1. Owen8
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    Owen8 Member

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    Would This Character Be Uninteresting?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Owen8, May 22, 2012.

    Hey, first post!

    I have an idea for a character. Basically, he is perceived as a "loser". He is intelligent, but extremely unmotivated. He does not have many friends, and is somewhat socially incompetent. My question is: would this kind of character be interesting to read? Over the course of the story, the character does start applying himself, and he learns how to deal with problems and see how he can make use of his intelligence. I'm just afraid that readers will not make a connection to the character in the beginning of the story. And I don't want the readers to pity his situation, because his circumstances are basically his fault.

    As for background for the plot, he is a high school student. Then, he is suddenly transported to a different world. So the basic plot is him trying to survive and get back home.
     
  2. koal4e
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    koal4e Member

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    Not if you can add some quirks into his behaviour. Have you ever watched the Big Bang Theory? Sheldon is someone who is highly intelligent, but socially inept...yet he is my favourite characters and for others too, this is because of the quirks in his behaviour and using the fact that he doesnt understand social situations to the advantage of the story in each episode. TV I know but an example thats tangible.
     
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  3. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Your character sounds just like me, and I'm fascinating! (To me, at least.) So I say run with him. He'll be interesting enough.

    ;)
     
  4. Igor
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    Igor Member

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    No character is intrinsically uninteresting to a writer or a reader.

    As a writer, you have complete control over how you readers percieive the character. If you want to make him interesting, make him intersesting despite the fact that he is regarded as a 'loser'. Even from you short description, I am already interested in him.
     
  5. Afion
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    Afion Senior Member

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    It depends what POV your writing in. If you're writing in first POV, it gives you more scope to explore what's going on inside his head and to tell the reader why he's a loner :)
     
  6. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    I've read some very good books with a similar concept. For example, Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy - Arthur Dent is this kind of stuffy British guy who isn't very successful, and then his best friend reveals that he's an alien and the earth is going to be destroyed, and the two of them hitch a ride on the demolishers' ship. The rest of the story is a series of bizarre events, with Arthur Dent being mostly along for the ride, and Arthur's reactions to all this become one of the more entertaining things about the story.
     
  7. indy5live
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    indy5live Active Member

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    How important is it to the story that the person is a loser? It shouldn't take but maybe a chapter to establish the fact that he doesn't have social skills and is a lazy bum. What will draw a reader away is if you bore them with over-describing his condition. Read your description of the character and once you say, 'Ok, I got it, he is lazy and a loser' stop there. No more examples are needed and no more elaboration should take place. Get to the interesting part of the story which sounds like him being sucked into this alternative universe. If you are just in love with a scene about him lameness, save it for a flashback later in the story. It would sound a lot more interesting to read "It's hard to believe a week ago I spent an hour stacking quarters and today I just slain a dragon." then to read, "I spend an hour stacking my quarters, first in alphabetical order based on its state representation and then by its shade of silver. I think next I'll memorize how to solve an Rubik Cube."
     
  8. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    It depends on what he DOES! If he just sits around waiting for something to happen, yes. Every character would be uninteresting in those circumstances. If he has goals and fight for something he will be interesting, regardless of how socially incompetent he is. I would even say that a loser would be more interesting in this case than the social genious (who likes to read about them anyway?) who does everything right and who everybody loves. It wouldn't be as much of a challenge for him obtaining what he wants because he has everything he needs to solve whatever problem comes his way. This, on the other hand, would be interesting.
     
  9. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    For God's sake, WHY!? "Basically" it doesn't matter whose fault it is, your aim should be for the readers to feel pity and sad for the character and hopefully root for him to change.

    EDIT: I think I should elaborate, so..... You mentioned he tries to change which is very important, because that's what the readers should ideally want for your character after pitying him (as already mentioned). This is what we called the readers connecting with the character (If he succeeds or fails is actually less important). So, how do you know if your character is interesting? You know it when the readers really care about what happens to the character. Pity for the character is a means used by many writers to achieve this. It is however not important for the readers to like or identify with the character for the character to be interesting, but it is important for you to make the readers understand why a character is the way he is.
     
  10. Lumipon
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    Lumipon Member

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    But how the writer and the reader perceive a character are two, sometimes very different things.

    As the creator of the character, you know him/her inside out. You are naturally biased to think him as an interesting character. Because you have that extra information and natural affection, you might overestimate his charm.

    Since he seems to be a protagonist, I might suggest using a character establishing moment (dunno if that is a real term, but bear with me) early in the story. That means a scene in which you "show off" the aspects that seperate your character from his peers.

    When done well, this this lays an excellent groundwork for the character. If you have seem or read The Game of Thrones, the scene in which Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell, executes a deserter is a great example:

    A deserter brought back valuable info. But desertion is punished by death. Eddard sentences the man to death, not because he is cruel, but because the law says so. And Eddard decapitates him, with his own hands, for it was he who passed the judgement, so it should be he who stains his hands. He also had his children watch the act, because they would be the Lords of Winterfell in time, and wanted to prepare them for it. He didn't want to do it, but it was needed.

