May 22, 2020 at 4:30 pm #113515Chalice@chalice
Hey friends and fellow writers!
So… I need help. I have a character who is kind of an avalanche of bitterness. She hates the situation she’s in, she hates the people around her, she hates herself…. Yeah… she’s kind of a mess.
Anyway, I’ve given this a lot of thought (I’ve been drafting this story for about five years now), and I’ve decided that she makes the best POV character for this story. Oof!
So my question is, how can I make myself like/root for this character who is so full of anger and hatred? Because I know if I’m not able to like her or root for her from the beginning then I’m not going to enjoy writing her story (even though I really love this story and I need to write it 😛 ).
Anyway, if anyone can help me out, I would appreciate it so much!
“Creativity takes courage” -Henri MatisseMay 22, 2020 at 5:04 pm #113517Arindown (Gracie)@arindown
This is a hard question. I’m not really sure, but my suggestions are to make yourself feel sorry for her by showing the low she has reached and then having the joy of, in a sense, saving her. And to make her have some good qualities that you admire. For example, she can be a total wreck, but be courageous or headstrong in a good way (like, she isn’t pushed around much).
I have a MC that is similar in some ways. He’s got a lot of hate, and anger, and he’s pretty corrupted (thats just hard to say, because in my story it doesn’t come out so black as all that), but he’s also fearless, and observant, and hurting. Sometimes I wonder how I can possibly redeem him by the end of the story (I’m not sure I can do it), but I admire his good qualities and work on getting him past the awful ones.
I don’t know if that helped at all, or if I was just super confusing.😄
Not all those who wander are lost.May 22, 2020 at 6:16 pm #113519Elisha Starquill@elisha-starquill
@chalice – Hmm, the first thing that comes to my mind is why. Why does your character hate the world? Why does she harbor so much anger? People aren’t just born angry at everyone, so usually it’s because of some terrible thing that happened to her in the past (*coughs* tragic backstory.) And as for making her more likable, what if you made that terrible thing totally unfair, something that wasn’t her fault? In those causes, I end up sympathizing with the character, mad at whoever caused it, and with a strong desire to see her succeed in rising above and conquering that unfortunate event.
I hope this was relevant in some way! 😀
"Moonlight drowns out all but the brightest stars." ~ J.R.R. TolkienMay 22, 2020 at 6:33 pm #113521Evelyn@evelyn
(Ima gonna follow this thread 😅)May 22, 2020 at 7:50 pm #113543WolverineRM@wolverinerm
Oooh ooh ooh I am so here for this!
(Okay so, I’m slightly biased because I love broken characters, and make them all messed-up and moody and I’m done for.)
My POV character in my WIP, Harley, isn’t exactly bitter—well, maybe—but he’s seething angry with the world. He hates himself, he hates his best friend, he hates his battle buddy, he hates his sergeant, he hates basically everyone who gets in his path.
But like Elisha said, no one’s born angry. If you get to the root of why she’s so angry and bitter, that’s your key to making your readers love her. In my case, Harley’s naturally rambunctious and goofy, but trusting and pretty tender underneath… til a certain tragic point in the story. You only get glimpses of the old Harley in flashback sequences, but it’s enough to show you he’s changed. That’s my way of getting in my readers’ hearts. Plus, my tragic halfway-point is (hopefully) heartbreaking enough that you sympathize with him, even if his behavior’s enough to get on somebody’s nerves.
Also, because this is your POV character, you get the chance to get in their head. From the outside looking in, that character isn’t very likable—I can’t imagine reading about Harley from third person, he’s so clammed up and snappy. But getting inside his head, you get to see the inner workings of his mind. Does your character realize this isn’t how she should/wants to be? Does she know why she’s like this? Does she wish it were another way? Does she have flashes of realization that it isn’t fair to hate all those things?
Yeah, along those lines, even if you keep them inside her head, those little flashes of realization may be exactly what you need—it was for me. For half a chapter Harley’s brooding and yelling at everyone. But then there’s just this little moment of, this isn’t how I want to be, this isn’t the real me, why am I like this. Even if he’s angry and worked up, that gives you a reason not to dislike him for it.
