I miss the tender Hero :(

Discussion in 'Character Development' started by James Hellfire, Jun 10, 2021 at 4:50 AM.

?

Do you miss soft/light/tender Heroes/Protagonists?

  1. Yes

    21.4%
  2. no

    28.6%
  3. it depends

    50.0%
  1. James Hellfire

    James Hellfire New Member

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    there is a right and wrong in this world,
    for example, beating up your spouse, raping kids,

    so no, I don't buy that "there are no heroes and villians" bullshit.

    I think people need to be reminded of this.
     
  2. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    You're oversimplifying. I don't remember anybody saying there are no heroes or villains. I certainly never said that, and the protagonists in my stories are definitely heroes, though they sometimes have to struggle against their own inner feelings and impulses to remain the good guys. For example, a person with a very strong sense of good and evil can become rigid and authoritarian and demand that everybody do exactly as they say otherwise they'll be severely punished. In fact spouse-abusers and child-abusers (of both sexes) often do exactly that, and believe they are good. That's what I'm talking about. It's not that there are no good guys or bad guys, but that we all must navigate carefully and thoughtfully and consider the feelings of other people and the realities of our actions, which don't always work out the way we hope.

    Once again I paraphrase Solzhenitsyn—no, in fact this time let me paste in his exact words. I'll start with the setup, which gives good context—

    Although a decorated commander in the Russian army, Solzhenitsyn was imprisoned near the end of World War II for disparaging comments made privately about Joseph Stalin. His years in prison were hardly pleasant, but as Solzhenitsyn writes in The Gulag Archipelago, those years gave him striking insight into the reality of human nature:​

    “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
    Elsewhere he elaborated on it a bit:

    "It was granted me to carry away from my prison years on my bent back, which nearly broke beneath its load, this essential experience: how a human being becomes evil and how good. In the intoxication of youthful successes I had felt myself to be infallible, and I was therefore cruel. In the surfeit of power I was a murderer, and an oppressor. In my most evil moments I was convinced that I was doing good, and I was well supplied with systematic arguments. And it was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that

    the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart—and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years.

    And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains … an un-uprooted small corner of evil.

    Since then I have come to understand the truth of all the religions of the world: They struggle with the evil inside a human being (inside every human being). It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person."

    Source
    "It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person." I want to add, that can't be done externally, but only by the person him-or-her-self, and voluntarily, as a moral effort.

    It was largely his writing about what went on behind the Iron Curtain that helped bring that monstrous evil to light and bring the Soviet Union crumbling down at last.

     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2021 at 2:17 AM
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  3. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    I left this out, meant to say it above:

    A person can be the good guy one day and an asshole the next. Just read through a bunch of my posts... :supercool:
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2021 at 1:15 AM
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  4. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    and very few people are wholly evil or wholly good... most of us are complicated
     
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  5. GH0ST

    GH0ST Member

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    I believe a realistic way to use the "good guy" protagonists is to emphasize how rare their moral code is. A good example would be Captain America in his second film. He comes from a time where people respected different values, so in the modern day the choices he makes often lead to conflict. Another example would be Naruto - a naive kid who says all the right things, even when everyone tries to change his mind. In the end, despite everything that happens him, he proves everyone wrong - he still remains the same, his values didn't change at all.
     
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  6. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Speaking strictly from a writer's perspective, I wonder if there is maybe too much emphasis on creating 'flawed' characters at the moment, rather than letting them grow in a more natural way? Sometimes these obligatory 'flaws' seem tacked-on.

    I expect most of us real people try not to do harm, and just want a decent life, as devoid of trauma, sturm and drang as possible. We may not be goody 2 shoes, trying to actively do GOOD 24/7, but most of us do try to avoid doing harm. We may hurt others, but we don't intend to. We may be selfish, but we are usually focused on what we need (or want) and be unaware how our actions impact on others. We're not consciously trampling on others to get what we want. We apologise when we screw up, and we able to learn (to some extent) from our mistakes.

    Some people are more adept at not doing harm than others. If your protagonist is one of those, they may become the kind of hero/heroine you identify with and love.

    Unfortunately, the knight in shining armour may make a good character, but they are unlikely to make a good protagonist or narrator. Because for them, there is no real conflict or learning process. Their way is set and they don't deviate from it.
     
