Does my character cross too much of a line here?

Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Ryan Elder, Jun 11, 2015.

  1. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It honestly sounds like you have thought it through a lot and you have included this character and his desire to rape as something crucial to the plot and not just for lolz. In that case, personally I'd say stick with your original plan and don't worry about it. You should only make changes that are right for the story you wanna tell.
     
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  2. Ryan Elder

    Ryan Elder Senior Member

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    Okay thanks. I am getting two opinions from other writers as well. It seems that some are on one end, and say that if I have to have him for the plot, I should just get him over with as quick as possible and keep his scenes as short as I can and then get rid of him when he's not needed anymore. The others says that I should take my time and develop him fully since his issue is so controversial. What do you think?
     
  3. Some_Bloke

    Some_Bloke Active Member

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    A few people don't like the fact that the character almost raped someone but then changed his mind at the last minute, I say "so?" There's plenty of stories where the protagonist goes to murder someone but then changes their mind at the last minute even sometimes when the person they try to murder is innocent. They still make for likeable characters

    The antagonist crossed the line the protagonist refused to, which is pretty interesting and it gives the two an interesting relationship. I say keep it in, but don't overdo it.
     
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  4. Ryan Elder

    Ryan Elder Senior Member

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    Okay thanks. This isn't the protagonist though, and more of minor character though. His role is small, but essential, plot wise. However, perhaps he doesn't have to come close to rape and stop himself. Perhaps he can have the same problem as the antagonist, but he does not want to go as far as rape. Perhaps he just wants to taunt the kidnapped woman, and try to make her see how he is rejected by the opposite sex. Perhaps he can just aim to teach her a lesson, but without going as far as rape, just by pure psychological tactics during the kidnapping. This could separate him more from the antagonist for readers, and they may still see the same controversial character flaw but in a different, and perhaps better light?
     
  5. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    What about someone who almost tortures a toddler, for fun, and then changes his mind at the last minute? Likeable character?
     
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  6. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    ...teach her a lesson? The lesson that women should always accept men's advances?

    I'm just not seeing a scenario where this guy is anything but contemptible. Edited to add: He could be interesting, and he could perhaps cast some light on the contemptible, selfish, narcissistic, sadistic parts that lurk in all of us. But that's the best I can see here.
     
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  7. Ryan Elder

    Ryan Elder Senior Member

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    I never look at characters as likeable or unlikeable. In almost all fiction, every character has flaws, especially ones how are villainous in the story. Even though this character tries to stop the antogonist he is still a villain over all. And he is a plot driven character, meaning he is more about sending the plot in a certain direction by his actions, to get to the desired ending. The story is not really a character study on him for the most part, or at least that's not how I intended it.

    Even if he is not likeable, I need to make him acceptable to the reader, which readers said that have not found him so. I mean if readers can accept serial killers who do terrible things in other stories, or terrorists, I don't think it's asking to much to accept this character, and not every character has to be likeable, as in their are several stories where not everyone is.
     
  8. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    What's your definition of "accept" those serial killers? Like them? Root for them? Or just find them fascinating?

    And I believe, unless I'm mixing you up with someone else, that you and I have discussed the fact that when a book tries to explain why a serial killer character did what he did, there's usually a background of intensive, very long-term child abuse. Are you doing that with this character? Or is he doing what he does just because he hasn't had good luck with women? Those two are very, very far apart.
     
  9. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Do you have a full draft? Seriously, just the whole thing and then my advice is let at least one person who sees the near-rape thing as an interesting plot point rather than just straight-out unacceptable read it, and see their reaction.

    The truth is, it's more in how you present/tell it and the timing of it, and less in the act itself, at least to someone like me who would see it as an interesting plot point.

    You say the guy is overall a villain anyway, so it sounds like readers really don't have to like him - they just have to find him interesting, which seems to be the case.

    If someone who would otherwise accept the near rape as an interesting plot point also says the way it comes across feels unacceptable, then you know you are presenting it wrong.

    But in the end, just do what you are comfortable with. You've heard a number of opinions by now. You really do just have to make a choice.
     
  10. Ryan Elder

    Ryan Elder Senior Member

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    Okay thanks. I have written full drafts, but other readers tell me in their opinions, that no one is going to want to read the whole script because of this character. I don't know if he's a villain though, now that I think about it. On the one hand, he has done a really, bad thing, but he does see his flaw and tries to overcome it and the villain later, but it leads to his own death.

    He is really just a minor character that is necessary for the plot. Of course I want to give him depth but for a minor character, I didn't think that spending as much time on backstory was necessary and thought I could leave it up to the imagination as to what his problems could have been and leave it at that. But I could even just throw in a few sentences explaining his background and that could be enough to make the difference for the reader. I could even have him talk about it with the antagonist for just a few sentences, before I reveal that they kidnapped someone, if that's better.

