1. Crimson Dragon
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    Crimson Dragon Member

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    What to do when nobody likes the kind of characters you love to write?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Crimson Dragon, Aug 6, 2013.

    As the title asks. I HATE writing the typical protagonist types. I simply am bored to tears writing them and can never finish anything with a typical "good guy" main character. What do I like to write, you ask? Villains, and not psychopaths and criminals. There are a lot of stories such as Lolita and a large number of works by Edgar Allen Poe that have MCs who are murderers, pedophiles or criminals. Those, however, are not the kind of "villains" I enjoy writing. I like to write the political, master-manipulator type of villains, who often times have supernatural abilities and are out to expand their personal power. Characters with grandiose goals such as world domination, becoming a god, or something equally large. I am not entertained by the antics of small scale criminals or heaven forbid heroes. I like writing the scheming, backstabing, manipulative types with lofty, grandiose goals. The kind of characters that usually end up as antagonists. This does NOT mean I like writing 2D villains. One of my favorite part of writing villains is that I get to develop the dark mind and flesh out why one would even want to achieve such a megalomanical goal in the first place. My villains have backstories and many reasons WHY they want to take over the world, or become a god, or whatever other lofty goal they may have. I am not talking cartoon supervillains. They are still fleshed out, deep characters like any other, and many could be considered sympathetic in more ways then one. However, I am talking about the kind of characters who you would normally see cast as the villain in the typical fantasy and SF stories out there.

    Issue? There is absolutely nothing in the literary world that I know of with the kind of MCs I enjoy writing. There are a fair number of "evil" protagonists, but almost all of them that I know of are outside of my preferred genres(Sci-Fi and Fantasy) and are usually murderers, pedophiles, criminals and other "smaller scale" kind of evils. The only protagonists I can think of that even come close to what I like to write are Lelouch and Light Yagami, both characters from anime, which is a medium that is VERY different from written works. Since I don't have the art talent to make my own manga or the personal wealth to hire an artist, I can't turn any of my ideas into a manga or an anime. So I am stuck with the dilemma...stories that follow the characters I like to write either flat out don't exist, or at least are fairly obscure if they do. In other words, there is essentially no "market" for what I wish to write. Everybody loves a hero. People want to read the tale of Harry Potter or Katniss Everdeen. Nobody wants to read the story of Lord Voldemort or President Snow.

    So, what should I do? Should I write what I want to write but just put it out on the net or something and not worry of there is a market for it? Or perhaps there is something marketable in the kind of characters I like to write that just hasn't been tapped yet? Maybe I'm actually onto something big here and am treading on relatively unexplored waters? Or maybe there is some stories out there that follow the kind of characters I enjoy writing and the market is just unknown to me but still exists? Any thoughts, opinions or advice would be appreciated.
     
  2. Southpaw2380
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    Southpaw2380 Member

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    I'm absolutely of the mind that you should write what you enjoy and not worry about anything else. Of course, this works for me because I do not aim to make a career out of writing. Unfortunately I cannot name any works that I'm aware of that pertain to your character-type, but I am absolutely positive that they exist in more than one genre, by more than a handful of authors. I'll try and do some research and find them for you when I catch the time.

    When writing, a general rule of thumb for me is don't worry about what's already been written. If you feel you have a story to tell, then get it down and worry about the rest later.

    ~~SP
     
  3. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that villain stories are more common in television and movies - maybe because a villain's charm is more easily conveyed when you can see and hear him?

    For example, there's _House of Cards_, both the older glorious BBC version with Ian Richardson, and the newer very good NetFlix version with Kevin Spacey. And the 1995 Richard III with Ian McKellan.

    And...

    OK, maybe they're not that much more common. But those are some villain-centered stories that work very well.
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Crimson Dragon, what genre are you writing in? Is it general/literary fiction? I ask because things like world domination and becoming a god are typically not things you would find in general/literary fiction (I'm sure there's a novel about Caligula out there somewhere).

    That being said, I wouldn't worry too much about marketability and would focus instead on writing the novel.
     
  5. NeonFraction
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    NeonFraction Member

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    I think it's completely ridiculous to say there isn't a market for those types of villainous protagonists. There will always be a market for well-written characters. In fact, I'd say now, more than ever, the market is hyped for villains to take the scene.

