1. Xboxlover

    Xboxlover Senior Member

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    Trying to create a gray area: Hero's committing crimes.

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Xboxlover, Sep 9, 2017.

    One of my male characters kills their lover/son's mother to save his son. The mother tried to kill their son. I wanted to make this a gray area in the story. My only fear is that people will not like his character afterward but at the same time I don't care. I was planning on this a very long time ago as a tension builder/high stakes plot for this character development arc.
    For a person who thinks murder is unforgivable: (Not counting military warfare) Hypocritical huh? So in your opinion on this would it be a good way to up the tension in my story and make heroes and villains grow closer to a gray area? Or is this one of those (hate using this term) "unforgivable" and thus break the reader from connecting with the anti hero/hero of the story? Hypocritical as my statement may be, I'm actually looking for feedback on this particular topic (Murder) for a reason.

    So the questions would be:
    How would you keep a character relatable to the audience after such a crime?
    How do you keep people wanting to read about characters in gray areas?
    What things interest you about gray areas?
    If you as a reader find this forgivable/unforgivable, why? (Just curious. Wanting to see potential reactions.)
    Would this work for a tension builder or high stakes plot and why?
    How would you approach this same scenario given the chance?
     
  2. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    For me it's not a grey area at all. I would find killing my own husband 100% morally defensible if he tried to kill my daughter, assuming it wasn't self-defense. I don't think I could write from anything but that perspective.
     
  3. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The bastards hung me in the spring of '25.... Contributor

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    Yep, agree... no grey area here at all.

    No need to. Grey areas sell themselves. Clear cut, evil villains and stupendous, virtuous heroes are boring as hell. Like a bad 80s movie. I can't think of anything less compelling than the good vs evil paradigm.

    Everything. Life is grey.

    Not sure. What are the stakes and where is the tension coming from? Just having him kill his baby mama isn't inherently tense or indicative of the stakes that are to follow. Can you elaborate?
     
  4. Megs33

    Megs33 Active Member

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    show how this crime eats at him; his inner turmoil will be what keeps him human in spite of his what he did, so there should be evidence of some serious mental baggage that accompanies the action.

    This is a pretty broad question; your character could be dealing with a lot of stuff in his life. He could be trying to accomplish a major life goal. Give the reader an understanding of what your character is trying to pursue, whether it's a new love interest, a new job, etc. Create a sense of urgency; give him something he's trying to procure or accomplish and then let all his mental sludge get in the way. Make me wonder how he's going to find closure and live the life he wants in spite of his pain. That's what will keep me reading.

    To be fair, life as a whole is a gray area. Unless you're playing at telling a story where there are cookie cutter "good guys" and "bad guys", your character's actions should always be gray areas to varying degrees. i recently read a blog post that talked about how you should never shy away from the grittiness that makes our world real; the good and the bad, the beautiful and the abhorrent, the wonderful and the sickening, should all be shown in equal measure so we don't tell a story that seems fake or contrived. people will lie and cheat, and they'll come up with justifications so they don't feel awful afterwards. it's human nature.

    This depends on what your character's lover was like. was she a kind, loving woman who made a horrifying decision (to kill her own son) because she felt it was the best decision? or was she a twisted, manipulative woman who was only looking out for her own interests? could your character understand her viewpoint to some extent? worse, is his son old enough to be aware of what his father did? will he forgive his father? your balancing of the answers to these questions is what will make this act forgiveable versus unforgiveable. if your character ignores the emotional pain attached the fallout he's going to seem aloof and emotionless and i would feel less inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. it's all in how human you make him and how intensely you portray his self-imposed mental backlash.

    I feel like this is obvious, but... yes. yes it does. dude killed his son's mom.

    i don't have a good answer for this; it would depend on the context of the story, the relationships these characters share, and the endgame that the story is building towards. the most important thing to me is that a situation this heavy needs to be treated with care. this is particularly true if his lover was a good person looking to kill her own son; there needs to be something enormous, immovable, unstoppable, preventing her from taking some other action. no parent will kill their own child without a horrifyingly apocalyptic reason.

    i've read too many books that take a deeply emotional moment and gloss over it because the author didn't dig in to the dark corners of their characters' anguish, and it came off cheap. give me something that will freeze the air in my lungs and make me want to run and hug my husband. if this character cared about his lover, depict him kneeling next to her pressing her hand to his cheek and gasping his apologies as she fades away. make his hands shake under the faucet as he washes the blood away. capture the haunted look in his eyes when he accidentally looks at himself in the mirror and flinches away.

    i would recommend answering these questions yourself. pretend someone else asked them for some other story and think about what you'd say. a lot can jump out of your head if you back away from the up-close view of your story.
     
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  5. Xboxlover

    Xboxlover Senior Member

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    Loses respect from his fellow team mates (warriors) and loses respect from the woman that he actually loves, putting a divide between them. Trust breaking in society.
    He can't get the girl he loves so he went on a bender and slept with a prostitute who was into her own motives for success and having a child prevents that success. He felt obligated to stay with the mother when he found out she was pregnant and tried to make a life work but she ended up resenting him for it.
     
