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GreenInkling's avatar

Eloquent Lunatic

Great Lakes haze
Also, I strongly believe in picking an image and turning it into a symbol which then collects a hefty load of meaning as the character goes through experiences. Strictly speaking, that part is not about character, but it does give the character's experiences punch. This character survived a trauma partly by trusting that the messages that came to her through the landscape (by way of natural phenomena such as snow and lightening) contained helpful, guiding information -- many people would regard that as crazy, but her survival in fact depends on that trust. That part is really about plot as much as it is about character.


These are some really good thoughts you have here.
Maltese_Falcon91
Chuguru

I'm going to have to side with you. I've always felt that the really great characters aren't the people who are larger than life, they're ordinary men and women with well defined personalities and relatable character flaws. Neuromancer, for instance, would have been nowhere near as interesting if Case wasn't a mostly ordinary computer hacker who got thrust into things far beyond his understanding and control.


It's interesting that you say you side with Chuguru because I take what you are saying to actually be siding with me.

He wouldn't be nearly as interesting until he was thrust into a situation that showed that he wasn't ordinary?
Niniva
It's interesting that you say you side with Chuguru because I take what you are saying to actually be siding with me.

Then you've misunderstood me.

Case gets sick when he goes into low orbit, shoots himself full of drugs to handle the pressure, and the only thing keeping him in the story are a group of toxin sacs that will slowly dissolve, destroying his ability to jack into cyberspace in the process. He isn't Alice and the Sprawl isn't Wonderland. He's an ordinary character thrust into an extraordinary plot, but he doesn't handle himself well, at his best, he's barely holding it together. At his worst, he's either high, or outright suicidal (sometimes both).

Case isn't a super hero, or even a hero in any sense of the word. He's motivated entirely by fear and self interest. He doesn't have any magic powers, and he when he gets the feeling that someone is watching him, he doesn't stand his ground and he doesn't fight. He runs and hides. He's a hacker, but he's outright told that while he was good, he wasn't amazing. He isn't Elminster and compared to Molly Millions (a cybernetic mercenary, not the Terminator, but close,) Armitage (the former commander of, and sole survivor of the Screaming Fist operation) and Peter Riveria (has implants that allow him to create perfect holograms, among other things) he's easily the most helpless character in the entire story.

So, if he doesn't meet the definition you gave earlier, is he a good character?

I would say yes. He's easily the most interesting, dynamic and relatable member of the cast, and I definitely think the plot of Neuromancer would have been far weaker had the story not been told entirely from his perspective. While I love the entire novel, start to finish, my favourite segment of the story is Chiba City Blues. It shows Case in his element, and defines his relationship to the world around him. He's an ordinary man doing awful things to make his way in a cold and uncaring world.
GreenInkling
Niniva

Chuguru


I get what Niniva is saying. You can have ordinary characters that are extraordinary.
Paradox, I know, but consider:

A story about a teenage boy waking up in the morning, brushing his teeth, getting ready for school is not very catchy to the reader.
A story about a teenage boy whose brother committed suicide a year ago, whose first waking thought is to struggle with the guilt of being alive while is brother is dead, in between brushing his teeth and getting ready for school, is much more interesting.

In both stories, nothing astounding or heroic happens, per se. But the strength comes in putting an ordinary person in a conflict-heavy situation.

See Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass.
He explains it much better than I do.


But a conflict-heavy situation isn't extraordinary. It's very regular. That's a very real situation.
Even if you throw that otherwise regular character into, say, a magical world where he has to fend for himself, even then you have an unextraordinary character being thrust into an extraordinary situation.
At that point, it can follow many different paths. That doesn't make the character out of the norm, it just makes his circumstances out of the norm. He can end up extraordinary in the end, but he can also fail to meet that achievement and still be a very strong, solid character.

