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A successful POV character should be...

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Twook00, Sep 24, 2012.

  1. Twook00

    Twook00 Sage


    Character traits aside, what are the fundamentals of a good POV character. When I think of Tyrion Lannister from ASOIAF (one of my all-time favorite POV characters), he is all of the above. When I think of Sansa (also from ASOIAF, and one of my LEAST favorite POV characters of all-time), she is quite honestly none of the above, despite the fact that she is very well written.

    You could say, "Start with who gets hurt the most by the events taking place?" In that respect, Sansa makes sense. Yet, I still did not like reading her chapters. I liked her as a character in the story, but not a POV.

    You could say, "A character should want something. He/She should have a desire." Sansa had many wants and desires...

    Maybe this is just too big and too complicated? I feel like I'm asking what the meaning of life is.
  2. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    All of the above. I'd aim for at least two of the four with three being an ideal average.

    A main character should have one defining, and driving want that explains all their actions. That want should be very simple, very primal with easily identifiable steps in order to achieve it. It can't be something abstract like they want to make the world a better place or they want to destroy evil.

    Sansa has this one defining want, and it's very obvious once you take a moment to examine her character.
  3. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    The only requirement is "interesting," in my view. If the reader isn't interested, you have a problem. They don't have to be sympathetic or likeable - you can find good books with main character that are not. Also, proactive tends to go with interesting, but doesn't have to.
  4. Twook00

    Twook00 Sage

    Agreed. Although "Interesting" is a very abstract thing. It's hard to say what makes a character interesting. I can look at someone like Tyrion and say he is sympathetic because of this, and he is proactive because of that, but I don't know if I could explain why he is interesting. Maybe that is where the character traits come in (witty, dwarf, cynical...).

    I don't know. It hurts my brain.
  5. SlimShady

    SlimShady Troubadour

    Interesting and immersive. They don't have to be likeable or sympathetic, but the reader should have a clear idea why the characters did what they did. Especially the PoV, the reader should really get into the PoV's head.
    Feo Takahari likes this.
  6. PrincessaMiranda

    PrincessaMiranda Troubadour

    I, personally, like characters that I can relate to. Male or female, if I feel a connection I can put myself into the story . Truly immerse myself, (To the point where I stop reading and blink stupidly, realizing that THIS is the real world and I get disappointed... etc) So I suppose when creating your character you should think about the audience you are targeting, say... a 15 year old girl, her concerns are trifling yet seem as though the world is ending. Write a character with similar problems, similar simpering attitude. The 15 year old girl will love it, but a 30 year old man might think it stupid... hopefully. :p

    This is probably obvious... I just like to hear myself type.
  7. The Dark One

    The Dark One Auror

    I would be very nervous about anyone who related to the 1st person narrator of my new book. He's a real bastard and gets up to some pretty evil stuff while maintaining a narrative of contempt and scorn for all around him.

    Yet the beta readers all adored him, and I find myself laughing at his thoughts and antics despite having read them a thousand times.

    Interesting, absorbing, compelling...someone who draws you into their world without you even noticing.
  8. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

    To slightly rephrase Slimshady's statement, I'd say a good POV character is one the reader can understand intimately. This often equates to likeability, but it can also mean an awful person who's awful in a consistent and comprehensible way (e.g. the narrator of Lolita.)

    On the other hand, Camus's The Stranger is a great novel with a narrator whose motivations are deliberately incomprehensible, so what do I know?

    P.S. In response to PrincessMiranda, it's important not to undervalue cross-demographic appeal. Take a look at Tiger and Bunny, the former half of whom is a relatively older man, but who's still idealistic and in some ways "young", and so is appealing to younger viewers.
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2012
  9. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    Feo Takahari:

    I think what made it work with me for The Stranger is that the narrator himself doesn't even seem to find himself comprehensible, or necessarily want to. He's simply outside of comprehensible society.

    As for Lolita - if there's a piece of fiction every writer should read, that's it.
  10. srcroft

    srcroft Minstrel

    The Fundamentals:
    Thematically Sound
    Intriguing or Interesting (Good or Bad)
    Has layers including traits that cause tension and conflict
    Opinion>Dominant Attitude> Values > Core Belief

    And not Sympathetic but needs to let the reader be empathetic. Dexter the serial killer draws sympathy or at least empathy from the viewers. You can have a vile vile main character and still draw sympathy.
  11. srcroft

    srcroft Minstrel

    Everyone's got some bastard in them. Look at the movie falling down. He goes crazy, but you empathize. I think people associate with your character, not in a sociopathic way, but in a I get him way--and thats all you need.
  12. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    Sympathy is important for any main character, especially a POV.
    Being interesting is even more vital. If it's not interesting, why read at all?
    The OP stated "use the character that gets hurt the most". I don't look for this in a character but I do look for something similar. I look for who has (or maybe who will generate) the biggest EMOTIONAL reaction.
    Characters who have an intense reaction may not be the one who is hurt the most by the events. Sometimes, the POV is chosen because I want the reader to have the most dramatic emotional reaction (sometimes a negative one).
    Emotional response, when written with proper description, can be very immersive.

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