  6. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    My belief is that if it's possible to protect a person without killing their attacker, but if you kill their attacker anyway, then you didn't kill the attacker for the sake of protecting the victim, you killed for the sake of killing...

    But also that if you truly regret doing wrong and wish that you could take it back, then you are not unforgivable.
     
  7. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The bastards hung me in the spring of '25.... Contributor

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    Yeah, you should be able to get a bit of tension out of that. Not sure how much mileage you can get out of it without belaboring the sentiment, but it should help things out. I'm assuming the warriors are familiar with justifiable violence by virtue of being warriors, so if the guy did what he had to do, I would think that they would be cool with that. But maybe not. Depends on how you write it.
     
  8. Xboxlover

    Xboxlover Senior Member

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    Lost his shit and killed her out of anger and psychosis to a degree he's unhinged.

    What if certain types of violence aren't justifiable? Since a few of my characters are more on the good good side. I don't want to belabor it at all but it will pose an issue for a time. Especially since he betrays one of them later on for a girl he's in love with. He's just a selfish man who wants what he wants at any cost.
     
  9. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    To be honest you make a MC relateable by writing him in a relateable way regardless of what he does or has done. My MC in "the darkest storm" is not by reasonable standards a good guy... he robs banks for a living and carries out hits for organised crime. In his past life he was in special forces and did a number of highly dubious things for the government too.

    However the main story of the book is about his trying to save his gay friend in a neo fascist america - because the guy concerned is his dead fiance's younger brother and he promised her he'd look after him.. and being true to her memory is about all the moral compass he has left.

    Thus he remains relatable because hes on an honorable 'mission' and he doesnt come across as that bad a guy despite his plentiful faults

    As homer said Studly do-right riding in to save the day and get the girl is boring and storys where the good guys are shining paragons of virtue in white hats fighting the wholy evil bad guys are unbelieavable - therefore readers will relate to a character who is flawed and who does bad things if they can understand and associate with his motives for doing them.
     
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  10. Trish

    Trish Damned if I do and damned if I don't Contributor

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    I was with everyone else, that there's nothing to defend, and he killed her to save his son. That is entirely defensible in my mind, and really doesn't even require any thought on my part. Someone's killing my kid - they're going to die. I don't care who they are.

    But then you said this -
    And now I'm not so sure. Do you mean he got her away from his son, and then killed her in the heat of the moment? Or do you mean the son wasn't in direct danger at the time he killed her and he just did it because he was pissed that she had tried? It makes a difference.
     
  11. MythMachine

    MythMachine Active Member

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    First off, there is a key bit of information that I'm lacking before making an accurate image or conclusion of the scene in my mind, therefore I pose this question:
    For what reason did the mother try to kill the son?

    Edit: Make that two questions: Did the son do anything to warrant the mother's murderous intent?

     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2017
  12. Trish

    Trish Damned if I do and damned if I don't Contributor

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    I believe the woman is the mother of the child. It's not the woman's mother. (Not that it answers your question, just saying)
     
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  13. MythMachine

    MythMachine Active Member

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    Ah, apologies, I misread the first sentence.
     
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  14. Trish

    Trish Damned if I do and damned if I don't Contributor

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    I did too, the first time.
     
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  15. MythMachine

    MythMachine Active Member

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    I tend to speed read when I'm tired, so thanks for catching that for me =)
    Also edited the questions to be accurate.
     
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  16. Xboxlover

    Xboxlover Senior Member

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    In the heat of the moment, but she'd also attempted several times in the storyline. He loses his crap because its the one thing he detests in human nature, I'd like to portray it as hitting home a bit. But he is unhinged, he's not a good person but can be and changes throughout the story steals his child away and becomes a great dad. His change arc was due to his learning from the school of hard knocks and parenting for the first time.

    Sorry hope that helps.
     
  17. Mayarra

    Mayarra Banned

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    How would you keep a character relatable to the audience after such a crime?
    During my time as a psychology graduate, I took a rather big interest in 'evil'. One thing I learned is that of those people, none did the things they did because they were bad things to do. They might realize they did a bad thing and regret doing it, but at the time of committing, it was something that made them feel good. People dont take drugs because it kills them, they take drugs because it makes them feel happy, very simply put.
    Your character does those things to save a loved one, which is fine.
    If you think the action might not be relatable, see if you can make the reason behind the action relatable.

    To jsut toss some names out there, Hannibal Lecter in the movie Silence of the lambs. Evil guy, very manipulative, yet people love him. He might not have many actual reasons to do things, but his mere nature almost made people forget he is a criminal. Same but turned around for Jigsaw in the Saw movie series. He tortured/killed people who he deemed were unappreciative of life to teach them that life is a precious gift. (on a fair note, a poll I saw still showed that 80% viewed him as a bad guy.) I liked that about Jigsaw, he taught in the harshest way possible and people cheered for him... though most of the audience probably cheered just to see him make another puzzle.

    How do you keep people wanting to read about characters in gray areas?
    Same answer as above, a good reason can make for a good story. To make people read on, you could make the character feel very conflicted and troubled, maybe even blaming himself for what had happened.