    It was a moment which gave us great insight into Eddard Stark's character in just a few minutes of watching the show (or reading the book). Afterwards we can almost predict how he will act in a given situation, like we had known him for a lot longer.

    If done wrong, well, the character defining moment doesn't succeed in seperatig a character from the rest or seems forced when it's clumsily executed. Like when the scene doesn't serve any other purpose than to establish a character. While important, it should pull double duty as a story point for maximum effectiveness.

    And as stated before, good characters come from internal conflict. They are struggles, and struggles are something we can indentify easily as human beings. Use it.

    Well, this turned out longer than expected.
     
  11. Man in the Box
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    Man in the Box Active Member

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    ^This is a wonderful post! Listen to it. I did. ;)

    As someone who's intelligent but unmotivated, does not have many friends and is socially awkward, I already found your character interesting. My life is rather boring so it wouldn't be novel-worthy, but you're the one with control over your character. If you can't figure out a situation in which he'll act, make the action come to him; make something happen to him that will force him to act.
     
  12. Radrook
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    Radrook Contributing Member

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    As interesting as you are capable of making him. All of us identify with the underdog because all of us have felt like underdogs somewhere along the line. So that in itself should gain the initial interest. Then conflict between himself and himself and between himself and the environment, which can be nature or society whether it be alien or human, will sustain the drama.
     
  13. Igor
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    Igor Member

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    No.

    As the rest of your excellent post shows, the writer controls what the reader percieves.

    If you have a story in which you have created the most loathsome character imagineable and the readers perceive him as a saint, kind to old ladies and small animals, then you are not doing your job very well. Writers manipulate their readers as orators manipulate their listeners.
     
  14. Owen8
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    Owen8 Member

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    Wow, thank you everyone for your responses. They have been very constructive and have given me more confidence that I'm going in the right direction. I have a couple things to say about your posts and a couple thoughts, so here goes.

    Indy5live, I completely agree with you. The first scene will set up the basic feeling for the character. So, very short. I think this goes well with Lumipon talking about a character establishing moment. Just one scene to give the reader a solid basis for knowing the character, and then thrusting him into the action. Then, you get to see more of his character and how he changes in how he reacts to being in a strange place with strange people. I guess this paragraph has been a bit of rambling, but i really like what you two said, thank you.

    Afion also brings up a question I have. What POV do you think would be best for the character? Since this story will be very heavily character-driven, I want to use the POV that would best suit the reader being drawn in to the character's development. And I plan on writing it solely from the point of view of the protagonist.

    Again, this is my first time using such a forum to help with my writing, so thank you again for your input.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Since you have to ask, I recommend third person. First person is viable also, but is more challenging to do well, and should only be undertaken by someone who thoroughly understands the strengths and weaknesses of each POV.

    Whichever you choose, don't focus directly on the character most of the time. Focus on the people and events around him instead. An introspective focus comes across as self-absorbed and a bit claustrophobic.
     
  16. Lumipon
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    Lumipon Member

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    Cogito is correct in that third is the more conventional and easier way. That is because you have plenty of reference material (hundreds of adventure books are written in third person). First person adventures are more rare, but definitely doable.

    But what is the difference between limited third person and first person POVs? I'll simplify:

    In first person story telling, the character narrates. You use his "voice". There is no difference in you writing the story and the POV character narrating it. If he describes a situation by referring an obscure movie, you can tell that he might be a movie buff. This adds a new layer to characterization. Also, everything you write will be skewed by his opinions and biases. He might personally dislike a character or a piece of art even though the majority of people would like them. He might see a social and helpful person as annoying, obnoxious and intrusive. This makes it hard for the readers to form their own opinions on supporting characters.

    So if your readers dislike the POV-character or his viewpoints, it might bomb the whole experience for them.

    But it's not all bad. First person really shines when you write introspective stories. You can highlight inner struggles and character development. And if your character is interesting or unique enough, the story might be even more interesting to read!

    How limited third person differs from the first, is that while you write what the POV character sees, does and says, the narration is not in his "voice". You can be objective and write without the character's personal biases (though you can color the text with his personality). This allows some more room for supporting cast to shine as the readers are free to form their own opinions. You can focus more on the group dynamic rather than a single character. This way even if soem readers dislike the protagonist, they might continue reading because they like other characters or the story too much.​


    So, which style you should choose?

    Well, you have established that your character is intelligent, so this makes it infinitely easier to write a first person POV. He can make intelligent remarks and provide insightful narration. If he is prone to depression, you could use dark humor as flavoring in the text, to make it really "his". But that really depends on your character's personality and quirks, of which you have not really described.

    So it basically comes down to how likeable you think your character will be and whether you can write with his "voice".

    Third person POV is the easier and more common. You do not risk losing readers who dislike the character, but lose a bit of focus from the POVC. You should make this up with interesting supporting characters or setting.

    If you're still undecided, you could just write the first chapters using both techniques and see which one you like the best. Or post them here for others to review.
     
