1. Accelerator231

    Accelerator231 Contributor Contributor

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    How does someone make an aggressively boring character?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Accelerator231, Aug 15, 2020.

    And yet, distinctive?

    I don't mean 'boring' as in, 'no traits'. I mean a refusal for adventure and mysticism. Backstory is that this is a kid who got lost into a fantasy land. He was born crippled, abused, and he ran away from home, and managed to get found by a close by doctor in the fantasy world. And got healed from his birth defect. And then lacking the funds to pay the doctor back, he was, well, forced to be an assistant to the doctor's assistant. Who then became his boss/ elder sister/ adoptive mother/ teacher.

    Years pass. And then the kid, being pretty happy that he's in a fantasy land (think something like Droon or Xanth). And then has adventures, talking to people... its pretty safe, since he's under the protection of the doctor he's apprenticed under. Until he fucks up. And his foster mother nearly gets killed. Filled with guilt, he runs away again, after stealing a bunch of gold and jewellery.

    Cue 20 years later, and the teenager has grown to be a middle-aged man, with a wife, an apartment, and two kids. He's got a boring ass job as an accountant. He's got a license and ID in whatever country he's in. He's aggressive and doesn't like the shit like new age medicine, homeopathy, astrology, or mentions of ghosts and demons.

    That also extends to shit like other things. He's not adventurous and really doesn't want to go out. And has an aversion to going to the woods.
     
  2. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    What is the story going to be about? It's hard to build a character if you don't know what's going to happen to him.

    Throw him into a situation and find out what he does. I assume your story isn't ABOUT how he goes through trauma and gets to be a disgruntled boring middle aged man who hates lots of stuff. Instead, you are starting with that disgruntled, middle-aged guy with a family? What happens next? What happens that's going to turn his world upside down, and maybe either change him or make him discover honour, strength, resilience and resourcefulness he didn't know he had?

    The thing is, if readers start to see his life from his perspective, they'll not only like him but they'll get to understand him and be rooting for him. And so will you, as you write him.
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2020
  3. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    in what way is this character of yours 'boring' by your own description?

    Seems to me you might need to double check what the word means. A man with a history like that would be anything but boring. A refusal of adventure does not equal boring.

    But anyway, hey, Tolkien managed to write a flipping tome about Hobbits who also hated adventure and refused to leave home, and it changed the genre of fantasy forever and is a literary classic and global phenomenon. So, basically, I'd start there. Read The Hobbit.
     
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  4. Accelerator231

    Accelerator231 Contributor Contributor

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    Well, his wife gets hit by cancer. 6 months to live. Incurable. The doctors said that it will take a miracle for her to get back up again. They had their arguments, their ups and downs. And at this point, they're staying together for the kids. But she's going to die. And he can't have that.

    Good thing he knows the one place on earth where miracles can be had. And since he can't find a babysitter....

    Well, its time for the kids to meet their grandmother. A combination of 'return to home after missing from it for a long time', only that the home is a magical world. And their grandmother hasn't aged a day.
     
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  5. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    That sounds like an excellent story. Just start writing it, with the character as you see him now. He's not going to be boring in THAT scenario! This is your character, so don't be afraid to let him develop. Just throw him into a scene with his wife—let us see what their relationship is like, and give us an inkling of what he feels for her and how she feels about him. A scene with his kids would also give you something to play with. And the doctors, maybe his wife's own extended family, and anybody else who is around at the start of the story. See how he handles each of these kinds of scenes. You'll get a feel for it.

    At what point does he make the decision to go 'back' to get help? That will be a good one. Keep in mind that he's aggressive and withdrawn because he's scared, and feels terribly guilty at what he caused to happen in the past, and is uncertain of his own powers and abilities. He'll be really resentful about being forced into going back ...to a place and to people he never wanted to see, or even think of ,again.

    If you were in his shoes, how would you feel? The most convincing thing you can do is put yourself in his position, and feel what he will be feeling. How would you react? Explore this carefully. And no, you don't have to make him just like you, but be aware of what kinds of feelings he's like to have at this point. And work with that.
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2020
  6. Fervidor

    Fervidor Senior Member

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    I guess make him rather jaded and even a bit traumatized. Like, something bad happened to him over in fantasy land that severely disillusioned him of adventures and magic stuff.

     
  7. Accelerator231

    Accelerator231 Contributor Contributor

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    To be honest, the entire storyline is currently fuzzy as hell and I already have several plot points that I'm trying to juggle. I may have to cut them out later.

