1. Tor Ninja

    Tor Ninja New Member

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    To make readers root for my main character

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Tor Ninja, Apr 4, 2019.

    I'm writing a sci-fi novel about a predominantly human science team who gets the chance to join a military operation and travel to a distant star system to investigate anomalies which suggest the existence of presently unknown technology. My problem is that my main character, Samuela, needs a reason to risk her life and the lives of her crew, and this reason would serve as the potential for readers to empathize with her. But I am totally stuck and have no ideas. What do I do?
     
  2. XRD_author

    XRD_author Banned

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    Uhm, what scientist wouldn't want to travel to a distant star system to investigate anomalies which suggest the existence of presently unknown technology? Assuming she's a scientist.
     
  3. Kalisto

    Kalisto Senior Member

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    Sometimes it's just as simple as making her a good person. This is something that has become somewhat of a lost art. We like to mistaken "strong" for being sassy and "in your face" but the reality is that the meek will inherit the earth. Or, more rather, the meek will win your audience. For example, the surprise hit video game Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice it stars the titular character Senua, who suffers from psychosis. How do you get an audience to relate to and actually love someone who has psychosis? Well, Senua is a good, loving, sensitive person who doesn't deserve her mental illness.

    As for a reason why she would risk her life and the lives of her crew? Well, maybe she doesn't know she's risking the lives of her crew. This could be presented to her and her crew as an opportunity to study an unknown anomalies. Then they can build their reputation and advance their careers. Perhaps there have been samples of this unknown technology that she formed a hypothesis around and they view this as an opportunity to finally prove them. Maybe she could be told the presence of the military is "standard procedure" and she just accepts that as fact. Whether it is or not, she doesn't give much thought to, because she's so excited to finally have an opportunity to be taken seriously. Her crew is excited because this means they too will have opportunities to do what scientists love to do.

    When she does discover that they have been put at risk, she becomes angry like a normal person would. Then her mission shifts from trying to prove her theories to trying to help her crew survive.
     
  4. Thundair

    Thundair Contributor Contributor

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    She may have discovered a rare element that would solve problems back home. That problem could be something that has affected her personally, so her focus to obtain the element and get it back home goes against the military commanders, her civilian/commercial bosses, and her crew. Now the struggle could be time sensitive and the drama/tension begin.
     
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  5. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Contributor

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    Readers like characters who are proactive. Who go out and do stuff, take actions, take risks. Who move along the story. Giving your characters goals and having them take actions towards achieving them will go a long way in making the character likable.
     
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  6. Friedrich Kugelschreiber

    Friedrich Kugelschreiber epic gamer Contributor

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    Yeah. I think professional reasons would be good enough, unless time dilation is thrown into the mix, and she won't see her family and friends again, or something. Also, just how risky is it? Are they expecting an attack? If a military detachment is going along, wouldn't that offer some level of protection?
    I'm assuming you don't want to make Samuela a ambitious antihero with questionable motives, but that options is always there, too.
     
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  7. Tor Ninja

    Tor Ninja New Member

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    Good point!
     
  8. Tor Ninja

    Tor Ninja New Member

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    Great reply, thank you so much. Just reading that made me like her better already.
     
  9. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Banned Contributor

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    No one has pointed the obvious:

    The question includes the answer.

    In a mission like this you use volunteers. You want to have skilful crew that can co-operate under pressure and in dangerous, unexpected situations. That is: carefully selected volunteers.

    And... Wait a minute... It's military operation - that means possibly dangerous. And it's a travel to a distant star system. That is really, really dangerous. And it takes time.

    (Proxima Centauri is the nearest star. 4.27 light years. Next is 5.9 light years. So... Anyone going there or farther leaves his/her normal life behind. Even if they ship can get to 0.99% of speed of light, they came back about 12-20 years later. If they do - and that is a big if. Speeding and slowing down takes also time - and making things safe.)

    If they go fast, it's almost a suicide mission. If they go slower, they spend their entire lives on board.

    So... This captain and her crew have already volunteered to risk their lives. It has happened before ship leaves to it's destination.

    Everyone has had his/her own reasons. Showing some of those might make your story more interesting. But you don't need more reasons than there already is. Your setting includes that answer you are seeking.
     
  10. Thundair

    Thundair Contributor Contributor

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    And then there's this: Traveling at 99.9c for 4 years (Earth time) means you'd experience a trip of about 2 weeks (14 days). Yes, everyone on Earth will have aged four years and you will have aged only 2 weeks.
     
  11. XRD_author

    XRD_author Banned

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    It's more common for SciFi these days to have some form of fantastical FTL travel, so it's not certain, or even probable, that the consequences of sub-light travel to the stars have bearing on the story.

    @Tor Ninja care to fill us in? Is the trip by FTL or are you using Physics As We Know It Today (which I am coining the initialism PAWKIT for at this very moment)?
     
  12. Thundair

    Thundair Contributor Contributor

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    I am disappointed when I read about traveling around spacc in a tin can. I have often referred to it as the model A theory of space travel. I don't know what fantastical travel is but I would like it better.
     
  13. Maverick_nc

    Maverick_nc Contributor Contributor

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    Cliched, but the 'unknown' technology could hint at potentially being life-saving, perhaps for someone she care about deeply back home?
    Alternatively, maybe she is forced, coerced, blackmailed or even tricked into risking everyone's lives.
     
  14. XRD_author

    XRD_author Banned

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    My WIP sticks to modest extensions of PAWKIT, so to cross interstellar space, people use hollowed-out large asteroids. All that rock provides the necessary shielding: interstellar space isn't as empty as you might like when you are traveling at some non-trivial fraction of C. The trips take centuries.
     
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  15. talltale

    talltale Member

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    What's in the star system?
     

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