1. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    When a hero is not a hero

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Justin Rocket 2, Apr 4, 2015.

    My main character, a 17 year old boy, blames himself for the death of his younger brother. He is motivated to gain redemption/forgiveness.

    In the beginning of the novel, he is the kind of character who would jump into the path of a bullet to save someone else's life. That might seem heroic, but it is actually driven by the fact that he has no self-worth and is trying to earn worth.

    By the end of the story, he has gained self-worth and it is his self-acceptance that enables him to defeat the big, bad, evil guy.

    I'm having trouble writing him in the beginning of the story and clarifying that he's not a hero. I'd appreciate some guidance on that.
     
  2. peterhill160
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    peterhill160 New Member

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    Maybe his attitude towards people makes him come off as kind of a nasty person. Perhaps if a character was to thank him, he'd just shrug it off and maybe tell the person he's helped to be more careful or that they shouldn't have to be saved in the first place if they'd just gone down a different path etc.

    I hope you see what I mean but even I'm having trouble explaining it. :)
     
  3. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Why is it important that readers not think he's a hero? Just because he's unhappy?

    I think maybe you need to refine the idea of 'hero' a little, and maybe that will help you portray him better? I mean, what is it that makes him not a hero? Play up whatever that is, and maybe that will help resolve the situation?
     
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  4. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    If I don't clarify that he's not a hero, then I'm afraid he'll seem like a Mary Sue.

    His motivation. A hero rises to the occasion. He does the right thing because it is the right thing (one of my other characters is a hero, but either dies or is kidnapped at the midpoint and that is the trigger which transforms my main character into a hero). In the beginning, my main character does what he does out of a lack of self-worth and an effort to buy redemption.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 4, 2015
  5. ChaosReigns
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    ChaosReigns Be Still and Know Contributor

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    I would suggest writing it from the viewpoint that this guy seems as though he is the least likely to become a hero, have maybe his attitude towards himself mirrored by others or something along those lines, make it so that people think, "wait, who is this guy and why am i reading about him" to slowly bring it into why they should
     
  6. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Isn't that one of the things on the Mary Sue list? A 'flaw' that doesn't really have any effect on the character? Like, he's still doing all the hero stuff, he's just not doing it for the right reasons? That's not much of a flaw, really, is it?

    Obviously this will all be in the execution, so maybe you can make it work. But in broad general terms? I think you're kind of splitting hairs on the "not really a hero" thing.
     
  7. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    He must learn self-acceptance in order to defeat the BBEG. So, the flaw does have an affect, right?
     
  8. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Okay. You know your book better than I do, obviously.

    But in the abstract, again... I think it might be more effective if his lack of self-worth had a more visceral effect on his behaviour at the start of the book. Like, if he was apathetic, or stupidly reckless, or in some other external way his behaviour was affected by his issues.
     
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  9. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    So as long as you make his motivation clear, you should be fine.

    I would actually watch that you don't end up annoying the reader with his self-pity. If he's clearly acting in a noble/heroic manner but you spend all your time making sure the reader knows the guy doesn't see himself that way, it could come across as false humility. A little like Bella in Twilight, who's so ordinary and such a misfit that everyone wants to be her friend. It's unrealistic. So make sure you have good balance when you come to write this.
     
  10. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Just to add: my MC was originally similar - blames himself for someone's death and lives with the guilt and the story was about him finding redemption. Readers in general liked him. However, I as the author got very, very tired of writing him because he wouldn't bloody stop moping!!! Watch that your MC doesn't end up turning very emo lol.
     
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  11. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    Oh yeah, I've been there and most definitely did that. It took me forever to figure out how to light a fire under his ass and stop the emo. I'm currently experimenting with giving him too much other stuff so that he doesn't have time to mope. He's too busy in action scenes and there's too much pressure in passive scenes to think/feel about more short-term matters.
     
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  12. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Sounds like a good plan! My own problem is that i actually suck when it comes to plot... you know, like actually giving my characters something to do :bigfrown:
     
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  13. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    I suck at plot, too. That's probably why I can write an action scene. "A big stranger beat down his door" starts entirely too many scenes I've written in life.
     
  14. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    The concept that an act is not heroic if it has an underlying motivation seems hard to pull off.
    It could be argued most heroics turn out not just about doing the right thing once you delve deep enough into the heroes psyche.

    Maybe they're seeking approval from society or from someone specific.
    Or avoiding disdain they might receive if they stood by and did nothing.
    Maybe they believe being good improves their chances in an afterlife.
    Maybe they're protecting someone or something they care about and others might get saved as a side effect.