    Lots of people will tell you things like: 'Some people only want to read a certain type of book.' In some ways it's true, but mostly it's completely wrong. Is there even a single reader out there who says 'All I want is to read tired clichés with the same point of view and vision as everything I've read before. And make it predictable.' No way! My favorite story, despite being an action-and-heroic-adventure sort of girl, was actually a story focused on the political intrigues and military secrets of warring nations.

    I think what you need to focus on is not 'should I throw what I really want to do away?' Your ideas sound way too interesting for that! What you should be focusing on is the story's execution. Why aren't readers connecting with the protagonist? A villain needs to be slightly understandable, even in cases of insanity. Even if the reader doesn't sympathize, they need to get why the villain is doing these things on an emotional level.

    How are the side characters? Villains just as much as heros depend on the characters around them to make the story work. Light Yagami needed an L and a family and a police force. LeLouche needed a Suzaku and a sister and the black nights. A villain doesn't need a hero, but a character needs other characters.

    So don't give up! Your idea isn't as unmarketable as you think, and sounds pretty engaging.
     
  6. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I want to read stories of villains... hell, I am writing about a villain (who may not really be a villain... depends on the pov) with megalomaniac ambitions right now, and no beta-reader so far has said they are not interested to know more about this megalomaniac.

    You know, if you write it well enough, if your story is engaging, there's mystery, humor, drama, and all those good things weaved around a non-Harry Potter, people will find your story and love it.

    However, being inside a super-villain's head without it turning cartoonish can be pretty challenging because if you as a writer don't have their brain power, you have to be able to fake it. To me that's been the hardest part so far.
     
  7. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Have you written anything with this type of character in it, that you could post to the forum—assuming you've met the forum requirements of at least 20 posts and two critiques? I think if we could see your specific characters in action, it would help us to address your question.

    You've asked a very general question, and you are likely to only get general replies to it. Along the lines of: write your story well enough, and it will (probably) be fine.

    I'd say the key is to make the reader identify with this character in some way.

    Leaving out all the megalomaniacs who roam the earth buying fiction about characters like themselves, you need to keep in mind that most of your readers won't immediately 'identify' with a need to rule the universe. In fact, this will probably NOT appeal to most readers, at least without some work on your part. However, if you can make the reader understand WHY your character has taken this turn—not by telling us why, but by letting us experience what in their past has made them this way—then you'll have your readers on board.

    I think you might struggle if you let this person "win," though. But hey. Anything can be done, if you write it well enough! :)
     
  8. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    Where did you get the impression that nobody likes that sort of character? Just because those characters aren't in protagonist roles in the mainstream doesn't mean they're not liked. Check out more independent publishers and self-published works and you're more likely to come across the sort of story you're looking for.

    Write the sort of characters you want to read about. Why care what anyone else thinks?
     
  9. Crimson Dragon
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    Crimson Dragon Member

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    Thanks for all your responses. I'm feeling somewhat better about all of this now thanks to your positive support. Also, for the person who asked about genera don't worry, general/literary fiction is the last one I'd touch. I write mostly fantasy, sci-fi, science-fantasy and the very rare/occasional horror piece. This kind of character would most likely be my protagonist in any of the first three in that list.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Don't blame the character. Examine the writing itself.
     
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  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    amen to that!

    any character/plot can be turned into a bestseller by a fine writer and even the best plot/character can bomb when the writing is poor...
     
  12. SilverWolf0101
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    SilverWolf0101 Active Member

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    It truly is all about the writing on this one, and quite honestly my FAVORITE character is actually a villain, not a hero. So yes, write about your overly ambitious villain that wants to acquire a goal that seems completely unreachable, as long as you write it to the best it can be, I don't see any reason why you shouldn't write. Just because people may say something like "Oh no one is going to read that or like that character" doesn't mean you shouldn't write it. A lot of my books definitely push the limits in my mind (and according to some people), but I frankly dun care. I'm going to write it, and I'm not going to stop just because someone tells me I shouldn't write.
     
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  13. Kimberly Jane
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    Kimberly Jane New Member

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    I don't think that there are many books with this sort of person as a main character, but this does not mean that they will not be popular! I know a lot of people who would absolutely love a story about this kind of character (I even know someone that wrote the 'story of Voldemort', because they felt that they did not get enough insight to this character!). I think that you could be onto something big.

