape, or it's unlikely he would if he had a love interest to live for.

    As for reacting to insecurities, fear, pain, etc. The first half is him investigating the case, and since it's early on, the stakes are not near as high yet, so he's not in a state of mind, where his emotions would become as dramatic as those, prior to the kidnapping and rape.
     
  14. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Well, rape isn't a common thing for people to do repeatedly so having too many rapists just feels weird. Like, what is this, the rape club? And again, just give him stuff. Whatever that stuff is. Give him a full personality and some history and give flesh to how he interacts with people in his life. Little quirks of him and his relationships I find are particularly good at making it feel real and they're fun to do.
     
  15. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. So if there is only one cop with that flaw (the mole), in the story, which character should be the MC? The mole or the current one still?
     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2016
  16. GoldenFeather
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    First of all, I absolutely LOVE that the rapist killer is a woman. Kudos man, way to switch things up.

    When it comes to making a character interesting, I always recommend a complicated back story. This back story doesn't need to be evident to the reader, but as long as YOU know why your character is the way he is, it will reflect in how you write about him.

    Since your MC is a cop, the first thing that pops into my head is that he was once a dirty cop, involved in illegal activity. He got a second chance, so even though now (as he seeks revenge) he is only doing minimal harmless things, like looking up an address or criminal record history, he needs to be more careful. It's not a big deal really, but it is if its HIM, because of his past. So it's almost like his little secret and no one can know. This will create tons of challenges along the way and will give your cop some depth.

    Also, I would add something to make him even angrier for revenge. Maybe he was raped as a child, and this instance brought up all that pain and misery, and maybe that's why getting revenge this time is so important to him. OR (this is a long shot) why not make the rapist killer woman his ex wife? Or someone he is in love with? Complicate things, it makes for interesting story.

    OR, you could even make a crazy twist ending. It could be that she did all this to get revenge on HIM. So HE would seek her out, HE would get caught (since he has a dirty past anyways), she could have set him up entirely. OR, maybe he raped HER, and her raping HIM was part of that revenge, but it pissed him off even more.

    I could go on, but you get the idea :)
     
  17. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. I thought it would be interesting, to have the MC as an innocent, clean cop, who goes dirty after the rape, cause he wants revenge so it's the clean cop going dirty. But I was told by readers that a cop who is mr. clean for the first half, is not interesting for a character.

    But if the MC should have a flaw in his past or even the present to be interesting, shouldn't that flaw to related to the theme of the story?

    I mean you mentioned how one idea is how he was raped in his past. But I don't want him to be raped twice. That kind of comes off as repetitive and over kill to me. I think that the basis of revenge, should be done in one fell swoop and not just done once in the past, and then done again in the present, but maybe that's just how I interpret it.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2016
  18. PeterBr
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    I read recently that in order for a character to be interesting, he needs desire, complexity, and uniqueness. The desire with your cop is to catch the culprit. But what's the complexity and uniqueness, that differentiates him from the other stereotypes?
     
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  19. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Well I think in order to figure this out, I need to figure out what his theme is. When it comes to the type of villain I have, what kind of theme would best go with that type of villain? Usually the protagonist, has a theme that is related to the villain in thriller stories so with that type of villain, what kind of theme could I have? Other characters have themes related to the villain such as the police mole, but every character who has a theme related to the villain knows the villain.

    I cannot make any of those characters the protagonist instead, because I want my protagonist to not know who the villain is at first, and want him to solve a mystery.
     
  20. Fawky
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    You could switch him up to be a detective and not a regular cop, this would automatically force you to give him more depth as he'd be investigating things further and it's harder to fall into the stereotypical clich├Ęs that often come with cops. How I tend to give my characters depth is to justify each of their actions, he did this because of this etc. because this automatically gives them a personality and makes it a lot easier to make good, well-rounded characters. Give him some sort of a main character trait, is he funny, charming, full of himself, what makes him such a lady magnet?
     
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  21. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Well the way I want the story to go, for the first half, he is on protection detail. Not sure if a detective would be assigned that, if they already have detectives on the case, but for the way I would like the story to go, he is protecting a witness mostly.

    But then after he is raped, he then takes it upon himself to solve the mystery behind the villain and figure out how to catch her. He has to solve it on his own time though, because since he is a rape victim, he cannot be a detective on the case, cause of the conflict of interest. But I don't think that his rank would be that important to the character, as long as he is solving it on his own time, is it?

    I don't know if I should make him a lady magnet though, now that I have thought about it more. Even though it is the opposite of the villain's problem, and why the villain does what she does, does him being the opposite of her, and successful, give him any depth in relation?
     
  22. Jeni
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    I think that maybe his flaw could be his devotion to catching the bad guy. It's a flaw that can morph with him when he goes from the all around good guy to the guy with a vendetta. The flaw remains only now the goal is the vendetta.
     
  23. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks that can work. I was thinking about it for a while. Do you think his flaw should be related to the villain? If the villain is a serial rapist/killer, with a some misandrist issues, should the hero's theme be related to that in some way maybe?
     
  24. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    If you want it to be. Again, though, character's shouldn't be simplistic, I think. Give him more than just obvious functional stuff, make him a person. Give him more.
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2016
  25. 123456789
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    Here's what I think. EXCELLENT premise for a story. A regular Joe, handsome type, fairly macho (I'm thinking of Ben Affleck from Gone Girl) cop is raped while on duty. This is an emotional wound that begins to fester right to the core of his identity. The story practically writes itself. All you have to do is be a decent writer. There's countless ways to end this story. Does he kill her? Arrest her? Rape her? Fall in love with her (this is a novel, you can do whatever you want to make it interest, though of course this would be a sick outcome)? Obviously your ending can toy with all or some of these possibilities, continuously keeping the reader in suspense untill the last page. As for characterization goes. I disagree with your beta readers. I think you MUST have this guy start as an everyman, so that we can watch him unravel. Think, you get to explore a man's masculinity, watch him question it, see his self esteem shrink the to point of implosion. He can even stare at himself in the mirror, at one point, and wonder what his rapist thought of him. I think it's fair to say that the psyschology of a macho male rape victim could be very different from other types of rape victims. It doesn't have to end with the rape. As he pursues her, she can continue to outfox him, and pile on humiliation after humiliation, until the climax. She can threaten him with sending pictures to the other officers to embarrass him. She can even send pictures to his wife so that she thinks he's having an affair. Maybe he already had an affair, and his wife caught him, and the last thing he wants is her thinking he started up again. You could make this guy a womanizer, and now that he's been used. He's enraged. The possibilities are seriously endless, dude. You have a good idea. I very rarely say this.

    I'm curious how you plan on making his attacker look. Is she attractive but just psychotic? Or is she a behemoth? Either way could work.
     
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