1. Man in the Box
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    Man in the Box Active Member

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    When does a character have a strong personality?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Man in the Box, May 11, 2012.

    In my other thread on "Book Discussion", I asked why Bella from Twilight was viewed as a poor character and many answers headed towards the fact she has little or no personality whatsoever and basically only acted when Edward told her to.

    Since I'm writing a story in which the MC is a girl who also has a romance with a supernatural being (although not a vampire, nor a werewolf), I'd like not to fall into the trap of writing another Bella. I want my MC to be likable, if flawed. I admit I created her with the intent of being an idealised woman but over time I've been detaching myself from the characters in my story. The fact she (my MC) is sort of an ordinary person that gets suddenly thrown into a world of supernatural creatures makes it difficult for me to make her really independent, because she doesn't have a good idea of what's going on until towards the end, and her powers aren't developed enough to defend her from the other creatures. And there's always a fear of making her gravitate too much around the male lead and vice-versa.

    My MC is what you could call an outsider at her school, who gets good grades but doesn't like the treatment she's given because of it, has few, if any, friends, is introspective, loves her ill mother very much, rejects her own powers and falls in love with the male hero not immediately, but is drawn to him because of his unusual beauty (he's far from "perfect", like Edward, I wouldn't say he's beautiful, more like "exotic").

    The question is, how can we see when a character has strong personality traits, and, if my MC ends up personality-less, how can I dig myself out of that hole?
     
  2. Langadune
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    Langadune Member

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    Extraordinary circumstances draw out extraordinary traits. Maybe being too normal is just a product of living a too normal life. Perhaps she can thrive under the new circumstances and become bolder than she knew she was capable of being simply because the situation demands it. She can be in awe of the new "world" yet able to be an interesting person in it in the way she copes.
     
  3. Lazy
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    Lazy Banned

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    First of all, being shunned for being the "smart kid" at school is not a flaw. It's a bad trait to give your character if you want them to be normal, likable and not idealized (ie, not a Mary Sue [there's that phrase again- I'm assuming you've picked up what I mean by it, of course others will have different definitions]). It shows that other kids envy her because she is better than they are. It sounds to me like you are dangerously close to Bella territory but of course I'd have to read it to be certain.

    Here's a recent article on a different writing site I used to post on that you may find helpful: http://impishidea.com/writing/how-not-to-write-female-characters
     
  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I feel that for starters, you need more detail. Some thoughts:

    > she
    > doesn't have a good idea of what's going on until towards the
    > end,

    This suggests that she's buffeted along by events rather than influencing them. That is, IMO, one of the characteristics of a non-character character. I'd suggest changing your plot so that she does influence events - influence them by her actions, rather than by her mere presence as a prize or a victim.

    > My MC is what you could call an outsider at her school, who gets
    > good grades but doesn't like the treatment she's given because of
    > it, has few, if any, friends, is introspective, loves her ill
    > mother very much,

    As someone who was an outsider, got good grades, was treated badly at school, had few friends, and was and is introspective... I don't feel that any of those characteristics really describe a personality.

    What's her sense of humor like? What kinds of books does she like to read? Does she get good grades because she actually loves the subjects or just because she's smart and it's a matter of pride to do well? If she doesn't love the subjects, what is she doing with that good brain of hers that she does love?

    What are her pleasures? Does she look forward to a long run, away from everyone? Or does she crave a nap on the couch? Does she enjoy her food a great deal or not particularly care? Does she look forward to Dr. Who on Sunday nights?

    Does she want to stay home with Mom or is she looking eagerly ahead to college? Does she constantly crave alone time away from Mom, even if she does love her? Is it "few" friends or no friends? It makes a huge difference. What are those friends like?

    I'm not saying that these specific questions are important - many of them are trivia. But in answering them and more, you should start to get a better idea of who she is.

    > rejects her own powers

    Why? There should be some history, philosophy, reasoning behind this. I'd suggest going into her reason for rejecting her powers in some depth. Not, that is, in the actual work, but in separate writing or thinking so that you understand her reasons.

    > and falls in love with
    > the male hero not immediately, but is drawn to him because of his
    > unusual beauty

    Does she fall for a lot of guys for their beauty? Does she shriek after celebrities and squeal when she sees cool posters showing them? If not, if she's too intelligent for that sort of appearance-based hero worship, does it really make sense for her to respond that way to the male hero?

