1. Prettyinpnk

    Prettyinpnk New Member

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    Can't make this idea for my main character work

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Prettyinpnk, Sep 24, 2018.

    So, I've had an idea for who I wanted my main character to be. A girl who was bullied for being shy and sensitive, and now believes that the only way to get ahead in life is to be selfish and arrogant. She and her friends are very popular, and pick on those who aren't like them (though she will try to help someone improve if she feels enough for them). That's the gist of it.

    Unfortunately, most people I've talked to have hated this idea, saying that they would hate her and stop reading. And I have been struggling to find a goal for her to achieve. I was going to have her try to get out of her best friend's shadow, but people just got the impression that she wanted to be Head Bully, and that's not what I'm going for. I just can't think of a goal for her, and I'm thinking of giving up all together because people hate the idea. Any advice would be appreciated.
     
  2. Azuresun

    Azuresun Senior Member

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    Hmm....if you want her to actually be sympathetic, maybe some of these ideas might help?

    --Explain that she's driven by fear--"I have to keep pushing other people down, or I'll be the one getting picked on." And maybe she's most afraid of her "fellow" bullies, knowing they might turn on her if she shows any signs of weakness.

    --Give her a degree of self-loathing--she knows exactly how bad she's making others feel, but she's selfishly choosing to victimise others because it's better to be the hammer than the nail, and everything she's experienced has made her think she has to be one or the other. She doesn't take much pleasure being mean, she's just using it as a form of protective camouflage.

    --Make her a bit comedic, or bad at being a bully. Her schemes backfire, or she's nice to her victims by mistake.

    Of course, you could just embrace her nastiness and have her be an anti-hero or villainous lead. Give her a rival who's equally bad, or give her some style and audacity to her wrongdoing, while trying to avoid pettiness.
     
  3. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Can you come up with some other reason why she needs to do this? Help her father's career, solve a murder, something? Would that negate the point?

    I'm curious as to why she's suddenly able to be popular. Did she just change schools?
     
  4. Ellara Zemar

    Ellara Zemar Member

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    Maybe let her past as bullied be her deepest secret and something she’s deeply ashamed about. She might not even know that you actually can be a nice person without being the bullied one, and scared and determined to never be that one again she does what she’s thinks she has to do...
    ... until she meets someone who challenges her views, someone who doesn’t play along in that bully-or-be bullied game?
     
  5. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    If you're thinking of giving up before you even start, that's not a very good sign. But, seriously, have you actually tried writing any of this or are you just upset that your friends aren't super supportive of something you actually haven't even done yet? It sounds a little like Mean Girls that was a book years before the movie. Execution matters when it comes to every idea. And it doesn't just matter a little. It's everything. So, if you haven't actually done the writing, maybe it's not the right time to go seeking approval. Actually, I'm not sure writers ever need to seek approval. Seeking publication is different than seeking approval, but it sounds like you're nowhere near that either.
     
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  6. Prettyinpnk

    Prettyinpnk New Member

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    I'm not really upset that they don't like the idea, more because they said making a character like this would be hard to do, and so far they're right as I still have no idea what her goal is going to be.
     
  7. Nariac

    Nariac Contributor Contributor

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    Here's your story: How did she get from shy and sensitive to being super popular with lots of friends? :D

    I'm being totally serious. It just seemed to me that in your opening post, there was a big chunk of her character development which is simply missing. That's fertile ground for setting a story, in my view.

    I remember I had a character who was a journalist, doing pretty well, dating the newspaper boss's daughter. I was trying to work out stuff that he could do, finding character drive, impetus, and all of that. My brother gave it a look and said that it seemed like he'd had a story, and it was finished. The story of how he got to be a successful journalist dating the boss's daughter. And I thought: "Holy shit, he's right. Let's do that story instead."
     
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  8. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Who cares what "they" say? Writing a novel is hard in general. I don't see how your idea is any harder than other ideas. Maybe if you start actually writing, you'll figure out for yourself just how hard or easy it is. How well you pull off an idea matters as much if not more so than the idea. And maybe it's not the best idea to be going and telling all your friends an idea you have for a book before you start writing some (or all) of it. Just saying, the problem isn't your idea, it's that all you have thus far is an idea and it doesn't seem as though you've even developed that very much. You're the one who said you were thinking of giving up before you've even started. And you're no where near the parts when writing actually does get tough.
     
  9. Justin Thyme

    Justin Thyme Active Member

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    I can see why people would hate the girl, I would to. However,,, you could make her sympathetic by giving her someone to care about, I'm thinking disabled relative at home perhaps, show that she really cares for someone and then we might like her more. I know that's a bit cliched but thinking along those lines might bring out an idea,,,,

    She might have a goal that was unselfish, again perhaps to do with helping someone else, make it a separate sub-plot line running parallel. I think you could make her the most hateful bitch on the planet in one area if she's self sacrificing and noble in another.
     
  10. l nimbus

    l nimbus Member

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    I've seen his done to death and back on the RoyalRoad forums. Most people didn't like it.