I guess what I'm trying to argue is there are extraordinary characters and extraordinary situations and circumstances. They are two different things. They can mix, but they don't have to.
GreenInkling's avatar

Eloquent Lunatic

Chuguru
But a conflict-heavy situation isn't extraordinary. It's very regular. That's a very real situation.

. . .

I guess what I'm trying to argue is there are extraordinary characters and extraordinary situations and circumstances. They are two different things. They can mix, but they don't have to.


You may be right there. Erm, I'm trying to think of examples.

Better yet, I'll quote from Donald Maass. Bear with me. I only mean to help. c:

Writing the Breakout Novel
The greater characters in literature are all larger-than-life. . . . It requires identifying what is extraordinary in people who are otherwise ordinary.

I am dismayed that some fiction writers bristle when I make this observation. It is as if deliberately constructing a character is a sin. Some authors feel that if characters are to be credible, then they must be exactly like real people.

. . .

The characters in your story will not engross readers unless they are out of the ordinary. How can it be otherwise? In life, ordinary folk do ordinary things every day. How much of that do we remember? Precious little.

In life and fiction, when people act in ways that are unusual, unexpected, dramatic, decisive, full of consequence and are irreversible, we remember them and talk about them for years. Seemingly ordinary characters can stay with us, too, but usually only when their actions are "out of character."


Let's just brainstorm for a minute.

Take Hamlet, from the play of the same name. How ordinary is it for a person to go through grief and mourning aggravated by a parent's seeming betrayal and pressures from friends and family to move on? If Hamlet had grudgingly held these feelings inside and let them fester, as people usually do, that would be an ordinary story. We can see him talking in the confessional about his grief and betrayal. Or angsting in front of the mirror. But Hamlet doesn't do that, at least not for long. He devises a madcap scheme to try to find out if his uncle murdered his father to marry his mother. And then he acts on it! He's perfectly ordinary in his character, in his flaws and strengths, but not ordinary in his execution. Seems a little dramatic, right, to accuse your stepfather of killing your father? Maybe not. Family drama reigns supreme! Still, who would pretend to be crazy and write an entire play to try to ensnare said stepfather into admitting to a murder only guessed at? But that's what makes Hamlet extraordinary.

I wonder if the degrees of our disagreement are actually only semantics. dramallama
GreenInkling
Chuguru
But a conflict-heavy situation isn't extraordinary. It's very regular. That's a very real situation.

. . .

I guess what I'm trying to argue is there are extraordinary characters and extraordinary situations and circumstances. They are two different things. They can mix, but they don't have to.


You may be right there. Erm, I'm trying to think of examples.

Better yet, I'll quote from Donald Maass. Bear with me. I only mean to help. c:

Writing the Breakout Novel
The greater characters in literature are all larger-than-life. . . . It requires identifying what is extraordinary in people who are otherwise ordinary.

I am dismayed that some fiction writers bristle when I make this observation. It is as if deliberately constructing a character is a sin. Some authors feel that if characters are to be credible, then they must be exactly like real people.

. . .

The characters in your story will not engross readers unless they are out of the ordinary. How can it be otherwise? In life, ordinary folk do ordinary things every day. How much of that do we remember? Precious little.

In life and fiction, when people act in ways that are unusual, unexpected, dramatic, decisive, full of consequence and are irreversible, we remember them and talk about them for years. Seemingly ordinary characters can stay with us, too, but usually only when their actions are "out of character."


Let's just brainstorm for a minute.

Take Hamlet, from the play of the same name. How ordinary is it for a person to go through grief and mourning aggravated by a parent's seeming betrayal and pressures from friends and family to move on? If Hamlet had grudgingly held these feelings inside and let them fester, as people usually do, that would be an ordinary story. We can see him talking in the confessional about his grief and betrayal. Or angsting in front of the mirror. But Hamlet doesn't do that, at least not for long. He devises a madcap scheme to try to find out if his uncle murdered his father to marry his mother. And then he acts on it! He's perfectly ordinary in his character, in his flaws and strengths, but not ordinary in his execution. Seems a little dramatic, right, to accuse your stepfather of killing your father? Maybe not. Family drama reigns supreme! Still, who would pretend to be crazy and write an entire play to try to ensnare said stepfather into admitting to a murder only guessed at? But that's what makes Hamlet extraordinary.

