Title: Flaws in "Idealized" Children
Description: Not really OF, but not HPFF either
Anony_Mouse - June 2, 2007 05:38 AM (GMT)
So, as many of you, I have been working on a novel, and this summer, my parents got me a writing teacher to help me edit the parts of it I've already written (I'm a little more than halfway done, writing wise). I have always considered myself fairly good at creating reliable OC's, but my writing teacher pointed out I needed to create more flaws in my main character. I know part of it is this is just something people watch for in OC's-flaws, that is-and not just something I've done so much as something people always say, and also a common fault in first drafts, but still, it got me thinking, and though I'll have to be vague about my novel, I'd still really like some help.
So, the problem is, my protagonist is, from the beginning, is a very idealized character. I'm not going to tell you who her parents are, but the fact is, they're fairly well-known, and if you knew a lot about them, you'd expect their daughter to be as wonderful and brave as they are. Already, that places a high expectation on her. She's also thirteen, and though I'm not trying to be conceited, as a teenager, I don't really have that many flaws. I mean, I'm far from perfect-I'm moody, a bit self-centered at times, but I'm more insecure than anything else. The adults in my novel are far more flawed, because-well, let's face it-adults are less naive and everything, as far as the world goes. But this character and my other child, an eleven-year-old, have been worrying me. I don't think they're perfect or even on Mary Sue or Gary Stew borderlines, but still, I want them to be as realistic as possible, too.
Basically, another problem with my thirteen-year-old protagonist is that the people who don't immediately idealize her for who her parents are-well, I'm not quite sure what the opposite of "idealize" is, but basically unidealize her, are frightened of her, and perceive her to be evil, instead of perfect. She also runs away from home and does a very wonderful thing for her mother in the context of my novel, once she's gotten over some of her initial anger at her. I really don't think she's a Mary Sue, but I think I could show more of her flaws.
She's stubborn. She's impulsive. She's angry at her mother. She's sarcastic. She hasn't had any friends before my novel takes place. She doesn't really care about how well she does in school. She's insecure. Not having flaws isn't the issue....but none of these things are major either....and would that even make sense, for a girl her age?
See really, the biggest problem is, children don't have as many flaws as adults do. I can honestly do more with the adults in the story as far as flaws go, because unless the children have lived a really harsh childhood, that made them less naive and innocent, they haven't seen very many ways of the world yet, and therefore aren't as insecure/bitter as adults can be (most of the adults in my novel are having some difficulties facing their pasts). I'm not an adult, so I can't say for CERTAIN, but really, most of my flaws are more teenagey than anything else, even though adults might face them from time-to-time, too (take my constant mood swings and fear of being liked, by my friends, or the way I could probably stand to do more to help around the house). They're not something I absolutely HAVE to worry about-least not yet.
Basically, here are my questions, just because I need to narrow it down, since even I'm not completely sure what I'm asking (we'll just keep it general, because I can't give away that much info about my novel). I realize not a lot of the first few paragraphs made sense, but it really helped for me to ramble like that:
-How does one create a realistic teenage protagonist with flaws that are both realistic for the age group and something everyone can relate to, adults and teens alike? (I realize the most likable protagonists are flawed and human in some way)
-How does one create a realistic character, if the other characters essentially (this is told from several different PoV's) see her as two-dimensional? (My mom, who I use to bounce off ideas on, pointed out that idealizing creates expectations, which can be hard to deal with, and Cat had an excellent thread pointing out that perspective is everything as far as characters go)
-How "flawed" do I have to make a character? Can they be insightful, innocent, and naive and still "human" or is it all about how I write it? Mostly, I've been been portraying her insecurities (I'll go deeper into them in another draft), because essentially, as a teenage girl, I'm more concerned about my insecurities than flaws
-Most importantly of all, how do I take this into consideration while writing the new material and not mess up the writing process, completely? I mean...I'm not offended, not really, but I really love this character, and while I know I should take all of this into consideration while writing, I also want to just write and not have to worry about, "Oh, is this too perfect, too insightful, etc". Cleaner version of the question: How can I take developing this character more into consideration without worrying if I'm doing something wrong, because I do want to enjoy the writing? (does that make sense???)