    I've always been of the impression that women fall for a combination of appearance and personality, with personality being more important. Maybe that's a stereotype, but the idea that she is drawn to this guy based on his beauty rather than his personality and actions just rings false for me.

    (Edited to add: Just to add detail, I grew up in the eighties, and I found Jack Klugman as Quincy _infinitely_ more attractive than Tom Selleck as Thomas Magnum.)

    > The question is, how can we see when a character has strong
    > personality traits, and, if my MC ends up personality-less, how
    > can I dig myself out of that hole?

    In addition to considering my questions, I'd suggest writing some throwaway scenes from before the action of your book starts, to see what she's like in regular life.

    ChickenFreak
     
  5. Man in the Box
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    Man in the Box Active Member

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    Initially she had only a passive power and a passive reason why others were after her, but I'm trying to figure out ways to make her more proactive and give her more decision power.

    After she killed some schoolmates as a kid with her powers, she thought that her powers were a bad thing and she became a recluse. She doesn't really have a sense of humour, but I'd say that, before she learns of the world around her, she has a knack for irony and is skeptical of things. She inherited a taste for mythology books from her mom. She's naturally smart, but she gets good grades because, since she became recluse, she spends much of her time studying. Her favourite subject is biology, because she initially thinks her powers have a biological cause (they do but she won't find it in biology books, I'm afraid :D ). She wants to become a doctor.

    Her pleasures are staying with her pet kitten, and reading. She enjoys cherries, in whatever form. She loves cats and despises dogs (because she was attacked by a dog when she was a kid).

    At the beginning her mom is in hospital due to leukemia. The MC is frustrated that, despite her powers, she's unable to help her, and she's even not a compatible donor. But yes, she plans to stay with her mom since she's the person she loves the most. Her mom's death in the story affects her a great deal, especially because she later finds out she could've saved her or, at least, given her some more life time.

    About the friends, I thought about "no friends" or "few friends". She goes to a large private school and it's not easy to make friends there, but she may manage to make one or two, which she follows along, but is overall uninterested in them.

    There's a prologue which details why she rejects her own powers. It's a bit long now and I may have to cut some stuff. :D

    Actually, the main reason she falls in love with him is that she identifies with him, because of his background. Also because he's friendly, confident in his abilities (though not a self-confident person at all, since he also curses himself) and is willing to protect her at any cost (though it's not a giveaway). He's good looking but not in a human sense.

    She's good looking herself, though. I thought about writing a scene in which a Edward-esque schoolmate tries to ask her on a date and she rejects him because of her skepticism and her belief that his perfection is superficial.

    Well, basically, the first scenes after the prologue are exactly that, how a normal day in her life is. I'll antecipate, though, that she has to study A LOT, because the story is based on my country and here you take really hard exams to enter the best universities.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    First, EVERY character has a personality.

    A character doesn't have to bellow like a caller at a cattle auction to have a personality, or throw money p his nose like Charlie Sheen. She doesn't have to be a runway model, nor does she have to be an Ellen Ripley clone.

    So what makes a character strong? A character is strong if he or she has deeply held values, and sticks to them even when tempted to compromise them. It's really that simple.

    That isn't necessarily what makes a character endearing to readers, though. For readers to like a character, they need to identify with the character on some level, and also be able to respect at least some of the character's choices.

    Some characters are inherently antipatico. If a character is wallowing in depression, the reader won't like her much even if they identify with her. If your character needs to be dealing with depression, you must show her actively fighting it, and even having moments of success, or readers will simply will her to end it already.

    The way to get a reader to like a character is to show the character, at least occasionally, in a positive light. To make a character believable, there need to be facets, though. She won't always have the same mood. If she's easygoing, she should have moment of impatience in which she snaps at her friends. Facets imply depth.
     
  7. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Forgive me, but it already sounds like a Twilight rip-off 8D

    A strong character doesn't usually hate herself - that's a sign of weakness and inner turmoil, which could be of course very interesting, but at the same time, you risk writing another Bella: eg. miserable girl who's taken along the events without much decision or say of her own, and the focus is always on her own misery, and always feels utterly helpless in all situations. Don't go overboard with the misery.

    I think people's sympathy only stretches so far. At some point, you just want the character to pull herself together.

