1. ShalaylaW

    ShalaylaW Member

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    Thoughts on Truly Cunning Female Characters?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by ShalaylaW, Jul 27, 2018.

    In my current story I have a female MC who uses every situation to her advantage, and has a solid goal she always strives for no matter what. Her father is gravely ill and is diagnosed with amnesia as well, and cannot tell her what happened to him on the day he disappeared. Therefore she must be resourceful and even turn against one of her oldest friends in order to escape and heal her father.
    I think this makes her a very strong and enduring character, but I also realize this will give her a few downfalls such as being untrustworthy. But having downfalls is just a natural part of every character which makes them all the more real of course. But in this kind of situation, is there a point perhaps where I could go overboard on her being cunning? Should I have moments where she reveals she has a good heart? An example of this kind of character I feel would be Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean, where sometimes he does the right things for the wrong reasons.
    Or should I take it too far and have a surprising character that always unexpectedly turns on her every ally in order to save her only family? Would that make things unrealistic... or appealing?
    I guess a vote is in order :p
     
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  2. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I don't feel like "cunning" is the word here. Being cunning doesn't require that one betray one's friends. I realize that's not your main question, but it seems to me that it blurs it.

    That said, she could try to do as little harm as possible, and only harm others when her ultimate goal forces her to--"forces" as she sees it. You could show some regret for that, and some effort to reduce the damage.

    For example, she secretly gets her friend arrested so that she can break into his place and steal something, but then she makes bail for him--the next day, after she's achieved her goal.
     
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  3. ShalaylaW

    ShalaylaW Member

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    Cunning - Having or showing skill in achieving one's ends by deceit or evasion... It doesn't require betrayal but it certainly involves it most times haha
    I think it's the perfect word for her honestly. She has one goal, and hardly has a thought for anything outside of that goal. Throwing her oldest friend under the bus is a necessity.

    You're pretty much presenting one out of the two options I have when creating her, that she reveal a part of her heart at the end of the day. Is that your vote?
     
  4. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Well, I'm not recommending the end of the day, I'm recommending all through the day. That we see her struggling with loyalty versus necessity/betrayal all the way through.
     
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  5. Siberian

    Siberian New Member

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    I agree with this too. This makes her more relatable if we get to see her consciously aware of the impact she's having on others. But, I think it really depends on how much you want readers to like this character. If at the end of the day we see her have some form of remorse for what shes done then it characterizes her more like someone who a) Acts before thinking or, b) Will do whatever it takes, above anything or anyone else, to meet her personal agenda. Both options make her a selfish but driven character.

    The word 'cunning' to me just has a negative connotation to it that I associate with villain characters.
     
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  6. ShalaylaW

    ShalaylaW Member

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    I want readers to like her but also to begrudgingly admire her. She has a tough exterior and I just don't know when I'm making her too soft or too cold and uncaring. I don't want to go to extremes and make her an outright villain, but more of a good-evil sort that you can't help but respect.
    The secondary character, her oldest friend, is more of the caring sort, and to have them contrast each other is what I'm aiming for. She uses him in order to reach her goal but he always gives her another chance or tries to save her. He even becomes the key to her goal being achieved ironically.

    I guess driven could be another word for her, but honestly cunning is something I don't like but can admire so that is why I used it.
     
  7. Iain Sparrow

    Iain Sparrow Contributor Contributor

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    You mention the fictional character of Jack Sparrow, but I'd rather go with Long John Silver of Treasure Island fame. He does at times do the right thing, though Jim Hawkins doesn't see it that way for most of the story. The trick is to never say too much about these sort of characters, allow them to be something of an enigma. Robert Louis Stevenson never imparts so much of Silver that the character loses his magic, not to Jim, and not to the reader.

    My favorite closing lines of any book comes at the end of Treasure Island. That of Silver fading into the mists of memory of a boy who has become a man.

    Of Silver we have heard no more. That formidable seafaring man with one leg has at last gone clean out of my life; but I dare say he met his old Negress, and perhaps still lives in comfort with her and Captain Flint. It is to be hoped so, I suppose, for his chances of comfort in another world are very small.
     
