What makes you say "I don't want to read about this character anymore"?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Feo Takahari, Nov 2, 2014.

  1. MFreako

    MFreako Troubadour

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    I think a more fitting expression would be they have to stay true to their character. There's a difference between characterisation and true character.

    Characterisation consists of personality, traits, quirks. It is how a character acts under normal circumstances. A construct. The mask we wear to fool ourselves and those we interact with into believing whatever it is we want them/ourselves to believe about us.

    True character is how someone acts when the shit hits the fan. A soldier may believe himself a coward (characterisation), but when the bullets start flying somehow he gets up and leads a charge (character). Or the other way around–he may act like a gruff, battle-hardened veteran, but when the shells start falling he curls up in a ball and cries for his mother.

    Great stories often put characterisation and character at odds to give us complex protagonists. Example: Walter White, a man who does horrible things and justifies them by claiming he has the good of his family at heart, while in fact the only interests he serves are his own pride and greed.
     
  2. Xitra_Blud

    Xitra_Blud Sage

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    When they're boring or whiny. I've read things where the main character wants you to side with them, but it's so hard because all they do is whine and the only thing you can think of them is they're spoiled and you hope they don't live to the end.
     
  3. Spacebar

    Spacebar Scribe

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    The thing I hate reading the most is a protagonist who is unable to respond to the nature of evil he encounters. I have no problem with an antagonist beginning the story stronger, but if the protagonist is not en route to achieve a mental victory in the end, it really bothers me. Generally it means that the author doesn't intend for the hero to grow as a person, and when he wins, it will be by yelling really loud and swinging his sword really hard. Basically, the hero wins because he's too stupid to figure out why he's losing.
     
  4. Vilya

    Vilya Scribe

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    When they stop being proactive. One of the things that will bore me faster than anything is a character who doesn't "do" anything. In my opinion a protagonist shouldn't just be along for the ride.
     
  5. Legendary Sidekick

    Legendary Sidekick The HAM'ster Moderator

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    ^fix'd


    Well, not really fixed since it wasn't broken, but I was thinking of Hudson from Aliens as I read that post.

    I agree a character can change—and sometimes should—when facing a situation s/he never had to face before. As the reader, I need to believe the character would really act that way despite what I knew. As I read A Song of Ice and Fire, I see characters chaining all the time because of the circumstances. GRRM is getting is butt kissed enough without my help, but what can I say? I enjoy what I read except for those moments that I want to hurl the book through a closed window. He does get me to care about the characters, so the book doesn't fly from my hand in those moments.



    I can think of books I put down, but because the character didn't interest me right off the bat. If a main character's going to be a jerk, a slut, a sociopath… I need to be hooked by either a likable trait or a damned interesting plot. If I don't know what's happening and I don't care who it's happening to, I won't waste my time. (I have read great books in which the MC was a jerk, a slut, or a sociopath.)
     
  6. BronzeOracle

    BronzeOracle Sage

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    Yes, actually that's my biggest beef with Memory Sorry and Thorn by Tad Williams. The protagonist Simon/Seoman just comes along for the ride and kind of bumbles his way through, and ends up the King! Perhaps the author is intentionally making a point that victories aren't always planned but I find it unsatisfying to read.
     
  7. Guy

    Guy Inkling

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    Characters that are helpless. I understand the author is either trying to build suspense or they think a character who is not heroic is more relatable, but sometimes they go too far in that direction and end up with a character who's so unheroic as to be useless. I can't stand it when the protagonist finally confronts the bad guy after he's spent the entire book doing one reprehensible act after another, has his gun pointed at the bad guy, then can't pull the trigger, or spares him out of some misplaced sense of nobility, and the whole time I'm sitting there screaming "Shoot!"
     
  8. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

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    @Guy: Ever seen Blood Plus? "I'm scared; I can't fight! But I have to fight! But I'm scared! Oops, I just killed almost all the characters on my side, but now I can fight! No, I suddenly have moral qualms and can't fight after all!" Realistic, maybe, but I felt like the MC had made no real progress after about twenty episodes.
     
