1. SlayGuy138
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    SlayGuy138 Member

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    Your feedback on this protagonist

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by SlayGuy138, Jun 8, 2015.

    Hello all,

    as my first real contribution to this board, I'd like your feedback on the main character of (what I hope will be) my debut project. I will admit I'm a total noob when it comes to stuff like this, and I'm lazy as well: the character is based largely off myself and is an embodiment of some of the thoughts I'd never say. I hope people don't think it's cliche or too "Holden Caulfield" but I would understand if you'd think that and won't hold it against you. First, a little background on the setting and plot:

    Our courageous hero (not really, he's just a spiteful and misanthropic teenage white boy) has found himself in a situation in which virutally every aspect of his life is beyond his control. His emotionally abusive, bitchy and manipulative mother has tricked him and lied about him to a hospital social worker, causing him to be placed in a lockup facility for juvenile delinquents. It opens with him being strapped to a stretcher. As a general rule, adult authority figures in this novel are portrayed as sadistic, narcissistic, one-sided and hell-bent on upholidng the institutions of authority. With a minute few notable exceptions. The primary aim of this project is to be a vicious satire against the mental health system, and, by extension, all humanity.

    He himself is named Ian Wright (the name itself is a pun, and I'm open to finding a better, less crude and / or richly symbolic one) and has Asperger's syndrome. He enjoys a lot of extreme metal music and violent video games, and while he doesn't have a lot of friends back home. Underneath, he's a complete sentimental, sensitive softie. (Avoid alteration always.) He's pretty much the black sheep of his hometown, but nonetheless (as I like to put it) a black sheep clutching a torch in his hoof (don't ask me how that would work). He's the embodiment of an ideal that I find is quite noble, in my opinion at least: the oppressed and invalidated finding people to relate and share their experience with to in extraordinarily oppressive and invalidating circumstances.

    Unlike the assumed perception of most with Asperger's syndrome he has a witty command of language, and feels emotions quite strongly. He feels incredibly out of place at the facility, even more so than usual. He's also filled with lots of nostalgic despondency for his early childhood, which he remembers vividly.

    Ultimately, after he is discharged, he reaches out to the two friends he made in juvie and (it's alluded that) they start a band.

    I would greatly appreciate any advice you can give me on how to further develop this character and add depth to him. I already have a lot going on with his thoughts and dialogue, but would like some more symbolism to add to him.

    Cheers, and stay brutal.
     
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  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't know about adding depth to that character so much, but I wonder about adding a bit of depth to your other characters, or, alternatively, maybe spreading the satire around a little.

    Like, if you're going over-the-top and satirical in your portrayal of some characters, why aren't you over-the-top and satirical with all your characters? If all the adults are sadistic control freaks, why isn't this MC portrayed as a whiny, self-pitying baby? Alternatively, if you're humanizing your MC and portraying him with compassion, why don't all your characters get that treatment.

    It's been a long time since I read Catcher in the Rye, but I don't recall the secondary characters as caricatures. Holden was an unreliable narrator so we had to read between the lines, but once we did, we saw that everybody was struggling, and everybody was human.

    Or if you want to go more satiric, Yossarian in Catch-22 is heroic if you squint hard enough, but he's really just as ridiculous as the other characters.

    The way you have it set up now (at least based on this short description) makes it sound like you're being very hard on a lot of characters while being very gentle with your MC, who just happens to be the character you identify with. It feels a bit self-indulgent, to be honest.
     
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  3. wellthatsnice
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    wellthatsnice Active Member

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    As far as a protagonist goes i think he is generally pretty interesting. I think Asperger's has become the mental illness flavor of the month and seems to be overused as a way to make a socially awkward character. In reality most socially awkward people are just socially awkward. Its much more likely that having a manipulative mother would effect his social development enough on its own that he doesnt need to have a mental disorder on top of it. Part of his growth can be finding that his lack of social graces stemmed more from his crappy home life than anything wrong with him, and the friendships formed in the hospital and the band helps him begin to break away and find himself.

    Id say cut the aspergers, which will save you needing to explain away why he only shows very select symptoms. Instead make him beat down by his mother, who then places him in a medical facility. Once in the facility, the staff lazily takes the mothers word that her son has something wrong with him and never true evaluates him.

    It will allow you to have scenes where the character questions his own sanity because he feels normal, but everyone tells him he is mentally disturbed. Eventually his band mates help him turn that around.

    The mental health system failed him, but a Metal Garage band may restore his Sanity.

    Metal Health
     
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  4. SlayGuy138
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    SlayGuy138 Member

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    The AS business is not the primary identity of him, although I do wish to allude to it considering I have that diagnosis myself. I hear what you're saying about it being the "neurotype du jour" - I'm sure there are indeed some poseur aspies out there (not to sound pretentious or elitist).

    BayView. What cruel, delicious irony. The place where Ian is sent is called just that.

