1. derekiya

    derekiya New Member

    Joined:
    May 16, 2018
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0

    How to write when one character is very weak and the other dominates?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by derekiya, May 16, 2018.

    I am trying to write a story that a little bit like Stephen Kings Misery, but I can't pull it of. The problem is that one character is more powerful than the other, and therefore there can't be a meaningful conflict. Misery worked, even if it's a bit boring it worked, but I'm not sure how. The boring thing is that it didn't have enough characters and one of the main characters was rather limited, sometimes falling into a trance and stopped working.

    In my story there's a rich - or at least moderately well to do - woman who meets a guy, maybe on a fetish dating site, I'm not sure. Well anyway she meets him and then keeps him captive in a secret basement. The basement is in a Faraday Cage, so you can't communicate, but there is a wireless network there. The woman gives the man a laptop with linux on it, but the bios setup menu is protected with a password and obviously he doesn't get to be root user. He gets to be a very limited user, he can't even list what processes, others than those he started, that are running. So she's monitoring every key that he types. When he tries to go online he's able to surf, but not post comments. She's able to communicate with him by for instance appearing on screens or on projectors in the basement, also there are speakers in there, so she can speak to him, or maybe play some music. There's a toilet and she feeds him through a food elevator that's disguised as a garbage disposal chute. There are doors in the basement and they're all locked and she controls them, so she's able to control where he goes to some extent.

    Basically I'm wondering how I can make the story interesting. I want it to have that captive ingredient from Misery, but I don't want one of the main characters to look like a pig. And she has to be as normal as possible, beside the little kink that she's got a prisoner. If you have a prisoner I think it becomes less deranged if there's less risk of escape.
     
  2. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Digging out my Balzac Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2017
    Messages:
    4,319
    Likes Received:
    6,826
    Location:
    Rhode Island
    That's essentially the meaning of conflict... overcoming trials and personal deficiencies. The harder they are to overcome, the more meaningful the conflict.
     
    Shenanigator, Moon, Trish and 2 others like this.
  3. derekiya

    derekiya New Member

    Joined:
    May 16, 2018
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    Oh, I clicked on quote trying to do this, but if I just click on reply it quotes the message, sorry about that, new to the forum. Anyway, isn't a conflict two people fighting? How can you have that if one character is incapacitated? Can you give an example?
     
  4. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Not a Fucking Doormat Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2017
    Messages:
    3,512
    Likes Received:
    5,029
    Others can explain it far better than I, but "conflict" in fiction means "any problem a character is having" not necesarily "fighting or combat".
     
    Moon and izzybot like this.
  5. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    13,998
    Likes Received:
    11,032
    Conflict isn't necessarily physical fighting. It's about (well, at least it's sometimes about) two people having different goals, and each of those two people having at least some power to enforce their wishes.

    In Misery, the captor had all the physical power, but she wanted her prisoner to write a book. His ability to write, or refuse to write, the book was his power. Also, the time that it inevitably took to do the writing gave him the opportunity to try to strategize other ways to act against her.

    In your scenario, it doesn't sound like your prisoner has that unique thing that only he can provide, so that form of conflict doesn't seem to be available.

    I don't understand this part. Are you saying that you want the captor to seem nice and likable and normal? I don't see how that can be achieved.
     
    Shenanigator, Moon, izzybot and 2 others like this.
  6. Dragon Turtle

    Dragon Turtle Deadlier Jerry

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2018
    Messages:
    452
    Likes Received:
    881
    I define conflict as a character wanting something and not being able to get it. It can be large-scale or small. Interpersonal conflict is where two people want opposing things (or the same thing but only one of them can have it, you get the idea). But there are countless other ways to create conflict. Someone who's lost in the wilderness is having conflict because they want to get to safety, but nature is keeping them from getting it. Someone experiencing intrapersonal conflict might want something they know is bad for them. And so on.

    @ChickenFreak makes a very good point about the prisoner in Misery having power in the form of being the only one who can write the book. That said, horror stories often boil down to feelings of powerlessness. So there's not necessarily anything wrong with a horror story which has a huge power imbalance. (I mean, it is still pretty huge in Misery.)
     
    Shenanigator and awkwarddragon like this.
  7. izzybot

    izzybot Transhuman Autophage Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2015
    Messages:
    2,464
    Likes Received:
    3,851
    Location:
    SC, USA
    I think it's a Vonnegut quote -- "Every character should want something, even if it's only a glass of water." That's the crux of conflict. You can also read an article here that gives a basic overview of the 'types' of conflict, just to help elaborate some of how conflict doesn't have to be literal fighting.

    I like how Vonnegut distills it, though. Every character needs to wants something. That's their basic motivation. So, I assume your captive's want is to escape, but what's your captor's want? And how can your captive foil her? Maybe she wants him to try desperately to escape, and he can fight back by not trying, to not give her the satisfaction. What's her motivation in giving him a line to the outside world (albeit one he can't communicate through)? Is she trying to tease him, or does she genuinely want him to be kept entertained? From your write-up I don't understand what she's getting out of this or what she intends to get out of it.