    Your guilt idea is good in that it makes your character more human, but if you are following a normal narrative structure (which from your other thread it sounds like you want to) then the stakes for your hero are going to go way beyond doing the right thing or not.

    At that point it seems your message is, "self redemption is not a good motivation to do the right thing, but something else is"
     
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  15. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Hmm. I've read the OP several times, and am still not quite clear on what the MC is doing. If he feels he needs to make recompense for what he did to cause his brother's death, that's not quite the same thing as having no self-worth. I think if you stick to the idea of him making a sacrifice as recompense for his deeds, you'll have better story material than if he's moping around feeling he has no self worth.

    Another factor you don't mention is whether or not he actually DID cause the death of his brother. In other words, if other people in the story are in full possession of the facts, would they agree with him or not?

    I'm quite interested in this theme, actually, because it's somewhat similar to the theme in my own novel. I'd be interested to follow how you end up dealing with it.
     
  16. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    This superhero, does he have powers, like, are we talking Hancock-esqe type of story?
     
  17. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    The overall story is about Ragnarok (Norse Armageddon). Several of the Norse gods have incarnated so that they can lead mortals in the war. However, they have made sure that their human bodies are unaware of their divine nature until those human bodies reach adulthood.

    The BBEG has jumpstarted the war, so the gods are caught with their pants down. The gods are in the bodies of teenagers who may or may not be aware of their divine nature.

    The main character, Luke, is the incarnation of Loki. Now, Loki is prophesied to fight against the other gods in Ragnarok. So, none of the other gods really trust him. On the other hand, he is a trickster god. Maybe he can escape his destiny. The gods are desperate to slow down the BBEG and Loki may be able to do that.

    The main character's (Luke's) story revolves around an event that happened five years earlier (when he was twelve). During a day off from school on account of snow, the neighborhood kids decided to have a huge snowball fight. The last thing Luke was told as he went outside was to keep an eye on his brother, Robbie, who was seven. Luke, of course, didn't like that. Robbie idolized him, but he was annoying. He kept falling over (due to the snow depth coming up past his knees) and was so slow. When the neighborhood kids were picking teams, Luke wanted to rush to them so that he could get on a good team, but Robbie was slowing him down. To save time, Luke coaxed Robbie into running across a frozen lake (Luke thought the lake's ice was thick enough to support little Robbie's weight). Robbie was afraid, but he idolized Luke, so he crossed the lake. He fell through and died. A few weeks later, his mom left him with his step-dad (Robbie's real dad) and Luke never saw her again. Luke has been afraid to confess his role in his little brother's death and has kept his secret to himself out of fear that his step-dad would leave him truly alone.

    He has always feared that maybe there is something broken in him and he's evil. Now, he learns that he's Loki incarnate and that makes him think even more that he is evil. But, the gods need him to break the BBEG's current advantage. To do that, Luke has to learn to accept his Loki nature. To do that, he has to learn to forgive himself.
     
  18. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you are too worried about titles. What a reader is going to call a character is going to change from reader to reader. If you really are hoping to prevent a reader from calling him a hero(Unlikely most people will call him the hero just because readers I know use that word inter-changeable with main character.) The goal is to get him called something else. Like an jerk for example.
     
  19. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    I want to keep him from being a Mary Sue.
     
  20. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think to do that. You need them to be a well as I put it a real character. Mary Sue are boring, they don't face hard ship. They are perfect. You are stating clearly he isn't perfect but that alone isn't enough. As I say it. I create characters and them watch them. Someone once said to me. "Why not have Character X do Action Y" I replied. "She wouldn't do that."

    In the end, people are going to call your main character many things.
    Maybe, Lazy, or Hero, or Really cool or boring. If a million people read him. You will get at least a 100,000 different responses.

    Make him who he is and let the audience call him what they like. That is my idealogy.
     
  21. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think that when he's the sort of character who puts himself in danger for others, then making him seem not heroic sounds hard, but making him not a Mary Sue still seems entirely doable.

    A realistic character has positive and negative traits. Mary Sues have positive traits, but minimal negative traits. So avoiding Mary Sue isn't specifically about eliminating positive traits.

    As other people have said you could make him flawed in his social interactions or make sure he seems reckless rather than brave. For example have someone treating him for an injury while berating him for not having taken sensible precautions.
     
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  22. Ms. DiAnonyma
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    Ms. DiAnonyma Active Member

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    I agree with the reckless rather than brave ideas... could you see him at some point with a sort of deathwish? Putting himself in harm's way totally unnecessarily, even if maybe it looked like he could help... and then it turning out he didn't help the situation, or even made it worse? Would again negatively affect his self-worth, but would act to counter-balance some more regular heroic stuff...
     
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