1. TheDarkWriter

    TheDarkWriter Active Member

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    I Need A Female Perspective

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by TheDarkWriter, Nov 10, 2016.

    So I've always like damaged characters, characters who are not as morally grounded as most others because I find them interesting. My secondary protagonist the MC's love interest is very damaged all her life she's been objecified(she was a beauty queen and model) then when she got older she was sucked into the world of human trafficking. The problem is I don't know if her personality is believable.

    She knows she is attractive and will always dress in a way that shows off her body and if no one pays attention to her she gets bratty. She's a total alpha bitch and doesn't like trusting people let alone being nice to others because the last time she did well long story short she was on a walk saw someone in need of help but it was really a set up and the girl she went to help was part of the human trafficking ring.

    Because of what she's been through she's very messed up. Like for example she likes to hurt people and toy with their emotions. She does this with men she'll find the most insecure and sensitive guy she can find and will just be horrible to him and will pretend she likes him but will be so demanding and unreasonable that it will ultimately wreck the guy's life and then when the guy has been completely wrecked she dumps him.

    She also hates helping people and is very apathetic towards the pain of others. More than anything she's a loner and doesn't like being asked personal questions. One of the reasons she's like this is that she's desensitized to things like sexual assault and rape.

    However she fears being weak and that's why she dispite her tough girl exterior she's easily frightened when it comes to beings stronger than her like one of the main antagonists is the man who pimped her out he has powers to but he doesn't need to use them to make her afraid enough to do what he says (even after two years of being free she's so afraid she just freezes up after seeing him).

    She's very messed up ad has a warped idea of love. For example her love interest and the MC is a demon who she made deal with for power and he's very controlling like he micromanages everything(does her make up and picks out her clothes) and yet despite that fact she loves him because he says things like "You look so beautiful in this color." and when he's comforting her he says things like "You are mine no one else can touch you no one else can have you."

    She is basically in love with him because despite the fact he openly calls her his property and or pet he treats her better than anyone ever has. However I need a female perspective on this character because I don't know if she's too messed up and if so how can I make her more sympathetic? Also what things can I improve on?
     
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  2. G. Anderson

    G. Anderson Active Member

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    Hi TheDarkWriter,

    It's obviously an extreme character, but with such an extreme background as you describe, I find it realistic.

    I find that you've constructed her well. Impressively actually! She seems very needy of men's approval and physical interactions. I can't say this is a typical female thing, but I see it happen to a lot of girls who have grown up around very dominant men. So, I think for someone who has lived through human trafficking it makes sense that she would seek out men and use them.

    If you want to make the character sympathetic, I'd be careful how to write this. Do you know that feeling (which is perhaps stronger as a teenager) where it's always the fault of the other, and disagreements and different expectations gets snowballed into accusations of manipulation, bad intentions, etc. Now, obviously the woman you are writing is a scarred person and having herself been used very often, it's natural that she would also start to use people. But if you want her more sympathetic, I'd suggest to put in more nuances, and that you give some examples where she's not the devil and the guy not the angel.

    Perhaps a part where the character tries to be caring towards someone and then have it backfire and let the character be (fasely) blamed for having wrecked his life. That would make me feel very much for the character.

    Another thing, to add a bit more softness could be to let the character befriend another female character, or play to the maternal instinct with e.g. a pet or even a pregnancy.

    Have fun!

    Best,
    G.
     
  3. Peper Shaker

    Peper Shaker Member

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    I actually met a victim of human trafficking and she was hella vulnerable, always paranoid of others' intentions and constantly second guessing herself. Also developed multiple traumas, PTSD and other mental dissociative disorders. Not to say you should appropriate these characteristics to your character, but my guess is that she's needs some sort of vulnerability, an emotional kryptonite.

    Hope this helps.
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2016
  4. G. Anderson

    G. Anderson Active Member

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    I think this is a very good point. There can be a tendency to portray characters who have been through a lot of tragedy as very tough, but I find that if you meet someone who have been abused in real life, they can come across as very soft and fragile.

    There's also the saying 'the biggest smile has the saddest story to tell', which I think if often true in real life.

    So, yes, perhaps the character could benefit for being less harsh in lack of a more elegant word.
     
