Tags:
  1. Aled James Taylor

    Aled James Taylor Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2013
    Messages:
    835
    Likes Received:
    509
    Location:
    UK

    Contradictory Qualities.

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Aled James Taylor, Jul 18, 2019.

    One of my characters is usually domineering. She confidently expresses her views as if they are the only valid ones, and thinks it's her duty to instruct others as to what to think and how to behave. When confronted by an authority figure or a group setting, her confidence evaporates and she becomes quiet and accepting of what she's told.

    I can imagine such a person in reality. She would be basically insecure and overcompensating for this in situations where she feels in control. In situations where she can't take charge, her confidence is insufficient and she retreats to the background.

    The problem is that when I come to write this character, the detains are contradictory. Sometimes she's dominant, sometimes submissive. She often insists on her own way, but can accept the what others say. I'm concerned this will come across as bad writing. Any tips?
     
    Simpson17866 likes this.
  2. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2012
    Messages:
    6,117
    Likes Received:
    8,399
    Location:
    Yorkshire
    Susan chortled at her taps. Rinsing the plates she stared through the window and she sang so very beautifully:

    'All things bright and beautiful,' she sang, 'all creatures great and small,' and the pigeons, sparrows and the blue tit gathered upon her garden feeder. Domestic Susan was most content and dabbed the final plate. She turned for the hall and for her grey overcoat.

    Clouds gathered and the rain tapped upon her shoulders. She strolled the narrow path past the vicarage, and hearing the organ recital in its full swing, she pushed at the church doors so very heavy and dark in their mystery.

    Father Matthew stood with his hands clasped:

    'How is our little Susan this evening? Cat got your tongue, darling?' said the vicar, his egg spicing the atmosphere.
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2019
  3. GrJs

    GrJs Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2018
    Messages:
    119
    Likes Received:
    70
    I would say you should go the manipulative domineering type in one on one but seemingly complacent in a group setting. A lot of how you write this character is going to stem from your genre. Say it's horror, they should be manipulative to the point of psychological abuse, however, on the other side of the coin, not so much submissive but silent and watching and docile. But they should be manipulative and domineering to everyone to beat everyone down but be docile when around many people to make them unsure as to whether or not they're are the same way with others. This sews doubt and distrust and fear amongst the other characters who now no longer know if the others will support their plight or believe that your MC is being abusive.
     
    Aled James Taylor likes this.
  4. Aled James Taylor

    Aled James Taylor Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2013
    Messages:
    835
    Likes Received:
    509
    Location:
    UK
    I have no idea what you're trying to say here.

    I have no difficulty writing scenes where my character is outspoken and scenes where she's quiet and accepting. With her friends she's bossy and ridicules any opinion she does not share. When it comes to a group setting she's a 'wallflower' and she accepts without question what the leader says. Perhaps I'm over thinking this and it isn't really a problem. When I look back at what I've written I think, 'she's suddenly behaving out of character, the reader will this my writing's crap'. Maybe I could have one of the other characters challenge her on her attitude. This might give some insight into the apparent contradiction. On the other hand, is such an apparent contradiction a problem or will readers understand her anyway?
     
  5. Aled James Taylor

    Aled James Taylor Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2013
    Messages:
    835
    Likes Received:
    509
    Location:
    UK
    I'm not writing horror. The character is not the villain but rather an overly-attached friend. Her characteristics are genuine and she may not even realise her marked differences in behaviour. Do you think such a character would be aware, or would being challenged about it come as a surprise?
     
    Some Guy likes this.
  6. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2012
    Messages:
    6,117
    Likes Received:
    8,399
    Location:
    Yorkshire
    Use your narrator to frame your dialogue, and your agenda.

    'But this time she was outspoken. She berated the community. Such a contradictory personality they said with their eyes upon her, and the teacup rattled in her hand until she settled in a corner chair.'
     
    Baeraad and Some Guy like this.
  7. Some Guy

    Some Guy Manguage Langler Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 2, 2018
    Messages:
    4,462
    Likes Received:
    6,619
    Location:
    Procrasturbation Nation
    Only aware in that she's being called out justly, which would make her obfuscating, defensive/agressive, and deflecting. Possibly talking someone down behind their back after capitulating? "Oh, I just felt sorry for them with their genetic disorder... and that makeup!"
     
    Aled James Taylor likes this.
  8. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2013
    Messages:
    3,393
    Likes Received:
    2,871
    I think if you just write something – however brief – in each scene in question to emphasize the power dynamics, then that should be enough to clue the reader in to the fact that there's a pattern.
     
