1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

Redemption

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Creed, Dec 26, 2012.

  1. Creed

    Creed Sage

    292
    134
    43
    Right, so I'm curious about redemption here.
    A character is either inherently bad/evil or they're something along the lines of a good person who's lost their way and are struggling to remain good in the word. Let's ignore (for now) the whole thing where the villain becomes righteous and good and such. Let's work with a character from the second category. They've done something awful, perhaps.
    But how do you redeem them? For the most part we like those stories where a burden is lifted off of their shoulders and they are forgiven, granted absolution, etc. I think sacrifice is a common theme. But besides that (and including that, too) how to redeem your awful and yet not-too-far-gone character? And how much is too much? And how do you keep it from being… cheesy? I'm not sure if I'm putting it into words right.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  2. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    4,369
    947
    113
    I'm struggling with the same concepts.

    My first piece of advice is to keep the reactions of all the characters as real as you can. If each one responds to the situation in a way that rings true to the reader, I think it will work out okay.

    The only other thing I'd say is to refrain from going overboard with explaining the emotions and motivations. A little bit of emotion, if handled correctly, can go a long way.
     
  3. Leif Notae

    Leif Notae Sage

    351
    69
    28
    Well, the concept is an antagonist/villain is doing what they think is right at the moment and time. There is nothing to say what they are doing WAS right and will be again, or that you can more than ONE right in this situation.

    The overall arc would be self realization and understanding of "sin". Growth for the antagonist would shake loose these ideas, much like a corrupted protag would gain twisted ideas until they were a nemesis.

    I can understand the whole thing, it is a fine (and tough) line to balance on, but it can work if you give effort to the redemptive human side.
     
  4. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

    1,824
    714
    113
    Hi,

    In my last book I used the theme of redemption for a number of characters. Redemption for everything from minor sins (failing to live up to parents expectations), failings (not being there to save them), character failings (a lord that allowed terrible crimes to be committed because of hatred and bigotry), and terrible acts (soldiers that were demon spelled had committed gross indecencies while ridden). I decided that there were different roads to redemption for all of them, but the best was duty, attempting to make up for their failings by performing good service. But there were other roads. For the demon ridden soldiers who knew what they had done, I gave them a heroic act, fighting the forces of the demon that had ridden them, so that they could die free. And for the rotten monarch I brought him a lesson to learn, and then religion.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  5. MadMadys

    MadMadys Troubadour

    183
    41
    28
    Well a lot of what the 'appropriate' redemption is for that character depends on what they did and how aware they were at the time. There is a difference between a character who is good and in the course of trying to help actually wound up killing people and someone who did it with their wits about them.

    Firefighter runs into house, grabs a kid on the bottom floor then busts through a wall to get out only to have that damage the structure of the house causing it to fall and kill 3 other kids on the top floor. He feels terrible but it wasn't really his fault. His redemption is more the realization that he did what he could and saved someone. Not a huge character arc there.

    Now take a character who is in that gray area of morality who actively, knowingly blows up an orphanage then feels awful about it later. As a reader, he's going to have to really go over the top to overcome to moral hole he has dug himself in. Self sacrifice to save many would be one option or at least the willingness to do so.

    The redemption has to fit the bill for the reader to see it as believable and the character worthy of forgiveness. Sometimes it can hard for a character to achieve redemption which is why in the movie adaptation of The Shawshank Redemption they never say what Morgan Freeman's character, Red, was actually in there for because the audience might not forgive him for it. As I recall, from the novella, he cut his wife's breaks which killed her but also their neighbor and their kid. Whoops.
     
  6. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    11,320
    3,748
    413
    I agree with Greg that redemption is a possibility no matter how evil or terrible the character might have once been. The roads are different, and so too are the chances of successfully redeeming the character. The bigger hold you dig for the character morally, and in terms of the sympathy of the reader, the more powerful the redemption will have to be in order for the reader to buy into it.
     
  7. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    3,098
    1,864
    163
    As said above, there no character that's done something so bad as to be irredeemable. As it turns out I'm about to start a story about the redemption of a villain who's done terrible terrible things and the downfall of a hero.

    To me, redemption starts with the acknowledgement by that person of the wrong that they have done and that they feel bad about doing it. This doesn't mean they have to regret doing it. It's just the acknowledgement they did harm and it's not something they relish in. Then, this villain has to be given multiple chances where they are given reasons to act 'evil' or veer from that path. The accumulation of those choices will lead to a true turning point/ redemtive moment where it's either 'evil' or 'no-evil'.
     
  8. Being forgiven isn't the same thing as being redeemed, I think. Forgiveness is an act of mercy on behalf of those you have wronged, whereas seeking redemption is your personal endevour to make amends for the evils you have on your conscience.

    A key trait in a character seeking remeption is penance. That is to say, the character needs to genuinely regret what he has done. More than just asking for forgiveness, he feels that he owes a debt that needs to repayed. Such a character may not believe he deserves forgiveness, or perhaps he dare not seek it, beliving his sins to be unforgivable. Even after being forgiven, such a character may continue to feel guilty and seek to make amends, sometimes for the rest of his life. In that sense, redemption is more about forgiving yourself.