  9. Guy

    Guy Inkling

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    No, never heard of it. Sounds a little... I don't know. Unfocused?
     
  10. Addison

    Addison Auror

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    To quote David Rossi "One man's logic is another man's crazy.". Not everyone will see the protagonist in the way the writer did. So the likeable, hero of a story can change between readers. Not everyone who reads Harry Potter sees Harry Potter the same way. Some prefer Ron, Hermione or Hagrid. Some people even root for the villain. I read a short story in an anthology called "Under My Hat: Tales From The Cauldron", in the story by Ellen Klages called "The Education of a Witch", in the story a little girl sees Sleeping Beauty for the first time and she falls in love with Maleficent. She cries when Maleficent is killed and, at the toy store she buys a Maleficent puppet and in the end she apparently develops small powers with which she makes another pre-schooler's nose bleed and the story ends with her ready to unleash her powers on her new baby brother.

    So don't think that everyone will accept your story or characters the way you saw them. Like in real life not everyone will like your characters.
     
  11. James Chandler

    James Chandler Minstrel

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    Interestingly, the author of the Serial Killer novels was pretty disturbed by his character, too. That may not be a good reason to finish the series, but it interesting that he persisted despite that.

    Two characters come to mind, though. Walker Boh in the Scions of Shannara and Richard in the Sword of Truth novels. I finished the SoT novels out of sheer stubbornness, but I came to despise Richard Rahl. The author made this super-powerful character, then delighted in repeatedly rendering him powerless. That wouldn't be so bad, except all his power was completely useless. He couldn't even use his greatest power most of the time. The problem with Walker Boh wasn't that he was filled with self-doubt, it was that the narration repeated his concerns over and and over and over again without making any progress. It started to feel like the author was cutting and pasting the internal monologue. Even though i didn't stop reading, I find I am completely intolerant of any character that shows similar tendencies.
     
  12. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

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    I've seen this a lot with stories that try to have a "realistic" portrayal of psychological trauma, especially when that trauma is linked to a current issue that's hot and trendy in the public consciousness. The character has opportunities to grow a little and slowly work past their issues, and then they backslide, and then they grow a little more, and then they backslide a little more, and eighty chapters later, they're basically the same as they were at their lowest point. Fantasy characters or historical characters generally have a little more room to make permanent gains, even small ones, because the author doesn't feel the need to prove that they're not trivializing how hard it is to overcome trauma.
     
  13. BronzeOracle

    BronzeOracle Sage

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    I watched/read an interview with Raymond Fiest where he was talking about his super-character Macros the Black in the Riftwar series, and he had the same problem as Richard Rahl. Super powerful characters just wreck story as they remove obstacles, so you have to create reasons why they can't act. Raymond Fiest mentioned how this plagues superman - in every story with superman the author trying to invent some reason why superman can't just fly in and solve everything ridiculously easily. It's also the reason why the king is often weak, mad, evil or absent and society divided / fractured in so many fantasy stories - if the king is strong and/or society united then they would bring their might to bear on problems and solve them quickly, and what then is left for the protagonist to do? Its made me very wary about creating super characters even though they press some emotional buttons.
     
  14. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

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    This might be getting off-topic, but there's always the question of powerful in what. The hero of Maoyū Maō Yūsha can outfight pretty much anything, but that doesn't fix the social problems that lead to war in the first place. Preventing another war requires a grasp of economics, something he's inexperienced with.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2014
  15. glutton

    glutton Inkling

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    Yeah, this is important. The Hulk is insanely powerful, but he hardly has the power/skill set to solve every problem.

    In my current WIP the heroine is a nearly unbeatable warrior who can kill even monsters that are basically King Kong with armor plating and 'angels' with just her sword... but when the male MC's best friend loses his arm and his dreams of becoming a noteworthy warrior because of her flakiness, all she can do is stand there watching him cry and feel bad.
     