    What things interest you about gray areas?
    Gray areas are where interesting storylines hide.

    If you as a reader find this forgivable/unforgivable, why? (Just curious. Wanting to see potential reactions.)
    forgivable if his reaction to his action is humane, after all he had a reason he couldnt change. If he is conflicted about it afterwards and haunted by his actions, he is good :D

    Would this work for a tension builder or high stakes plot and why?
    Depends on how you build towards it. If it is just "BOOM, in your face!", then nope. But if for example your character is shown to love his partner as much as one can love a partner, it will make the moment a very heavy-weighing one.

    How would you approach this same scenario given the chance?
    Knife, right through the forehead. So he has to be close and her dead stare just keeps on staring.
     
  18. MythMachine

    MythMachine Active Member

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    Well, this might just be me, and I may be thinking too far into it, but I feel like having a child is a lot less detrimental to success than murdering said child. I don't think a prostitute will find good business in a prison cell

    You also say that the father "steals his child away", presumably from the mother. I have a hard time seeing something. Did the dad save his child every time he was under the threat of death? If so, how did he manage to always be in the right place at the right time to save him? If not, what method did the mother use to attempt the murders and how was the child able to survive multiple times? My last question here is: Why, if he had knowledge that his child was the target of a murder, did the father wait to steal his son away after several attempts rather than just the first?
     
  19. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll "It's a messy business." :P Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with all who said totally justifiable action on the father's part.
    Pretty cut and dry, open and shut, no gray as far as thee eye can see.
    It is all in how he deals with what he has done that will have more
    of an impact on the reader than the act itself. He did the right thing
    given the circumstances. So what is your question? :)
     
  20. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    As long as the character is sympathetic then the reader will forgive them for doing wrong. Essentially; if they are a good person whose trying to be good then you will maintain the sympathy even if they fall short of it. When they have a good reason to do bad, or are forced to, or have a true moment of weakness where they couldn't control themselves then it won't turn them into a villain. They do need to be a bit haunted by it, but you can do it. You need to have a really good reason though. It doesn't have to be a big deal in the actual story (if you're a jerk like me then their terrible betrayal will achieve nothing and haunt them more for it) but it needs to be a big deal to the character.

    To me the grey areas are the only ones worth writing in. Even my one genuinely good character (he is a literal Christ figure in that story) is doing things that the audience are definitely not going to be ok with at first but that's a good thing. Putting the audience in the position of not quite knowing how to feel about what they are seeing is a good thing in this case. When the audience look at something and go "Man, I am kinda uncomfortable about seeing these two characters hook up... But they're really cute and happy together and I don't want to stop them... But she was kinda his mother... But it works and their happy but..." then that's awesome. And playing off that dissonance is really useful and lets you explore dark and complicated things.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2017
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  21. Xboxlover

    Xboxlover Senior Member

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    He's with her the whole time after she tried the first time. During her pregnancy, she attempted aborting several times and he restrained her or had her watched by doctors. The final attempt was after the child was born that is why he couldn't steal the child away until then.
     
  22. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Yeah, this is the part that's going to lose you a lot of readers and turn sympathy to the woman. Imprisoning a woman and forcing her to carry out a pregnancy? Yikes.

    And after he successfully forced her to carry his child, why didn't he just take that child with him and leave her alone?

    This is turning into a nightmare of forced pregnancy, forced motherhood, and a woman being executed for the crime of not wanting to be a mother.
     
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  23. Trish

    Trish Damned if I do and damned if I don't Contributor

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    Sorry, Xboxlover, I somehow missed this when you answered me. Thank you for explaining.

    I don't really agree. It depends entirely on how it's written and whether or not his reasons were strong enough for him. They don't actually have to be strong enough reasons for the reader to believe he did the right thing - they just have to be enough for the reader to believe they were strong enough for him to believe it had to be done. In the simple explanation of it, no, I'm not really feeling any love for him, but without much strain at all, I can see how someone's drive to protect their child could be strong enough for them to do this. Then too, you have to consider the time period, the way the world in which this happens functions, etc. It's not a black and white thing, and I can totally see it working. For everyone? No. But for enough? Yeah.

    Look at The Handmaid's Tale and then tell me this would alienate too many people. Nope. I wouldn't worry about it.
     
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  24. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    But we're not supposed to LIKE the people imposing forced reproduction in the Handmaid's Tale.We're supposed to hate them a lot. I thought that we were supposed to have sympathy with this guy? If he's the villain, sure, this works.

    I think that the question of "Why didn't he take the child rather than murder the mother?" is a pretty relevant one.
     
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  25. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Returning to expand:

    This originally sounded like a man who killed his child's mother to protect his child.

    Now it sounds like a man who imprisons a woman, forces her to have his child, forces her to care for his child, and when she becomes clearly a danger to his child, murders her.

    The first one is a whole lot more forgivable than the second. @Xboxlover , if you're trying to get the relative clarity of the first, it would make more sense to make this a wanted child, to eliminate the idea of him forcing her to carry the child. That then raises the question of why she becomes a danger to the child, but getting the reader past the forced-pregnancy-prisoner theme is probably going to be a harder problem to solve.
     
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