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plot worries?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by ascanius, Sep 5, 2012.

  1. ascanius

    ascanius Inkling

    Ok, looking back one of the major things that worries me about one aspect of my plot, for one character only and for this first part, is the level negativity. What I mean by negativity is this. She escapes a prison and spends the majority of her time trying to overcome mental blocks to succeed. Her successes can be as small as simply telling someone "no" while the vast majority of the time she obeys, has a pessimistic world view along with very low self esteem.

    I, personally, have found that self change is not something that one can just decide. It takes a lot to change how one responds, especially when previous experiences have been negative. My question is how much is the reader willing to put up with. I have read some fantasy books where I would rather the MC dies because of their lazy and pessimistic outlook. Yet I have kept on reading simply due to the other characters. I wonder if this is just my own perception or something that others share.

    I am loath to change this particular character because I feel, from experience and research, it is accurate within the realms of my experience. So what do you think? Are you willing to put up with characters who fail at the aspects of life that the vast majority of individuals think mundane knowledge. So what is the limit of your "why" tolerance? What is it, if it is not outright "whiny-ness" but a complication of past experiences that creates such world view that in turn must be over come do you accept and/or prefer? Or perhaps do you prefer the classic hero/heroin type stories, albeit complicated and not standard fare. What are your thoughts? Opinions?
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2012
  2. RHawkins

    RHawkins Dreamer

    This story has one character is that right? in which case you can't rely on other good natured, optimistic, larger than life supporting characters to help her see the change. I'd say it is interactions with other characters that help bring a pessimistic character out of their pit, especially if those characters are willing to sacrifice for her.

    I'm struggling to think how to do this with only one character though, as she will have to snap at certain events and go 'I'm not taking this anymore!'

    As for MC's that are hated in one of my books the main villain and main hero almost do a role reversal. As the main character keeps losing close friends to his mission, he becomes more and more consumed by revenge, and ends up betraying the remaining chars just so he can complete his revenge. On the other hand the main villain captures a main char, and as they travel together, you learn that he isn't such a bad guy, he just does what needs to be done. By the end of the books before their final showdown, you're meant to question who you're rooting for, the man considered a hero, who is so selfish he abandoned his friends to destroy those enemies that wounded him, and the villain who despite slaughtering many people (only warriors and those that could kill him, never civilians) is actually trying to accomplish something for the greater good of the world.

    Making an MC detestable isn't a bad thing, but you have to do it in such a way that people still care about what they're doing, and that it still interests them.
  3. Dan Latham

    Dan Latham Minstrel

    Is your character all bad? Does she have any redemptive qualities? Readers, in my opinion, will put up with a lot of negative characteristics as long as there is some sign the character will change. If the character has goals and is actively moving to attain them, the reader will go along. That doesn't mean she is always successful, but a proactive character is infinitely more interesting than a passive one.
  4. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Inkling

    People don't mind a anti-hero type of character they are actually one of my favourites.
    In Gone with the Wind Scarlett O'hara is a wealthy, beautiful young woman, whose clever, determind and sly. These traits help her out later on. But she is vain, snobbish and slef-serving. These traits don't all together go but they get sanded down. She lives through a war, starves and kills. And it changes her. All the way through the book she is spiteful, shrewd and irritating at times, but she has traits that are inspring. It is her determination alone that gets her and her family through the War and starvation. She hs nothing. Then builds herself back up.
    As long as the characters 'bad' traits are important to the story and as long as they have a few softer traits it's fine. It's good to see a character change as the story progresses.
    But they don't change over night, none of us do. Sometimes it even takes us a while for something to stink in, the changes can be so subtle we don't notice.
    But you seem to give things a lot of thought, and I like the sound of your character.
  5. gavintonks

    gavintonks Maester

    I suggest you read Stephen Donaldson gap series he handles this so incredibly well, you are left cold when he takes you through his characters mind, he literally rapes but it is compelling and so part of the story

    the acceptance is always the skill of the writing
  6. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    I don't think this is about a cold or nasty hero, but a despairing, limited one. And I think the difference between whininess and tight focus is how well you can get us involved with whatever she is struggling with.

    Seems like a lot of the key is right here. Fiction has been called life without the dull parts; you can also call it life with a magnifying glass on one thing. What you're trying to do is hold the reader with those small struggles, and that just means doing justice to all the things that make these things easier and harder and how she cares about the small prizes she wins.

    What might make this trickier than most "small-moment stories" could be the effect of her pessimism on the process, the way that she's going to go longer (and suffer more) between opportunities she takes or joys she can appreciate than most people. That might be a matter of pacing, piling on the pain and failures but being sure never to go too long without some bright moment.

    You could also make some of those hopes be gifts from someone else, so even fewer of her meager comforts are actually her own doing and signs she's getting better.

    Or some of those hopes could Go Wrong, turn out to be the wrong choice or just ruined by circumstance; this invests us in the character by following the up and the down, makes us more aware of whatever flaw or blind spot made it go wrong, and gives us a little more evidence that she's sometimes trying *something* even if the result is actually a setback for her journey.

    One other thing, a problem with all "small moment tales": give some nods to the world beyond her tiny struggles, don't pretend completely that your new focus is the whole world. (Spoiled Rich Kid tales can have the same problem in reverse, if they aren't careful.) Let that prison (I mean, it's a frickin' prison!) and what caused it and who else it affected sometimes have larger effects on things, or keep track of other people's lives; contrast someone daring to get married on a whim (or being murdered in an alley) with her self-constrained life. Some of those changes probably turn her own life upside down even though she did nothing to cause it, and the question is if she allows herself to even feel the difference, let alone make the best of it.

    Lots of ways to keep things grim, without forgetting there's more going on. But I do hope that at the end she's up to at least a token breakthrough.
  7. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    Have you ever had a friend you really wanted to hang out with, and every time you called her up, you say, "What do you want to do?"

    She says, "I don't know."

    So you say, "How about we go to the cafe?"

    "Nah, I went yesterday, and I don't like the owner anymore."

    "Okay, well, let's go to the lake."

    "I don't like the smell of fish."

    You grit your teeth. "Okay, let's see a movie."

    "I've seen them all."

    At the end of it, you want to strangle her with the phone cord and tell her to (some choice words of unkindness).

    That is what you want to avoid. Nothing is worse than having a character presented with options, and having them choose nothing, to be idle, to be carried along, wherever the stream takes them. As long as you can show a clear reason she is allowing things to happen, or being a sort of weak personality, it should be okay. But, the reason people read is to be drawn into a world, whether it is filled with mythical beasts and wonderful characters, or into the painful head of a battered, broken soul. You have to give us something to sink our teeth into, and as long as you do that, there is no right or wrong way to construct a character.

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