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Active not reactive?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Zara, Jan 26, 2016.

  1. Zara

    Zara Dreamer

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    I noticed most beta readers weren't keen on the main character I was creating and I realized that was because they were always reacting to a situation and not being proactive enough which is something I've tried to work on in this new novel. But I wanted to be sure this character was proactive. My book is fantasy and set in another world.

    This character "Mark" is a coward. That's his big flaw and important to the novel. So when he is summoned to fight in battle and report for training his first reaction is to run away before he has to attend. He knows they are calling civilians up for a reason - they are running out of soliders in the army which obviously means they're dying. He doesn't want to die.

    But does running away make him reactive or active? He is doing something just not the right or heroic thing. I'm really not sure if I get the whole conceptive of proactive characters
    I really need some help with this one thanks guys
     
    KC Trae Becker likes this.
  2. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    He can be proactive if he has a goal to work towards that he actually pursues.

    Being reactive doesn't mean being inactive. It just means that something exterior to the character is directing his activities; the character's "goal" comes into existence because some other force/character made that goal necessary, and it's more of an ad hoc goal (like getting away or blocking a blow.) Even if a character actually fights a foe, he can still be acting reactively. For example, if he's going about his business and he's suddenly attacked by a mysterious being, whether he runs or, if he can't run, fights, he's being reactive.

    Being proactive would be: hunting down that mysterious being who is going about his/her business elsewhere.

    I think those prefixes point at the significant difference. When is the goal decided? Before the action starts...or after, as a consequence of others' actions that have already occurred?

    So in your example, if all Mark is doing is running away from fighting in the army, then he's being reactive. I.e., whatever actions he is taking are all about getting away from that summons to duty that has already occurred.

    To make him proactive, you'd need to give him a goal of his own. Getting away is only a goal because that summons to battle came first; it is reactive. But if you give him, instead, something else to pursue, and he can remove himself from having to fight in the army while pursuing this other thing, then he'd be proactive and avoiding battle would be a mere bonus.
     
    Zara likes this.
  3. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    I think the long story short version is: running away is fine but at the same time, it's best if the character is running to something.

    Cowards are a hard MC, no doubt about that. Even as POV character, it's a rough go.
     
  4. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    Just a note. Early in a novel or story, characters might often be acting reactively. An inciting event happens; they react. Usually by about somewhere in the second act, MCs should probably begin to transition to being far more proactive if they start out the book being quite reactive. (Of course, characters that are proactive from the very beginning can be, and probably are, more interesting on the whole.)

    Also, if the situation of the story requires them to be reactive early, this doesn't mean that they can't also be proactive in other ways. Even if they are having to react to a villain's actions or other events, they can be proactive in pursuing a love interest, a side quest, and so forth, and this can show the character has the capacity to be a proactive character or have a proactive personality.

    Here's a great Writing Excuses podcast covering the topic: Writing Excuses 9.32: Adjusting Character Proactivity | Writing Excuses.
     
    Heliotrope likes this.
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