1. HorusEye

    HorusEye Contributor Contributor

    Jul 25, 2009
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    Sympathy or Admiration. Which is stronger?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by HorusEye, Jul 25, 2009.

    Hello all, I'm new to these forums. I do hope to learn alot from being here and do my best to help others.

    There's an issue of character that has been rumbling around my head for a bit now, and I'd like to hear everyone's view on it.

    What group of main characters is more powerful to you, as audience, considering main characters - the sympathetic or the admirable?

    Making examples from plays/films as most people know these...

    The sympathetic are aplenty in drama - characters in unfortunate situations who all have their own ways of dealing with problems, but generally these are people the audience wouldn't like to be - they follow them out of sympathy - wanting the best for them. Many, but not all, are from tragedies. The stories can have happy endings, but still, the great sufferings of the character would want us not to be like them.

    Hamlet - Hamlet
    McMurphy - One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
    Donnie Darko - Donnie Darko
    Lester - American Beauty
    Parry - The Fisher King

    Note how these generally are introvert characters.

    The admirable are aplenty in adventure - characters who are posed with problems as well, but their strength is visibly greater than the problems at hand, and the characters usually aren't suffering too bad internally - the audience will cheer for them and like to reflect themselves in their positive image.

    Examples from films and plays:
    Indiana Jones
    The heroes in Star Wars
    James Bond
    Lara Croft

    While these generally extrovert characters may seem more shallow at a glance, they're usually also the most famous and iconic. They have a power in themselves and don't really need the story around them in order to show their qualities.

    I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts on this. Cheers :)
  2. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Nov 21, 2006
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    Coquille, Oregon
    i don't see how that can possibly be determined in general, since it all depends on how the writer writes each character and on each plot/situation that the character is involved with...

    i've liked both, dependent on those factors... and i'm sure most readers have, so i can't see that a generalization can be made...
  3. Anders Backlund

    Anders Backlund New Member

    Jul 7, 2009
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    Land of Lagom
    Well, ideally you want a healthy mix of both. It's important to be able to relate a feel for characters because that makes them human to us, but at the same time we love to admire and look up to heroes who inspire us.

    In my highly personal experience, people in general seem to prefer the admirable characters. Of course, I mostly hang out with fans primarily of the action/adventure genre, so my impression may be skewed, but I find that even the ones who tend towards the sympathetic side of things like a good hero at the end of the day.

    Ultimately, I think it depends a bit on which audience you are writing for, and what people are expecting from your work. You can't say one is inherently better then the other, and I think you need to use them both together to achieve the best result. The reader must be able to both respect and relate to the character.

    See, I actually consider him a heroic/admirable character; in that he refuses to accept his suffering and sets his foot down in one last attempt to take control of his life and find happiness. That's something a lot of average people probably dream of doing, but very few dare.
  4. architectus

    architectus Banned

    Aug 19, 2008
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    I like characters that start out beat up but rise to someone I can admire.
  5. tcol4417

    tcol4417 Member

    Jul 27, 2009
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    Sydney, AU
    The examples that you have used to describe these characters bring to mind the cliche character archetypes that appeal to specific audiences.

    If you're aiming to appeal to one of those niche markets then the decision should be easy enough, but to appeal to a broader spectrum (and gain more credibility as a writer) you should be able to write a character that has both qualities.

    The former group are tragic introverts while the latter are flawless super-people. Note that the larger number in the latter category are members of dead and rotten franchises [/opinion].

    I personally prefer characters that are willing to identify their own flaws (eventually), confront them and overcome them - a characteristic that is admirable in a completely different way, because it's something that they have earned throughout the story; not something they were given by the script.

    The only example I can think of at the moment is Simon and Kamina (Manlier than you could ever hope to be), though the medium (anime) and genre (mecha) of their story will probably alienate more people than anything else.
    On consideration, I guess characters like Harry Potter and Frodo Baggins also qualify though their fantasy setting and unambiguous evils makes the internal struggle somewhat glib.

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