Right. So, I realize my ramblings above might not make any sense, so you can just look at them for background and answer my more "general" bolded questions. I realize this is difficult and I'm probably being very confusing SINCE I can't give away very much about my novel, so I apologize. It's just something that's been on my mind, lately, so I'd really love it if you guys could help. Anyone who does gets a big :huggle: glomp...oh, and a mentioning in my Acknowledgments if the book should ever get published. ;)
I love you guys!!! :grouphug: Excuse my slight rambling and lack of sense, there....
SiriuslyCrack - June 2, 2007 07:00 AM (GMT)
Wow, Mara. Go slowly. Breathe...breathe. Good :cad: I'll try to answer your answers as best as I can.
I agree that children don't have as many flaws as adults do, but adults are understanding while children (especially teens) are insecure and irrational. And that counts as the worst flaw of them all. Because to act without thinking or to jump to conclusions without trying to see from another's perspective is what we teens often do and it might get us in trouble or make us regret afterwards. We might like to think that we are big now and can decide between what's right and what's wrong but that's not true all the time. That's how teens like to be - in control of their own life. And from what I read in your long ramble (:cad:) I can see these flaws in your character.
Mara, you are a teen. Right now, you would know how to understand and write about a teenager better than any adult. The basic flaws that you have given your OC are understandable and good. Infact, she reminds me a lot of myself. But that's not the point. I would suggest that you stick with the flaws you created in her. That's perfectly realistic as it is. You don't have to add anything big into her character so that adults can relate to her too. My father always likes to taunt me with this saying "Young people think old people are idiots. Old people know young people are idiots." Ever heard of it? It goes to show that adults have passed through our age and they do understand our problems and flaws. The difference is, they do it from their own perspective rather than look at things from our eyes, thus jumping to the conclusion that teenagers worry about the little-lest of things, which annoys us more than anything because, according to us, our worries are quite big and important to us.
Perhaps you are thinking that I went off the line with my above explanation but it does have a connection. I hope I didn't confuse you. I have this very bad habit of confusing people :unsure:
|-How does one create a realistic character, if the other characters essentially see her as two-dimensional?|
Oh, that's very hard...writing a character from different point of views. Unless you know your character very well, that is. If you want to achieve this feat nicely, just concentrate on your character's actions and thoughts. Writing from your character's point of view will always be easy for you because you know her flaws and quirks and qualities but you don't know what other people might think about her. Try to step into their shoes and think. For example, if your character behaved badly with a person she recently met, they would probably think her to be moody and aweful and try to be cautious with her the next time they talked to her or never talk to her ever again. But they probably might not try to guess the reason she behave badly with them. Perhaps she had a fight with her sister or maybe a teacher scolded her in front of the whole class....it could be anything. So she got irritated and snapped at the first person she encountered. It's totally understandable but others rarely understand that.
So basically, what you have to do is think about your character's reactions and what affect they might have on other people depending on their qualities and nature. If the reason matches with the situation properly, you'll know that you pulled it off very well. You don't have to try to make her seem realistic for this ;)
|-How "flawed" do I have to make a character? Can they be insightful, innocent, and naive and still "human" or is it all about how I write it?|
You know what? It just depends on how you write your character. Perhaps you are perfect on balancing your character but if you don't know how to write her properly or don't know where to draw the line, then the balancing of flaws and qualities is of no use. A character does need flaws but it doesn't mean you have to keep count and add many more till you are satisfied. It also happens that a couple of her flaws won't even come in use throughout the book.
I have seen many people who are insightful and innocent and at the same time, they are perfectly human. They are not Mary-Sues/Gary-Stues. It's how you portray them - their actions, behaviour towards different things and situations - that matters.
|How can I take developing this character more into consideration without worrying if I'm doing something wrong, because I do want to enjoy the writing?|
Pretty simple answer to a pretty hard question. Authors worry about this a lot. But it's all up to us, after all. If you have the story all in your head and know what's going to happen next, would you risk changing it all just because you think that your character was a little more than perfect in a situation like this? Perhaps you can change her words a bit...twist her thoughts...but that's all you can do if you don't want to change the plot or maybe just that little episode where you think your character seemed like a Mary Sue.