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  5. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Contributor Contributor

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    The way you're describing your character, I'm thinking she's a sociopath. No amount of suffering will make a sociopath sympathetic in my eyes. Lots of people have suffered and that doesn't turn them into monsters, which is what you're almost implying here. Abuse victims don't turn into this person "who likes to hurt people and toy with their emotions". This is a misconception.

    She also hates helping people and is very apathetic towards the pain of others. More than anything she's a loner and doesn't like being asked personal questions. One of the reasons she's like this is that she's desensitized to things like sexual assault and rape.

    No, assault and rape don't turn off one's empathy. Especially, like you said, she's free from all that now. She should be trying to put as much distance as possible between herself and male abusers such as the pimp and the demon. She is not in love with the demon. Abused women may think they are in love with their abuser because of very complex self-esteem issues and usually prolonged abuse, especially if the abuse started in childhood or if the person is a child abuse victim who keeps repeating the cycle. "Messed up" doesn't mean sociopath and just because someone is damaged and messed up, as you put it, it doesn't mean that one has lost empathy to the pain of others (more likely the "messed up" person will try to help others).
    If, instead, you have a character who craves power and being in control, and who is a narcissist, abuse or no, you might be thinking of a sociopath.
    I would recommend (to everybody) a research on "sociopath" and "abuse victim".
    You can make her more sympathetic if she's not a sociopath, if she shows compassion for someone or something that suffers. If not, might as well turn her into a villan.
     
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  6. Iain Sparrow

    Iain Sparrow Banned Contributor

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    I'm going to agree with Rosacrvx, the character you describe sounds like a sociopath.
    I've read two books on sociopathy, the disorder is amazingly creepy. For you and I, and anyone who feels remorse, empathy, guilt, all those mushy feelings that make us human... not only does a sociopath not feel those emotions, they in fact lack even the capacity to feel those things. Most sociopaths are born that way. There are environmental factors, but mostly it's the biology the person was came into life with. So this woman you describe has no path for redemption, if she's a sociopath she is every bit as bad as the people who abuse her. Not deserving one ounce of sympathy, save the normal sympathy we reserve for anyone born with a crippling mental disorder.
     
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  7. Peper Shaker

    Peper Shaker Member

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    I agree with @Rosacrvx that abuse victims don't generally turn sociopathical as a result of the abuse. It's much more likely that they become more empathetic.
    With this said, it's also possible to empathize with a sociopath, I know there are people that do. But I don't need to like the character to read a good story. A lot of good stories are written about characters that we dislike. If you're trying to have people empathize with the character because she was abused, you'll lose that later on with her being "apathetic towards the pain of others". That's why I suggested a vulnerability, to give the readers something to hold on to.

    In sociopaths those vulnerabilities turn to anger though
     
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  8. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    One of my lead protagonists went from being raped at 15 to becoming the deadliest female serial killer in American history by the age of 22.

    Point the first) I did a lot of research in portraying rape and PTSD in fiction, and when I started to wonder if I'd missed anything, I started asking people on another website who talked about being actual trauma survivors if they could look over my notes (and one bit of feedback was incredibly helpful).

    Your character sounds more like a trauma survivor who happens to be female than like a female character who happens to be a trauma survivor.

    Point the second) My character would give you one warning if you said to her face that being raped as a kid turned her into a serial killer, and if you said that to her again then she would bash your skull in.

    She comes down very strongly on the side of Nature over Nurture, she would tell you that millions of people in America alone go through the same things that she did without turning out the way that she did, she would tell you that dozens if not hundreds (maybe even thousands) of people in America turn out the way that she did without ever going through the things that she did, and – despite there being occasional overlap like Aileen Wournos or Henry Lee Lucas – in general, she would say that she feels she has more in common with somebody like Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer (became murderers without surviving trauma) than she does with somebody like Oprah Winfrey or Lady Gaga (survived trauma without becoming murderers. As far as I know).

    She takes great pride in being a Chaotic Evil serial killer, she looks down on sociopaths who blame their childhood of hurt for turning them into people who hurt others, and if she were ever identified, arrested, and given interviews, she would not want to give her rapist credit for having the power over her life to turn a normal girl into a serial killer against her will.

