CloverReef

Unattractive, but Redeemable Flaws

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This forum looked so lonely. So… Let’s talk about creating flawed characters! Like I don’t mean “omg he’s so tortured it’s sexy” kinda flaw, I mean non-sexy flaws. Things that add a little bit of ugly to an otherwise attractive character. I personally think every character needs a little ugliness added, especially in smut fics (Not counting PWPs in this statement. Everything goes out the window for PWPs) where most of the main characters tend to be on the sizzling side. 

I think lots of people have a line they draw in the sand between redeemable and not-redeemable. Like if your character is super sexy, but he keeps raping neighbourhood grandmothers, I probably won’t root for him no matter how many animal shelters he donates to or how many sonnets he writes. But there’s ugliness to me that is redeemable that isn’t so redeemable to other readers. Someone who kills, for example. (In fiction only!) Someone with explosive diarrhea (though I wouldn’t necessarily want to see him in an anal sex scene). Um… What else? Scars and stuff are too attractive, but horrific burns over half their body aren’t so much. A penchant for completely inappropriate jokes? Racism? 

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Obviously, in my opinion, all characters need their flaws.  Without them, a character becomes two dimensional (the tomatoes can be thrown, I can use some ketchup ;)...).  Without flaws, a character is just "perfect", so to speak.  Or, if irredeemable, becomes simply too evil.  Reality isn't as black and white.  

I'm probably rambling and not really answering things... 

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1 minute ago, Tcr said:

Obviously, in my opinion, all characters need their flaws.  Without them, a character becomes two dimensional (the tomatoes can be thrown, I can use some ketchup ;)...).  Without flaws, a character is just "perfect", so to speak.  Or, if irredeemable, becomes simply too evil.  Reality isn't as black and white.  

I'm probably rambling and not really answering things... 

Yeah, I had recently a good 5k toward ironing out some of my character’s flaws, but it was kinda overboard, so I killed it.  So, I left them at that point where they can jump further by tripping over their shoelaces.  Made a subsequent section more challenging, but I think I managed.

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10 hours ago, Desiderius Price said:

An allergy to oysters, but eats them anyways because they’re so delicious, that comes to mind.

What, you don’t find puffiness, rashes, and inability to breathe to be sexy? I hope he carries an epipen. 

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1 minute ago, CloverReef said:

What, you don’t find puffiness, rashes, and inability to breathe to be sexy? I hope he carries an epipen. 

Nothing that dramatic… just more than enough unpleasantness to ruin a date though :P   [and it was way better than my first idea of food poisoning because it was more targeted, and added to his character.]

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1 minute ago, Desiderius Price said:

Nothing that dramatic… just more than enough unpleasantness to ruin a date though :P   [and it was way better than my first idea of food poisoning because it was more targeted, and added to his character.]

LOL that’s too bad. I was thinking that was quite a dedication to oysters! Still definitely a redeemable, unattractive flaw though, and quite original at that!

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5 minutes ago, CloverReef said:

LOL that’s too bad. I was thinking that was quite a dedication to oysters! Still definitely a redeemable, unattractive flaw though, and quite original at that!

It’s the example I point to as where my database helps, so I can track these things, because I had ages ago, listed a more generic shellfish allergy.   This was after cursing Google for pushing diarrhea cures when I wanted to trigger it… go figure.

When I do want to bring some significance to a character, I’ll roll the dice, effectively, and run a utility I have that picks random lines out of a file.  I’ve got files for personality traits, hobbies, allergies, occupations, and phobias.  So, I’ll pick, say 10, and see what makes sense, and create a character for that.  I use the random thing, since although it’s easy to say “I want the character to have flaws”, trying to pick those traits while also not overusing a few favourites, that’s tougher.

 

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8 hours ago, Tcr said:

Obviously, in my opinion, all characters need their flaws.  Without them, a character becomes two dimensional (the tomatoes can be thrown, I can use some ketchup ;)...).  Without flaws, a character is just "perfect", so to speak.  Or, if irredeemable, becomes simply too evil.  Reality isn't as black and white.  

I'm probably rambling and not really answering things... 

Its interesting to apply this to societies too, when appropriate.  (ie, in mine, conservative/religious, *but* when it comes to cheerleaders, best not to let that stubble show through the body paint.)