    One plot point I had was having a princess he met earlier ask, in favour for the panacea that would cure the cancer, to be able to see the 'outside world'. She's always been curious, but couldn't go because its dangerous and there was no guide. Now that there's a friendly tour guide, she's hoping to see it for once before going back to her work. So now he's got to take in a pretty freeloader who looks like a teenager while having to deal with his neighbours, friends, and family.

    Another plot point is that his kids? They don't respect him. Think of him like the bumbling dad, or that shoe-seller from 'Married with kids'. This entire journey is both a family bonding time, his kids kinda heckling him for, well, everything. And then him trying to navigate a new world he hasn't been in for years, trying to introduce his kids to the old doctor and assistant.

    My current status is have him be aggressively holding back the personality traits and abilities he gained in fantasy land, while squashing everything that he has. This makes him extremely defensive about *anything* that comes from the fantasy land.

    Who's that girl you were seen with while your wife was dying of cancer? It's the princess from earlier on, but he's not going to answer because no one's going to believe him, and he doesn't want to talk about her, and gets more and more defensive and clams up. So it now looks to everyone in his social circle that he basically cheated on his wife while she was dying of cancer.

    Why the devil did your wife suddenly have spontaneous remission of a deadly disease? What was that medicine you brought her? How did you do that? That's a bloody miracle you pulled out. No convalescence. One day your wife was on the verge of death. The next day, she's running marathons. Who are you working with?

    Why are you hiding stuff from us?


    That kind of thing.

    So far all I have is someone who intentionally clamps down on his past and just.... grits his teeth and clams up. Only opening up when forced to or when someone from his past shows up.
     
  8. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Ha ha. I don't mean to laugh, but that's EXACTLY why my own main character is like. It was fun writing him. Because of my prologue, the reader knows why he's like that, but the people around him don't. Yet. My character isn't unpleasant, but he is very self-contained and withdrawn—until he's forced to open up. And then all hell breaks loose....
     
  9. Accelerator231

    Accelerator231 Contributor Contributor

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    Hot damn. What a coincidence.

    So, anything to note? I'm going for the 'goddamn it dad, say something!' route. And also a rather loveless marriage.
     
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  10. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Well, what you need to do is decide how to play it, then make us readers see and feel what you want us to. If your character has a loveless marriage, and his kids don't like him or respect him much, then we need to see this. Give us a scene or two where these characteristics show. Tell yourself the purpose of the scene. "The purpose of this scene is to show that they have a loveless marriage." "The purpose of this scene is to show that his kids don't like him," etc. Get these kinds of starting scenes under your belt. I guarantee when you're done writing a few of these 'purpose' scenes, you'll have a grip on your character. And what is the moment where he decides to go back into his past to save the day? What causes this to happen? Why doesn't he just walk away from his loveless marriage and contemptuous children, and leave them to deal with stuff on their own? Let us witness this moment where he makes the decision.

    My point is that there's no point in overdeveloping your character before you start writing. You've already got a very developed character AND family AND situation in your head. So get started. More ideas will come to you as you write. These are not necessarily scenes you will keep, or keep in their full form or in the order you write them, but they'll get you started.

    I know that several aspects of my own main character didn't emerge till I put him into interactions with other characters.

    I didn't realise he was stubborn. Stubborn like a mule, in that if he felt threatened or under attack, he just dug his heels in and refused to budge. I also didn't realise that he disliked being teased ...at least until he knew he could fully trust the person teasing him. He disliked lying, but because he was in a situation (like your character) where he didn't want people to discover things about him, he just clammed up. The people around him realised he was hiding a lot, but because of his stubbornness, they couldn't drag the information out of him. There was a good side to this, though. Because he was hiding a lot about himself, he was aware that other people were hiding personal and painful things of their own. And it made him very gentle and perceptive with them. These were not characteristics I 'planned' for my character, but they emerged as I wrote him, and helped to flesh him out.
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2020
  11. Aled James Taylor

    Aled James Taylor Contributor Contributor

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    One problem with having a main character whom other characters don't much like is that the reader might not like them either. That might be enough for them to stop reading. With this in mind, it's important how you introduce the character. You could show him to be a genuinely caring and considerate person who's pushed into presenting an entirely different impression because of circumstances, emotional struggles, and generally screwing things up. He could pay particular attention to the mundane because he's trying to maintain order in his life and re-create the comfort he used to feel. I'd avoid using the word 'boring'. If your characters find a scene boring, your readers may identify with this and find it boring too. Then they may stop reading your book because they found it boring.
     

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