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BennyJackdaw

Creating a ballanced character

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I see a lot of people complaining about Gary Stus/Marry Sues. I'll admit, it's not easy avoiding them when making a characters. Often times I'll draw a character without thinking to much about their personality, but when it comes to writing a character, well, I'm learning.

 

I remember when I first wrote my currently unreleased book Benny and the World of Mythica (Now called Gaidens of Monstrum) I went to a forum to advertise the story and it's main character: an incredibly kind and gentle unicorn rabbit, and people complained that the character was a Gary Stu. After thinking about it, I realized they were correct. In addition, the character was a hobo who lived in poverty, which has absolutely no connections to unicorn rabbits. Eventually he evolved into a character I liked more: Benny Jackdaw: a giant quadrupedal rat who is usually nice, but bitter about his life. He is weak, has no magical abilities (Always was and never did) and a big character quirk is that he hates fat people, for he blames them for his famine, the reason he gets little to eat. The story has quite a few fat characters, and while I haven't incorporated Benny's disdain for them yet (been too lazy to finish the book) I plan on using this as a flaw.

And yet... I still wonder if this is enough.

Another character I'm working on is part of a graphic novel I'm drawing/writing, which is a tasteful fatfur-related comic called Splendimals. The main character, Pierce Tonda the Prehensile Tailed Porcupine, is one I'm really trying to flesh out. He's almost the opposite of Benny, and has a strong bias in favor of larger creatures, adopting somewhat of a Size Superiority Complex. This is shown in his thoughts, as he's often smug whenever he gets one over on a smaller creature who happens to oppose him, but is also uncomfortable that his boss is smaller than him. In addition to this, his best friend is a Nutria named Denny Dunkel, who became his friend after Pierce scared off people who were bullying Denny when they were young. ...But their relationship didn't start out pure. Denny started out as a suck-up, doing whatever Pierce told him to do. On the other hand, Pierce exploited Denny, treating him as an inferior due to his small size and making him do his bidding. They became true friends when Pierce starts to feel like he's going too far. He realizes Denny's really trying to be nice to him, and that he's been treating Denny like dirt. Over the years, Pierce still has a size complex, but he still cares about Denny Dunkel.

I'm trying to balance Pierce out as a character, and I feel I'm doing okay. I feel like I'm getting the idea of what a Gary Stu is and how to avoid making them: Characters who are generally very nice, as well as super powerful (optional) are considered Gary Stus, from what I know. Also, self-doubt is generally a very weak character flaw, as it's normal to feel that way. Whiny-ness over a situation also seems kind of week, as it's another obvious flaw. I feel like the best way to make a ballanced character is to realize no one is perfect. No one can be likeable in every sense of the word.

 

Anyone else have any tips? Perhaps a character of their own they might like to share as an example?

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I think you're on the right track. The easiest way to avoid a gary/mary stu is to write a character who is defined by his/her flaws first. It can be hard though. I'm shopping around this pirate story inside my head and it seems like every time I start in on the main character, she becomes too badass or too author inserty.

One of the bigger gary stus I can think of is Richard Rahl from A Wizard's First Rule. He's this big, bold, badass with a big sword and libertarian viewpoints that everyone will get to listen to or else, and the thing is, he's a huge fucking douchebag/cunt. But no one looks at him that way. So really, the guy has a big character flaw, but the book goes out of its way to ignore that.

Part of it all comes down to context and how you treat the character/how other characters treat the character. You can have a pretty powerful character with a minor flaw, but if all of that character's obstacles involve that flaw, it's still interesting, or can be.

Like, there's this Top Cow book called Romulus and the main character is named Ashlar. She's kind of a mary su but she gets her ass beat often enough. It's just that it never seems to really bother her, or if it does, ti's so she can be the perfect YA version of angst. It's frustrating because it doesn't feel real, just stupid. When she needs to win a fight though, the book will give her the W pretty easily. It's like she never has to work for anything despite losing just as much as she wins. Very strange. Not interesting, even though it should be.