  7. Cephus

    Cephus Contributor Contributor

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    Which is very much the case. It's fine to make flaws, but often these flaws are so absurdly amplified that they become little more than caricature. These are people you would never meet in the real world. They are ridiculously unrealistic and, at least IMO, immersion-breaking. I write realistic people with realistic problems that are generally good, at least from their own perspectives, who are trying to do the right thing under difficult circumstances. Unless you're reading nihilistic grimdark crap, that's what most authors are doing. They want the reader to have someone to root for. If there's no reason to want the hero to succeed, there's no reason to read the book IMO.
     
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  8. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Funky like your grandpa's drawers.... Staff Contributor

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    Yeah, I hate that. You get a good little story brewing and then the author adds some inexplicable, extemporaneous flaw that has nothing to do with its surroundings. Story resumes, flaw disappears (thankfully), then at the critical moment, flaw resurfaces. Like the hero hesitates to destroy the alien battleship because they can't get over being cut from the highschool basketball team. It's like, dude, you just wasted thousands of alien scum and made jokes about it... now potty training comes into play?
     
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  9. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Is this something that happens mostly with Mary Sue characters? That's what it sounds like to me. Or maybe not, since you said "You get a good little story brewing". I guess I haven't seen stories of this kind.
     
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  10. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Funky like your grandpa's drawers.... Staff Contributor

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    Meaning nice simple entertaining stories that don't call for overly developed arcs because the they engage readers on basic levels. Sometimes I feel the overcoming-flaws thing gets forced into stories that don't really need them emphasized.
     
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  11. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Ok, got it. And I agree. The flat character arc seems to have become lost in the shuffle along the way.
     
  12. Catriona Grace

    Catriona Grace Active Member

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    Well, darn. Could you be persuaded to add it to the To Do List? I'd offer to buy you the scotch, but understand the drawbacks of stories that require that kind of fuel. Wrote a book once that tipped me over the edge for reasons that are now irrelevant and of interest to no one but myself. Took a while to haul myself back up the cliff. It's a good story, but I don't recommend that particular writing process.
     
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  13. Joe_Hall

    Joe_Hall Member

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    The character I identify the most with in Lord of the Rings is Boromir, son of the Steward of Gondor, who is part of the original Fellowship of the Ring. He is under intense pressure from his father to think only of Gondor, and to that end he naively wants to use the One Ring for good. He falls under the power of the ring and tries to take it from Frodo, realises in the end what he did, then defends Merry and Pippen until he dies in the ensuing orc attack. He gets the least page time of any main character in the entire story.

    Part of this stems from my own life: my father is incredibly intelligent and probably could have been a successful professional in whatever field he chose but instead he had a family and worked hard jobs to give us a good education with the heavy expectation that we would go on to college and be the successes that he was not able to be. I chose to join the military and it took him a long time to forgive me for not getting a degree. I have far too often naively tried to do good and ended up making a mess of things, and conversely had the opportunity many times to do the right thing and failed to do so. But in the end, I try to good even if it costs me. I am not saying I am a hero, far far from it, but I love characters that have completely human flaws, fears and failings and successes. It is why I find Boromir more relatable than say Aragorn who for the most part always does the right thing at the right time, finally accepts his destiny as King of Gondor, wins the war, marries the elf princess and lives happily ever after as the best king ever.
     
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  14. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    I just realized, what you've described here is the classic flat character arc, where the MC knows a truth nobody else does and holds to it throughout, against all resistance, and is proven right in the end. Rather than the character growing or changing he makes the world around him change. Good stuff, and hardly spoken about in today's writing books or blogs or videos.

    And in that kind of story things are a lot less subtle and complex. I suppose there can be purely good guys and purely bad guys*, but usually that isn't the case, unless it's a children's story. Usually it's just somewhat less nuanced and realistic than a more developed character arc.

    * Sherlock Holmes is a flat-arc character, and he definitely isn't purely good.
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2021 at 5:30 PM
  15. Catriona Grace

    Catriona Grace Active Member

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    Once upon a time, I made a Tolkien devotee furious by suggesting Aragorn was a Mary Sue. Not being a fan of the series, I didn't realize I was committing cultural and literary blasphemy.
     
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  16. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Usually in real life when someone is called a hero it's for one specific deed they performed, and they almost always say "I'm not a hero, I just was in the right place at the right time, something desperately needed to be done, and I did what anybody in my place would have done."

    I have been that kind of hero a few times, and I never felt heroic doing it. More like it needed to be done and I had the right skillset for it (lol). It's like an imperative that overtakes you, somebody needs help and you're the only one who can help them, so you stop thinking about danger or anything, drop into the zone, and execute whatever actions are required. It's literally as if something else took over and worked through you, it's easy to see what people are talking about with religions and similar ideas.