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Character picks nose and eats off his finger. Can’t use the “It’s good for immune system” excuse. Otherwise decent person, just a disgusting habit they’re semi-oblivious too. Other character wants to break them of it. It works then… they start chewing their toenails.

Because flaws are interesting.

 

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2 hours ago, JayDee said:

Character picks nose and eats off his finger. Can’t use the “It’s good for immune system” excuse. Otherwise decent person, just a disgusting habit they’re semi-oblivious too. Other character wants to break them of it. It works then… they start chewing their toenails.

Because flaws are interesting.

Just sounds like a character who appreciates thoroughly cleaned nostrils to me….

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2 hours ago, Desiderius Price said:

Just sounds like a character who appreciates thoroughly cleaned nostrils to me….

LOL… See, I usually think of unattractive flaws as things that wouldn’t attract other characters to them, but I really like the idea of a character with a really gross habit and another character getting uncontrollably attracted to that gross habit/trait.

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5 hours ago, JayDee said:

Character picks nose and eats off his finger. Can’t use the “It’s good for immune system” excuse. Otherwise decent person, just a disgusting habit they’re semi-oblivious too. Other character wants to break them of it. It works then… they start chewing their toenails.

Because flaws are interesting.

5 minutes ago, CloverReef said:

LOL… See, I usually think of unattractive flaws as things that wouldn’t attract other characters to them, but I really like the idea of a character with a really gross habit and another character getting uncontrollably attracted to that gross habit/trait.

Well, in the above example, the *why* to their nose picking could be a different trait...like an obsessive compulsive disorder (to keeping their nostrils clear).  Perhaps the character had a near drowning experience and though they nearly died due to a stuffed nose? 

Just feeding the plot bunnies… :)

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On 7/8/2017 at 5:10 AM, CloverReef said:

 

To be quite genuinely frank and honest you can make any heinous character “redeemable” in the sense that the audience will become emotionally invested in their story despite what they’ve done or said or how they are.  You just have to give them reason.  People will get emotionally invested in a rock if you draw a face on it, as long as you give character to the character there’s plenty of ways to make them awful and yet people will still want to see what happens with them.

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15 hours ago, Anon said:

To be quite genuinely frank and honest you can make any heinous character “redeemable” in the sense that the audience will become emotionally invested in their story despite what they’ve done or said or how they are.  You just have to give them reason.  People will get emotionally invested in a rock if you draw a face on it, as long as you give character to the character there’s plenty of ways to make them awful and yet people will still want to see what happens with them.

Yeah, I could totally dig a rock with a face drawn on it. I’m not being sarcastic either. The underdog (underrock?) is an amazingly sympathetic concept, made all the cuter by things that aren’t supposed to have emotions to begin with. Wall-E anyone? (I mostly just watch animated movies and horror movies so I don’t know any adult examples...)

But to make a heinous character ‘redeemable’, you’d need to consider your audience. Some audiences would be more likely to accept a character who raped their ex-girlfriend/boyfriend, while other reader bases would flip out if a writer tried to redeem that character. And maybe that first audience would condemn a murderer while the second audience would totally forgive a murderer who murdered for a horrible selfish reason if he, say, saved a litter of puppies or was a really awesome big brother. I think there are unredeemable characters, but I think what constitutes ‘unredeemable’ varies from group to group and person to person. Hell, some writers might have a reader base that could forgive just about anything when the characters are done right. 

I used to watch Breaking Bad with my mom. She started out liking Walt but after he betrayed a couple people she liked, she hated him, and the rest of the series, she stayed hating him no matter what he did. I loved him! There were a few things he did that made me cringe and go “aw, Walt! What the fuck?!” but I rooted for him until the very end. Course it wouldn’t help much if your whole audience was mixed like that, as some are, but I think knowing a little about your readers, if at all possible, helps with plotting out the flaws of your villains and heroes. 

I know, I’m rambling. I do that when I’m half asleep. 

But I’d like to hear more about these plenty of ways to make characters awful! 

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Hmm.. maybe I’m just too cynical (I am getting old now!), but I believe that characters, like people, are mostly selfish. That’s the most realistic flaw you can write into any character, whether they’re yours or not. Sure, they all have moments of altruistic selflessness, as do we all, but I really think at the end of the day the great majority of the world goes around thinking about itself. And usually in quite a small way too, rather than master!villain selfishness. ie. worrying what other people think is probably pretty high up there for most people. Sad but true. I don’t exclude myself from that either.