  16. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    Interestingly, I stopped reading those books for a completely different reason. I came to despise Richard because he got so damn preachy. Yes, ok, we get it, COMMUNISM IS BAD. I just wanted to grab Terry Goodkind by the collar and shake him around while screaming "Stop shoving your personal beliefs into the character's mouth and get back to telling a frelling fantasy adventure story! That's what I bought the books for!" Of course he couldn't manage to do that so I never finished the series. My husband, who also finished it out of sheer stubbornness, told me the last few books were just awful. Of course, Goodkind later said that as far as he was concerned he wasn't writing fantasy, he was writing IMPORTANT LITERATURE. I wish I'd never given the man any of my money.
     
  17. BronzeOracle

    BronzeOracle Sage

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    Yeah good point, makes me think of Watchmen when Rorschach says to Dr Manhattan 'you could have stopped this' and Dr says 'I can change almost anything, I can't change human nature'
     
  18. Legendary Sidekick

    Legendary Sidekick The HAM'ster Moderator

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    Dr. Manhattan and his lame excuses.
     
  19. BronzeOracle

    BronzeOracle Sage

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    Haha yes, he could have tried just a bit harder! Like 'OK everyone I've just destroyed all your nukes, now be nice or I'll make you go splat'. If only a more active person had got stuck in that molecular destructor thingy and turned blue - perhaps Dr Phil or Oprah??

    Sorry everyone this has got way off topic. I have two more character types that turn me off.

    I don't like reading when a character gets dragged through the mud too much, it wears you down after a while. So Theon becoming Reek in GOT, after a few torture scenes I just wanted to fast forward his parts. OK I get it some people suffer dis-proportionally in conflicts and in paying for their decisions, but after a while its too much. Another one is the character who suffers nobly through trial after trial and bad guys keep picking on them - eg Bates in Downton Abbey, my wife and I enjoyed the show but we got sick of him very quickly.
     
  20. Legendary Sidekick

    Legendary Sidekick The HAM'ster Moderator

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    In the context of the OP and to reply to the above, nothing in Watchmen or GoT got me to stop wanting to read about (or watch) the characters. There were characters who PO'd me (P'd me O?), but not in a way that ruined the story. It's okay to hate a character and love a story, and Watchmen and GoT are probably the two most successful stories when it comes to having that effect on me.

    Watchmen
    - I hate the character Dr. Manhattan, but that's part of what makes the story fascinating.
    The second strongest hero is making gazillions marketing himself and is arrogant enough to think that killing millions to save billions makes him a savior. The strongest just wastes his power falling in love with his own delusion of godhood. That's just my take: he declares himself a god simply because he's evolved beyond his fellow humans, and he doesn't even connect with people emotionally. Killing Rorschach is done with some hesitation, but he does so. I see that as part of his arrogance. Sparing Rorschach is an admission to his fallibility.

    I've read comments/reviews that refer to Rorschach as a sociopath and anti-hero. Dark as he is, he's the most heroic of the bunch. Uncompromising, incorruptible... I don't care what it means for his journal to be published. That was vindicating.


    GRRM - Theon was such a jerk, so seeing him humbled and broken didn't bother me.
    Same with Jaime, though in his case he became stronger. Weaker as a swordsman, of course, but a better man. Theon's experience seems to be a similar turning point. (Too bad for all those people who died horribly during Theon's "healing process.") Brienne is the one I worry about most. She's the one I consider "least safe" on my top five list... and in fact she's on my top ONE for favorite characters.

    The closest I came to "stop reading" --and even in the moment, I knew I'd pick up the book again-- was the final Brienne chapter in Feast of Crows. I did put the book down, but only to find out if that was a death or not. I admire Martin's writing, but I think it's a cheap move to be in a character's head and to not know if the character is dead or alive. It creates suspense, but I don't like asking "what the ---- just happened?" Believe me when I say it's my only criticism of his work, and even at the time I thought, "I'm only pissed off because he got me to care that much about his character." I think every writer wants to have that effect on readers.

    Still, when's book 6 coming? I gotta know what that girl's up to?


    (I'm not sure where those spoiler tags should have started, but better safe than sorry.)
     
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