    If you make sure she actually grows from her pain - and also, that she doesn't just always moan about her pain - then it could be quite good :) But I hated Bella personally because she was just selfish - she only ever thought of her own pain, talked about that, lived around that. Give her natural, human desires and passions. She might have special powers, but she's still a girl - she might like to do her hair, she might have a passion for bird watching, she's gonna blush and maybe even feel flattered if someone calls her pretty. As much as she'd like to be a recluse, she'd want to be noticed, as is human. She's gonna have a favourite dress. She's gonna care about someone else's grades and try to help them, she's gonna care that someone at school is sad, she's gonna care how her teachers look at her. Make her care about other things - and make her love other things. Don't make her hate everything and everyone - you'd never wanna be friends with such a person in real life, so why would you think a reader might wanna spend 300 pages worth of time with such a person?
     
  8. smackrabbits
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    smackrabbits New Member

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    As Mckk says, perhaps make sure that the character isn't as self-involved as Bella apparently is. Narrate some of her thought processes, why is she doing certain things, why does she feel certain emotions, etc etc. Any personality she has is yours to give her, so let the reader know why she does, not just what she does. Actions without explanations could seem selfish or impersonal, solid reasoning, even if it's floored, will give the character personality. This might be easier if the story is in the first person? I'm not sure.
    Good luck!
     
  9. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    To me, she doesn't sound too much like Bella - same general character type, but she's actually more like Elena from Vampire Diaries and Elena's actually a decently-written character. (If a bit too self-sacrificing for my liking.)

    But the big thing that makes Twilight badly written isn't that Bella and Edward are poorly written. It's that everyone else exists solely to serve the plot. People do things that make no sense with their prior characerization, just so Bella can angst about it. (I can't remember the details, but I believe there was a bit about an attempted rape, for an example. I can't stomach Twilight enough to check my facts though.)

    Oh, and that Edward is supposed to be a perfect boyfriend when he's a creepy stalker - if you wrote two characters exactly like Bella and Edward but was realistic about the consequences of a relationship like that, it would be a great story. (I read a book like that, called Rage, except it has no supernatural elements and portrays a lesbian couple. But the protagonist is a codependent who gets involved with an obviously unsuitable partner who rightfully warns her to stay away. Only difference is that her love interest doesn't stalk her.)
     
  10. Man in the Box
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    Man in the Box Active Member

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    Why would you say that :( It's a huge blow to my confidence, you know. :mad:

    One of the main differing points is that there's no love triangle. I found no need for it.

    My character works at an asylum and, despite her austere cover, is quite altruistic.

    She has a large role in the world, due to a prophecy. She's not as passive as Bella...

    But I liked your advice!

    The story is in third person, but I like to dwelve into my character's emotions, so this is guaranteed to be in my story.

    Ironically my character's called Helena! But I haven't read the Vampire Diaries, so it was really a coincidence.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Steven R. Donaldson. Thomas is full of self-loathing, and to be honest, can be quite depressing to read. However, there really is no doubt he is a strong character. He remains unbending and unbroken right up to the final showdown with Lord Foul.
     
  12. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I know I'm nitpicking everything, but I figure that even when I'm totally wrong, you _want_ to think about this character or you wouldn't have posted, so I'll just go on nitpicking.

    > After she
    > killed some schoolmates as a kid with her powers, she thought
    > that her powers were a bad thing and she became a recluse.

    Does this have to happen? I realize that would change the plot - if she embraced her powers from the beginning she'd no longer need your male hero to bring her out and encourage her powers. In other words, she'd no longer be a passive object for the male hero. :) I think that this would be a good thing.

    It doesn't mean that her attitude has to be "Woohoo! I can kill people! I'll join the cheerleading squad and do magic tricks!" She can still have The Incident, and withdraw to some extent, maybe for fear of being arrested or becoming a government experiment. But while she's withdrawn, she could be actively studying and working on her powers, instead of being passive and miserable and rejecting them.

    > She doesn't really have a sense of humour,

    This worries me. I think I'd have trouble seeing a person with _no_ sense of humor as a person. Sure, it can be a cynical, dry, ironic sense of humor, but to me a complete lack of one suggests that she was emotionally seriously broken long before she killed her classmates and before her mother got sick.

    > She inherited a taste for mythology
    > books from her mom.

    > She's naturally smart, but she gets good
    > grades because, since she became recluse, she spends much of her
    > time studying.

    Are we talking about studying specifically for school, or just learning about various subjecsts of her choice?

    If you mean studying for school, I feel that I may be getting a vibe of, "If she doesn't go out with friends, she has nothing better to do, anyway." And I go on to wonder, are you reclusive at all? My family was very socially isolated, for various reasons. Before college, I spent most of my non-school time at home, and a large percentage in my room, and I was _very_ rarely studying. I always had something better to do - usually reading, sometimes sewing or stamp collecting or writing or cooking (yes, I did leave my room for that :)) or any number of other hobbies.

    Now, this in part reflects the American public school system of the 1970s and 1980s - at least in my school district, a smart kid really didn't need to study much at all, and my school district also didn't believe in homework so there wasn't any at-home busywork. In a different country and a different school system it may be quite different, as you mention below. But I still want to emphasize that a kid who doesn't get out much still isn't likely to be at a loss for non-schoolwork things to do.

    > Her favourite subject is biology, because she
    > initially thinks her powers have a biological cause (they do but
    > she won't find it in biology books, I'm afraid ). She wants to
    > become a doctor.

    This sounds like she's learning about various subjects of her choice, which makes more sense to me. I'd guess that she'd be seeking out a lot of biology books other than the standard school texts.

    I'd also assume that if she has powers that she thinks have a biological cause, she'd be actively studying how to cure her mother. Not even necessarily with her powers, but because the existence of those powers suggests a world beyond standard biology.

    In fact, her mother's illness could be what motivates her and makes her an active rather than a passive character. She spent years passively hiding from her powers, losing the opportunity to learn about them, but when her mother got sick, she started actively trying to learn about them, and that's how she ran into the main action of the novel. Not because some cute non-human guy paid attention to her dragged her passive self around on his adventures, but because she had a determined, strong, active goal.

    > Her pleasures are staying with her pet kitten, and reading. She
    > enjoys cherries, in whatever form. She loves cats and despises
    > dogs (because she was attacked by a dog when she was a kid).

    OK, a real nitpick here: A phobia of dogs makes perfect sense, but "despising" them seems more personal, and seems to be a misfit with this otherwise rational character. I'd think that she'd recognize that her problem with dogs is an irrational response to a traumatic incident.

    > At the beginning her mom is in hospital due to leukemia. The MC
    > is frustrated that, despite her powers, she's unable to help
    > her, and she's even not a compatible donor. But yes, she plans
    > to stay with her mom since she's the person she loves the most.

    Do you mean stay with her in the long term? Or is it known that her mother will die soon, say before the character becomes an adult?

    If it's long term, it seems quite unnatural to me for a teenager to want to stay home with Mom rather than getting out in the world and getting her own life and home, no matter how much she loves Mom. She may _say_ that she wants to stay home, she may feel guilty about her natural impulses toward independence, but if those impulses are truly not there at all, I'd say that something is wrong.

    And I think that the mom should recognize that. An emotionally healthy parent should want her teenager to prepare for life on her own. If your MC's mother isn't encouraging her to look at colleges and consider careers and anticipate a future when she's living away from home, then there's an issue there. It's an understandable point of view, with the mother being sick and probably feeling helpless and alone, but it is nevertheless an unhealthy point of view.

    > Her mom's death in the story affects her a great deal,
    > especially because she later finds out she could've saved her
    > or, at least, given her some more life time.

    As I said above, I'd think that the character would have been actively seeking a supernatural cure from the moment of the diagnosis or the moment that she discovered her powers, whichever came second. That doesn't mean she has to succeed, but I think that the thought should not be a surprise to her, and the cure should not be obvious, because if it is she'd already have found it.

    > About the friends, I thought about "no friends" or "few
    > friends". She goes to a large private school and it's not easy
    > to make friends there, but she may manage to make one or two,
    > which she follows along, but is overall uninterested in them.

    To me, that's not friends, that's acquaintances. That doesn't mean they're irrelevant, but it is an important distinction.

    > There's
    > a prologue which details why she rejects her own powers. It's a
    > bit long now and I may have to cut some stuff.

    Unrelated to the character issue, I think that this prologue is probably a mistake. I think that you're better off letting the reader slowly discover this fact.

    And if the first scenes that you mention below are really completely ordinary, without conflict, I think that that's also a structural issue. A book should start with at least minor action/conflict, rather than pure scene-setting.

    I realize that this may sound like I'm contradicting myself. If your prologue was a big dramatic scene where a child accidentally kills other children, and I'm telling you to cut it, and then telling you to add more conflict to your opening scenes, what's the deal?

    The difference that I see is that the book should open on the story, not the backstory. And it probably shouldn't open with the most dramatic action, because at the beginning the reader doesn't care about the character yet. It should open with smaller conflicts that lead the reader to begin to care.

    > Actually, the main reason
    > she falls in love with him is that she identifies with him,
    > because of his background.

    Does she have to fall in love? Can't they just start as friends? Friends are equal in power; new lovers, drowning in irrational impulses, often aren't. Or could she start by pursuing him for knowledge to cure her mother? That would be non-passive action on her part.

    > Also because he's friendly, confident
    > in his abilities (though not a self-confident person at all,
    > since he also curses himself) and is willing to protect her at
    > any cost (though it's not a giveaway).

    She can kill people. Can't she protect him, too? This is another area where deciding that she _doesn't_ reject her powers allows her to leave her passive role.

    And why is he protecting her? Would he protect anyone the same way, or does he like her? Why does he like her? She sounds prickly, distant, cold, humorless, and judgemental; he needs a reason to like her. (I'm not saying that a person like that can't be likable, but it requires something more than, "But she's pretty! And vulnerable!") Or does he not so much like her, but he feels responsible for the danger that she got herself into when she tracked him down and demanded a cure for her mother? (Yes, I am already replotting your entire story, as a thought exercise. :))

    > He's good looking but not
    > in a human sense.

    I'm not sure what this means. He isn't human?

    > She's good looking herself, though. I thought about writing a
    > scene in which a Edward-esque schoolmate tries to ask her on a
    > date and she rejects him because of her skepticism and her
    > belief that his perfection is superficial.

    I suppose this is a fairly accurate self-absorbed teen attitude, but it's not going to make me like her any better. :) It sounds like it's intended as an object lesson for the reader, teaching them that she doesn't care about appearance. But object lessons worry me. A situation where a genuinely nice guy asks her out and she rejects him for the same reasons that she's generally rejecting human interaction and her own future and her own happiness might be more interesting.

    > Well, basically, the first scenes after the
    > prologue are exactly that, how a normal day in her life is.

    I suppose I'm not thinking only of a _completely_ normal day, but one that has some stress and conflict, just not a big plot-driving supernatural sort of stress and conflict. Maybe Mom is feeling particularly unwell and the MC is feeling frustrated at all the demands on her, for example, and then feeling guilty for even perceiving them as demands.

    ChickenFreak
     
  13. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Sometimes music can set the tone. For a story like this, I might suggest "Fancy" by Reba McEntire. It might not be your genre, but you cannot help but cheer for the girl.
     
  14. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    So your character is a murderer and she's in school acting relatively normal? Sorry, I'm confused.
     
  15. Lazy
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    Lazy Banned

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    Me too.
     
  16. Man in the Box
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    Man in the Box Active Member

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    Damn ChickenFreak you're really making me reveal the whole plot here! :D

    Her powers are based on a legend I made up. But the mom and grandma know about this legend and actively prevent the MC from finding out. It's sort of like a "secret legend", for example, one that's associated with an existing myth but completely different, which is why she doesn't find anything related to it (or rather, she finds something but not related to her).

    Not everyone has a strong sense of humour!

    She's more in the ironic side, though.

    Ok I'll work on it. In the book's timeline, she doesn't have much time for studying or doing anything else, though. She goes to school in the morning, has complimentary classes during afternoon, visits her mom in the hospital in the evening and does voluntary work at night. She has a very busy day.

    This is an interesting one, I'll take note of it. Do you suggest she could maybe become even a little religious?

    Initially the main action is forced upon herself. She's attacked by demonic creatures while going back home and, since she hasn't learned how to effectively defend herself yet, she has trouble with them until the hero appears to save her. Later on he explains why they're after her (a vampire clan whose leader is manipulated to made a pact with an archdemon to become stronger and start a rule on Earth), he says they need her for something but deliberately omits that it's because her blood contains special properties that trigger transformations and power increases in whoever drinks it.

    It's more like phobia, yes. My choice of words was wrong.

    Stay with her at least until she graduates. Here in my country this is perfectly natural when students live in the same city where their university is.

    I never said she didn't want her to live her own life! She's most likely want to, as she loves her daughter above all.

    She won't succeed, because her mom's story is supposed to be tragic. According to the prophecy, all the eldest female siblings in her family not redhaired die of blood cancer. I did this to make the blood kill them, as opposed to the MC whose blood increases her vitality.

    However, she "could" search for a cure but I'd believe she'd be a little clueless since she's not aware her blood has those special properties and, even if it has, they may not be enough to cure her mom, because the blood acts as a booster, not a healing serum.

    When she finds out about her blood and questions the hero if he knew about that all along, they fight and he claims he's deeply moved by what happened but stands by his decision because he was able to read deep into her mom's soul and found out her mom was "supposed" to die and interfering in the process would only have brought more suffering.

    You're probably right.

    Other people have told me that the prologue was a mistake, but I'm still writing it since then when I have the whole thing done I can just slash it or make it shorter if need be. Of course, it would mean I wasted one year of my life writing stuff that won't be published, which sucks.

    Actually it's much bigger than what a prologue is supposed to be :p , it's more like an "act" or something like that.

    She "has" to fall in love, but I've never said it would be right at the beginning! She feels connected to him but they'll only realise they're in love with each other near the end.

    She can. He's strong, but in his "everyday" form he's not strong enough to kill her opposition. In the first big fight, he has the upper hand over the vampire enemy until the latter uses his ultimate power, and the hero only wins due to the intervention of the MC.

    He's protecting her because he's also interested in her blood. He's a cursed humanshaped demon which, when he turns 20 years old, will become "evil incarnate" (sort of an Antichrist figure). He needs sustenance to survive, and he does so by eating humans, but he faces a dilemma because of it, because he doesn't want to do that. Her blood would give him a renewable source of sustenance.

    But! He doesn't reveal this to her until towards the end. Before that he claims he's being threatened by the vampires who are planning to seize her and he needs to prevent them from kidnapping her to avoid an imbalance in the forces within the underworld. The MC feels like it's a half-assed excuse, but, with no other option, follows him anyway.

    I'll work on the reasons he likes her.

    No, he's not. Although he lies to everyone, claiming he is.

    Could be.

    I haven't written it yet, but it's not going to be smooth sailing for her (the MC).

    ChickenFreak, from your posts I seem to get a feeling that you believe I should create my characters as role models... This is not really my goal as they are not always going to take the right course of action. For example, when I mentioned the relationship between my MC and her mom, the mom may genuinely love her but not necessarily choose the right way to express this love. We're all susceptible to mistakes and chance, and IMO these might even be a good way to drive plots, even if the readers don't agree with the actions of the characters.

    Ha! You picked something ChickenFreak didn't and I was going to tell him that! :D

    She's a murderer, yes. But the way which she uses to kill her schoolmates would not make people immediately realise it was her. I thought about including a court ruling as background info to tell the reader she's not been found guilty because of lack of proof (you need to remember that courts normally don't take supernatural events into consideration unless it was blatantly obvious, in which case, it wasn't).
     
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    Ok, wouldn't this entail major psychological problems including guilt, fear, shame, and horror?
     
  18. Man in the Box
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    I thought that her rejection of her own powers would cover it? She undergoes a transformation from a normal child into a troubled teenager, and this event is the one that ultimately triggers it.
     
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    I'm not a psychologist, but I can only imagine that such a traumatic event as murdering several of your peers would leave your MC psychologically damaged. I find it hard to believe that a teenage girl possessing powers she doesn't understand, powers that killed other kids, would be able to function in school normally enough to still get good grades.

    Rather, I see your MC becoming damaged goods. She's shunned in school for being a freak, she dresses weird, maybe resorts to drugs, and performs poorly in classes. That just makes more sense after such a large event. Either way you have it, I definitely see this 'detail' leaving a large imprint on your story.
     
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    Sorry, MURDER is not that simple, dude. If she purposely killed those kids then she's a murderer and a psychopath and why should we ever feel sympathy for her? If it was an accident she would probably blame herself and have deep depression, post-traumatic stress and possibly resort to suicide.

    If you want her to be realistic anyway.

    In a PM you asked me about problems with the Inheritance cycle. One of the major criticisms I've read of those books is how quickly Eragon goes from innocent farmboy to hacking down literally hundreds of soldiers in brutal battles with no apparent psychological effects whatsoever. Killing people takes its toll on the human psyche. Big time. I can't even imagine what that kind of event would do to a child like your MC.
     