    To compare this type of character, if you ever watch the show 24, I recall in season 4, there was a terrorist woman who was responsible for murders of people. However, once she found out that her organization decided to put her son on their kill list, she then decided escape the organization and try to stop them so her son would be safe.

    She is not a hero, but she is not totally heartless either. She is also a minor character but the show is 24 hours, so they have a lot more time to explore her as a minor character, where as I want my script to be around 90 minutes. But that is an example of a minor character with a brutal moral flaw, yet still acceptable to audiences. But acceptable I mean the reader telling me they like the story, and not hating it because of the character.
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2015
  11. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Ryan, I'm still not clear on why you need this character to be both evil and tolerable. Why does he need to be a near-rapist, or if he does need to be, why does anyone need to find him anything other than utterly contemptible? It may be that the issue is not that you have a villain in your plot, but that you're trying to act like he's not entirely a villain. Why not embrace the fact that he is a villain, that the readers are supposed to hate him, but that he nevertheless drives a part of the plot?
     
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  12. Ryan Elder

    Ryan Elder Senior Member

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    I could do that but other readers are telling me that the character trying to redeem himself, not being likeable, is a problem. He just has to try redeem himself, cause those actions drive the plot. But the reader is saying it's a problem cause he is not likeable.
     
  13. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributor Contributor

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    Joffrey is about as unlikeable as it gets. Do people turn off GoT because of that? No, they keep coming back JUST to see him get killed off! And then feel sad because there's nobody for them to hate now!
     
  14. Ryan Elder

    Ryan Elder Senior Member

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    That's a good point. The movie M also has a character who does horrible things to toddlers, yet a lot of people consider it to be a really good story. I actually intended a lot of the characters in my script to ambiguous in their choices. The audience can decide for themselves if they are to be persecuted or rooted for it, but I wanted to present the material of each character, even evenhandedly. Is this a bad thing? Can it come off as unintentional, when it is meant to be intentional?
     
  15. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    A work can have characters who commit or want to commit all sorts of villainy, and the work can still be perfectly acceptable. Unacceptable happens when the characters' villainy is treated as non-villainy.

    I can accept a work that contains a character who's both a cop and a would-be rapist, or even a cop and a rapist. I can even accept a work that contains a cop who excuses his rapist ambitions or rapist activities by feeling sorry for himself because, awww, boo hoo, women don't like him, so he thinks it's understandable that he kidnapped and nearly raped a woman, thinks that if he just explained, people would see why he's really a good guy.

    What I can't accept is if the fictional work seems to expect me to accept the cop's excuses for his own behavior. A rapist is a contemptible, sadistic waste of human flesh. But HE doesn't think that of himself. His delusions about how he's a good guy, his twisted and broken thinking, could be interesting to read. It's if the work itself accepts those delusions as reality that I will drop the work as if it's as filthy and contaminated as the rapist himself.

    So have your character. And accept, as narrator, the fact that he is no good, that he is twisted, broken, selfish, contemptible, sadistic, and just plain evil. You don't have to SAY these things, you just need to stop trying to persuade the reader that he's not so bad. If you accept that he is so bad, I'll bet that your beta readers will be just fine with him.

    And, sure, he can try to redeem himself. That effort can be a narcissistic, self-centered effort that fails to understand the real nature of what he's done wrong. And the narration can understand that. And then he can die, and the reader can cheer.
     
  16. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I don't have quite the level of visceral revulsion toward your almost-rapist that @ChickenFreak does, but I totally share her idea of it being the author's perceived attitude that's important.

    I've read all kinds of horrible characters in books. As long as they're acknowledged as being horrible, it's not a problem. It's when the book feels like the author is trying to downplay their flaws that I find it annoying.
     
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  17. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    You said yourself that you want a lot of your characters to be ambiguous - that, by its very nature, means different people will react differently to those choices and those reactions will be very strong. I don't understand why you'd want an ambiguous character just to insist that every - or most - reader(s) have to like this character. Also, a character can be understandable and sympathetic without being likeable. A character can also be interesting and fascinating without being likeable. The book Perfume follows the life of a murderer who actively seeks out virgins who don't know him and kills them in a gruesome way, all in the name of trying to produce the best perfume in the world. This murderer sees his mission as something god-like and righteous. Did I like the character? No. Did I finish reading the entire book and love every minute of it? Hell yeah. It's even considered a bit of a modern German classic and has been made into a Hollywood film! Or think of Lolita and American Psycho.

    Is your goal to present a moral dilemma/question to your character as well as your reader, or is your goal simply to make your character likeable? You seem to have these goals confused. Unfortunately, morally ambiguous characters are very unlikely to be universally likeable. If you want to ensure nobody dislikes this character, then don't make him ambiguous and settle for something more akin to your average bestseller that poses no real question and doesn't challenge the reader to think. Nothing wrong with that at all. But be clear about what you actually want to achieve.
     
