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Old 07-24-2019, 10:32 PM   #1
Rantanplan
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Default Loving your character too much

I'm having a hard time with this. I want to do what the story requires, but I can't tell if I like a character too much to make him do something terrible that would serve the plot.


I find it an interesting and very ethical dilemma, in the sense that we should strive for honesty but that there may be things that keep us from it --in many cases, gratuitous elements, or in this case, misplaced attachment, perhaps? If I spare my character something the story requires simply because I'm too attached to him, am I being dishonest?


OR: is this a good way to gauge what an audience might feel, and should the writer then adjust the narrative to at least provide... I don't know, not redemption necessarily, since there is such a thing as poetic justice after all and the notion that there are certain lines that cannot be crossed in fiction without consequences, but something.


I hate to say this, but when your character is beautiful and witty and charming, it's a lot harder to get him to do horrible things on the page than if we wasn't.



Thoughts?
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Old 07-24-2019, 11:54 PM   #2
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Default Re: Loving your character too much

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rantanplan View Post
I'm having a hard time with this. I want to do what the story requires, but I can't tell if I like a character too much to make him do something terrible that would serve the plot.


I find it an interesting and very ethical dilemma, in the sense that we should strive for honesty but that there may be things that keep us from it --in many cases, gratuitous elements, or in this case, misplaced attachment, perhaps? If I spare my character something the story requires simply because I'm too attached to him, am I being dishonest?


OR: is this a good way to gauge what an audience might feel, and should the writer then adjust the narrative to at least provide... I don't know, not redemption necessarily, since there is such a thing as poetic justice after all and the notion that there are certain lines that cannot be crossed in fiction without consequences, but something.


I hate to say this, but when your character is beautiful and witty and charming, it's a lot harder to get him to do horrible things on the page than if we wasn't.



Thoughts?
I'm a little lost on this. What is this "story requires" stuff? Why does any story "require" anything?

Maybe others will disagree, and I'm making guesses sight unseen, but...

...it sounds to me like you already know YOU don't like a certain something about the genuiness of propping up the character in this way and therefore are trying to shoehorn this character into "PLOT" that YOU don't like, but assume an audience might.

Idk... that's just not my style on the page. I write what *I* believe this character would do and I don't give a fukk (most will hate it anyway, so do it YOUR way).

CAVEAT: Don't listen to me. My scripts are currently failing (meaning not selling... generals are meaningless to me).

Having said that: I've never met anyone who is wholly GOOD, have you? No matter how beautiful, witty, and charming... I will fukkin ALWAYS spot their flaw.

I think the obstacle is that, nowadays, via social media, people are very savvy as to hustlers/conmen presenting FAKE flaws in order to APPEAR sympathetic/empathetic in order to sell a shitty product. I think the trick is then, how do you present it in a way that resonates as genuine?

Example: The character hates this THING about themselves (you know, like real people) and doesn't want anyone to know they aren't as "perfect" as they feel they must pretend to be because _____. There's a reason for it. It's a defense against pain. Normally, people act out of not wanting to face pain in nearly every aspect of their lives.

Example: Buying a house, car, vacation, etc (don't fukk me over... I'm skeptical you might be trying to.). Public speaking: don't laugh at me, or think I'm stupid, or ugly, or dress weird etc. You name it, all we do is try to avoid emotional pan.

So that's my question: What emotional PAIN is your character trying to avoid, and what are they willing to do to avoid it?

Sight unseen, it feels, to me, like you don't want your character to REALIZE they're just as fukked up as the rest of us... and that may not be relatable. That's not, as the studios call it, "likable." The note will be "Idk... just didn't connect with me." (wrong word IMO. Should be UNDERSTANDABLE not "likable". Currently, I don't UNDERSTAND why you're trying to protect this character from all the bullsh!t we all go through.)
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Old 07-25-2019, 12:11 AM   #3
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Default Re: Loving your character too much

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I hate to say this, but when your character is beautiful and witty and charming, it's a lot harder to get him to do horrible things on the page than if we wasn't.
BTW - Ever seen American Psycho? Your statement is simply untrue. If anything, it's the opposite. The truth is, society allows "the beautiful/talented people" to get away with a lot more devious behavior (#MeToo), so they often do it.

I used to model, I've hung out with some incredibly good looking, witty and charming people who were absolute PIGS, because they knew society would let them get away with it and strangely justify it and protect them.
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Old 07-25-2019, 12:15 AM   #4
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Default Re: Loving your character too much

Dude, this has nothing to do with social media or anything. It's about story. And characters. We might create these stories and these characters, but there also has to be an inherent truth about them that we subscribe to.