    On a more broad level, it seems like what you've got here is a premise, not so much a plot. What actually happens in this story? That's what will make it interesting. The interplay between these two characters, presumably while the captive tries to win his freedom and the captor does her best to prevent that. What end result are your going for? Does he get out? Is she punished for what she's done? What events would lead to that outcome?
     
  8. derekiya

    derekiya New Member

    Joined:
    May 16, 2018
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    But even so, how can you deal with your problems in any meaningful way if you don't have any power? Although of course the character in Misery had the power not to write the book, but that on the peril of his life though.
    I'm thinking that she can have two different sides. Stephen King made the captor look bad and in some way I think it detracted from the character. I want a captor that's as human as possible. And also I would like more interaction between the captor and prisoner, she didn't really do much. No friends, no activities.
    Of course! I didn't even think about that, but I guess a captive would be thinking about things like water. One mistake I often make is to forget what others don't know. If you're stuck in a concrete chamber under the ground you might not know if there's water.
     
  9. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Digging out my Balzac Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2017
    Messages:
    4,319
    Likes Received:
    6,826
    Location:
    Rhode Island
    Well, that was kind of the point. She was a psychopath. The story wouldn't have worked if she was a nice, retired nurse with convalescence on her mind.

    You might be working at cross-purposes here, trying to overly "normalize" (your word) a captor/antagonist in this sort of scenario. It doesn't mean she can't be relatable, which Annie Wilkes certainly was not. To that end, you need to focus on the motivational why of her actions. Why is she capturing this dude? What end does she hope to receive? Especially considering the elaborate setup she's created to hold him captive. Then the secondary issue will be why her goals required her to capture him in the first place when a less extreme avenue might have been available. If you want her to appear normal, you can't leave a loose end there... the reader will see right through it. From the outside looking in, it appears as if you have more of a characterization issue than a conflict one.
     
    izzybot likes this.
  10. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    13,998
    Likes Received:
    11,032
    But kidnapping people and keeping them prisoner is really not regarded as a nice thing. :) It's all but impossible for a kidnapper to not "look bad".

    I'm unclear on how you plan to make kidnapping seem so excusable that it doesn't bother the reader? One possible way to reduce reader dislike could be to make the kidnapping seem like it serves some essential goal (say, "Kidnap the mayor or we kill your kid."), but in this case the captor seems to be doing it pretty much totally for fun and entertainment.
     
    Shenanigator likes this.
  11. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Not a Fucking Doormat Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2017
    Messages:
    3,512
    Likes Received:
    5,029
    Ditto to what the others said about the kidnapper. There's no way to make that acceptable to me.

    As to your question about power, it depends on your definition and perception of "power". There are many kinds of power, and there are many ways to use that power. I'll give you an example, from early in my day gig career.

    I had just started working at this major company as the lowest person on the totem pole. Everyone around me was a well-seasoned pro. I had no power, or so I was led to believe. One day, a powerful client calls in. We'd never talked on the phone before, and he wanted to get to know me since I'd be working on his account. He was friendly and chatty and asked me about my career goals and how I liked the new job.

    I gave him a chirpy, enthusiastic newbie reply. He got kind of serious and said, "I've heard that place is tough on newbies. Hold onto your enthusiasm. That's your power." I said, "I just started here, I don't have any." And he goes, "Yeah you do. Don't forget what I said."

    A few months later, there was a major crisis at the company. My boss came to me for advice and ended up confiding in me and asking for ideas. I asked my bestie at work why in the world the boss would do that when the and other people in the company had so much more experience. Work bestie said, "Because you're the only one here who still gives a damn." My title didn't change for a little while, but I had the boss's ear from then on.

    Sometimes people don't know how much power they have.

    Sometimes, they can be perceived by others as having no power at all but really have a lot of it.

    Maybe the kidnap victm's positive attitude wears the kidnapper down.
     
    Moon likes this.
  12. izzybot

    izzybot Transhuman Autophage Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2015
    Messages:
    2,464
    Likes Received:
    3,851
    Location:
    SC, USA
    Well ... the glass of water isn't meant to be literal, really. I didn't mean that your captive should be worrying about water -- you already said that he's fed through a dumbwaiter of sorts. I didn't assume that he wouldn't have access to water.

    I was actually explicitly talking about the captor. What's her metaphorical glass of water? What does she want?

    Frankly, though, I get the impression that something needs to be clarified here -- what kind of story is this? Is it a horror story in the vein of Misery? Is the guy actually being held against his will, and the captor has some sort of nefarious plot for him? The fact that you keep reinforcing that you don't want her to 'look bad' and you want more interaction between them makes me wonder if it's more of a captive romance story.
     
    Shenanigator likes this.

Share This Page