Creating a Ballanced Character.

Discussion in 'Writing and Prose' started by BennyJackdaw, Oct 22, 2017.

  1. BennyJackdaw

    BennyJackdaw Active Member

    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?
    Simo likes this.
  2. ellaerna

    ellaerna Sass Master

    Overly Sarcastic Productions has a really good trope talk on Mary Sues (as well as any other trope you might want to look into)

    Your first character, the unicorn rabbit, definitely feels like a version of the Tragic Sue- someone who the universe has conspired to make miserable yet somehow they are still perfect and wonderful and kind and amazing. It feels disingenuous and if the hardships your character face don't do anything to really change them, well, they aren't really hardships.

    Benny does sound better. I love a good angsty character, but you still need to be careful at how you portray him. I don't know the universe in which he exists, so I can't really talk about him being non-magical (is this common or not, I don't know). Him being biased against fat people could be an interesting flaw and plot point. Makes me think a Allura from the new Voltron who is rightfully but also overwhelming biased against the Galra. Or basically anyone from the Avatar universe and the Fire Nation. Just make sure that you don't just make him a Jerk Sue where he's an ass, but everyone is okay with that for inexplicable reasons.

    Pierce sounds like a good start for a reformed villain. He was the bully first, but now is trying to be good. And that's an interesting story. There's a lot of good plot and hardships and trials that can come of someone switching sides, even if the sides are more symbolic and less literal. However, from these two examples, your go-to fix for a Gary Stu is to make your characters biased against other people. Which is fine, everyone has some implicit bias in them somewhere, but flaws should be more than just a little racism/sexism/sizism here and there and they definitely shouldn't entirely rely on outside factors.

    Think about a real person. Let's take me just for ease. I'm a good person. I'm kind to almost everyone and I love helping others. I am decently smart, mostly well-spoken, and I could hold my own in a fight if need be. However, I'm also lazy. My procrastination can work as a self-sabotage even though I'm bright and have a lot of opportunities. I have issues with anxiety which make it hard for me to approach people even though I enjoy company. While I could hold my own in a fight, I tend to freeze up and shut down during heavy conflict. I get too passionate about what I'm talking about sometimes and end up putting my foot in my mouth or pushing people away. I'm easily frustrated and I get super envious, even of people I love.

    All of those are focused on me. Everything comes from within. It's not just how I interact with people, but how I interact with myself that holds me back and tempers my good qualities in various ways. Hating a group of people does technically come from one's own bias, but it's only relevant when dealing with said group of people. Take them away, and the flaw goes too. But you can't escape anxiety or laziness or a terrible addiction. You can try to overcome those, which makes for a compelling story, but they are still always a part of you. Most people have a bunch of flaws like that, and your characters should feel like people.

    Sorry, I feel like I'm rambling, which is another flaw of mine. :)
    Hope this helps!
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  3. BennyJackdaw

    BennyJackdaw Active Member

    Literally, I posted this on NaNoWriMo, and the first thing anyone did was direct me to that video. XD

    With Pierce, his bias is a bit more subtle. It shows more in his actions and thoughts than his words, but for Benny he's more direct about it, though people are far from okay with it. In addition, Pierce is also a bit reckless in his thoughts. He is sent to another place near the beginning of the story, and immediately tries to make friends with a huge bunny... who tries to mug him. This is still going off his bias, though, since he tends to treat creatures larger than him differently. Another problem with him is his head-strongedness. Near the beginning of the story he's being lectured on this new place he's going to, but Pierce impatiently mumbles over how he knows everything about this place, which will likely go against him. He thinks he knows everything about an ever-changing location, so anything that goes against what he knows will baffle him.

    I'm trying to work on other characters like Merindah, a Titanic Wombat who belongs to a group of four creatures known as "Gods." (Note, these are not literal gods, more like leaders) She's often considered the kindest of the four, but she's incredibly shy, so much that her "Palace" is a dormant Volcano away from everyone else. She's also a pacifist, but not because of morals, but more because of cowardice, and often times she's afraid to fight. This is something that will be expanded on when the main villains come in. Another character is a large skunk who has a very hammy side, and insists on an intro everytime he meets someone, even when they're trying to kill him. This comes from a colony of creatures who see him as a protector, which causes him to have a boosted ego. There's also a semi-side villain I'm working on: A Kangaroo who acts the role of another leader, though not one of the four "gods." He is a creature who cares deeply about his kingdom, but has been troubled by foreigners, who have ravaged his home land for the longest time. He tries to keep foreigners out of the kingdom, but interlopers are put up for question and often fed to his "pet." ...Except for rabbits, who are killed on sight. That, of course, is based on the bunny plague in Australia. That's another sort of bias, but a different kind. Pierce's bias is more ego-based, where the Kangaroo's bias is based on bad experiences.

    Still working on characters, and I have loads of characters in Splendimals that I'm still trying to flesh out, but I feel like I'm getting there.
  4. ellaerna

    ellaerna Sass Master

    What can I say? It's a good video. :p

    Again, since I'm not familiar with the universe all these characters belong to, I can't really say a whole lot about them. But it does sound like you're trying to put a lot of thought into them, which is great.
  5. ChapterAquila92

    ChapterAquila92 Resident Bronze Dragon Kasrkin

    For a bit of tongue-in-cheek satire, there's Terrible Writing Advice.

    The creator also has a more honest video on the nature of clichés that can prove invaluable.

    If there's one thing I've learned about creating characters however, it's that, while any character can exist in a void, good characters live in a world, and as such their appearances and behaviours ought to reflect some aspect of that world in a meaningful way. Taking the example of a character from my Forgotten Army pokémon fanfic for instance: Dio Guevara is an orphaned former child soldier from Orre who had since been trying to move on and lead as normal a life as possible in Unova; his experiences, on top of afflicting him with survivor's guilt, make it difficult for him to trust other people however, and he doesn't take kindly to anyone he thinks is trying to drag him back into the Hell he sought to escape. Dio's experiences have thus made him very controlling and wary of authority figures he couldn't see himself voluntarily accepting orders from, which stands in contrast with his Unovan peers who were initially taken back by both his seemingly cold & forceful nature and his callous dismissal of many of their first world problems. It's won him few friends as a result, but few enough that he can explicitly trust with his life.

    On that note, it's one thing to have a character find (him/her)self in a situation where (s)he's out of his element in-universe - it's a great motivator for potential conflict in a story's plot, after all - but the catch is that the character has to have at least belonged somewhere in-universe in order to be believable. In corollary with my point about characters and their environment, a character created in a void is going to stick out like a sore thumb in any setting, regardless of where, if (s)he is not suitably adapted to belong in that setting.
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2017
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