    I probably neglected to mention that there are indeed other characters who I as an author have some semblence of humanizing sympathy for. Namely, Ian's dad, and the two friends he makes at BV. One of whom initally comes off as a sadistic social Darwinist type, but then it's revealed that he's just trying to be edgy and is spewing his bullshit all for show. The other is a lacrosse player who comes from an affluent town who really wants to study marine biology but is overwhelmed by trying to keep up with the pressures of conformity.
     
  5. Wrizzy
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    Wrizzy Member

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    Lots of thoughts here, sorry if this comes out rambling!

    Interesting character make up. Personally, I've delved a lot into the psychological/physiological well-being of my characters over the past several years. In relation to this...have you heard of the condition called 'Pyroluria'? I have several family members who have it, and many people with conditions that fall in the mental health category have it. I've also studied it academically, and it is a very interesting condition. Unfortunately, it is very little heard of and isn't even taught in medical school.

    I think, in this day and age, a lot of people (dare I say nearly all) enduring mental health conditions have been unfortunate to have to deal with hurtful stigma. Any kind of pain (and this would be double ended--both from the condition itself and from the people around them misunderstanding their deep pains) that goes unresolved will cause someone to retreat, distrust, and possibly even not bond well with people around them, particularly people who don't suffer those same pains. Further, the enduring individual will start to see their fellow human beings and the institutions around them as faulty, uncaring, etc. And this is well deserved to many degrees, unfortunately, because the caregivers have not trusted the sufferers themselves when they distrust the misguided or stigmatic care that is causing them further pain.

    I think it would be interesting if you took the story in the direction of, perhaps, the 'Pyroluria' direction. It would bring an avenue for healing and forgiveness on all ends for the character, the caregivers, etc.

    To note, I've dealt with my own issues in this area as well, so it has brought a lot of material to write from. In researching for over fifteen years, I've never ceased to find physiological bases for mental health issues. People who don't suffer from them have a hard time understanding, empathizing, and fully treating those issues. These might be areas to explore for your character...?

    I don't know, these are just my thoughts. I hope this doesn't come of wrong.
     
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  6. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    As I read the OP, I don't doubt the originality, but I'd be careful of seeming like piggybacking off One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Check the book out to make sure you're not overlapping.

    ETA: By overlap, I mean too much identical content. The topic and themes are fine.
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2015
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  7. Wrizzy
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    Wrizzy Member

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    I think our society needs more dialogue on the topic. I think One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was nearly ahead of it's time, in what it shed light on. We, as a people are so far behind in that area, it feels like our society's equivalent of a development dark age. We are trying to go to Mars, but people here are starving, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

    Just my rant. Feel free to ignore it.:p

    I agree that it would be good to check for overlap. Good point. But, there is plenty of space out there to welcome some fresh diologue! SlayGuy, I would love for you to succeed in writing something that helps the world bring equality to those who have to endure issues of this type.

    ...Of course you have your own purposes for writing your story. :D
     
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  8. Wrizzy
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    Wrizzy Member

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    Here I am adding more thoughts. Feel free to take 'em or leave 'em.:)

    I think Wellthatsnice's suggestion about the band could be right on. If the character has a soft side, to bring wholeness, he needs to get that out. Not only would music serve as a voice to the part of him that he might feel has been under undervalued because of all he's been through, but the band would allow him a support circle that he can relate to, because of the music, but also keep him afloat from the pain it sounds like his character has endured. That's really important for personal development--that have allies that will take your side. The band could really be a key part of your story, if you decide to use it.

    I still think it would be great to use the Pyroluria thing in this, too. Maybe he finds out that what he thought he had, wasn't it at all, which caused the rift between him and those trying to care for him--his instincts told him that he could be just fine, that that tender side of him just wanted to get out, but his caregivers were misguided, though good intended...? (Because the efforts and or money spent are just energy tossed in the wind. They are occuring because of someone's intentions.) Could bring healing all around. I think it would be a wonderful, unexpected twist, for the parent and institution to be portrayed as you say, abusive, bitchy, hell-bent, one-sided (because let's face it, that's how the character feels, and is sooo relatable for many people!) but to have the story unwind and find that all sides were struggling.

    Maybe the character finds he has Pyroluria (which has a cure), and it allows him to be at peace, and find room to see that his mother was heartbroken because she thought she had failed as a mother. Maybe the institution is filled with people who are uneducated on the physiological cures for those with the issues the kids deal with that cause behavioral stuff. Maybe, all around, everyone just needs to have their eyes opened, and their burden lifted, and their hearts healed.