Seeing this from another angle, you will probably not make a mistake like this because an author always knows his/her characters very well. It makes complete sense. You can't just make the character understanding and sympathetic when he/she has been skeptic and hard in the past. Do you get my point, Mara? It's pretty difficult to explain, so if I confused you any more, lemme know and I'll try my best to unconfuse (yeah, I totallyy made that up) you ^_^
I hope your book gets published and I get to read it :huggle:
Elf_ears13 - June 2, 2007 03:05 PM (GMT)
It sounds like you've already put a lot of work into this novel already, so I hope you don't take this the wrong way (my character-developing skills are quite near nonexistent ... ), but all of these traits sound very typical of teenagers - which is good, since making her very mature would be out of place - and none of them seem like they really define her. I'm sure that you have plenty of positive traits that are more defining, but some flaws can make up the major substance of a personality. Odysseus' pride, Harry's heroic/rash tendencies and Lady Macbeth's manipulative and controlling nature are prime examples of this.
I know this doesn't answer your questions, but the one thing I do know about creating OCs is that the characters above stand out in my mind because of their flaws ... and I want my characters to do the same in other people's minds.
delta - June 2, 2007 05:16 PM (GMT)
When I first read this, my first thought was about the character Ender from Ender's Game. This character is a genius, is entirely likable, and is able to see the solution to everything. On the surface, he seems like he's got it made, and he knows that anybody would want to switch places with him (he's at a school to train commanders for a war and he's their best hope to save the world). But what makes him such an endearing character is himself.
He's isolated, alone, and angry. Everybody respects him, but no one is truly friends with him. He hates how good he is at destroying others, hates the very quality in himself that makes the teachers and students at the school love him so much. In short, Ender Wiggin hates himself. You see his weakness when he cries reading his sister's letter and sees his weakness at his utter horror after doing something gruesome in this Mind Game that all the students play. You see his weakness when he kills a boy - crushes him - and see his weakness at his hatred of his ability to both love and defeat.
I thought about Ender when I read this because you spoke about your character and her need for flaws. I think flaws are what the author makes of them. In Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card puts Ender in situations that exemplify his weaknesses and puts him in situations that endear him to the reader. The reader hates his isolation and feels sorry and innately connected to this genius that cannot come to terms with his personality.
In the same way, I think that you should not give her more flaws - but show her flaws more clearly. Put her in positions to show her weaknesses - show her insecurities and tears. Make others hate her for being who she is and make that hatred real and palpable and frightening. Make the reader truly connect with a broken image of this girl.
To truly do this, I think that you must make her flaws a large part of the overall story (just like Harry's heroic rashness or Odyssey's pride in Marissa's example). Perhaps, your character's insecurities keep her crippled and withdrawn from society, maybe they make others think that she seems haughty (people used to think this of a quiet, intelligent girl at school because she was so withdrawn, which made her seem unfriendly), maybe they make her afraid to do anything that would make her seem any less perfect. Play around with her flaws, and I'm sure that you'll be able to come up with something brilliant. :)
Good luck on your novel, Mara! I want to read it in bookstores someday. ;)
P.S. If you've never read Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, I would suggest reading it. The characterization of Ender in the book is considered one of the best in modern literature.
Anony_Mouse - July 2, 2007 09:11 PM (GMT)
Oh my gosh, this has taken me forever to respond!!! I'm really sorry, but do know that although I have not thanked you here personally, you guys have been a TREMENDOUS help!!!
Also understand, that, though I think I'm going to try and get my hands on that book, I don't think she can be like Ender. That is, though a loner, she's not going to live in denial of others...it just doesn't suit her. Basically, I've figured a few things out:
-Since her parents have basically been the only ones to pay her any mind until she runs away from home and my novel takes place, she's more than a bit insecure. Most of her mother's "friends" (if you want to call them that--I'm avoiding novel spoilers; and know it's not that they're not loyal, but rather...human) only like her because she's her mother's daughter; not anything else. Likewise, all of the humans friends who dislike her parents either hate her because of that, too. But though that is confusing and hard to take in since she knows next-to-nothing about her parents' pasts, when she meets her parents' friends (and not just animals), she is more confused than ever. Everyone seems to like her as her parents' daughter...and not necessarily herself. She's never really been "liked" before, so therefore, she doesn't have the same social skills. She doesn't make eye-contact. She's quiet. She freaks out when people ask her questions. Where are they askingme this? Is it just because they knew my parents? Thus, she's insecure.