  8. ShalaylaW

    ShalaylaW Member

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    I LOVE the movie, and completely agree that some of my character relates to Silver very well. But she is the MC so I'll have to go in depth with her at some point, which will make her story have more of an impact (when the time is right)
    Thanks for the input!
     
  9. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Member

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    1. So she is insatiable. maybe? That means she is fulfilling some real and deep need with things that don't fulfill that need. And she can't see the nature of that process well enough.

    2. No, it does not.

    It makes her compulsive & uncapable to self reflection.

    If she was strong and enduring she wouldn't use situations. She would build them. Using all situations is reactive and compulsive. It's weak. And it tries to hide the weakness behind false impression of being strong.

    Strong is proactive. It builds & constructs instead of using.

    3. If you really, really know why she is cunning, you know how much, when and how she would be cunning. Then you know how she builds her part of the story through her personality, identities, temperament, motives and traits.

    Who she is? What are her wounds? What is she hiding from herself? What is the connection between you and her? What she can't see in her own life but other people do? What are her fears and why she don't admit them?
     
  10. 123456789

    123456789 Contributor Contributor

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    I think more important than our moral approval of your mc is her ability to keep the reader interested. It sounds tedious if every time she does something wrong, she somehow fixes it.
     
  11. ShalaylaW

    ShalaylaW Member

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    What an odd way to interpret what I said.. haha no she's not insatiable..? More on the determined side if anything. She has a noble goal (freeing her and her father and healing him of his ailments)

    And I feel it does... How can you trust someone who deceives? It's not compulsion and such, she acts with a clear mental state and is resourceful.

    And there are MANY different forms of strength. Thinking that this form is weak is weak in itself. Using a situation in order to achieve your goal is defined as resourceful. I want to make that kind of character.

    I agree with your last comment, but this thread is me asking for an opinion, so I thank you on your input :)
     
  12. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    There is nothing with a character that lacks a conscience. People with a conscience will feel ashamed when they are compelled to act in a way that's different than their self image. If her self image makes it possible for her to betray people without feeling guilt or shame, that's a different issue.

    Emotional vulnerability doesn't make a character weak. Neither does regret or shame. A character can be driven to do things that go against their self image, like a pacifist shooting someone to save a baby. They will feel bad/conflicted, even if they acted decisively. Right?

    There are many different kinds of characters that will go hard or lie.
     
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  13. ShalaylaW

    ShalaylaW Member

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    She isn't absolutely soulless, I of course want her to have a heart and a conscience. I'm just trying to find a balance with a character like this because I don't want her to lose her edge nor be too heartfelt.

    And no, having shame and such doesn't make a person weak at all, but her personality is that type where she feels the need to hide that shame and regret instead of showing it openly.

    It seems like most people have a hard time accepting a character like this because most people are truly like this. They have no issue using others to their full extent and decieving those they love. And I'm hoping my character can show humanity's darker side while still remaining a good person in the reader's eyes.
     
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  14. Brosephus

    Brosephus New Member

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    I'd say it depends on how it affects her. Does she vcome to view her betrayal as a mistake? Does it harden her in order to complete her task, no matter who has to suffer?

    If you want her untrustworthiness to negatively affect her friends and still want her to be some kind of hero, she would have to face the unintended consequences, learn she made innocent people suffer for her own ends.

    Her father might be an interesting reflection. What would her father think if he knew what she did in order to heal him? Does she care what he thinks?

    A character who pushed past this might still be interesting and somewhat sympathetic, but I'm not sure I'd call her a "good person".
     
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  15. ShalaylaW

    ShalaylaW Member

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    I think she should view her actions as harsh and feel remorse internally, but due to her father's ill state she also views them as necessary. I mean if my family was on the line, and I had to escape somewhere to make sure they lived, I would do whatever I could.

    I think the reason she's worthy of the hero persona is because she's the one who sees the truth while others are blind to their surroundings. Her father holds the key in his mind, but he's forgotten due to his amnesia.
    I think part of her father would understand why she did what she did. Though the other half would be outraged she risked so much.

    She holds her father in a high regard, he is her only family and she wants him to remember what he's lost.
    And I guess you couldn't call her "good", but she has good intent. She's just sort of haunted in her method.
     

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