    Except the Wuxia fans, but that entire genre revolves around being the biggest, most arrogant ass on the planet.
     
  11. Prettyinpnk

    Prettyinpnk New Member

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    I was thinking of giving up because it's been a year and I have made very little progress. Most of that time was spent trying to develop this character and the plot, and I couldn't think of any ideas to flesh her or the story out completely. I still can't come up with a single idea. And 'just writing' has not helped because it ends up being a complete waste of time and I get nowhere. That's why I've gone to others for advice, because I have no idea what to do. And if writing isn't supposed to be tough at this stage that makes it worse.
     
  12. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    Survive? Seems like a pretty good starting point for a character to me. Establish that as her status quo, but make it clear that her bullying leaves her unfulfilled and that she longs for something else. Then give her something, like a chance meeting with someone she get a crush on, or she accidentally takes an art class, or something else that gives her a glimpse of what it would be like to not be a bully and gives her a modicum of happiness, but is also scary because it reopens her to her old pains. She then has to make a choice, etc...
     
  13. Linz

    Linz Active Member

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    Just my opinion, but she comes across as two-faced.

    She's been bullied, swings to become the bully herself (fair enough, so far), but still helps out her victims when she can. Presumably, when she's alone.

    She's playing mind-games with her victims.

    Being bullied for being shy and sensitive is plausible. The bullies see it as a slight if people don't want to hang out with them, so they could turn on those that prefer to be alone.

    So, how about a little character and plot tweak?

    She's bullied, so she know how it feels to be bullied. Instead of having her go full circle and become the bully, helping out her victims when it suits her, how about making her their champion? The one who'll defend bullying victims from their aggressors? The quick-witted, sharp-tongued heroine who has the backs of those less capable of standing up for themselves?

    More motivation? Revenge against her own aggressor?
     
  14. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    If she becomes a bully because she herself was bullied - what about realising it's ok to be sensitive, that being a bully and selfish don't actually mean happiness, or friendships that last, or resolve any problems? It sounds like the main thing would be for her to finally forgive and heal from her pain, and return to being who she truly is rather than continue to live in her pain and hurting everyone else.

    I dunno, Nabokov wrote a book with a pedophile as the narrator and the book is a classic. Patrick Suskind's Perfume follows the life of a murderer who thoroughly enjoys killing young virgins for his own ambitions (recognised as a modern classic and been made into a film). American Psycho also comes to mind. Isn't Mean Girls, the classic comedy, also about class bullies? Your idea's been done before and done well, and the world has loved these stories. You don't have to worry.

    Your main mistake, I think, is the word "like" or perhaps "hate". It's ok for readers to hate her. It's ok for them not to like her. What matters is: they must find her interesting. If she intrigues them, then you have yourself some readers, and that's all that matters. They don't have to like her at all.

    ETA: I only recently finished writing my first draft of my novel after twelve years. I started when I was 19. I'm 31 now. Editing, polish, then I'm gonna try for publication, of course. Twelve flipping years. 6+ full drafts (at least half of which had been edited and rewritten). Not counting the countless scenes, snippets, dialogues, plans, summary attempts either. My computer tells me I got 381 files and 41 folders in my WIP folder. And I don't think I'm unique - I think there's at least one person, probably more, on this forum floating around who's worked on his book for a decade or more.

    Although, some ideas are better than others. There's nothing stopping you from shelving this one and developing another one, and then coming back to this one later, you know. I don't know how old you are, but you sound pretty young, and sometimes life experience - not writing experience but life experience - can make the difference between trying to achieve the impossible and it actually being doable. If you're that stuck, let it rest. Coming back with fresh eyes - and a fresh mind - can make all the difference.
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2018
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  15. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Not even the best excuses for not writing actually help anyone with writing. Another year's gone by and you still aren't writing? Sounds to me like you don't really want to do this. And, no, it doesn't get easier from here. And other people aren't always (if ever) going to give you the answers you want or need. It's okay. A lot more people like the idea of being a writer more than writing itself. It's pretty clear you are falling into that camp. And you don't have to tell me or anyone else all your excuses for not writing. But are they really justifying or attempting to justify your lack of progress and the reasons behind not writing? If your reasons for not writing work for you, than there is a good chance writing never will. Maybe this sounds harsh. But we all have to decide how bad we want this. And nobody gets any kind of success when it comes to writing by phoning it in.
     
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  16. Prettyinpnk

    Prettyinpnk New Member

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    Where did I say I wasn't writing? The whole time I've been writing out my plot. I just said it wasn't fleshed out completely. All I asked for was some advice on how to flesh out a main character, but apparently this translated to not writing and making excuses. But you're going to believe whatever you want.
     
  17. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    You said you have an idea and other people don't like it and you're stuck. It happens. But that doesn't sound much like writing, especially considering you also said...

    Outlining and planning is not the same as writing. Maybe you think if you write this stuff down it counts as writing. Sure, go ahead and count it if that's what you want to do. But it sure doesn't sound like you're actually writing the story based on what you said. It doesn't matter to me either way. But maybe you still have a lot to learn and a lot to write before you figure things out. Good luck.
     