-About the insightful things...well, to be quite honest I am very insightful. That's just the way I am. So, I think she is insightful, but mostly about people around her as opposed to herself, and though I think she is often insightful about herself and her place in the world, too, she ignores her insights. Because essentially, we are all insightful but who we are, but usually too proud to give in and admit we do have a flaw (except when we are trying to be in touch with our flaws in other to make our original characters believable, like I am).
-She's stubborn, impulsive, sarcastic (but just to her family members and not overly intelligent sarcastic; but just kind of, "roll your eyes sarcasm" with a "Sure" or "Yeah, right")...all of the things I mentioned before. But she is moody, a regular teenager, and as a matter of fact, the reason she runs away is because of a fight with her mother (and did I mention she absolutely hates backing down?)....so at the end of my novel, when a few people actually begin to admire her, she questions her actions, since part of it was nothing more than a normal, teenage-parent fight. ;)
-My writing teacher and I have also given her more lies to feed to people around her, so while she hates to lie, she needs people to trust her ("oh, I ran away because of a fight with my parents!" is not exactly believable), as well as safety issues. So, even when people who have no idea that she is any way related to her parents (or have never even heard of them) like her, she's also been feeding them lies, so it's this constant pressure of, "Do they like me or just the person I was pretending to be?"
-For my other character, the boy, well, I need to develop him a lot more, but essentially he is easier. Basically, though eleven, he has begun to become a little more bitter, losing up hope entirely, but when he finally comes face-to-face with his true flesh and blood (he's adopted) he finally begins to question his actions, acknowledging that the last thing he wants to become is like them (they pretty much have messed up lives).
-Shortly after I was posted this, I began to write the "fight" scene between my character and her mother that finally causes her to run away. It actually began to write itself and actually solved some of my character's biggest problems and though I can't give too much away, basically, this: although she still ends up helping her mother, because of a combination of her mother's and her stubbornness, she tells her mother in the fight scene that she won't help her...since she doesn't appear to want help. So, though she actually does, she fervently denies it, too proud to admit she is actually giving in. This also creates a tension between the promise she made as a little girl and the person she is now.
So...yeah. *lets out tremendous sigh* The more that I think about it, Delta, maybe I was wrong: I actually think she does have more in common with Ender than I thought!!! Wow, I shall seriously have to consider writing her in ten years, maybe fresh out of college (don't know if that shall be her or me), but in a place where no one does know her parents or name...because in many ways, her troubles are just starting. Plot bunny coming to me here...but it probably be a long while till I pursue it. ;) (although I think I eventually will).
Oh, Elfy, one comment: I totally agreeing with relating to "flaws" in other characters, but since her parents are fairly well-known characters, I don't think that's always true because what I admire most about them are their good-traits. So, yes, I agree with you there that I mostly admire flaws, but I don't in her parents...and I'm assuming the other characters in my novel do, too.
I know it doesn't seem like it, but you guys have seriously helped a lot. But basically, I realized it was up to me to come up with all of this...she is my character and I probably know her best!!! But I think it's because of you guys, I unconsciously started writing some things into that chapter that wrote itself...so, honestly, thank you! :huggle: for Tahi, :huggle: for Marisa, :huggle: for Janet...I LOVE YOU GUYS!!! :jessi:
Actually, in order to get more in touch with my flaws (since my character and I do have a fair amount in common), I think I shall write an OC bio of myself...because one thing's for certain: I am not a Mary Sue! Tell me if you'd like to see it...I might have to edit some of the details out because I'm wary about giving personal information out on the internet, but I might let you see parts of it. But no promises yet. ;)
THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!! :grouphug: