a truly bad protagonist - Page 3

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  1. #21
    Why not have a save the cat moment for the protagonist before the story begins (the point made by the writer is to show a generosity of some nature)? Everyone knows where I got that from. If you don’t want to show the noble side of your character, give us a glimpse of his vulnerability: a moment of self-doubt, a history of abuse, personal tragedy. If we see that he is able to feel pain, that will soften the character to readers and they will understand and feel sympathy. This is more obvious but give a glimpse that they can change. The inner demons or traumatic past can carry a story forward, but the flaw must be seen in action with a chance of finding redemption.
    source below:
    Berinstein, Paula (2012-01-31). 42 Common Mistakes Novelists Make (Paula B's Writing Fiction Secrets) (Kindle Locations 62-63). The Writing Show. Kindle Edition.
    Last edited by Theglasshouse; December 7th, 2018 at 03:20 PM.
    I would follow as in believe in the words of good moral leaders. Rather than the beliefs of oneself.
    The most difficult thing for a writer to comprehend is to experience silence, so speak up. (quoted from a member)

  2. #22
    I don't know the Save the Cat reference, but I agree with what I think Theglasshouse is saying. Start with a sympathetic character - show him being vulnerable or kind or generous or self-deprecating or whatever - and then show his ugliness. It'd probably only take a couple paragraphs of showing his nice side before you were able to slip out and start showing his dark side.

  3. #23
    Ok an example I read includes a mafioso being nice to children. Which is very much a noble behavior. An example of inner demons could be dead parents, and the flaw could be a pathological liar. Just giving some more information about the example I was giving here (same place where I quoted and paraphrased a bit). Bayview got the interpretation right so here is the example.
    I would follow as in believe in the words of good moral leaders. Rather than the beliefs of oneself.
    The most difficult thing for a writer to comprehend is to experience silence, so speak up. (quoted from a member)

  4. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by Ralph Rotten View Post
    No. YOU find them repulsive, but to other conservatives they were good guys, champions of conservatism.
    Yes but...but...I'm not writing for conservatives...?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ralph Rotten View Post
    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.
    "Truly bad" in the sense that my character is (in my mind) truly bad (i.e without redeeming qualities) and I am asking for advice on how to write that character. Not how to conceive of the character at all. You really don't see the difference? Everybody else on here seems to get it so I'm disinclined to say at this point it's my fault for not explaining properly...but I am guessing that will be how you see it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ralph Rotten View Post
    I give up.
    Likewise. Thanks for trying though, seriously. I appreciate your efforts.
    "All good books have one thing in common - they are truer than if they had really happened."

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  5. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by Bayview View Post
    I don't know the Save the Cat reference, but I agree with what I think Theglasshouse is saying. Start with a sympathetic character - show him being vulnerable or kind or generous or self-deprecating or whatever - and then show his ugliness. It'd probably only take a couple paragraphs of showing his nice side before you were able to slip out and start showing his dark side.
    The only problem I have with this is that it seems to be placing limitations on what characters can be used as protagonists, in the sense that it is requiring the character have sympathetic qualities that can be perceived from the outset...and I'm not sure if that's possible with every character type.

    The more I think about it though the more I consider that there are actions he could be doing that elicit a form of pathos if not shows actual sympathetic traits. The idea of, say, a person eating at a restaurant table alone while everybody else there has somebody with them provokes a kind of sympathy regardless of how much of a bastard they are. If that's kind of what you mean I guess that's probably workable.
    "All good books have one thing in common - they are truer than if they had really happened."

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  6. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    The only problem I have with this is that it seems to be placing limitations on what characters can be used as protagonists, in the sense that it is requiring the character have sympathetic qualities that can be perceived from the outset...and I'm not sure if that's possible with every character type.

    The more I think about it though the more I consider that there are actions he could be doing that elicit a form of pathos if not shows actual sympathetic traits. The idea of, say, a person eating at a restaurant table alone while everybody else there has somebody with them provokes a kind of sympathy regardless of how much of a bastard they are. If that's kind of what you mean I guess that's probably workable.
    That might be enough, sure. Or... you're going to show things later in the story that make him less horrible, right? Is there a way to hint at those at the start? Not enough to ruin the effect later, but enough to foreshadow it a little?

  7. #27
    Sounds like my kind of protagonist.

    If you ask me, I find the endless stream of righteous and morally-upstanding "goody two-shoes" protagonists featured in every media dreadfully boring. In half of the cases, they are devised as thinly-veiled mouthpieces for the official liberal leftist party line to demonstrate the author's own ideological orthodoxy, and in the other half, their authors are just being too lazy to come up with something more complex and interesting.

    So a protagonist who holds flawed, ethically questionable and socially and politically marginalized views would definitely be a refreshing change. Because there are many people like that in the world - as opposed to rather few actual do-gooders who hold no unacceptable opinions, do nothing morally questionable, and are frankly just dull and annoying.