I wonder if the degrees of our disagreement are actually only semantics. dramallama


I'm not arguing that this isn't true of some characters. But my main argument has been that a strong character doesn't necessarily have to be extraordinary to be strong.
GreenInkling's avatar

Eloquent Lunatic

Chuguru
GreenInkling
Chuguru
But a conflict-heavy situation isn't extraordinary. It's very regular. That's a very real situation.

. . .

I guess what I'm trying to argue is there are extraordinary characters and extraordinary situations and circumstances. They are two different things. They can mix, but they don't have to.


You may be right there. Erm, I'm trying to think of examples.

Better yet, I'll quote from Donald Maass. Bear with me. I only mean to help. c:

Writing the Breakout Novel
The greater characters in literature are all larger-than-life. . . . It requires identifying what is extraordinary in people who are otherwise ordinary.

I am dismayed that some fiction writers bristle when I make this observation. It is as if deliberately constructing a character is a sin. Some authors feel that if characters are to be credible, then they must be exactly like real people.

. . .

The characters in your story will not engross readers unless they are out of the ordinary. How can it be otherwise? In life, ordinary folk do ordinary things every day. How much of that do we remember? Precious little.

In life and fiction, when people act in ways that are unusual, unexpected, dramatic, decisive, full of consequence and are irreversible, we remember them and talk about them for years. Seemingly ordinary characters can stay with us, too, but usually only when their actions are "out of character."


Let's just brainstorm for a minute.

Take Hamlet, from the play of the same name. How ordinary is it for a person to go through grief and mourning aggravated by a parent's seeming betrayal and pressures from friends and family to move on? If Hamlet had grudgingly held these feelings inside and let them fester, as people usually do, that would be an ordinary story. We can see him talking in the confessional about his grief and betrayal. Or angsting in front of the mirror. But Hamlet doesn't do that, at least not for long. He devises a madcap scheme to try to find out if his uncle murdered his father to marry his mother. And then he acts on it! He's perfectly ordinary in his character, in his flaws and strengths, but not ordinary in his execution. Seems a little dramatic, right, to accuse your stepfather of killing your father? Maybe not. Family drama reigns supreme! Still, who would pretend to be crazy and write an entire play to try to ensnare said stepfather into admitting to a murder only guessed at? But that's what makes Hamlet extraordinary.

I wonder if the degrees of our disagreement are actually only semantics. dramallama


I'm not arguing that this isn't true of some characters. But my main argument has been that a strong character doesn't necessarily have to be extraordinary to be strong.


No, I see, and I think we differ on what "extraordinary" means. c:
What you consider not extraordinary but strong, I consider extraordinary.

I'm not sure what Niniva means by "extraordinary," though.
GreenInkling
Chuguru
GreenInkling
Chuguru
But a conflict-heavy situation isn't extraordinary. It's very regular. That's a very real situation.

. . .

I guess what I'm trying to argue is there are extraordinary characters and extraordinary situations and circumstances. They are two different things. They can mix, but they don't have to.


You may be right there. Erm, I'm trying to think of examples.

Better yet, I'll quote from Donald Maass. Bear with me. I only mean to help. c:

Writing the Breakout Novel
The greater characters in literature are all larger-than-life. . . . It requires identifying what is extraordinary in people who are otherwise ordinary.

I am dismayed that some fiction writers bristle when I make this observation. It is as if deliberately constructing a character is a sin. Some authors feel that if characters are to be credible, then they must be exactly like real people.

. . .

The characters in your story will not engross readers unless they are out of the ordinary. How can it be otherwise? In life, ordinary folk do ordinary things every day. How much of that do we remember? Precious little.