    Also, I think that if you enjoy writing in this style, than that is what you should write. I am sure that you work will be much better if you actually enjoy writing and you put your soul into what you are writing. Compare this to writing something that you are not interested in that will be more dull and boring, because you don't care about it as much. One of my favourite authors, P.C Cast, wrote the Goddess of Partholon books, and i find that the books are amazing, because she loves the main character, and enjoyed writing about her. P.C Cast said that she liked the character, Shannon, because of her flaws, rather than her talents.

    I had as similar issue too, but I was actually trying to write something different, but I found that I preferred writing books similar to other SiFi, fantasy or action novels that are already out. This is what I did in the end, and I found that my writing improved and that I could keep on one piece of writing long enough to finish it. ( it turned out that my writing was not too similar to these Novels anyway :D)

    I hope this helps
     
  14. DH Hanni
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    DH Hanni Member

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    I think the reason why that aren't too many villain driven books out there is because it is so much harder to do that and do it well. I think it would be way more fun to read about a villain as the main character. In fact, I read Emperor Mollusk vs. the Sinister Brain this summer and the main character is a megalomaniac who has already conquered Earth but is bored because people bow down to them so he needs a challenge. It's tongue in cheek so that makes it easier to identify with the main character. Who hasn't been bored and been looking for a challenge?

    It is possible to pull off a villain as the protagonist. I just think it's easier for publishers to go with what's always worked because that's what they think sells. I daresay with self-publishing it may make it possible for more and more stories to be baddie centric. A well-rounded character is a well-rounded character regardless of if they are good or bad.
     
  15. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sounds like you want to write about Raistlin, who, btw is not a hundredth as interesting as ol Humbert Humbert.
     
  16. Misty'sMess
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    Misty'sMess Member

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    I've just finished editing my first novel and I let my best friend read it. Unfortunately, her comments were along the lines of 'I don't like your MC'. I was heartbroken and swore never to speak to her again. My feelings of betrayal didn't last though, I eventually realised that it didn't matter. If I liked my MC then other people would too. Just because one person disagreed with me, didn't mean I had to scape my whole novel.

    I think the most important thing is to write about what you love. If you love it, someone else will too (even if that someone else isn't your best friend).
     
  17. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Unless you're deluded and your writing is terrible. Your bf may or may not be right , but consider its your first novel.
     
  18. Misty'sMess
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    Misty'sMess Member

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    Perhaps she is right, but if I don't believe in myself then who will? A little confidence and self-appreciation can go along way.
     
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  19. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think you're missing the point. There's a difference between whether your friend had good reason to dislike your MC, and whether it's simply her personal taste, and only lots of experience and a massive dose of humility is going to help you decipher which category your friend's comment falls under. Confidence and self-appreciation are both very good things, but if you dismiss sound feedback, even when it's not what you want to hear, and excuse that as "Well I believe in myself," then you're deluding yourself. At the end of the day, such an attitude will hurt only yourself. It matters not to your friend whether you get published. So ask yourself honestly, WHY didn't your friend like your MC? Read those parts she points out again, can you see where she's coming from? Get a second opinion - see if it's really "just her", or if actually she's caught onto something you're just standing too close to see.

    I know what it's like, my female MC was called a right bitch by this guy who just trampled all over my work. Two more friends afterwards both reported they disliked my character. Of course I was hurt, I was furious that someone called her a bitch. But guess what? I reread my work and sure enough, they were right. My character was a bitch. Now it's up to me to say whether that's simply who my character is but tweak the story in such a way that still satisfies the reader, or if I must tweak her dialogue and other details to soften her up. I decided to leave the character as she is, in fact I decided to emphasise her bitchiness, but in turn I've now changed my subplot and she's gonna get rejected by my MC instead and get her comeuppence, and I plan on redeeming her in some other way.

    Plenty of people also told me they just don't care about my actual MC, the hero in my book. Again, I don't go "Oh well, I need to believe in myself. I like him so that's that!" I look at the feedback - why did they say this? Well, in this particular case, turns out I was switching POVs too quickly and too often that my readers simply couldn't follow. I also introduced too many characters before I got to my MC that the readers weren't sure whom to relate to first. It wasn't my MC who was the problem, but the way I wrote it.

    On both occasions, my characters were disliked or dismissed, and on both occasions the problem was different. But guess what, on both occasions - my readers were right. Do I change it exactly as my readers want? Heck no. But I do not dismiss them.