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    Man in Box, if you'd like I think I have a solution that not only addresses the murder issue but answers the original question of this thread. Let me know and I will post it
     
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    She doesn't go all around killing people as she sees fit! That would be stupid. It wasn't also deliberate. The way the story builds up, she ends up being bullied by a few schoolmates because of her powers. By "bullied" I mean something more extreme than making bad jokes. Since she heals herself quickly (a la Wolverine), these students plot on tying her up on a tree and hurting her for pleasure (because she'll heal the wounds anyway), until she feels hopeless and, as a last resort, uses her power. However, as she's still learning about them and doesn't know how to control them yet, she ends up killing one and scarring the face of another. After that, she flees the city with her mom.

    I bet the next question will be "but why those students are sadistically hurting her, they're children!"... :D And then I'll have to explain that it's because of something in my plot, and then someone will come here and ask "oh but why is it as you described?" and it'll go on and on and on... And this thread will become too long and stressful and will head nowhere... I appreciate the replies but I don't think I'm supposed to reveal my entire plot here...?

    Please, go on.
     
  23. Lazy
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    Sorry man, I don't buy it. First you said she was an outcast and she was the "smart kid," now you're saying she's being tortured because of her special powers. I see nothing coming from this but angst, the worst kind of angst. The "they hate me because I'm better than them" kind.

    But, there's the whole thing about her murdering a guy... This really does not sound like a believable character by the descriptions but who knows, maybe you've pulled it off.
     
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    I think it'd make more sense if I went all descriptive and didn't try to summarise it, but it might be too long a write...

    She could turn into a problematic teenager, as in one who drinks and does drugs and generally makes her parents' life hell, but I think it wouldn't work... She doesn't live in an unhealthy family environment, for one. Also getting good grades... Some people can manage to get good grades despite emotional problems, some don't, it varies... I was a depressive student when I was in high school but I was the best in my class... Not saying my MC is the best too...

    Also, Lazy, your remark about suicide... I thought about that too, but it wouldn't work because she has a very strong healing power. Think Claire Bennet from "Heroes": she was clinically dead due to having a branch stuck on her skull but managed to heal herself anyway. I've thought about ways in which she could be killed, for example, by severing her head, but it would be too contrived unless someone else was doing it to her.

    And I don't agree (or, rather, partially agree) with what you said about angst. Sure, being the smart kid draws hate based on envy and the kid might feel he's better than the others because of it, but the powers torturing her, she doesn't really feel better than the others because of them. As a kid, she enjoyed them and was even scared of them in a good way, up until she hurt others, then it went downhill... Doesn't Rogue from X-Men hate her powers as well? I've only watched the cartoon and the movies and know little about the comics, but Rogue's powers sort of prevent her from having a normal life and in the third movie she hates them to the point of making the decision to receive the mutant cure to get rid of them.

    All the questions you guys/gals have surfaced have been helpful... I admit not having developed many of the characters yet because the latter part of my story (the teenager part) hasn't been written yet, but I still feel the need to think ahead of time and prepare to make it easier to write later on.
     
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    Ok,

    What I would do is have the girl kill whatever kids you had in mind, but is by pure accident. She even tries to save the kids but cannot. Afterwards, she is completely horrified and being a GOOD girl she blames herself. Moreover, since the main character has a STRONG personality, she decides to confess to what she did. The problem is, like you said, its hard to prove that she did it because she used powers that no one believes in. Additionally, when the time comes for her to reproduce her powers her powers fail her. Therefore, no one believes she killed the kids, and instead assume she is insane.

    As a consequence of the preceding events, the MC is sent to a mental institute for one or two years (your choice) before returning to school. You mentioned a sick mother. This could be one major driving factor for the MC to try to accept what happened, put it behind her, and get her act back together so she can return home and be with her mom.

    See, in this case. The girl feels bad about what she did. She wants to be punished because she knows thats the right thing. She hates her powers and wants help. This makes the mc sweet. Society, ironically, denies her her wish for justice. Thus we automatically feel sympathy for the main character.

    When the girl returns to school everyone avoids her because they think she is a lunatic. Thus we see a new, very serious, very determined girl. On the surface she seems no nonsense and tough. Deep down of course she is a mess. But she's trying to hold it together so she can take care of her mom. This is I believe is a display of the kind of strength you were asking about.

    Because the girl suffers for trying to do the right thing, I find her instantly likable. Suddenly I have no problem with her being super smart or hot or even having powers. She's still the underdog.
     

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