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Contradictory Characters

One thing I’ve noticed increasingly over the years is, once you’ve nailed down your structure, *everybody* wants a piece of your main character and what they get up to. If a reader does not feel they can say much about your actual craft, they’ll make all kinds of assertions, both good and bad.

Here is some of my feedback on a particular character and her journey (note these are all about the SAME script):

“[She] is a compelling character – especially because she sabotages herself and is her own worst enemy.”

“I couldn’t relate to [her], because she makes things difficult for herself so much: I doubted anyone would do that.”

“I found myself really caring about whether [she and the love interest] would get together.”

“I didn’t care whether [she and the love interest] got together or not: she seems a bit of a nutter and he a sap.”

So who’s right?

As it goes, none of them and all of them – because above are OPINIONS. Sure, some of them got what I was going after with this character; others didn’t. But then, if the film were made, some people will like it and others won’t. End of.

In this age of Po3, peer feedback, script readers etc we sometimes rely on the feedback of others TOO MUCH. We forget there is another very, very important part of this process:


I *know* what I’m going for in this script and with this character. She does divide opinion. That doesn’t mean she’s a crap character – it means she is interesting enough to inspire REACTION. In this age of “don’t care” characters – especially the female variety who are too often facilitators for male emotion or hotties who kick ass – this can only be a good thing.

So next time a reader or feedback-giver HATES your character, ask yourself this:

Is it because something is found wanting in the actual characterisation? If so, what?

Or is it because who that character is doesn’t *fit* in that reader’s worldview?

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3 thoughts on “Contradictory Characters”

  1. Good post.

    I've been having a very similar problem with my protagonist. She does have a very particular worldview and the point of her story is that she learns to accept other world views anyway. (If only my developer could understand that – She would probably also want Scrooge to be nicer at the beginning)

    I remember discussing one of Lucy's protagonists (is it the same one?) and can see the point entirely. I didn't get on with the hero – but could entirely empathise with her story…which always kept me reading.

    It also meant the character really worked though as the dire situation was also, to an extent, of her own creation. The only way this character doesn't work is if a sequel started with the character seeming not having learned from film one.

    I love characters that present the world differently from me. Only one coffee into the day, the only example I can think of is 'House'. What an arsehole. I love him. But I think what also really works about House is that he is surrounded by other characters questioning his viewpoint too.

    I think the scripts that don't work are the ones which simply *present* a worldview and leave it unchallenged. As well as being propoganda for a particular attitude, it probably also lacks a lot of conflict anyway.

    (sorry for the lengthy post!)

  2. Noooo….. The one you read, I don't think anyone could WANT her to stay with her boyf, he's a homicidal freak!

    I do find it interesting female protagonists seem to get more stick for not being what people "expect": I wrote a script once in which the protagonist is a serial killer who starts off by murdering his own child. Did anyone *hate* him? Nope. But they'll hate women who aren't afraid to have a go at people. Says it all really!

  3. Thankfully, with my book, the prot is so demonstrably a) revolting and b) nuts that we get past this whole "Well, I don't like him!" bullsh*t early on for the readers so far. Problems come when people assume I like or agree with him. I got a very funny look when my other half read the cover blurb and assumed it was talking about the author, not the prot.

    And, for the WiP, well, of course the protagonist is self-sabotaging and delusional. She's a teenager.

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