    I'm talking about when somebody swims out into a lake to rescue a dog that fights them the whole way, or lifts up a car so someone trapped inside can be rescued, or runs into a burning building to rescue children inside.

    I've also been a real jerk quite a few times, occasionally when I really thought I was being the good guy but misunderstood the situation, more often because I got carried away in an argument or was in a crappy mood.

    So being a hero or a villain is usually a temporary position, not a full time thing. Though there are people who tend more one way or the other.
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2021 at 5:47 PM
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  17. Joe_Hall

    Joe_Hall Member

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    It will eventually come back around. I have only ever thrown one work into the nope bin. It was a horror piece and in the process of writing a psychotic serial killer rapist I found myself thinking like one. It freaked me out so bad I dropped the project and never touched it again and never will. I admire those of you who can write awesome horror but it is just not this guy.

    The Church of Tolkien is an amusing bunch. I sometimes go on fantasy forums and post "Balrogs had wings, prove me wrong" and grab my popcorn. That being said, I don't always consider having a Mary Sue in a story to be a bad thing. Some stories need them, although they are generally not my favorite character type.
     
  18. Catriona Grace

    Catriona Grace Active Member

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    I had to look up Balrogs. I'm still not sure what they are. I'm even less sure I want to know except to get the joke above.

    Tolkein is like tomatoes and olives. The pleasure that other people get from these things makes me long to appreciate them, too, but every time I take a bite, my immediate reaction is to spit the nasty thing out again.
     
  19. Not the Territory

    Not the Territory Senior Member

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    Here! The tender hero has returned!

     
  20. Joe_Hall

    Joe_Hall Member

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    I won’t go into the lore, but basically consider them demons. Tolkien never said if they have wings, but he never said they didn’t either. But some artists have drawn them with wings. So it is always a raging debate of fanatics bordering on the level of religious schism when the topic is brought up. I just stir the pot for my own amusement.
     
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  21. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

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    Hmm, Boromir, you say?

    [​IMG]

    There's a flawed hero for you.
     
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  22. Catriona Grace

    Catriona Grace Active Member

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    Succinct and clear explanation appreciated. In the world of wildlife biologists, the equivalent is saying, "So, are American elk Cervus canadensis or Cervus elaphus?" A fist fight is not guaranteed, but in a room of two or more game biologists, it is a distinct possibility.
     
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  23. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I think writers have become too influenced by movies - big payoff dilemmas - superheroes against supervillains trying to annihilate the planet, or psuedo-conflicts - protagonist acts like a-hole for 95% of movie commits an act of niceness to show us there is still some good in him, but not enough though for redemption, just a monster poking his head up from the tarpits.

    And we've forgot the art of nuance - in books and movies there is usually a violent cause and effect - if a character is sworn at he usually outwardly responds. We've been taught to be strong, not take any guff, react, strike back - become the bastard to defeat the bastard. Stoic endurance, turning the other cheek, love in the face of anger have become old fashioned. And people forget the struggles of temptation, self denial, self discipline, biting one's tongue. Good people aren't born good, they struggle with their own desires, desires to be moral or just, not to be tempted to take immoral paths or violent solutions to get what they want. And I think it's that internal moral battle that we're missing.

    Pollyanna - the movie character, not the book - is one of my favorite good characters because she endures all the bitterness of the adults (when she could've given up and turned into a brat herself), changing their world for the better, and the love she gives to them comes back to her at the end of the movie when her own faith is tested. If Pollyanna was written now she'd be 'updated' to anti-hero on a vengeful spree as they would see her as too passive.
     
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  24. James Hellfire

    James Hellfire New Member

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    what about Heroes like Wonder Woman?
    they just wanna help others because it comes natural to them
     
  25. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Superheroes are flat-arc characters as I mentioned above, who don't have a lot of depth or complexity so they don't need to go through an internal change, they instead change the world around them (defeat the bad guy, save the victims). And yes, certain superheroes like Wonder Woman, Superman and Captain America are morally very pure and tend to go up against equally simple and purely bad characters.

    Here's where I learned about the flat character arc: How to Write a Flat Character Arc, Pt. 1: The First Act

    She has several more blog entries about it. Excellent reading.

    It's in the more plot-driven genre fiction you usually have a flat character arc. The change arcs are for the more complex character-driven genre fiction and literary fiction, where internal complexity of the character becomes more the focus and things become more morally grey.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2021 at 2:41 AM

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