But yeah, mostly the backstory, which I’m trying not to spoil for my own story… 😆 If they have a reason to be like this, you’re gonna feel bad for them no matter how they snap and bite off people’s heads. 😇
I ask where he got these crazy ideas anyway
He just smiles and says, it’s the way that I was raisedMay 22, 2020 at 9:30 pm #113577Livi Ryddle@anne_the_noob14
Thanks for tagging me! I have only one suggestion, and this is something that I think would work for myself, personally, so it might not work for anyone else, BUT! Give her some aspect of yourself that you like in yourself. So for example, I like the fact that I’m very hard to insult. I just don’t take offense to much. So I might give my character that trait, and since I admire myself for it, I admire my character for it. Like I said, that’s just something that seems to kinda work for me? But maybe take it with a grain of salt, because I don’t have many characters like yours seems to be. So… *shrugs* That’s something you could try, maybe along with some things other people said 🙂
“Enough! Be quiet! I can’t hear myself think! I can’t hear my teeth chatter!"May 22, 2020 at 10:47 pm #113585Noodle-Mum@noodle-mum
I definitely agree with what everyone above has said. Not sure if there’s anymore I can add ^_^ Good luck on your story and thanks for the tag!May 23, 2020 at 3:07 pm #113615The Inkspiller@the-inkspiller
Everyone else has said their piece and they’re really good, with excellent, solid, detailed advice – I’m not sure how much I can add, but after reading your question I felt compelled to draw up an answer, as I have an MC who is pretty much in the same position. Since everyone else has already supplied high quality general advice, mayhap a concrete, detailed(ish) example will help.
Myrrha (my MC example) is a misanthrope to a T. Like your character, in the beginning she pretty much hates everyone around her, hates her world, hates her life, hates herself, etc. As the others have said, the key is in the “why” and the “but” – she’s angry, but why? She’s a horrible person, but –
Myrrha hates people in general because she can see their thoughts, whether she wants to or not. She has come to hate people because she can see all of their venial thoughts and feelings, their best and mostly their worst, and she can’t get away from it. She was also born looking like a monster, so she can never be her true self around others (she has to disguise herself with magic), while she’s forced to see everyone else exactly as they are – and whenever her true appearance has been revealed, it has always ended in disaster, both for her and for the pitchfork and torch crowd chasing her out of town.
Being privy to everyone else’s private, inner thoughts, she’s become disdainful of ‘mere humanity’ because she sees just how false, fallible, and petty humans really are. However, (here’s the but) she is also very much self-aware of her own failings. She knows that what she’s doing is wrong – she knows that she is evil and wicked, and she utterly despises the lows that she has stooped to, not merely to survive, but to take pleasure at the expense of others. She chases pleasures both mundane and supernatural as a distraction from her guilt, until that pleasure fades too, leaving her with more guilt.
Her guilt makes her relatable – she knows she’s awful and she wishes beyond belief she could change, but she feels trapped, like she just can’t ever do things right – something we’ve all experienced.
However, guilt alone would make her sympathetic, but would not redeem her for a protagonist role unless she experienced some change. For Myrrha, this comes as a rediscovery of innocence – a little child who is too young to see her as a monster, and instead he thinks she’s a mermaid sent to keep him company.
For me, a huge part of my motivation for writing her story was catharsis. Partly I was swept up by the winds of inspiration and spectacle, but I was compelled to write her dark (yet ultimately heroic) story because much of it was drawn from my own experience – struggles with sin and guilt and eventually the light of the gospel entering my life. The light part is still yet to come in her story – there’s a little light, but the true hope and salvation is still a book or two off. 😛
I don’t know if that last bit was helpful, and my brain train just ran out of coal, so I think I might have to cut this response off here before it rambles much farther off track. I hope this was helpful – tag me if you want to talk about it! Writing about horrible-bad-awful-no-good-protagonists is my specialty! (as an amateur. 😛 )
Non nobis Domine, sed nomini, Tuo da gloriam.May 25, 2020 at 3:16 pm #113722Chalice@chalice
Ah! Thank you all SO much for giving your answers! You’ve really helped me think more about my character and story, and I’ve had some new ideas due to all of your thoughts, so I’m really excited! 🙂
@arindown, Yes, that was very helpful! I can have a bit of a one-track mind sometimes, so it’s easy for me to get so caught up in all her messiness I forget to give her some good qualities too. So thanks for mentioning that. 🙂
@elisha-starquill, Ah yes, the tragic backstory. 🙂 Your mention of this has made me think about her backstory, and given me some ideas of how I can develop it, so a big thank you to you!
