a truly bad protagonist - Page 2

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  1. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    So you think the average fiction reader wants to read a book featuring a persona that is based entirely on Rupert Murdoch?

    See, now you're just being a contrary. Again, no one said to write a whole character based solely on one person; that was all you. Your original thread essentially described those 3 men, yet when I suggest studying these real-life examples of the character you are designing, you respond with arbitrary objections.
    Twas you that solicited the feedback, not me.

  2. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Ralph Rotten View Post
    See, now you're just being a contrary. Again, no one said to write a whole character based solely on one person; that was all you. Your original thread essentially described those 3 men, yet when I suggest studying these real-life examples of the character you are designing, you respond with arbitrary objections.
    Twas you that solicited the feedback, not me.
    I am not (intentionally) being contrary. My original post, which either you failed to understand properly or I failed to properly explain, was not that I had an issue designing an unappetizing character. You are right, that is easy and there are examples abound. This isn't a "how shall I make my character believably evil" thread, just so we are clear.

    My post was concerning making such inherently unpleasant characters readable from the start, because I think they are fundamentally different than more traditional ideas of antiheroes who tend to have flaws focused around either situational difficulties (living in prison/war/poverty for example) or upbringing problems (abusive parents being the most frequently used it seems) and that since my plot revolves around a rich white guy and a slow reveal as far as explaining his challenging upbringing my concern is coming up with a hook that will draw the reader in. Most of my books have concerned either a sympathetic protagonist from the start, or just a f-d up situation where everybody has their challenges.

    I don't know how to make it more clear than that. It's not that I don't appreciate your help, Ralph, and I'm not about to argue with you, only that I don't think we are talking about the same thing, which is unfortunate. Unless you can explain to me how studying Roger Ailes and incorporating his characteristics into my character is going to make said character more compelling. Because...I doubt it.

    From where I am sitting your examples - Rupert Murdoch etc - are inherently dislikeable people who were simply able to build up significant financial resources through clever (possibly psychopathic) decisions/exploitation/work ethic and the *only* people who like them or find them of interest are those within their direct orbit. Their is interest in these characters from a "how monsters are made" standpoint but there's no inherent reason for a reader to find them interesting, is there? But maybe you know something I don't...
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  3. #13
    Wɾˇʇˇ∩9 bdcharles's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    My character is a middle-aged white guy who writes racist newspaper columns. There's no way to make that cool, and I don't want to make him sympathetic right away.
    Could try an "everyman" persona. But then as you say you don't want him sympathetic in any way, yet you want readers to continue reading. Hmm. I think - I wonder if at this point you may need to rely on voice. Have his inner perceptions sufficiently compelling - astute observations well-made, comedic quips. If he writes for a newspaper he is at least likely to have some solid powers of observation.




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  4. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by bdcharles View Post
    Could try an "everyman" persona. But then as you say you don't want him sympathetic in any way, yet you want readers to continue reading. Hmm. I think - I wonder if at this point you may need to rely on voice. Have his inner perceptions sufficiently compelling - astute observations well-made, comedic quips. If he writes for a newspaper he is at least likely to have some solid powers of observation.
    Good idea, thank you! I was thinking I would at least try to make him funny.

    Having given it a little more thought I am thinking it could be one of those things where he is bad but those around him are equally unpleasant in an entirely different, rather underhanded, way and only my MC is in a position to really see it. For example his editor, who I had in mind to make as a kind of caricature of a particularly intolerable social justice warrior sort, hates my MC and frequently lambasts him for his views....but despite his protests won't fire the MC solely because the incendiary columns make the paper so much money. If he is a genuinely talented writer and possibly highly intelligent (although the notion of making a bigot intelligent is a little difficult for me to get on board with) I guess that could be his "silver lining". I just don't know if its enough. Only one way to know of course.

    I think there's a lot of avenues for satirizing the hypocrisy of both left and right partisanship, which could be a way to characterize the whole journalism industry as one that is actually pretty amoral - which is something I can ​get on board with - sort of like like what House Of Cards did for politics. The obvious concern is avoiding creating a story that is entirely depressing.
    "All good books have one thing in common - they are truer than if they had really happened."

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  5. #15
    If you haven't already, try reading some Chuck Palahniuk novels. His protagonists are often debased, morally deprived individuals who he still manages to make sympathetic to the reader.

    I think one of the tricks is to make the antagonists (or the antagonistic forces) even more debased, so that in the spectrum of the story, the protagonist still resides on the "good" end of the moral compass, compared to the opposition.