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  18. BBCotaku

    BBCotaku Member

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    *clears throat* A Clockwork Orange, Red Dragon, Dexter.

    Need I say more?

    Twisted characters are interesting! Especially if they're the hero. Because fun fact: no one is perfect.

    I say go for it!
     
  19. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    This is the part that's throwing me for a loop: it doesn't seem like you've decided whether he wants to follow through on his urges or not.

    It's one thing to be excited biologically by the idea of hurting people; if he wants to actually do it, then he's a villain rather than a flawed hero. You can still write a villain protagonist if you want - just look at Death Note, The Godfather, Breaking Bad, American Psycho, MacBeth - but redeeming a villain is a lot more challenging than redeeming a flawed hero because heroes already care about other people more than villains do, and trying to redeem a villainous secondary protagonist is a lot harder than trying to redeem a villainous lead protagonist because you don't have as much screen-time available to make it convincing.

    If you want a secondary protagonist who's actively hurting people - or even just planning to but not getting the opportunities that he wants - then you should probably focus on him being "a villain protagonist" instead of "a villain protagonist who can be redeemed."
     
  20. Ryan Elder

    Ryan Elder Senior Member

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    Okay thanks. Since it's a screenplay and it's very visual I just write what happens and describe visually what the characters are feeling. So how can convey that the character is not suppose to be the hero, if I am limited to very visual writing? Here's what's in the story. The man stops his crime because he realizes it's going to far. He even tries to save the victim and helps her get away temporarily. He doesn't turn himself into the police though, because he wants to figure out what to do on his own about the problem before going to them. The police are all over the main antagonist, and later the antagonist goes too far, at least in his mind.

    So by then becomes very upset and ashamed with himself over it. He decides to go after the villain himself and even bugs him to record evidence. The main protagonist of the story, then in his own investigation, discovers that there is a cop (the man we are talking about), who was in on the crime. He goes to question that cop, and the cop tells him he has bugged the villain and has evidence against him and is going to turn himself in with it, and try to do the right thing because of what happened.

    But before he can, the main antagonist kills him to prevent it. Now this is what happens. How do I write it so that the reader interprets it the right way? This is how he is redeeming himself. Is it self centered or narcissistic? Or is it too root-able for the character? Does this make the character still horrible even so, or is he not horrible enough? This is just what happens that is necessary for the plot to go in certain directions, but what should I do to convey to the reader, as to how they are suppose to feel?
     
  21. Some_Bloke

    Some_Bloke Active Member

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    I've liked characters who have done worse. Take Jamie Lannister for example, the first major thing he does (besides sleep with his sister) that takes place in the books and show is push a child out of a window with the intent on killing him. Unlike the real world, characters can have redemption arcs.

    The main character in this story almost rapes a woman and decides to go after a serial rapist. Catching said serial rapist is his redemption arc.
     
  22. Ryan Elder

    Ryan Elder Senior Member

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    Okay thanks. In mine he fails to catch him though and gets killed. Does that change anything or does it count as a redemption arc, because the intent was there?
     
  23. Bryan Romer

    Bryan Romer Contributor Contributor

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    Unless your character has actually raped someone, all he has done is committed a thought crime. Even if he went all the way to walking up to the victim and then changed his mind at the last moment, his is innocent of any crime. He apparently also has the moral willpower to not commit the crime and recognises rape as a crime. The worst villains usually don't see what they do as being "bad", just necessary.

    People move to the brink of the abyss and pull back all the time. Probably half the people you see on the street have done it. Rape is not the most horrendous, unforgivable, terrible, nasty, crime there is. For most of human history it was an accepted part of warfare. In some parts of Africa it still is a part of warfare. Both men and women are routinely raped by warring factions. Is rape bad? Yes. Should it be illegal and punished? Yes. But so should all manner of horrible crimes. Rape is not different except that there had been a concerted effort in modern times to frame it as "the worst crime ever".

    It sounds like you don't want to neuter your character just for the sake of sparing the delicate sensitivities of some people. Just make it very clear that your character made the conscious and deliberate choice NOT to rape. Don't spring his tendencies on the reader half way through the script. He can continue to be haunted by the constant desire to rape, but so long as he resists it, he is admirable, not contemptible.
     
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  24. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Actually, unless I misunderstand the plot, the character was an accomplice to kidnapping for the purpose of rape. The fact that the rape didn't happen doesn't eliminate the very serious crime inherent in the kidnapping.
     
  25. Ryan Elder

    Ryan Elder Senior Member

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    Yes that's right, his transformation will have to occur after the kidnapping.
     

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