    I'm also averse to the titled description of the protagonist as "bad". He might be "bad" by the standards of liberals and leftists because of his views, but that doesn't necessarily make him a bad person. A "political heretic" would be a better term for this kind of protagonist.

  8. #28
    You can break really fundamental rules, but unless you really know what you're doing, you are likely going to fall on your face doing it. Break rules intentionally and with great skill, but without the skill, it's best to try to follow the blueprint. They're there because they work.

    I hear a lot of "I want to write a story that breaks THIS rule!" Okay, but why? You haven't told me how the story works or why you need to do something different for the sake of telling the story, just that you want to violate a convention.

    It ends up sounding a bit like "I want to build a house without a foundation!" Well, such houses exist, there are reasons to build them in some cases where the traditional foundation cannot work, and they have OTHER bespoke design elements that serve that purpose. You don't just pop off and make a house without a foundation to be a rebel, or you will have a pile of debris soon.

  9. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    The only problem I have with this is that it seems to be placing limitations on what characters can be used as protagonists, in the sense that it is requiring the character have sympathetic qualities that can be perceived from the outset...and I'm not sure if that's possible with every character type.

    The more I think about it though the more I consider that there are actions he could be doing that elicit a form of pathos if not shows actual sympathetic traits. The idea of, say, a person eating at a restaurant table alone while everybody else there has somebody with them provokes a kind of sympathy regardless of how much of a bastard they are. If that's kind of what you mean I guess that's probably workable.
    You might consider utilizing the old adage, "Everyone is the hero of their own story" and examine (for yourself, not necessarily within the story) why the character holds the views he does. If you can determine the root of his motivation -- those life experiences which molded his world view -- you might find something you can use to make him relate-able for readers. I'm thinking of something like what Thomas Harris did in his book, Hannibal where he provided Hannibal Lechter's backstory and showed how the monster was created. Just a thought.

    Quote Originally Posted by CyberWar View Post
    I'm also averse to the titled description of the protagonist as "bad". He might be "bad" by the standards of liberals and leftists because of his views, but that doesn't necessarily make him a bad person. A "political heretic" would be a better term for this kind of protagonist.
    In the OP the character was described as someone who's work is racist, sexist, and homophobic. Not as someone whose actions were viewed as racist, sexist, or homophobic. I agree that sometimes a person's words or actions are incorrectly viewed as one or more of those things, but that's not how the character was described. Racism, sexism, and homophobia are bad, that's not open to question. It's in finding the borderline where a person's beliefs and actions cross over into the realm of racist, or sexist, that good stories are found.
    Last edited by Terry D; December 7th, 2018 at 04:23 PM.
    “Fools” said I, “You do not know
    Silence like a cancer grows
    Hear my words that I might teach you
    Take my arms that I might reach you”
    But my words like silent raindrops fell
    And echoed in the wells of silence : Simon & Garfunkel


    Those who enjoy stirring the chamber-pot should be required to lick the spoon.

    Our job as writers is to make readers dream, to infiltrate their minds with our words and create a new reality; a reality not theirs, and not ours, but a new, unique combination of both.

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  10. #30
    It's in finding the borderline where a person's beliefs and actions cross over into the realm of racist, or sexist, that good stories are found.
    I agree with this quoted text because it sounds like something I analyzed. False beliefs can create a motivation to act or behave a different way which creates action (because there is a conflict). Especially if the belief is misguided. Stereotypes on people can be a good source of conflict because you can imagine how the person behaves and disapprove of them. Of course, that makes for a good tale of redemption. People are innocent most of the time of what people judge them as being or how they behave. It's a good source where you can mine for conflict and negative emotions. Negative emotions can be a source of inspiration. The way you perceive people is important. Because of the way you treat them. It's a source or story material that can in the right circumstances inspire. A person's actions can be motivated by beliefs that are wrong most of the time. As long as that provokes action that is a good sign. It doesn't have to be limited by stereotypes, I guess it is a reaction and action for me at least. Examining your own beliefs can be difficult to do, but you can always examine other people's beliefs. How your brother treats you or your father. For example, the actions and the beliefs you think they possess imo. Mine (my brother) to exaggerate ignores me or procrastinates, when I ask for a favor, which could create a conflict. I have often had the argument, as to why they can't do what I ask them. The excuse arrives as if two days later when nothing gets done. Whether someone gets angry at me, I at least ask for some modest amount of respect. Some people such as someone in the family always feel shame when someone's privacy is talked about (taken away). This everyday conflict can be narrated. Some people think you need to know a person's personality to write conflict. Because when conflicts clash at least for me in real life it could also be beliefs, action, reaction, and maybe imagining what could happen because someone was frustrated in what they asked. Frustration is conflict. Denying a desire, it could create a small unit of action what I said about how some people in my own family react. Or could be the catalyst for a plot.
    Last edited by Theglasshouse; December 7th, 2018 at 10:22 PM.
    I would follow as in believe in the words of good moral leaders. Rather than the beliefs of oneself.
    The most difficult thing for a writer to comprehend is to experience silence, so speak up. (quoted from a member)

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