    These are just some thoughts here. I don't want it to feel like I'm trying to push you in any directions you don't want to go with your story. I'm just really passionate about the topic. :) I think the world really needs opportunity for thought on the topic. People have suffered long enough in the mental health area. It's time for liberation!:agreed::-D
     
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  9. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Actually according to science Pyroluria is a disproved hypothesis. From the helpful wikipedia entry:
    Pyroluria
    Pyroluria (or malvaria from the term mauve factor) involves hypothetical excessive levels of pyrroles in the body resulting from improper hemoglobin synthesis.[13] Carl Pfeiffer believed that pyroluria is a form of schizophrenic porphyria, similar to acute intermittent porphyria where both pyrroles and porphyrins are excreted in the human urine to an excessive degree.[14] and orthomolecular psychiatrists have alleged that pyroluria is related to diagnoses of ADHD, alcoholism, autism, depression, down syndrome, manic-depression, schizophrenia, celiac disease, epilepsy, and psychosis.[15] Pfeiffer's methods have not been rigorously tested,[16] and pyrroles are not considered to be related to schizophrenia. Studies have either failed to detect hemopyrrole and kryptopyrrole in the urine of normal controls and schizophrenics, or found no correlation between these chemicals and mental illness.[17][18][19][20][21][22] Few, if any, medical experts regard the condition as genuine, and few or no articles on pyroluria are found in modern medical literature;[23] the approach is described as "snake oil" by pediatrician and author Julian Haber.[16]

    Please do not attempt to set mental health care back by peddling junk science. AS has no cure, only treatment.
     
  10. Wrizzy
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    Wrizzy Member

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    Haha, "helpful wikipedia". Bible, right?

    Anyways, its nice and easy to say its junk, but my family has it. I have living proof that its real and the treatments work. I've talked to the doctors who treat it, and seen evidence in blood work, urine tests, behavioral analysis, etc.

    Science likes to call a lot of stuff junk--such as the idea of x-raying little fetuses being dangerous. (Women had x-rays before ultrasounds became the common, more safe, norm.)

    This is why they don't teach it in school, because falsehoods like this information is being peddled. Trust me, this issue will become the Autism of the future. Remember when people were calling that BS and saying there was no hope?

    It's time for this to change. I would love to see the topic tackled by a writer that feels the inspiration to use it in their story. Fiction opens dialogue and the freedom to explore ideas--ideas that science, in the present, like too poo-poo all over. It's the pattern of our society.

    I would love to myself, but methinks I'm a little to close to the topic to give it the well-rounded exposure it needs.;)

    Let's not assume that giving good, truthful, experiential information is setting "mental health care back by peddling junk science". No offense, but might want to do a little more research before leaning on the nice little wiki as heavy proof of anything. I've been researching this stuff for nearly twenty years.
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2015
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  11. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd say there's your problem...you're basing the hero on the you that you'd like to portray in life. Which means that your MC will, almost by definition, spend most of the book acting out of character.
     
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  12. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    I'm new to fiction writing and am wondering myself how making a semi-autobiographical MC more assertive or vocal, for instance, is so threatening?
     
  13. SlayGuy138
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    SlayGuy138 Member

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    I'm not sure what you're trying to say here, sorry. Him saying what I wish I could say is his character identity, or at least part of it. I fail to see how that would be out of character.
     
  14. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not sure where the "threatening" came from... I don't think anyone's threatened by this.

    But, in general, self-insert characters that are improved versions of the author tend to be MarySue/MartyStus. They're given flaws but these flaws are actually secret strengths, they understand things the rest of the characters cannot, everyone is mean to them but secretly admires or is intimidated by them, etc.

    I'm sure there are examples of authors who've done a great job with this. But there are a lot MORE examples of authors who've produced the equivalent of juvenile fanfic. As a reader, alarm bells go off, for me.
     
  15. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    Okay, what I meant was threatening to the endeavour, so "hazardous" would be better.

    No one should assume a character who reacts to discrimination is merely an idealized hero.
     
  16. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think anyone's assuming that here. Do you?
     
  17. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    To me, the position you and Shadowfax have taken could be read as "a project too risky to undertake" based on what I think is an innocuous change that was mentioned.
     
  18. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I think you may misunderstand the issue with fetal X-rays. Radiation exposure is cumulative. And an X-ray dose on a fetus amounts to a large exposure. And you don't want to X-ray a zygote, damaging a single cell might result in a significant deformity.

    The idea is to limit fetal X-rays as much as possible. But you use them if you need them. My son had X-rays shortly after birth because he was in respiratory distress. They are not absolutely contraindicated, just limited when one weighs risk vs benefit.

    Don't teach what in school? :confused:
     
  19. SlayGuy138
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    SlayGuy138 Member

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    Please don't turn my thread about my character as an opportunity for a psychological debate. Let's bring it back on track.
     
  20. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Sorry. :)
     
  21. SlayGuy138
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    SlayGuy138 Member

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    I'm not blaming anyone in particular for this. I just want to see more relevant content, thanks. :)
     
  22. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    What do you want the symbolism to represent for MC? It sounds like you want to show a youth who, though has behaviour issues, is not understood as he deserves to be by those in a position of authority.
     
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  23. SlayGuy138
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    SlayGuy138 Member

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    Bingo! In fact, most of his behavior issues are a result of the fact that he's not understood as he deserves to be.
     
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  24. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    So where are you at now? Is something missing or unclear as the writing goes forward?
     
  25. SlayGuy138
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    SlayGuy138 Member

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    I'd say it's more so with the plot and how it develops. I don't want to be cliche, but at the same time I want to make a point.
     

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