And as for making her more likable, what if you made that terrible thing totally unfair, something that wasn’t her fault?
Ooh, that’s a good idea, and I think I can actually implement this. 😀
@wolverinerm, Aw, yes! The broken characters are the best. <3 Harley sounds like he needs a hug. (He probably doesn’t want one though. 😛 )
Does your character realize this isn’t how she should/wants to be? Does she know why she’s like this? Does she wish it were another way? Does she have flashes of realization that it isn’t fair to hate all those things?
Yes, yes, yes! This is exactly what I need! I’m definitely going to try to work this sort of thing in. 🙂
@anne_the_noob14, You’re welcome! I hadn’t thought of doing that, but it actually might work. This character is already based a lot off of me (not that I’m bitter and full of hatred, but you know… other things. 😉 ), so I’ll definitely have to think about how I could do that. 🙂
@noodle-mum, Thank you! 🙂 And hey, how has your writing been going? I was just the other day thinking about the snippet of story you showed us some time ago. 🙂 Have you done any more work on that one?
@the-inkspiller, Thank you for adding your thoughts. 🙂 They were very helpful, and I have to say your character sounds really compelling!
I like what you said about guilt. The guilt cycle is really easy to get caught up in, so I’ll have to keep that in mind since part of her struggle is hating herself over something she did in the past.
For me, a huge part of my motivation for writing her story was catharsis.
Yes!! That’s awesome. 🙂
“Creativity takes courage” -Henri MatisseMay 26, 2020 at 3:51 pm #113788eden anderson@eden-anderson
@chalice SAMEEEE. My POV character is an angry, bitter jerk who thinks only of himself and how to bring about the downfall of those who hurt him. He’s so obsessed about advancing his own agenda, he doesn’t really care who gets trampled along the way. (Well, except for like…five people.)
So, yeah, I sympathize with you. 😄
Everybody has been giving out excellent ideas, and I don’t have much to add, but I’ll share the things that have personally helped me deal with the horribleness of my POV character:
1. @elisha-starquill mentioned tragic backstories. Well, this guy got one for sure. Murder, betrayal, family dysfunction, false charges, having everything he’s loved and dreamed of ripped from his hands…with all the horrible things that happened to him, I can’t help but feel sorry for him.
2. He was a real sweetheart before all these dreadful things came crashing down on top of him and catching glimpses of that throughout the story helps me love him.
3. He forms a very strong bond with another main character and this relationship brings out the good things in him like loyalty and trust. Yeah, he messes up a lot and the relationship hits rough spots, but watching him interact with the other character is just so wonderful. *sobs because all the feelz*
4. There’s potential for healing and redemption. I’m still working on the first draft, but I’m hoping to drop little hints of hope here and there that point towards a redemptive ending for my character. In the moments when he shows a tiny bit of kindness, or he apologizes for something, I hope that readers will be able to catch glimpses of a character that has a chance to change for the better.
I think the biggest thing for me was trying to make my character has realistic as possible in the sense that while yes, he’s really messed up and his priorities have gotten all out of wack, he’s still human and has both his good and bad sides.
I hope that was helpful…but to be honest, I’m still trying to figure this out for myself. 😂 I’ve loved hearing everybody’s thoughts and it’s given me some new ideas for my POV character! So thanks for starting this thread, Chalice! It’s amazing. 😊
"But how could you live and have no story to tell?" - Fyodor DostoyevskyMay 27, 2020 at 11:59 am #113875Josiah DeGraaf@josiah
Other people have already given great tips of figuring out the why behind this and exploring their backstory more. One tip I would give for the actual writing process, though, is to start the story out with scenes that paint the viewpoint character in a positive light. If you’re starting out with them being a jerk to everyone, neither you nor the reader will easily bond with them. Showcase their positive sides first with hints toward their darker side, and then you’ll be able to show readers more of their full anger and bitterness once they’ve already begun to care about the character.
Lit fanatic. Eclectic reader. Theology nerd. Writing fantasy at https://josiahdegraaf.com
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