    Again, there is overlap, and my character is a lot more like Aileen Wornous than I'd originally realized when I started working on this backstory. Maybe your demon looked through a bunch of potential servants who were being abused in the same group that this character was being abused in, but decided that only a small handful of them would have it in them to become the same kind of people who were torturing them?

    Nature/Nurture isn't as cut and dried as my own character gives it credit for, and it is possible to eventually turn a good person into a monster, but it takes a lot more specific brainwashing than just "hurting them until they want to hurt other people." Have you ever watched Breaking Bad?
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2016
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  9. hawls

    hawls Active Member

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    The interaction between the kind of characters you have described is going to be very difficult to write in a way that doesn't disgust decent people.

    The way you present them, and the way you frame their thoughts and actions will be important.
     
  10. cydney

    cydney Banned

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    Personally, these attributes make her unattractive to me. I'm afraid I'd lose interest in a character without character. :) Or depth, I should say.

    I don't think she should be perfect, by any means. But there has to be something mysterious and good about her, even if it plays a minor role.
     
  11. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    My first thoughts:

    "Bratty" is a summary word that, IMO, does not communicate character or behavior. I feel as if a full understanding of your character requires unfolding that word some more--not necessarily for us, but for your own concept of the character.

    For me to care about her or find her interesting, I think that she needs to have some care or regard for somebody, at some level, however dysfunctional it is. Not so much because that caring un-does all the evil--it doesn't--but because it adds complexity that makes her interesting, and opens a crack for identifying with her.

    Hannibal, of Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal, had a few of these threads. There was the "Discourtesy is unspeakably ugly to me" quote. There was the view into his childhood and his love for his sister. The main thing that keeps me from seeing Hannibal as a generic ball of evil is the picture of little Hannibal presenting his little sister with an eggplant because she loves that color. (Or something like that--it's been a long time since I read the book.)

    So whether she adores Bart Simpson, or her cat, or people who remind her of someone in her past, I think that she needs to have some fondness and protectiveness for some being that either is sentient or could be regarded as sentient. And I don't think that her lover/boss/owner is enough, because that's someone who has authority over her. I think that it needs to be someone who is below her in some way.
     
  12. Megs33

    Megs33 Active Member

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    I think you're walking a very thin line between "stereotypical awful woman who is awful to men because awful things happened to her" and "dark, conflicted, fascinating character". The best way for you to avoid ending up on the wrong side of that line is by asking questions. Why is she awful to men? Why does she care about her appearance? Why does she hate helping others?

    I recently worked with a horrendous girl who drove me to the brink of quitting my job simply because i couldn't stand sitting near her. think Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter, all saccharine sweetness and pink lace covering up a manipulative, unkind person who knew how to push all of my buttons. no one else saw the issue. it was invisible to everyone but me. her personality grated on me in such a profound way that I started playing the "mean girl" game behind her back, saying terrible things about her because i had to vent my frustrations and that was how the opportunity presented itself. i felt trapped in a situation where i had become this awful human being, and when it compounded on my working situation it was like i was unraveling and losing who i was.

    Thankfully, I got a new job and got away from such a toxic environment. But in the process of exploring this ugly new part of my personality, i was forced to ask myself questions. What got me to this point? How was my reaction relevant? I was so desperate to get the "old me" back that I started psychoanalyzing my behavior, and I came to a couple of realizations that seem obvious, but they weren't to me at the time.

    1) Every single emotion, reaction, feeling, whatever, are a reflection of your inherent beliefs and values.

    So in my situation, I am a perfectionist (value #1) to the point of causing myself intense anxiety. I also hang my feelings of self-worth on the way I believe people perceive me (value #2). Suddenly I was around a girl who masterfully undermined me and stole my social circle spotlight, and it shook two values that I held very personally. (Admittedly, those are not good values to have and I'm working on fixing them). Then on top of that, authority figures who I respected and trusted didn't treat the situation with the amount of sincerity that I felt it deserved, and I made myself sick wondering if I was the one blowing things out of proportion. I believed that I shouldn't rock the boat (value #3), which meant I felt compelled to keep my comments and frustrations hidden behind closed doors and around quiet corners. My personality's down-slide followed a sequential and logical set of events that made the outcome almost inevitable.

    2) It's the act of fighting these emotions and reactions that makes it so compelling. There are always at least two layers: the natural reaction of a person, and then their response to that reaction.