And as weird as it may sound, at this juncture I feel I am a "parent," in that I do not want to admit that this is something that my "child" would actually do.
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Old 07-25-2019, 12:23 AM   #5
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Default Re: Loving your character too much

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Dude, this has nothing to do with social media or anything. It's about story. And characters. We might create these stories and these characters, but there also has to be an inherent truth about them that we subscribe to.

And as weird as it may sound, at this juncture I feel I am a "parent," in that I do not want to admit that this is something that my "child" would actually do.
You serious? The entire world is about social media these days. And...

...Story is about real life.

But whatever...

The question is simple: WHY are you trying to protect this character?

What do you gain if no one else relates to them but you? Said another way: A parent ALWAYS believes their child is the best looking and most talented, even when no one else agrees.

I think you gotta step back and imagine this character as someone else's kid. How would you write that? The same, different?

There's that meme. Something along the lines of: "Mom, all that bad stuff I did as a kid. Just be glad you don't know the real story." It's funny because it's true.
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Old 07-25-2019, 07:54 AM   #6
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Default Re: Loving your character too much

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...at this juncture I feel I am a "parent," in that I do not want to admit that this is something that my "child" would actually do.
This sounds a bit like the old "don't be afraid to kill off your darlings" trope.

That trope, as with any other, doesn't mean that you should always kill off your main characters, or knock off the ones with the sympathy, but that you must have the courage to do so if it serves the plot or story objective.

Example: Two time travel movies

12 Monkeys (hero dies at end, and girl left alone to face the very bad world)

Time Cop (hero lives at end, returns to present with girl AND CHILD intact)

Which one is more memorable? Heck, they made about the same amount of money, based on budget spent, and there are a ton of differences in plot, quality of work, etc., but for my money the one that's lasted is the former.

Again, this doesn't mean you have to kill somebody off, but maybe to kill them physically is a parallel to staining them ethically/morally.

Anyway, if they're imperfect at the beginning, doesn't that mean they have further to travel (a good thing) to achieve sainthood at the end - which is the arc, which is supposed to be the be-all and end-all of storytelling?

In what I've often called my best story, my guy has it all, but at the end he loses everything - but recovers his soul (which he'd lost in an out-of-character bribe). And only he (and the audience) really knows this; every other character in the story probably thinks "What a loser!"

So, give 'er (him?) a wart, I say. A big one.
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Old 07-25-2019, 10:45 AM   #7
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Default Re: Loving your character too much

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Originally Posted by Rantanplan View Post
I'm having a hard time with this. I want to do what the story requires, but I can't tell if I like a character too much to make him do something terrible that would serve the plot.

...

Thoughts?
It may be that you've created the wrong character for your story/genre, or you've fallen in love with a fictional character and that love is more important to you than writing a good story.

There are probably other options but I can't think of them at the moment.

HTH,
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Old 07-25-2019, 11:03 AM   #8
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Default Re: Loving your character too much

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I'm having a hard time with this. I want to do what the story requires, but I can't tell if I like a character too much to make him do something terrible that would serve the plot. ...
Personally I think that's when your character "comes alive" — when he or she can't do what you originally intended them to do. Change the plot. Let the character be himself/herself.
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Old 07-25-2019, 09:59 PM   #9
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Default Re: Loving your character too much

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Personally I think that's when your character "comes alive" — when he or she can't do what you originally intended them to do. Change the plot. Let the character be himself/herself.
Best fiction writing I've ever done is when the characters take control. Often after pages of writing, their personalities finally kick in. Then you rewrite everything up to that point.

And I understand exactly what Rantanplan is talking about.

You get thinking of these folks as living, breathing people. And then you feel like a degenerate when you hurt one one of them.

But, it's something you have to do, sometimes, otherwise nobody is going to want revenge, or retribution for what happened to them.
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Old 07-26-2019, 12:52 AM   #10
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Default Re: Loving your character too much

I can't recall the title of the novel but my annoyance with something the character did in the last 10 pages always stuck with me because it was an example of what a writing prof said was a no-no: character manipulation. Which, in the book that irked me, seemed to serve only one purpose: big whammo ending.

In the first 200-plus pages there was no hint that the character would melt down like she did. No back story that might hint it was possible. Nada.

My advice is to go back into the pages preceding the event and drop in something to indicate it is possible.

The other thing to consider: when people get desperate they're capable of anything. So perhaps raise the stakes for whatever triggers the out-of-character actions of your character.
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