  18. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    @deadrats , you are doing a lot of superior slamming of a lot of people these days. Maybe you could cut that out.
     
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  19. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Writing is tough at different stages for different people. It makes perfect sense to me that it would be tough at the stage where you're trying to flesh out the concept and turn it into a plot.

    If you gave her a strong motive unrelated to popularity, would that be fine, or would that negate the point? That is, are you primarily exploring how a person can lose her principles in the pursuit of acceptance, so that a plot that means that she's keeping to higher principles negates the whole thing? Or do you just want to explore the events, the interactions around popularity and bullying, so that her sticking to higher principles is just dandy?

    That divide would strongly affect what ideas I might have. If it's the second, there are many things you could do. Maybe she has to win the friendship of her father's boss's daughter, to protect her father's job, so that he doesn't lose the health insurance that is vital to her mother's medical care--or something. Maybe she's investigating a murder and the path requires her to essentially go undercover as a popular kid. (I could imagine Veronica Mars having gone that way.) Or as less-high principle but still higher than "I want to be popular and I'm willing to hurt people to get there", maybe her heart's desire is to get into a specific college that requires prestigious extracurricular activities, and only the popular kids get into those activities.

    If you really do want to explore "I want to be popular and I'm willing to hurt people to get there", that's going to be a lot harder. Not impossible, but harder.
     
  20. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I'm just telling it like it is. Thought my insight and comments might be what someone needs to hear whether it's the OPs or just people reading the forum. I'm not being mean or trying to so I apologize if I've hurt anyone, but I would be surprised if that's the case. But telling me to cut out my comments and singling me out this way isn't so cool. I like you and I'm not looking to start anything with you or anyone else. I would like to think my posts are contributing to an ongoing discussion. Since when do posters need to sugarcoat things? Since when do posters need to cheerlead everyone who thinks about writing a book? You know, people on here have been flat out mean to me and no one ever told them to cut it out. I'm not being mean, and I stand by everything I've said. And I've said these things to try and be helpful. This is a tough industry. I would think people might want to hear about it from someone who has done both -- failed and succeeded. I know a thing or two, but feel free to put me on ignore. I know others have. I'm not the mean one on this forum, but everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion.
     
  21. DeeDee

    DeeDee Contributor Contributor

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    People want a character who does good stuff. Of if they do bad stuff, they should get some sort of comeuppance. So you can have half the book of her being bullied and becoming the bully herself as a result, but if you stop there that will be unsatisfying. The satisfying ending will be for her to change into a nice person who, maybe defends bullies rather than join them. Because that's a commendable thing. "Perfume" ends up with readers liking the character and maybe he gets a punishment, too. It all ends as it should. "American Psycho" was imaginary. Hannibal Lecter eats only bad people. All those are satisfying resolutions because they fit our moral code. If your character ends up just being a bully and the book finishes there, then that would sound like the book is presenting this as a solution to bullying - just become a bully yourself, boys and girls, and your life will be better! But that's wrong, right? So she needs to somehow come to a revelation that bullying is a bad thing. There are quite a few stories about a bad person who turns into a good person. Maybe try reading some of those for inspiration. As for coming up for things to happen, well, just think of everyday things. Meeting people, going places, but let every event change your character somehow. Love always changes things. So, she could meet a boy who is very cute and you can't just bully a cute guy! So she saves him from bullying instead and she finds a new purpose in life. Hmmm, one of the common life aims is to find a good job. So... Maybe she wants to become a lawyer and defend people instead, so she has to be good! Things like that.
     
  22. Nariac

    Nariac Contributor Contributor

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    The only way this could be better is if she meets a girl who is very cute!
     
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  23. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Eh. I know that in current days I'm frustrated and annoyed and less nice here than I could be. I feel that I see you doing the same thing, that you are responding without the diplomacy and clear helpful communication that was, in the past, more characteristic of you. I'm trying, with limited success so far, to cut it out myself, to be diplomatic when I have the energy and to just not respond at all when I don't, because disagreeing without diplomacy almost never achieves anything.

    If you absolutely don't think that's an issue for you, OK. My post that you responded to was, pretty much without a doubt, one of my failures in the "shut up if you can't be diplomatic" category.
     
  24. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I'm unclear on what this means.

    Edited to add: This thread has been making me think of Paul Graham's essay, "Why Nerds are Unpopular":

    http://paulgraham.com/nerds.html

    His premise--or one of them--is that being popular is a lot of work. And that it's not that nerds wouldn't like to be popular, but that they value other things more, so they put their efforts into other things.

    I'm seeing your "help someone improve" as a little vignette where she tries to do an unpopular girl the supreme honor of teaching her to dress and behave like the popular girls, and the unpopular girl says, "Um...nice of you to offer, but it's just not worth the trouble."
     
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  25. Nariac

    Nariac Contributor Contributor

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    I'm not sure since it's been a looooooong time, but isn't this basically the entire plot of Mean Girls?
     

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