    My behavior made me physically ill. It was a poison in my system, and I wanted it gone. I reached a point where I shut down and quit interacting with the people in my office because I felt like that was the only way to keep my sanity intact. I had reacted in a natural (if petty) way, and now I was angry at myself and borderline depressed because I wasn't smart/capable/willing enough to find a way to be the better person in the office. My perfectionist value had the fore at this point, and all I could do was bash on myself for being "that girl" who whispered snide comments behind cupped hands. I was the bad guy. I was the opposite of the person I wanted to be, and ultimately the only way I was able to see all of this objectively at all was when I got out.

    So i guess my point is that you need to follow the threads of this character's personality, or it's going to come across wooden and fake. She'll look like a cardboard cutout rather than a three-dimensional human being with issues.

    An example might be, "Why does she hate helping others?" > She hates helping others because someone she trusted betrayed her when she was in the world of human trafficking. "Why did someone betraying her matter so much?" > The person who betrayed her reminded her of her brother, who was kind and thoughtful. "Why does one betrayal affect her so profoundly?" > She was already mistrustful of this new world she was forced in to, and her betrayal at the hands of someone who reminded her of home fractured her closely-held value that people are supposed to offer help and be there for one another.

    The value is still there, but it's been tainted by this horrifying (yet logical) experience. The idea of sticking her neck out for someone else frightens her to the point that she protects herself by responding in a cold/indifferent/hurtful manner. But just by creating that thread of experiences you've made her a more believable character.
     
  13. TheDarkWriter

    TheDarkWriter Active Member

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    This actually describes her pretty well. She tries ot letting people get close because someone she met earned her trust(another woman) and completely betrayed her so she became very emotionally withdrawn.
     
  14. Peper Shaker

    Peper Shaker Member

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    That's good that you nailed that part. The key element in the person I met was the dissociative disorders she had from the trauma (DID and Dp/Dr)
     
  15. G. Anderson

    G. Anderson Active Member

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    I agree that experiencing trauma doesn't make your a sociopath, but I also believe it is possible for non-sociopaths to do horrible things to other people. And I do believe that abuse can be a vicious circle. I will not go as far as to say that it's normal for abuse victims to abuse other people because that would be very false and an injustice to the (too) many victims that exists.

    But if your character has grown up in an environment where abuse and manipulation is the norm then I believe that it's is realistic that she will herself use those because that is what she has known from she was a child. I am not usually a fan of statistics, but many say that children with violent parents are more likely to grow up violent, and people who have been bullied are more like to become bullies.

    However, you don't mention your characters age, so if she had a childhood without abuse being normal, it might need to soften.

    That being said, your character seemed to me more traumatized than a sociopath.
     
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  16. TheDarkWriter

    TheDarkWriter Active Member

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    She's in her early twenties I should also mention that the story takes place six months/1 Year after she made her deal so she in addition to recovering is trying to readjust to the world after 5 years.

    I am also trying to go for traumatized I don't want to make her a sociopath.
     
  17. Lyrical

    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

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    Give her moments of vulnerability. Private moments when she's all alone and her trauma and demons overwhelm her. If she can, allow her to shed a few tears. If people can see past her wall of attitude and apathy and see that there is someone extremely broken and sad inside, that will generate sympathy.
     
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  18. G. Anderson

    G. Anderson Active Member

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    Okay, well, I agree that to give her some moments of vulnerability would make her even more realistic and sympathetic. :)
     
  19. Seraph751

    Seraph751 If I fell down the rabbit hole... Contributor

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    My only thing would be instead of her taking advantage of people with insecurities, have her do that with confident/cocksure people. If you are in a place where you struggled and were taken advantage of, the people who do that are not openly insecure/vulnerable. It's people who think they can get away with anything. Not to say that she won't open a can of emotional/mental whoopass if one pisses her off, but what will give her that vindictive feeling or satisfaction she craves, crushing an insecure person or a cocky person? This way you add humanity with even as twisted as she is there is line she refuses cross. Food for thought!
     
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  20. Ameshin

    Ameshin Member

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    I tend to agree with everyone mentioning the sociopath point.
    Doesn't seem entirely unrealistic to me. Possibly brain damage from the stress/abuse that could heavily alter her base personality.
     

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