Whether a character is redeemable or not (let’s imagine they have a more major flaw for a moment) is an entirely different kettle of fish. I don’t think the two are necessarily connected. Bad things happen to good people, the same as they happen to bad people, and vice versa. Doesn’t mean anything. Doesn’t make them better, or worse, than they were before said event. I like irony. I like it when characters doom themselves in surprising ways, and make traps for themselves, sometimes millennia in the making, and they still don’t see it coming. That satisfies my evil muse.

The problem with redemption is that it’s largely a mythical concept. Kind of like: everywhere you go, there you are. You can’t escape yourself. No character is redeemable in that sense. Ok, so a character could maybe stop doing a load of despicable stuff like murder, rape, dismemberment etc. But unless they’ve had some kind of drastic conversion that’s changed them completely into someone else, underneath they’re still pretty much the same dickhead, they’re just.. well.. dry drunk. Sorry, I can’t think of any other easier, short way to describe it.

And then there’s the outside world, and how that can interact, because characters don’t live in a vaccuum. I said I like irony. The redemption of characters can be argued for or against, but if they then go and damn themselves via what is generally supposed to be one of their “good” qualities – what then? Or better still, if on the path to some kind of “redemption” they’ve gotten hold of the very instrument of their doom… then what? If the character really deserves their fate, taking into account everything they’ve done, isn’t that kind of balancing?

Sorry if I wandered off topic a little. I tend to do that a bit. :)

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12 hours ago, pippychick said:

The problem with redemption is that it’s largely a mythical concept. Kind of like: everywhere you go, there you are. You can’t escape yourself. No character is redeemable in that sense. Ok, so a character could maybe stop doing a load of despicable stuff like murder, rape, dismemberment etc. But unless they’ve had some kind of drastic conversion that’s changed them completely into someone else, underneath they’re still pretty much the same dickhead, they’re just.. well.. dry drunk. Sorry, I can’t think of any other easier, short way to describe it.
 

So, none of us here is redeemable?

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42 minutes ago, Desiderius Price said:

So, none of us here is redeemable?

Well, that depends… what exactly do you expect to get from being redeemed? Absolution? I don’t have any kind of faith, so I’m afraid that’s out for me personally. *g*

If a character has done bad stuff, there’s not much they can do about it but resolve to do better the next time that situation presents itself, but it’ll always be something they did. In terms of story, it’ll always be part of their background. It’ll be on their sheet, so to speak. And that’s not dissimilar to life. A blank slate is impossible. Forgiveness might be feasible, but then again in my eyes even that might not save a character.

Say at some point in the past a character has committed a murder, or even some stupid petty crime like a theft. They might spend the rest of their lives (in the story) doing the right thing. They might do more good than all the other characters put together, but that initial crime is still impacting upon everything they do, not just altering them, but altering the whole storyline around them in its turn. And because of that, it’ll always come back to get them. Everything in a story is significant, even a dropped handkerchief. Going on from that, every action a character takes is significant, and redemption is a cheat. It’s an attempt to delete the handkerchief. It’s already written. It’s already done. There’s no changing it. There’s no escaping it. There’s only dealing with it and writing the consequences of it right up to the very end, whatever those consequences turn out to be. 

To redeem a character in those terms… impossible. It’s like Astinus says to Raistlin. You may as well throw a pebble into a fast flowing river. It changes nothing. History continues.

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In some ways, I do and yet I don’t really care whether every reader even likes any or all of my characters much less holds out hope for some form of redemption.  I will provide the redemption in my own way, even though most will not see it.  As with all things, there is a balance most commonly sought between the readers' perception of right/wrong, good/evil, etc.

The character traits that I tend to instill within my original works are more along the lines of attitude and personality because it's so much fun to let out the evil now once the reader has 'fallen in love' with the character.  Unless of course, they're looking for a goody-goody which is entirely boring!  Characters that have the ability to reach out and grab the hearts and minds of the reader should be just as diversified (within the contextual setting) as people are in real-life.  People, in my opinion, are like diamonds, there are many facets to an individual personality.  Which one sparkles depends greatly on which way you turn the diamond, so it should apply to characters.

I’ve read through numerous stories in the archives and honestly, the ones I love the most are the ones that hold my attention because as a reader there is some level of redemption sought, but it’s the fact that I didn’t get my way that makes the story so much more appealing to me.

Edited by Avaloyuru

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