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Question about characters in my story...

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by WonderingSword5, Oct 15, 2021.

  1. WonderingSword5

    WonderingSword5 Troubadour

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    These characters are not MC's but are important characters in the story, that are fighting competitors in my fantasy tournament story.

    I want to know if any of them sound too controversial and could potentially run into some serious issues. :(

    One is a female fighter from Shanghai China, who is skilled in Sanda, combined with mixed martial arts, with some monkey kung fu influence. She's also a skilled olympic diver and she has these secret supernatural powers, gained from her father, who's Sun Wukong himself and her mother who's a descendant of a water dragon god. She joins the tournament to rescue her mother, who's held captive by the tournament sponsor.

    This fighter is from India. He's a Bollywood martial arts actor and comes from a rich family. But when his father passes, he becomes the head of his father's company, but then he is cursed into a were-rhino. He finds out that his father's company was responsible for decades of poaching rhinos, so someone had cursed him into a beastly form of one. He also finds out the sponsor of the tournament was connected to the poaching for decades as well. He then feels terrible about all this and he decides to use all his sum of money from his acting career and family money to save rhinos and all animals and end poaching. But it's not enough to end the curse and all of poaching animals, so he decides to enter the tournament and stop the sponsor for their poaching ways and to end the curse and revert back to human.

    This fighter is from Germany, and he's from a rich family of a Volkswagen company. But one day he is cursed into a were-boar by someone, for some shady act he committed so he enters the tournament to get his revenge.

    This fighter is from Mongolia, who's a skilled champion wrestler. He was kidnapped by the sponsor/bad guy of the tournament and experimented and turned into a were-crocodile. He is then forced upon his will to work for the bad guys, but escapes and will fight his way through the tournament and to reverse back to human and put an end to the sponsor's tournament and experiments.

    Please let me know your thoughts on these characters. If anything sounds bad or offensive, I will go over it again and fix them :(
     
  2. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    First things first, I'm fairly sure you can't use the name of a real-world corporation in a work of fiction. For your German, you're going to want to create a fictitious company.

    Second, read this, then spend time reading through the blog's tags and posts. Braving Diversity: Intro Post

    Until your characters hit the page, it's very difficult to gage whether or not a character or their actions is problematic. Write your story, do your homework about writing the other, and then you'll have a better idea of what you're doing and where you want to go with it.
     
    Chasejxyz likes this.
  3. WonderingSword5

    WonderingSword5 Troubadour

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    Okay, you're right about the German character. I can make it a fictional company, so everything with this so far I feel fine about.

    I spent some time reading that blog, and I think some of these might need to be changed like the fighter from India and Mongolia. They might be problematic :(

    Instead, I'm thinking the martial art character from India should come from a good company of saving animals and endangered species, after his father's passing, he leads the company, but finds out the sponsor tourney was trafficking animals through his dad's company. He tries to become an actor to raise funds to save the animals but wasn't enough so he enters the tournament to gain more funds, save the endangered species and find the truth how his father really died. I think this is an okay representation? And he can shapeshift with animal motifs of a tiger, cobra and cow instead of a rhino, seem less offensive?

    And the Mongolian wrestler I'm not too sure about, if him being forced upon his will to be turned into a crocodile man is offensive for a POC character, or I should just leave him as a wrestler human who joined the tournament because he wanted to stop the sponsor's shady businesses? Or just looking for some challenging competition to test his skills maybe?:(
     
  4. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Maester

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    You can, but it can be problematic. If you use an actual company in a work of fiction, you risk being sued by someone who has a vested interest in that company and feels you portrayed it in a negative and unfair way. For that reason, fiction writers nearly always change real world corporations to fictional ones. Sometimes very thinly disguised fictional ones, but still fiction. There's no law that says you have to, but it's easier to avoid problems that way.