    I would like to add that I dislike stories where the redeemer dies in a noble sacrifice, because I think that is a cop out - a way to achieve "cheap" redemption for a character without actually having to deal with complicated questions about guilt and morality or write character arcs and stuff.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
    Chilari likes this.
  9. JadedSidhe

    JadedSidhe Minstrel

    97
    20
    8
    To me, redemption is usually when someone has done some great wrong and eventually, faces what they've done and then takes actions to become a better person.

    But it doesn't always have to be. For me, a wasted life or gift could be the great wrong and then the person starts caring about something other than him/herself and does good things.

    My favorite redemption type of movie along this last line of thought is called Restoration with Robert Downy Jr. (Probably the first movie of his that I liked)

    A decent summary of Restoration
     
  10. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    1,474
    436
    83
    I'd say the two most important points are:

    • "I'll never do it again." He accepts he's been wrong, as measured by just plain stopping his evil ways. (It ought to be not just "I can't get away with it anymore" but for moral reasons.)

    (In one sense this change might be enough, but it's not very satisfying redemption. So you add

    • The price. He makes a sacrifice or takes a great risk for someone, maybe the people he's wronged, maybe not. (Or, just making him suffer might be enough for some readers.)

    I think those are the only two things you need; the rest is making the one believable and the other large enough.
     
  11. Graylorne

    Graylorne Archmage

    904
    166
    43
    I don't.
    Some crimes are so enormous they cannot be redeemed by any new act. What could redeem a dictator or a warlord with the blood of millions on his hands? No human life is long enough to atone for all the suffering.

    So keep the sins in proportion. Wilfully murdering a village full of innocents is redeemable. Wilfully murdering hundreds of villages is not.
     
  12. Creed

    Creed Sage

    292
    134
    43
    Oh, I don't intend on redeeming the man who started a great genocide. I'll certainly explain that he's not crazy (well, you can't be completely sane and do it), but he has reasons. For the lesser of two evils, there is no price too high.
    I'm interested specifically in what wordwalker had to say in regard of "The Price". I have a character who seeks revenge- and it consumes him. He walks the edges of the world hunting this man. Lots of story passes… and then when he gets the chance to finally kill this vile, villainous nemesis he won't do it. That's slightly irrelevant. But for a conclusion I've discussed it with two people and I'm torn between what to do here. He's failed at the one thing he set out to do. Thinks himself a coward, a fool, a weakling. He's spent decades hunting this man and is- in his own mind- less human and more animal than he was before. What next? Wordwalker said it is enough to see the character suffer- whether redemption comes from atonement or not is subjective. In this case, I think the character feels it is his DUTY to suffer. So, should I kill him; throw him off a cliff and grant him absolution for his trials? Or should I make him wander the wilds in self-loathing, afraid of becoming a part of civilisation again, haunted by his regrets and his failures? I'm afraid it might not be so much a question of redemption as of mercy.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  13. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    11,320
    3,748
    413
    I don't agree, and I don't think the majority of readers will agree (I could be wrong, but I base that on the idea that the majority of the population self-identifies as Christian, and under Christian theology a person committing any of these crimes can still be 'saved' in the end.
     
  14. Graylorne

    Graylorne Archmage

    904
    166
    43
    I'm an atheist, but that's beside the point. I wasn't talking about redemption in the Christian sense, I'm talking of fantasy books. Let's not confuse the two.
    But I'm not planning to start a thelogical discussion, that's just as dangerous as a political one.
     
  15. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    4,369
    947
    113
    I would think that who can be shown to find redemption in a book depends entirely on the skill of the author, not on the severity of the crime.
     
  16. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    11,320
    3,748
    413
    I'm not religious either, but I think a recognition that most of the population is can be helpful in terms of determining what a reader will accept. Even not being religious, I agree with the idea that redemption can come to anyone.
     
  17. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    11,320
    3,748
    413
    Yes, I think that is true, primarily. There will also be variation among readers as to whether they accept the redemption.
     
  18. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    4,044
    1,950
    163
    I agree with this. Let's not forget that we're talking about fantasy writing. In reality I would tend to agree that some crimes are unforgivable. However, in fantasy terms would someone who slaughters millions of innocents on a planetary scale be able to find redemption by saving a galaxy or two later by sacrificing himself? Probably. At least if the author's story is good and supports this redemption.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2012
  19. Graylorne

    Graylorne Archmage

    904
    166
    43
    There is that, of course.


    In this case, if the plus factor is sufficiently larger than the the min factor, and his own sacrifice is included, I agree.
     
  20. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

    1,908
    611
    113
    To me, all redemption requires is inner change--becoming the sort of person who won't do the things you did before. Atonement and sacrifice are things that may flow naturally from that change, but that depends on exactly what you changed to and from.

    Incidentally, I'm a big fan of Superior, a manga about the gradual redemption of a genocidal mass murderer. I think it's a little too soft in parts--change shouldn't be quite this easy--but overall, it does pretty well at documenting a journey from villain to hero.
     
Loading...

Share This Page