    Aled James Taylor likes this.
  9. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2014
    Messages:
    583
    Likes Received:
    601
    Location:
    Seattle
    That sounds entirely plausible, and in fact, someone having this type of nuance makes them seem a lot more like a real human being.

    There are a bunch of ways to communicate this. You'd need to have scenes in both situations so that we can see the contrast. If she is a POV character, then you could show her being afraid of authority figures or being disappointed after being put down by one (if she thinks those thoughts explicitly). Otherwise, other POV characters could take notice of some pieces of the puzzle. It could be left to the reader to assemble themselves, or would just be more obvious, depending on whether this is obvious to the POV characters.
     
  10. Lifeline

    Lifeline Going South. Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2015
    Messages:
    2,720
    Likes Received:
    3,475
    Location:
    Antarctica.
    That depends on her character. Some people are introspective, some extroverted. I'd expect introspective types to reflect on their behaviour, but not extroverted ones. Introverted characters are reflecting situations, analysing how they acted and how their environment reacted. They'd be far likelier to pick up on their own contradictory behaviour.
     
  11. Cirno

    Cirno New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2019
    Messages:
    14
    Likes Received:
    25
    Here's my rule with trying to juggle contradictory character traits: everyone is a hypocrite, even if in a tiny, subtle, mostly restrained way. Someone whose generally a health nut is going to occasionally contradict themselves over the treat they really like; someone whose overzealously nice and friendly (and expects the same out of others) is going to be the nastiest one in the room when something gets under their skin; someone whose normally serious and coordinated is going to start doing as much goofy shit as the local trouble maker if you get them in just the right mood.

    The point is, I think this sort of thing isn't only good writing, it's sort of critical to writing good characters at all. Absolutely everyone is going to react differently to any situations, and in the case of the character you mentioned...I think it's only natural for a controlling person to become confused and afraid when their authority is challenged. Most people who put themselves up as high and mighty rely specifically on their domination of others, and anyone who challenges that is naturally going to remove that sort of security from them.

    Generally speaking, a character who portrays their bullepoint list of personality traits accurately 100% of the time...is going to be a really boring character! The last thing you want is to be predictable!
     
  12. animagus_kitty

    animagus_kitty Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2017
    Messages:
    232
    Likes Received:
    225
    Location:
    Indianapolis, Indiana
    I can't speak for every person, but I myself am possessed of a myriad of conflicting personality traits.
    I'm confident, outgoing, and I love interacting with people. Unless there's more than about six of them at one time, in which case I'm shy, reserved, and forget how words work.
    I like meeting new people. Except when I'm obligated to go somewhere I don't want to be, in which case I'm much more likely to wallflower.
    Catch me in the right mood, and I'm funny, bright, and I know every fact about every thing. Catch me in the wrong mood, and I have entirely forgotten every single interesting fact I know.

    People, at least some if not all of us, are dichotomous. To certain people, I have very little to say, and they might report that I'm terribly boring. Those people are absolutely correct, if the only thing they have to talk about is sports or math. To others, I have everything to say. I'm full of pop culture references and corny jokes, and it's not a day unless I've had three separate people tell me to shut up for one reason or another. Those people might tell you that I talk way too damn much. They are also absolutely correct.

    Some might tell you I'm confident, collected, and capable of leading. Others have seen me crumble under the slightest unexpected setback.

    In short, yes, this character makes sense. Because no one is the same way, all the time, to all people. This is similar to the 'how do i add flaws to a character' threads that come up occasionally, I think. A person can do a lot of things if they're mentally and emotionally prepared for them--if I go into a situation *expecting* a crowd, I'm a lot more able to deal with that crowd than if I expect about fifteen people and find fifty. But if your character is prepared for everyone to hop when they holler, and skip when they snap, your character may not be ready for insolence or outright disobedience. If they're not mentally prepared for that disobedience, it can undercut who they think they are as a person.
     
    jannert and Simpson17866 like this.
  13. GrJs

    GrJs Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2018
    Messages:
    119
    Likes Received:
    70
    I think you would have to be aware, these are such opposing characteristics and they both arise only in certain situations. You could say she was wilfully ignorant of it though, she knows but ignores it to keep her view of her ideal self unbroken. Being challenged about it, especially if it was something she had been wilfully ignoring, would come as a great shock to her. Especially if the domineering side was only present when one on one, she would be steam rolled by any accusations regarding that behaviour.
     
