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  1. TheDankTank

    TheDankTank Member

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    How to get rid of a "perfect hero"?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by TheDankTank, Oct 30, 2017.

    One of my main characters is too good. He's a good fighter, an excellent strategist, rather good-looking, honorable, kind, and so on. In the kind of brutal low fantasy world I've set up this combination of traits is really jarring when none of the other characters (with the possible exceptions of like two or three) are actually what most people would call good people. The character in question, Lucius Gharrethar, is from a royal backround (he's a prince, but not the heir), so he is obviously proud and naive, but so is everyone at 23 in my experience. How would you guys make this character more realistic?
     
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  2. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I don't think he has to be 'obviously' proud and naive, especially if it's a brutal world. Surely he's seen some of that brutality?
     
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  3. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

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    I agree with @ChickenFreak . You can be young but an old soul. My MC is 24 but has been on his own since age 14 and is most definitely not naive. Compared to my friends, I'd seen a hell of a lot of life by the time I was 23, including making life and death decisions on behalf of one of my parents. Or another example would be someone who had to support their family since their teens. That stuff will grow you up fast.

    It's important for all of us to remember that our individual experiences aren't universal. Pull that stuff out in your character.

    Conversely, if it's important to the story, you can make that "jarring" combination of traits a source of conflict. But I'm inclined to say that his experience in a brutal world will grow him up damn fast.

    ETA: Another thought: If your main issue is that the guy seems too "good" give him a vice that doesn't jive with the rest of his goodness. But before you do any of it, be clear on what the character and story need.

    ET correct horrendous grammar. Tired after editing.
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2017
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  4. The Dapper Hooligan

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

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    You could give him some things he's not at all good at. If he was of royal lineage, you could show how he's got no survival skills or street smarts. He could hunt a deer when his crew is hungry but have no idea what to do with it after it's been killed. You could also show some of the negative aspects of his better qualities or show him struggling to maintain his kindness or honour as he faces challenges in a world that values neither of these things. If he's a good fighter and tactician, you could also offset the kind of Mary-Sueness I'm assuming you want to avoid by showing how hard he's worked and some of the things he's sacrificed to gain those skills.
     
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  5. izzybot

    izzybot (unspecified) Contributor

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    I think the obvious solution is to take some of these things away from him.

    I've been on a Berserk kick lately and your description made me think of one of the main characters of that: Griffith. He's also a talented fighter and strategist and very attractive, but he's not actually a good person. He's conniving, single-mindedly ambitious, manipulative, and controlling. But he is a main character (for a portion of the story) - other characters love him, the reader sympathizes with him. You called your guy a main character, but does he have to be a 'hero'? Can't he be kind of an asshole? Can he be petty or shallow, can he rely on other people to fight his battles instead of being a good fighter, can he rely on a strategist whose work he secretly takes credit for, etc? Does the plot really hinge on him being perfect?

    Griffith also has things taken away from him - his standing, his army, his physical ability, his looks, his ability to speak. If you don't take them away from him as a writer, let the plot take things away from him. Let him get hurt. Maybe his sword arm gets jacked up. Maybe he develops nerve damage that makes him shaky and unstable on his feet. Maybe the world just wears him down, he sees awful things, and he loses his ability to be honorable and kind.
     
  6. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    The "good fighter" thing is probably only good at a certain kind of fighting, since he's all honourable and whatever? You could have him get his ass kicked in a street fight.

    In other words, I agree with the others - don't think so much in terms of absolute strengths and weaknesses - figure out how his characteristics could make him strong sometimes, and weak other times.
     
  7. Stormburn

    Stormburn Contributor Contributor

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    One of the main characters in my series is very similar to the character that you describe. The interesting thing is why he is this way. He comes from a family and land where 'nobility' is about power and wealth at the expense of ideals. He's rebelling by becoming a very religious knight. Now, being a good fighter, strategist and what-not does not mean he is the best. There are always better.
     
  8. WishboneDawn

    WishboneDawn New Member

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    I like to make the great virtues of my characters their big faults. One of my guys holds so closely to his beliefs of right and wrong that he ends up reforming a portion of a morally questionable institution. But in other contexts, that virtue is an inflexibility that can lead him to put on blinders and make huge mistakes. Your guy's sense of honour could be another person's roadblock to getting practical things accomplished.

    Also, whether a character can make good use of their virtues requires an understanding of context. Your prince might kindly give a starving family his brooch thinking they could sell it and buy food, except that if the family ever tried to sell it, they'd be under suspicion of being thieves. To make matters worse, the gift is from a prince so they can't exactly do anything but smile and say thank you.

    And... He's an excellent strategist. He's also just 23. He could be too clever for his own good but lacking in practical experience and so gets himself into trouble with over-complicated maneuverings. Great talents at young ages can lead people to be more than a little pompous. Mix that with princely privilege and there's ample opportunity to do things that might frustrate characters or the reader.

    Also again, you could give some of the other characters some more likable or sympathetic characteristics. Part of the issue might be how he stands out in relief against the others and might be a clue that you've gone too dark with the rest of your cast?

    Hope this helps!
     
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  9. raine_d

    raine_d Active Member

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    It does sound like with a bit of pushing he could be extremely annoying - which could be your way out, have most of the other main characters find him irritating and keep it that way right to the end (doesn't mean they can't see his strengths and work with him, just that they have to grit their teeth and sometimes want to use some of that low fantasy brutality right in his good looking face :eek:)

    No one's going to cry 'too perfect' if the other characters are the ones who see and have to lice with his imperfections.
     
  10. Foxxx

    Foxxx Knight of Resignation Contributor

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    A virtue becomes a vice when taken far enough.
     
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  11. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Returning to add: if he's in a brutal world, and he fights, and he strategizes, and he's powerful, he's either going to do things that have negative effects, or he's going to be frozen doing nothing. To survive and be other than totally passive, he's gonna to have to have some ruthlessness.
     
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  12. archer88i

    archer88i Banned Contributor

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    You answered your own question, didn't you? You change one of those things. Make him a failure at something. Not hard.
     
  13. S A Lee

    S A Lee Contributor Contributor

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    When you say honour, I'm guessing he has a code he complies with. It may be not to dip his blade in poison, or anything else he seems cowardly but someone else might find effective.

    Maybe sometime in his life he learns this the hard way, a near miss or something that physically scars him. Rules don't exist in battle, only that the victor gives consequences to those that break theirs after it is won.
     
  14. Gadock

    Gadock Active Member

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    I agree and only want to add, being that privileged and also being extremely good could make him overestimate himself. What would happen if he meets someone that’s better than him, regardless of side. He can easily be jealous, or disregards it and could defeated in battle/sparring and not be able to accept the loss, et.
     
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  15. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    What about hubris? Someone who's really good at all of those things would likely be quite boastful. Odysseus had all of the positive traits that your character has, but he was no perfect hero.
     
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