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Oh, and a character's flaws can't be dressed-up strengths, and can't be of a noticeably lesser magnitude than their strengths. Too many hack writers resort to having their character be "clumsy" or "too modest" or unaware of how beautiful they are.

Great choice of a Gary Stu, Conker. Richard Rahl is the Gariest Stu that ever Stu'd.

The Left Behind books are also great examples of How Not to Write, because the main characters are also Gary Stus.

Youtube channels I recommend on writing:

Overly Sarcastic Productions

Just Write

Terrible Writing Advice

Francina Simone

Jenna Moreci

Vivien Reis

Ellen Brock

Books I recommend:

On Writing by Stephen King

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

Creating Characters by Dwight Swain

Also:

https://www.writersstore.com/books/characters-dialogue-and-plot/

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16 hours ago, Troj said:

Oh, and a character's flaws can't be dressed-up strengths, and can't be of a noticeably lesser magnitude than their strengths. Too many hack writers resort to having their character be "clumsy" or "too modest" or unaware of how beautiful they are.

 

Fucking Bella Swan. Meanwhile everyone she meets goes out of their way to be her best friend forever.

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I would like to add a careful word about character flaws. Yes they can go way too far, but then a perfect character can be very boring. Some flaws in a main character hero or heroin can, if not exagerated way too far, make a character interesting. The ruff old tracker who will stop what he is doing to go out of his way to help. Then in chapter 4 you discover it is because he lost his whole family to ...whatever... but it made him the way he is. Maybe he needs to be that way for the story to flow or be interesting. 

Yes the chosen one is way over used, i would love to read a book about what happens when the chosen one dies in the first chapter, but, then what would the story be if the main character was not the chosen one... What if Harry Potter was not the chosen one?

 

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1 hour ago, Gnarl said:

I would like to add a careful word about character flaws. Yes they can go way too far, but then a perfect character can be very boring. Some flaws in a main character hero or heroin can, if not exagerated way too far, make a character interesting. The ruff old tracker who will stop what he is doing to go out of his way to help. Then in chapter 4 you discover it is because he lost his whole family to ...whatever... but it made him the way he is. Maybe he needs to be that way for the story to flow or be interesting. 

Yes the chosen one is way over used, i would love to read a book about what happens when the chosen one dies in the first chapter, but, then what would the story be if the main character was not the chosen one... What if Harry Potter was not the chosen one?

 

#TeamNeville

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I believe it was Un Lun Dun by China Mielville that dealt with the idea of a prophecy pointing to the wrong Chosen One.

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Your character is already imperfect. He seems to be too good. 

I would suggest writing the character in first person to make him seem bigotted. My other suggestion (if you're not keen on directly giving him negative traits) is to have it written from the perspective of others. Capitalize on alternate perspectives. 

You should ask yourself: who are they "perfect" to? Who are they not? Consider their traits and the consequences of having those traits. 

Though, somebody who's more experienced at designing characters can help you more.

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Here's some food for thought: People often hate most in others what they hate or fear most in themselves.

So, if you have a character who hates little creatures, it may because he is insecure about the ways in which he currently feels small and vulnerable, or is trying to overcompensate for a time when he was small and vulnerable.

If you have a character who hates fat creatures, maybe it's because he realizes how easy it would be for him to let himself go, and is terrified by that thought, and horrified that anyone might find that out about him.

A character's hatred for someone or something can also be fueled by envy or jealousy, as well. Perhaps your character hates fat creatures because they're contented and well-off, and he resents always having to restrain himself and be responsible.

In any case, your characters will be more interesting if their flaws have some kind of underlying reason behind them that actually shapes and informs who your character is, to the point of actively shaping their choices throughout the story.

At the same time, your characters must always act at the top of their intelligence, or your audience will get bored and frustrated. Your characters can make bad choices or flawed choices based on their established shortcomings, but be careful about going so far overboard that it strains credulity, violates what we know about the character, or makes your character less likable and interesting.

What you really need to concern yourself with is what your character wants. You can create the most fascinating and multi-faceted character in the world, but if they don't want something, audiences won't be engaged enough to stick around. Your character needs to have a goal that they're trying to meet that readers will be interested in and will feel they relate to.

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