How to make a "dark" protagonist but have him be likable

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by UltimaBahamut93, Nov 29, 2018.

  1. UltimaBahamut93

    UltimaBahamut93 Apprentice

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    My MC was once a paladin that fought for the Church of Light and hunted down evil until he was turned into a vampire. He left his order and was filled with despair and hatred but decided that if his soul is to be damned then he'll use darkness to fight darkness. He uses dark powers to hunt and kill other vampires. I want him to have a dark and brooding demeanor but want the reader to have a reason to like him. I could make him very charismatic since he does enjoy killing other evil creatures despite being one himself. I was thinking he could be sarcastic but I don't want him to seem nonchalant. Any advice or examples for other works I should take note of?

    edit: even as he grows stronger and gains more powers I want it to be evident that his self hatred becomes greater.
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2018
  2. Helen

    Helen Mystagogue

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    It's like Tony Soprano. He does it for his family. You give some reason to be likeable.
     
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  3. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Mythic Scribe

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    give him some friends, family members, and maybe even other Paladins to help out now and again. They don't have to like him.
     
  4. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    Save the cat.

    It's a trick from the book by the same name. Basically, very near the start, you have your main character do something that gives the reader a positive impression of them, something nice - like saving a cat that's been chased up in a tree, or something like that.

    First impressions are really tough to change, so if you make the character do something the reader can relate to and approve of real early on, it will stick with them, even if they do horrible things later on. It'll be something that's not really important to the story as a whole, but which gives the reader a glimpse of what's underneath the surface.

    I used this when introducing both of my current main characters, Roy and Alene.

    Roy's going to be doing some really awful things throughout the story, and I needed a reason for the reader to like him despite this. There was no real chance in the story I had planned to do that though. Roy's basically preoccupied feeling sorry for himself and trying to make up his mind about stuff.
    To fix this I added an extra first chapter to show off who Roy is as a person before the story really starts.

    What happens is he goes to a book shop, and he gets offered a discount by the owner. However, Roy is stinking rich and doesn't need no discount, so he offers to pass the discount on to the next person in line - a poor-looking student.
    That sounds like a real nice thing to do, doesn't it? Well, it doesn't actually work out. The poor student has a lot of pride and doesn't accept no alms from random strangers, so she rejects the offer. The shopkeeper then gets real offended and starts laying into the student, and Roy feels real awkward about it, so he has to figure out a way to quickly dissuade the situation.

    The basic idea is to show Roy as himself in an everyday situation, and show how his instincts are to try and be a good guy.

    Later on, Roy does a number of things that would make him seem incredibly unlikable on their own, but as the reader already knows he's a good guy at heart, they're more willing to accept that - at least that's the theory.
     
  5. UltimaBahamut93

    UltimaBahamut93 Apprentice

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    That's a good idea. The opening for my book is that the MC boards a train and sits in a booth(I think that's the right word) with another man. They start to chit chat but the MC starts asking questions and pressing on subjects that slowly reveals that he has been following this person and knows that he is a vampire and and trying to get information out of him. The vampire will attempt to quickly kill the MC with his inhuman speed but it is also revealed that our MC is not only a vampire hunter but a vampire himself as he too moves at the same inhuman speed to dodge/block the knife that would have slit his throat open.

    Perhaps I can have the MC waiting for the train to approach and have some sort of interaction with kids, A ball rolls up and hits him as the kids come over and apologize. He could playfully toss the ball around or do some kind of neat trick with it for them, then when the train comes or he sees his target, he'll wave to them goodbye saying that he's "on a business trip."
     
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  6. Night Gardener

    Night Gardener Mystagogue

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    Kindness can be learned, but should be instinct: first nature. These are all great examples in this thread. Even something as simple as the character walking down a street, noticing beetles in their path, and actively avoiding stepping on them as they travel, works to illustrate what a character does without really overthinking or over-analyzing.
     
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  7. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    Or there might be a lone mother with a pram and a lot of bags and your MC might help her get the pram on to the train - or something like that. :)
     
  8. Night Gardener

    Night Gardener Mystagogue

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    It's like creating layers of plausible deniability and slowly escalating the criteria for a reader or viewer to willingling suspend their disbelief and judgement.

    You're showing a nicer inner character in their workings, their interactions. Even just a glimpse can maybe be enough. If a character rescues a bag of kittens from drowning, beats up the guy that threw them in the river, I might be able to sit through the part where he lets innocent hostages die because it's not his obligation to rescue them. I think the character you're formulating might be a Chaotic Neutral, with a specific task of hunting down and destroying vampires. Maybe, a Chaotic Good. There's a reason he's decided to take out vampires, and those reasons do have beneficial peripheral benefits.

    SvrtnsseSvrtnsse the 'save the cat' made me immediately think of Hellboy, and his soft spot for cats. Or Deadpool, with his random affinity for pop culture and cutsie stuff. Nevermind that he spent the last 5 pages gleefully gunning someone down, he likes 'Pokémon and Star Wars and shite like that.
     
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  9. Royal

    Royal New Member

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    Make them normal. Give them a human aspect and make their antagonist someone who would make sense as someone that would be an enemy for them.
    It's a little bit of a cop out to have a protagonist who does the standard thing of being amoral, only to perform a binary good behaviour to balance it. I like when the enemy is typically what would be referred to 'lawful good' who's competing with the main character.
     
  10. skip.knox

    skip.knox Staff Moderator

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    I'm currently reading The Godfather. Much can be learned by studying that book. The movie follows the book closely, so you don't really need to read it for the story (if you've seen the movie; and if you haven't seen the movie, consider it this week's homework assignment). But you can definitely watch how Puzo has harrowingly bad people behave in warm and affecting ways. Puzo set the mold on that one.
     
  11. Firefly

    Firefly Journeyman

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    There are definitely things you can do it you're worried about him not being likeable enough, but from what you describe, I don't suspect it will be much of a problem. He sounds like an interesting and compelling character. I'm reading between the lines a little, but it seems like he wants to be a good person and protect people and all that, and that the darkness within him is something he hates and can't really control. Vulnerability and wanting to be a good person are both very sympathetic traits, and I don't think mixing it with a demeanor like what you have is going to take away from that. It probably makes him work better.

    That said, characters are a subjective thing, so maybe someone else is going to hate him. I wouldn't worry about it too much, at least at this stage.
     
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