In life and fiction, when people act in ways that are unusual, unexpected, dramatic, decisive, full of consequence and are irreversible, we remember them and talk about them for years. Seemingly ordinary characters can stay with us, too, but usually only when their actions are "out of character."


Let's just brainstorm for a minute.

Take Hamlet, from the play of the same name. How ordinary is it for a person to go through grief and mourning aggravated by a parent's seeming betrayal and pressures from friends and family to move on? If Hamlet had grudgingly held these feelings inside and let them fester, as people usually do, that would be an ordinary story. We can see him talking in the confessional about his grief and betrayal. Or angsting in front of the mirror. But Hamlet doesn't do that, at least not for long. He devises a madcap scheme to try to find out if his uncle murdered his father to marry his mother. And then he acts on it! He's perfectly ordinary in his character, in his flaws and strengths, but not ordinary in his execution. Seems a little dramatic, right, to accuse your stepfather of killing your father? Maybe not. Family drama reigns supreme! Still, who would pretend to be crazy and write an entire play to try to ensnare said stepfather into admitting to a murder only guessed at? But that's what makes Hamlet extraordinary.

I wonder if the degrees of our disagreement are actually only semantics. dramallama


I'm not arguing that this isn't true of some characters. But my main argument has been that a strong character doesn't necessarily have to be extraordinary to be strong.


No, I see, and I think we differ on what "extraordinary" means. c:
What you consider not extraordinary but strong, I consider extraordinary.

I'm not sure what Niniva means by "extraordinary," though.


Totally fair enough. I think it's one of those things that is entirely subjective to each person.
But I also still don't know what Niniva means by "extraordinary".
Chuguru
GreenInkling

I'm not sure what Niniva means by "extraordinary," though.


Totally fair enough. I think it's one of those things that is entirely subjective to each person.
But I also still don't know what Niniva means by "extraordinary".


How can you still be saying this? I think it's pretty obvious by now.

But at the risk of repeating myself

Quote:
So....."extra-ordinary" would mean pretty much exactly -not- "regular people". I don't find regular people interesting for the very fact that they aren't extraordinary in any way. You, of course, are welcome to your own opinion on this and it's precisely why there's such a wide variety of fiction out there. I just can't get into anything that doesn't require a little suspension of disbelief.


I'm not sure how to make it any more clear than that.

I think that's pretty clear. What happens when you put an ordinary person in an extra ordinary situation?

They either die or give up or get lost or don't succeed. Which is not the kind of thing that makes a "strong" character.

You thrust a SEEMINGLY ordinary person into an extraordinary situation and then you uncover what is exactly -not- ordinary about them. They are brave, heroic, suicidal, mentally strong, a leader, a go getter, a survivalist, etc.

So, what I think is happening here is that every character Chuguru has describes has been extraordinary to me, and I don't understand how you can say they -aren't-.

It isn't like they're just a Jane Doe average human.......they obviously aren't if they survive an extraordinary situation where their sanity is tested. If they came out with sanity still, then it seems to me that they are extraordinary in that the normal person wouldn't have been able to handle that.
GreenInkling's avatar

Eloquent Lunatic

Niniva


I think you guys are saying the same thing.

What you see as extraordinary, Chuguru sees as ordinary.
All people are extraordinary in their own way--that's just a difference of life philosophy, no?
GreenInkling
Niniva


I think you guys are saying the same thing.

What you see as extraordinary, Chuguru sees as ordinary.
All people are extraordinary in their own way--that's just a difference of life philosophy, no?


well, no. All people are not extraordinary in their own way, that's sort of a contradiction. To say "everyone is special" is sort of like saying that no one really is.

You can't destroy "ordinary" by suddenly making EVERYONE extraordinary.

But I do think that it's also a mistake to say someone is "ordinary" if they are put in an extraordinary situation and handle it in a way that normal people wouldn't.
GreenInkling's avatar

Eloquent Lunatic

Niniva
GreenInkling
Niniva


I think you guys are saying the same thing.