    Alan Aspie likes this.
  14. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    13,498
    Likes Received:
    15,040
    Location:
    Scotland
    I had such a laugh reading this. You are describing ME! :) Well, except that I don't have much to say about pop culture. But it's funny to hear feedback about what people think I'm like. So many contradictions! I just had a person I went to grade/high school with, express astonishment at my present-day political activity, saying, 'but you used to be such a quiet little thing.' Aye, well ...many have foundered on THAT rock.

    To address @Aled James Taylor 's particular case. Some people seem hyper-aware of social pecking order. If they think they are top dog in a situation, they will behave like a top dog. Bossing people around, etc. But when they encounter somebody who IS actually top dog, they immediately submit. Sometimes to the extent that they become 'crawlers.' So subservient it's squirmy.

    If your character is constantly evaluating her position within a group of people (based on whatever criteria are important to her) then this kind of behaviour would be a natural result. She'd be asserting her position within one group, and doing the opposite in another.

    I think the key to writing her believably is to make it clear what she's using to judge the people around her. Does she think the people around her are unfashionable, compared to her? If so, she'll boss them around. However, if she's suddenly confronted with some elegant individual whose dress sense is impeccable, she'll probably feel inferior, and try not to get noticed—or start to suck up.

    If she fancies herself as a fit, athletic person, she'll be bossy to, and dismissive of, people who are weak and unfit. However, confront her with somebody who has just won an Olympic medal? Her attitude will change completely.

    Her behaviour boils down to her awareness of her own position in a particular pecking order. Her behaviour changes, depending upon who else is in the group.
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2019
  15. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2018
    Messages:
    2,222
    Likes Received:
    2,568
    Yeah. I know her. Toxic manipulative dominator, all the time value signalling, very skilful in manipulating and building impressions.

    Is that accepting situations or avoiding conflicts where and when she can't win and she knows it?

    Many narcissistic psyko- and sociopaths pick very carefully where, when and how to get to the conflict. They prepare themselves. They seek for flying monkeys...

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_monkeys_(popular_psychology)

    ...build coalitions, seek info they can use... and hit where, when and how the effect of attack is biggest and they can avoid all the harms of attacking someone.

    Maybe she your character is also like that.

    Don't forget overidealisation processes.

    These usually lack self. And because of not having much self they overemphasize identities. They hide lack of core with thicker casing. And they need overidealisation processes to do that.

    A bit like a spider? Or a puppet master?

    These people are cowards. That is why it's so important to look like brave to them.

    They number one defence is projection. They see in others those flaws they have.
    "He's whateverfobic..." = I am and that's why I'm signalling the opposite and I have an opposite agenda.
    "I hope you don't flash your grudge this time..." = I have serious grudge, hate, evil wish against you.
    "You should show some respect to me..." = I can't respect myself. That's why I seek validation all the time. Lack of constant validation signals makes my emptiness boil and that is why I might explode.
    ...

    And you must remember that if these can't get narrative control, they try to take nonverbal control. They use directing attention, pacing and leading -method and other very hard to spot tools.

    Seek all the information about narcissistic personality disorders you can find. Pay attention to inner logic of it's variations. Pay attention to real pro's. Go deep. (Stay away from Sam Vaknin -type "pro's" until you really can spot what is missing and wrong in their presentations.)

    There is a lot overlapping among clinical knowledge about narcism and PTSD and specially CPTSD. (Victim view and experience.) So it might be good idea to seek something in that direction also.

    Easy way to start?

    Open a new page in your web browser. Youtube.
    - Type types of narcissism.
    - Open several interleaves. Youtube to all of them.
    - When you spot a subtype of narcism, tube it in it's own interleave.
    - Write things down. Shortly.
    - Google every professional + every piece of information you find from Tubestan. Check everything. Don't believe anything without checking.
    - Go where the pain is. Go where the relief is.

    What you find, will take you forward. And if you don't know where to start, you can watch these. It helps to seek the path.






    https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLKZ_q5WG3aDyMkqOfrVX1XVlwjeUnODyr


    And the percentage of narcissist disorders among those is huge, really, really huge.

    And among that percentage that submission is not real. It's a play, played to get possibilities to borrow and steal the power of top characters until they can challenge some higher position holder.
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2019
    Aled James Taylor likes this.
  16. Baeraad

    Baeraad Member

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2019
    Messages:
    57
    Likes Received:
    39
    I'd say this character not only makes sense but actually fits comfortably into a well-known archetype. If you're worried, just lampshade it a bit. "The normally assertive and confident Mary was suddenly tongue-tied and fawningly deferential beneath the director's stern gaze," that sort of thing.
     

Share This Page