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indianroads
October 25th, 2020, 11:05 PM
My next novel will have 2 main characters - with the POV alternating every other chapter. Rough profiles follow, do they sound believable?

BTW: Dystopian SciFi.

Alex Smith: Parents arrested as government traitors put in a forced labor camp (Granite quarry). Alex was 5 when his family was brought to camp. Father died after 2 years. Mother had a desk job but only lived until he was 10. Alex started working in the quarry after she died. Labor camp riot and mass escape when he was 18. Alex survived the labor camp by being extremely violent, after escape he lives the same way, as a paid assassin of a government resistance group. He specializes in especially brutal murders. As an adult, his desire is to destroy the government that killed his parents – but also has a distrust of organized society. His goal is to one day escape and live on his own away from everyone. Anger is his main motivator.

Sharon Williams: Adopted as a baby (parents unknown) by a well-connected couple that already had two older sons. Brothers always reminded her that she wasn’t part of their real family, wasn’t good enough, and one day might be sent back to live on the street or placed in a labor camp. Her job in that household was to serve and clean and do whatever was asked of her. Brothers and parents inflicted physical and mental abuse. Sharon learned to cope through people-pleasing and subtle sabotage; when older used sex to manipulate others to gain a feeling of safety and control. As an adult, her coping mechanism is the same. Her goal is to gain enough power over others that she won’t be abused again. Fear is her main motivator.

CyberWar
October 26th, 2020, 08:28 PM
To be honest, the brutal hitman thing does sound a bit over-the-top with the first character. Violence and brutality might be all fine within the camp and the criminal underworld where it doesn't concern the authorities, but the moment he starts brutalizing and assassinating government officials, they would spare no effort or expense to quickly hunt him down. Even democratic governments are pretty uptight that way, since failure to swiftly and severely punish attacks on their officials would undermine their authority and control - which is all the more true with totalitarian governments that are downright paranoid about maintaining total control.

So I think the first character should be more clinical and precise about his attacks, as well as less driven by anger. People make mistakes in anger, and the job of a hitman has zero room for that. I think it would be more plausible if you wrote this character as a cold, dispassionate professional who doesn't even care about the rebel cause and is doing what he does because that's just what he's good at. Grown up in the dog-eat-dog environs of a labour camp, your character would have learned quickly that might makes right, you either take from those weaker than yourself or perish, and staying alive is about as good as it ever gets. Consequently he would have little if any concern about morality and political causes, his whole life being formed around a ceaseless effort to stay alive. The rebels and their assassination contracts would be just a means to an end to him, as opposed to a goal in their own right. If anything, the sole reason why he would side with the rebels rather than the government could be the authorities' constant role as antagonists to his survival (first the cruel camp administration, later the police and government agents trying to hunt him down), making the enemy of his enemy a natural ally of convenience.

In short, I think a dispassionate cynic would suit the first character much better.

As for the second character, anger would be a much better motivator for this one as opposed to fear. She's angry that her family constantly mistreated her, angry about constantly having to put up a smile and please people whom she despises and hates. Her deepest desire is to be respected and feared, to have such influence and power that nobody would ever dare to hurt her again, and seduction is the one way to start amassing both with that is readily within her grasp. Seduction could, for her, also be a form of self-validation - being desired and lusted after by powerful men makes her feel more powerful and confident about herself, as well as giving her a considerable sway over those men. You could also write her as fearful of losing her hard-gained status advancements, using passive aggression, blame shifting, victim-playing and manipulation rather than more overt means to get her way, making for a truly unpleasant personality - but I think fear should not be her primary motivator for reasons aforementioned.

All things considered, the second character has the potential to become a truly detestable villainess, combining great ambition with underhandedness, petty vindictiveness, cowardly cruelty and every other excess typically brought about by low self-esteem. Even better if you actually intend her as a protagonist - my personal favourite kind of protagonists are the ones who can hardly be told apart from the villains at times.

indianroads
October 26th, 2020, 11:21 PM
They're actually both protagonists - and are at odds until nearly the end of the story - basically they come together and overcome their demons.

Fear is often at the root of anger. Sharon's fear is about being helpless, so she over compensates to the point of being hyper-aggressive, manipulative, and cruel in order to dominate others. Basically she becomes what she hates, mimicking her brothers and parents.

For Alex, rage and violence are what kept him alive in the labor camp, and after escaping he survives and profits in a very difficult world using the same coping skills.

Neither are happy with their lives - but that gets sorted out at the end of the story.

Great input - thanks again!