What you see as extraordinary, Chuguru sees as ordinary.
All people are extraordinary in their own way--that's just a difference of life philosophy, no?


well, no. All people are not extraordinary in their own way, that's sort of a contradiction. To say "everyone is special" is sort of like saying that no one really is.

You can't destroy "ordinary" by suddenly making EVERYONE extraordinary.

But I do think that it's also a mistake to say someone is "ordinary" if they are put in an extraordinary situation and handle it in a way that normal people wouldn't.


You're absolutely right. That would destroy the meaning of ordinary.
I better understand what you're saying now.
I'd have to go with Abigail Munkus being the strongest. She is a four-time widow, who has replaced her hip a few months earlier after the event that killed her latest husband, but it doesn't take as well as it should and she needs a cane and occasionally a wheelchair. She has spent her lifetime doing the sort of suffragette, aviatrix, adventurer kinds of things that were rare in women of her time, and now she is forced to rely on the cane and her (money-driven) niece-in-law whom she can't stand and whom she knows is going behind her back applying for pamphlets for seniors’ homes. Few of her friends are still alive, her husband is newly buried, and her only true friend in the house is her quiet, reserved, teenage great-niece.
During the story she makes impulsive decisions trying to prove to the girl and herself that she's still in charge of her life, and puts the girl and her two remaining (alienated but beholden to her) friends in danger many times. Eventually she breaks her hip again and her great-niece calls her dreadful mother to put an end to Abby's adventure, and she's forced to step back and take stock of her life and face the consequences of her actions. After the s**t she pulls and tries to pull in the story, it takes a very strong person to do that.
TottWriter's avatar

Friendly Hoarder

I have a couple actually. I'd describe them as old friends, but you tend not to torture and maim friends for plot reasons and character development, soooo...

Chrissie is a character who started out very much as a self-insert, or I guess you could even say that dreaded "Mary Sue" (though it's not a ff). She was who I wanted to be when I was 13 and started writing the story. She got the best lines, the jokes, was intelligent etc. What went right was that I carried on working on the same story and the same character for years. I mean, it's been over a decade now, and the desire to "be" her has gone and allowed me to take the inevitably annoying side effects of being an intelligent, somewhat sarcastic person and play with them. Lots. People get annoyed with her, she starts blabbing to show off and lands herself in trouble, misjudges people because she thinks she knows best, everything. She is just so much fun to write now, to toy with her history and watch how she both does and doesn't change throughout the series.

Up there with her is Megan, another character who is one of the primary characters of the series. I love Megan because she's grown on me over the years, literally. When her story starts she's a child, and she's the youngest cast member throughout the first book. When I was younger myself I didn't really convey this, and I had this five year old girl in the opening chapter acting very much not like a five year old. So I bumped her age up to eight and started thinking about what children are really capable of, and how they would mature in different circumstances. Most of the action takes place in her teens, and while they are a non-human race, it still made no sense for her to be as mature as I was writing her. It's been a fantastic challenge to go back over old drafts and start to turn her into a real child, a real young person, instead of an idealised one. I would say she is the first character I deliberately set out to do right, and it has certainly paid off.

I feel I should also point out that while I've focused on describing their strengths as integrity in terms of writing quality, because I think that's a lot more interesting than physical strength etc, and sometimes the strongest character in a work doesn't have to be the strongest person in the story (and I love turning things on their heads), these two also happen to be strong people. Chrissie is thousands of years old, and Megan is the rightful queen of the world with awe-inspiring magical power when she learns to use it.

Buuut, it's no fun having characters that can do everything, even in a fantasy. I get bored by characters who are just "strong", even if it's in a purely emotional sense. I like toying with characters, taking them to breaking point over the course of the narrative and finding ways to bring them back. All of the characters I write need to be "strong" in terms of their personality or they have a very short lifespan.

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