    Mentioning brands is easier to get away with, if they're just mentioned as part of the landscape. If you have an aging hippie character who drives a Volkswagen bus, no problem, that's just what we'd expect an aging hippie character to do. If you have a character who's drinking a Coke, well, that's just part of the landscape. But if your character works for Coca Cola and has a tyrant of a manager... that could be a minefield.
     
    A. E. Lowan likes this.
  5. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Maester

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    Too late to edit, but meant to add: in your character's case, you probably wouldn't risk a lawsuit based on how you've portrayed the company, but if he or his family owns Volskwagen, someone might think he's based on a real person in the real family that owns that company. If he's coincidentally very much like a real person in that family--similar name, same physical description, similar personality--they'd have a case. Wouldn't necessarily win, but it would be a big hassle to defend. That's where the risk comes in. Again, you wouldn't be breaking any law if you did that, but to be on the safe side, a fictional company is probably best.
     
  6. WonderingSword5

    WonderingSword5 Troubadour

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    I'm probably better off making up the company's name and have it sound similar to Volkswagen. Is the whole premise of a cursed German guy who runs a car company a bad stereotype?
    And what about an Indian actor who comes from a rich family that gets cursed into rhino men for his family's ancestors crime in rhino poaching? :(
     
    Rosemary Tea likes this.
  7. Well, what I take from this introduction is that every character, save for maybe the wrestler, despite their motivations, seems to come from a high standing/privileged background. In other words, from these quick descriptions, I'm not finding much to make them come alive for me, even as secondary characters, which inherently means they trend more toward stereotypes. It's authorial humanizing which blurs the diversity line and lifts them up.

    I get that they are not your MCs but they should be fleshed out almost as if they were! Even if you only use 1/100th of what you create for them.

    I say this because they are all highly skilled in some athletic/martial art way or another which usually indicates a background of privilege: Daughter of a royal/god, actor/rich boy, son of a high powered exec, etc. Now, if one of your characters found, or better yet, coerced their way into the tournament without the accolades of such privilege and high skill, I'd be far more interested. But maybe that is your MC? But these backgrounds, outside of their various ethnicities, should be interesting and diverse enough to stand on their own, which means getting inside them more than the examples you gave above.

    Maybe one of the characters learned their martial art or wrestling skill on the streets or fought illegally to afford a family member's medical needs or their own survival from neighborhood or district crime lords.

    If you've researched modern Mongolian culture at all, you might've read how, for the modern nomadic people of the steppes, a hospital/doctor may be so far away they can neither afford the ride to reach it nor the medical care. A boy of ten with a broken arm suffered falling off a horse as he herded animals, might have it set in a sling by his parents because they cannot get to or afford a doctor and it sets crooked. (that is a true story by the way). All of the conflict for these characters seems rather grand and not as rooted in relatable every day life/struggles for most readers. You CAN and should have both for a different sort of diversity which is every bit as vital as ethnic diversity, but you'll have to drill down on the characters to get deep enough inside their lives to bring it forth.

    Also, seconding Rosemary's and A.E. Lowan's thoughts, don't use Volkswagen. There's really no need in a fictional story. In a story told in real world, modern earth, sure, ok. Though I cannot think of too many books I've read which use product/corporate names like iPhone or Apple or Mac. . . I see a lot of general references to tablets, laptops, cell phones. I see ti done more in suspense, spy, mystery novels set present day, but they are playing to a different audience. No reason to risk any conflict, or future dating of your story, unless it's vital to the plot. Even in Rosemary's great example of the old hippie, well, if that character is also a serial killer or drug dealer, you'd want to leave the brand name off and just go with camper van or have the hippie give his van an endearing "nickname' like "Sweet Loaf" (also a real world reference from an old hippie I've known. lol).