  6. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Kyle R View Post
    If you haven't already, try reading some Chuck Palahniuk novels. His protagonists are often debased, morally deprived individuals who he still manages to make sympathetic to the reader.

    I think one of the tricks is to make the antagonists (or the antagonistic forces) even more debased, so that in the spectrum of the story, the protagonist still resides on the "good" end of the moral compass, compared to the opposition.
    I read Choke and Fight Club years ago, both of which were ok in the day (never really much liked CP’s style). I don’t recall Fight Club’s protagonist as being particularly immoral. Choke’s I didn’t see the guy as immoral so much as troubled - a victim of his disorder. He was still fairly kind and in the context of today quite vanilla.

    Is there a better recommendation of his?

  7. #17
    I can definitely see how Choke's protagonist has gotten blander with age. Survivor also springs to mind, as the character (in the beginning) works at a suicide hotline, and instead of talking people off their metaphorical ledges, he encourages them to kill themselves.

    Their arc is a sort of redemptive one (in that Palahniuk-esque bizarro way), which might also be something worth pondering—establishing the protagonist's negative state as a beginning one; the wrong path that they need to recognize as such.

    Or you could go the darker route and hint at a redemptive arc, only to have the character decide to double down at the end, instead. (Like in the film Memento.)

  8. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Kyle R View Post
    I can definitely see how Choke's protagonist has gotten blander with age. Survivor also springs to mind, as the character (in the beginning) works at a suicide hotline, and instead of talking people off their metaphorical ledges, he encourages them to kill themselves.

    Their arc is a sort of redemptive one (in that Palahniuk-esque bizarro way), which might also be something worth pondering—establishing the protagonist's negative state as a beginning one; the wrong path that they need to recognize as such.

    Or you could go the darker route and hint at a redemptive arc, only to have the character decide to double down at the end, instead. (Like in the film Memento.)
    I will look into Survivor, but just so I have an idea of what to look for, what is it - if anything - you think that establishes for the reader the protagonist’s moral poverty as strictly a beginning state that is there to be worked on through the narrative? Are there certain things that are alluded to/foreshadowed for instance? Or is it one of those things where he is simply not presented as entirely without an ember of humanity?

  9. #19
    I am annoyed by an unlikable character when the author seems to think the character is likable. When the author seemed to be just as aware as me that the character is not likable, then I didn't mind. I ended up often hoping the MC would fail. But I admit, she was not completely unlikable, she was just ambitious and self-centered.

    So, yes, I think you have the same problem as anyone else, finding an interesting character. You have to find an interesting conflict that I want to find out what happens. I might be put off my an evil character -- I think I sometimes use reading as a refuge from real life. But I don't automatically stop reading. Good luck on your project, it sounds ambitious but interesting.
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  10. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    I am not (intentionally) being contrary. My original post, which either you failed to understand properly or I failed to properly explain, was not that I had an issue designing an unappetizing character. You are right, that is easy and there are examples abound. This isn't a "how shall I make my character believably evil" thread, just so we are clear.

    My post was concerning making such inherently unpleasant characters readable from the start, because I think they are fundamentally different than more traditional ideas of antiheroes who tend to have flaws focused around either situational difficulties (living in prison/war/poverty for example) or upbringing problems (abusive parents being the most frequently used it seems) and that since my plot revolves around a rich white guy and a slow reveal as far as explaining his challenging upbringing my concern is coming up with a hook that will draw the reader in. Most of my books have concerned either a sympathetic protagonist from the start, or just a f-d up situation where everybody has their challenges.

    I don't know how to make it more clear than that. It's not that I don't appreciate your help, Ralph, and I'm not about to argue with you, only that I don't think we are talking about the same thing, which is unfortunate. Unless you can explain to me how studying Roger Ailes and incorporating his characteristics into my character is going to make said character more compelling. Because...I doubt it.

    From where I am sitting your examples - Rupert Murdoch etc - are inherently dislikeable people who were simply able to build up significant financial resources through clever (possibly psychopathic) decisions/exploitation/work ethic and the *only* people who like them or find them of interest are those within their direct orbit. Their is interest in these characters from a "how monsters are made" standpoint but there's no inherent reason for a reader to find them interesting, is there? But maybe you know something I don't...


    No. YOU find them repulsive, but to other conservatives they were good guys, champions of conservatism.
    Yes, they are pigs and adulterers and used their power to exploit people on a daily basis.
    But then again, you did title this thread: Truly Bad Protagonist.
    You are clearly not looking for a boy scout.
    But when I present you with 3 living examples of the very character you describe, you reject them because they are too reprehensible.

    I give up.

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