    One last thing - accepting their negative feedback and changing something that's wrong takes courage, but it does not make you a bad writer. It makes you a learning writer, and even the pros are still learning. You sign your career's death sentence when you refuse to learn. Don't take your friend's comment to heart - it's not personal, and you shouldn't take offence. She gave you an honest and useful opinion that it's worth you following it up on, because if she's right, she might just have helped you save your own book. It only means perhaps you made a mistake somewhere, but do not take that as indication of your writing skill overall. You're still a writer, and perhaps a brilliant one, who knows - but even brilliant writers make mistakes, and their work would never be brilliant if they were too insecure or proud to accept that, and change their work accordingly in order to make it the best. Because in the end, that's what you gotta ask yourself: What must I do to make this the BEST story I can, and tell it in the BEST way possible? That's all that matters.

    Now back to the subject of the actual thread - Light Yagami was an ingenious character, although I fell for L totally. I'd say the idea of a story from President Snow or Lord Voldemort's POV is very interesting. Think of the musical Wicked - isn't it the same? A story taken from the POV of the Wicked Witch of the West, rather than Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz?
     
  20. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Do we even have to like the characters you write?

    I didn't like Patrick Bateman. I hated the asshole, but I read the novel, added a number or two to Bret Easton Ellis's paycheck, so from the author's point of view: mission accomplished.
     
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  21. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    You can consider characters from Comic books from DC, which often have a catalog of villains who're interesting and insane. Hell Deathstroke has his own series, Batman: The Killing Joke does an amazing job of showing you what made the Joker crazy.

    Your storylines are what will sell this villain protagonist. There are characters that are villains I like that I feel the storyline had let them down and missed an opportunity

    It's all about what you write not who it's about
     
  22. Ghost Cat
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    Ghost Cat Member

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    I agree with a number of the things people have already posted, and as such, don't see what more I can really add to the conversation.

    So I'll add to the ammunition of these sentiments--
    I agree reader's enjoyment probably lies more in the writing than their ability to identify with the MC.
    BECAUSE...
    I also agree that people enjoy reading about villains. Yes, it is true that there seem to be more evil protagonists on TV and in movies, but I feel that a really good, "bad" character, gets a lot of love. That's why you see the new wave of teens wearing "Joker" t-shirts rather than repping the Batman. And with a little bit of research, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that many of these characters were born in books and later translated to the screen because badasses are just so durn cinematic!

    Patrick Bateman was a good example given in literature (really, most of Bret Easton Ellis' characters are rather "likeable unlikeables.")

    To be honest, I prefer villains to heroes in most cases. I find them more interesting.
    Then again, I'm the type of small white girl who fantasizes about having the opposite of physical features and daydreams about holding up banks and having a cult of worshipers grovel at their feet.
    In other words, my opinion is somewhat biased.
     
  23. MrWisp
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    MrWisp Member

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    The Joker, Hannibal Lecter, Francis Underwood from House of Cards, the characters in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, or even the leads in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. These folks range from your everyday jerk to certified psychopaths, but we love them. It's all about charisma, motivation, and originality. If no one likes your "I'm going to take over the world" character, consider what sets that him/her apart from all of the similar villains out there. Everyone loves a bad guy, as long as they've truly got character.
     
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  24. Lucid420
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    Lucid420 New Member

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    Ill just start writing down a few that have been very successful. Granted many of these are not in the Sci Fi vein but they are evil money making characters.

    Hannibal Lecter - Scale - Not to large, but ohh so creepy
    Frank Underwood - House of Cards - Scale, take over the USA
    Walter White - Breaking Bad - Scale, take over the MethTrade
    Gordon Gekko - Wall Street - Scale, As Much money as humanly possible.
    V.I.K.I - I Robot - Scale - Control all of the human race, granted shes a computer.
    Dark Phoenix - Scale - The universe - XMen
    The Devil - Al Pacino - Devils Advocate - Scale - all man kind
    Number 1, Cavil - Battlestar Galactica - Control of human and cylons races.
    Im sure there are more, but I have been researching for a bit now.
     
  25. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    I think you're approaching this from the wrong angle. A devious and sinister mastermind of evil has no direction once his plans are complete. Maybe he wanders around his lair, but he can't explain his plans to anyone or they'd give it away.

    Pull a Milton. Make your "MC" a turd. A bumbling idiot, contemptible to anyone's eyes and let him stumble, crawl and collapse into every carefully conceived trap and pitfall. Use him as a vehicle to understand your antagonist better, explore the villain more completely then your "MC".

    And at the end, kill him.
     

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