    Here's a few thoughts I had immediately while reading your descriptions:

    What about if the German fighter's dad ran a company that sought to compete with VW but which failed? Then you might keep the VW name since its only mentioned as the competition, which then also adds a distant credibility to the story. Perhaps financial trouble got the dad involved in something shady. Maybe the kid, given all the training and privilege the dad wanted to give him out of love for his only son, expected to live a cush life but then, upon the father's death, finds the company not only in severe financial ruin, but learns there is another more sinister debt owed to a criminal aspect the kid knew nothing about? Maybe he even considers keeping up with the illegal activities to keep the money coming in. Enter the curse. And a little detail here, make sure the FATHER, even if he's a minor character, is given his motivations too. For example, why would he take on VW and, in essence, all of the big five of German car-makers, against the warnings of all of his family and friends? It might only be mentioned in passing between the son and say, the estate lawyer, but it adds another layer.

    Maybe the Bollywood actor cared little about animals and the poaching of endangered species until he was cursed. Maybe he killed a rhino himself once on a family sponsored safari. . . maybe he is cursed with the memories of THAT rhino in particular? Now he struggles with fighting against similarly cursed opponents which he can identify due to his own affliction. Or maybe he is determined to find a way to rid himself of the curse of being half anything that is animal. Maybe he wants to die in the tournament to free himself?

    Now, maybe that's more than needed for secondary characters, but you might find creating such depth in your secondary characters pushes you to elevate your MC in depth too.

    Complexity and developing nuance and multi leveled conflict over straightforward expectation is always going to pull your reader in deeper than all out action and excitement. Spend more time developing and reworking the depth of those backstories so that the tournament becomes somewhat secondary until it arrives and serves as a meeting point for all of your stories and character paths. Make readers agonize over a tournament where only one can be victorious by making them care for more than just your MC!

    Good luck! :)
     
    Rosemary Tea and A. E. Lowan like this.
  8. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Maester

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    Have you ever heard of cursed guys from any nationality being a stereotype?

    I don't think you'll get people upset about the ethnicity of either of those characters, as long as you don't stereotype them in other ways. The risk with making the German guy the owner (or heir?) to a real car company is that there could be a real person among that car company's ownership who's very much like him, and if you give him negative traits--maybe he's a real jerk, say--they could cry slander.
     
  9. WonderingSword5

    WonderingSword5 Troubadour

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    Yes, you could say my MC is more of a less privileged character in some ways, though interestingly, he comes from a rich privileged family, like his dad who's actually one of the antagonists I'm the story. But I get what you mean. They all seem really too privileged, with not enough depth and struggles to build up from. But that's one of the reasons I feared giving any of the POC characters a struggling and tough up bringing because it may come off the wrong way :(
    I could see this working for the Mongolian fighter's background maybe. But I don't know enough about the crime rate in Mongolia to know how accurate I can be about what they go through and could become problematic :( Maybe this background would be better for the German? Or the Chinese woman?
    I could see myself adopting this type of backstory for the Mongolian fighter. Then what about his animal motif? He could have the spirit or aura of a horse? But his original background is that because he was such a good fighter, he was chosen by the bad guys organization to capture him and turn him into a crocodile man fighting beast, against his will. Which sounds less stereotypical? :(
     
  10. WonderingSword5

    WonderingSword5 Troubadour

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    I 100% agree with this and I'll be keeping the car brand company name a fictional one!
    I like this direction alot more. And I will keep his father an important role in the story, if he's gotten himself involved in something shady to help financially after failing against the VW and other car brands, which sets the curse. If the son becomes head of his father's company, then finds out the truth, but continues on with it to keep the money going, would him being turned into a boar man be offensive to German culture in any way?
    The struggle he faces after killing a rhino on a safari might be good. But how could his curse into becoming a rhino be explained? And would him trying to rid the curse sound too similar to the German's?
     
  11. pmmg

    pmmg Auror

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    None of the characters bothers me. I am concerned that three of them are lycanthropes. Seems shifting forms was an easy tool to reach for.
     
  12. WonderingSword5

    WonderingSword5 Troubadour

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    Maybe I can make them different by saying the Indian guy can only be human at night and rhino by day? German guy remains stuck as the boar and the Mongolian can switch back and forth from crocodile man to human, but human form lasts for about a few seconds?
     
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