  17. Owen8
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    Owen8 Member

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    Tesoro, you bring up and interesting point. Because the MC is a loser (at least, perceived as a loser) in real life. And, without going into great detail, he through supernatural means, changes into someone who is not perceived as a loser. But he strives very hard and through great difficulty to get back home. So I'm wondering if this is a conflict with his character. Would he want to go to such great lengths to go back to a world in which he is ignored? The key is that over the course of the story, he discovers that he wants to be great by becoming great, not being given it. The work that he puts in to bettering himself is just as if not more valuable than just being better randomly. And the journey that he takes through the world is just as if not more important to him than actually getting back home. He strives to reach that goal, and becomes a better person for it. And, the strange world that he is in is just not his world, not a place that he can understand.

    I apologize for the aimlessness of this post; I definitely rambled. But it helped to write it down.

    I think that I am leaning towards writing this in the first person POV. Another main thrust of the story is how the character perceives this incredibly strange world that he has become a part of, and I'm thinking that first person would be very good for that.

    Thank you again for your wonderful posts, and for humoring my rambling.
     
  18. marktx
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    marktx Contributing Member

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    I am also writing a character who in most respects (externally at least) appears by any definition to be a "loser." But the entire story turns on him, and he is actually alot of fun to write. The key in my character's case is that there is a disconnect between the circumstances he has allowed himself to sink into and the qualities he possesses (but does not see in himself). In other words there is a tension between how he defines himself and the qualities he actually possesses. The reader sees it in the choices he makes as the story unfolds, everyone else seems to have some basic sense of it, but he doesn't get it.

    So if you think of the differences between the kind of person your character thinks he is versus who he really is based the choices he makes in crisis, the fact that he has failed to meet his potential in life when the story opens need not be a barrier to making him someone the reader can identify with and care about.

    First-person versus third-person is a choice that only you can make for yourself--the only right answer is the one that works for you.

    Having said that, one literary thinker has made a compelling argument that third person can actually get you closer to the character's perspective than first person if certain techniques are used. Counter-intuitive, I know. But check out How Fiction Works by James Woods if you want to learn more about that argument. Essentially, he makes the case that if you work in third person, you can shift your non-dialog prose into the character's voice in a way that pulls the reader into the character's perspective without cueing the reader that this is happening, and he gives numerous examples from literature to illustrate how this happens.
     
  19. Darkkin
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    Darkkin Reflection of a nobody Contributor

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    I have to agree with some of the aforementioned comments about giving your character some quirks; they are what make us human. And as far as the label 'loser' goes, there are a lot of us, namely the 95% of students, who didn't fall in with the popular crowd who were cast as 'losers'. They are in all honesty some of the most interesting people I know. It is easy for most readers to empathize. With the unmotivated aspect, what is behind his lack of effort, is there a reason for it? If there is a reason, maybe add it as a bit of back story. Adding to the perspective discussion: Third person, is my favorite perspective. It puts you into the character's viewpoint, allowing for some very surprising insights into a character's thoughts and actions. It makes a world far more real.
     
  20. Boomstick10995
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    Boomstick10995 Member

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    I love first person myself. Really let's the readers get inside the mind of the character I think.

    I like the idea of the "unmotivated" "loser" character, or what I like to call the "underdog." I think it's really creative to make a character that seems uninteresting appear amazing to the readers. Not to sound like a canary, but yes add some quirks and throw him into some weird, random situations that will really make his character shine. I actually find writing about "loser" characters the most fun. Who wants to write about someone who's perfect and has their life all together? Bleh. Boring! lol
     
  21. Lucy Eisenberg
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    Lucy Eisenberg New Member

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    I love socially awkward, intellectual, slacker characters. They are like my favorite. I hunt books/movies with such protags. And I'd like first person POV. :) Maybe you could check this book Going Bovine by Libba Bray. Very similar to your premise. It could give you some ideas.
     
  22. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    A character who isn't conventionally ambitious, but who has interests, doesn't need to be boring. I do, however, have trouble with the idea that he wouldn't be using his intelligence for _something_, unless he's deeply depressed. He may not be using it for anything that has value in the eyes of the world at large, but an intelligent kid is, IMO, going to be deeply involved in, and accomplished at, something. World of Warcraft. Analyzing golf scores. Learning to count cards and plotting imagined trips to casinos. Extending the Klingon language. Restoring an old car. IMO, he is absolutely doing something.

    And, IMO, those interests should not be dropped so that he can learn to comply with the expectations of the world, but instead transformed so that he can carve a place in that world at least partially on his own terms. But I realize that it's your story. :)
     
  23. Owen8
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    Owen8 Member

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    I agree, ChickenFreak, he would be using his intelligence in some way. Thank you for your input.

    And, if anyone wants to, the first chapter with this character is posted in the novels section. Although I already have some changes I want to make. :rolleyes:
     
  24. inkyliddlefingers
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    inkyliddlefingers Member

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    I have to say the character/setting sounds fairly stereotypical to me. This kind of story has been done a trillion times so you will need to give him some very unusual personality quirks and reactions to scenarios to make him engaging. I suggest you read Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next books first. His characterisation is amazing and you may learn quite a bit from those stories on how to flesh out fully rounded charaters (no affiliation, just love his work)
     

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