Re: I've grown to hate stories where the underdog is automatically the good guy

#22
I think a lot of why underdog stories are so prevalent is because a lot of stories are told to and for people who don't have a lot of systemic power. A lot of fiction is about addressing social ills in one way or another, and those that are most affect by social ills tend to also have odds stacked against them. A character is more relatable if their background has something that the audience can relate to, like oppression, tragedy, being ostracized, etc.

And similarly, a lot of stories that do deal with people in power tend to be about addressing a mistake of a predecessor or the like, or even a public that doesn't trust them because the powerful rarely do.

Although, fun tid bit that may be a factor for more modern fiction, stuff like war which of course paraded powerful leaders, was seen as a very wondrous and prideful thing until stuff like photography caused the public to start seeing how unglamorous it was. Photography during the Civil War was particularly known for that.

Re: I've grown to hate stories where the underdog is automatically the good guy

#23
I like giving all characters a fair chance, but social standing and power do make a difference in the spirit of realness in my stories.
Setting matters depending on the genre one writes. Keeping hold of all that power though, now that's a different story altogether.
Even for my main characters.

To each his own, I suppose. Some very good points were mentioned here. Very good thread. FancyDrakan

Re: I've grown to hate stories where the underdog is automatically the good guy

#24
Stories work by putting a protagonist against odds that are very difficult to beat. That's simply how they function. There are some genres where you have some wriggle room -- tragedies can show a powerful person fall, or some light comedies can show a powerful person continually winning if you're a VERY skilled comedian (most people who write this just come off as boring and obnoxious, it's VERY hard), but in general, the audience should be rooting for the weaker side. If your protagonists are obviously more powerful than their opponents, and they go out and beat those opponents... that's not a satisfying story, it's a pointless snorefest.

So yes, protagonists tend to be underdogs. They don't *have* to be; there are ways to make the 'good guys' the most powerful team, but only if a) it's a villain protagonist or b) the conflict with the 'bad guys' is not the central conflict of the story. Ergo, when this does happen (and it happens all the time), you probably didn't notice, because the story necessarily had to be about something else, something where the protagonist was in the weaker position. Maybe the Dude Who Works For The Powerful But Good Team is in a romance story. Or trying to get a promotion, or something. He's certainly not directly fighting the Bad Weaker Team in a large-scale way, because that's not a story. When the Good Team was more powerful, you probably didn't notice, because the Good Group vs. Bad Group wasn't a conflict; the Good Group was just the setting for a different conflict.

You *can* do stories with a Powerful Good Team vs. a Bad Weaker Team in certain restricted scenarios. Monster-of-the-week style stories can do this, if the protagonist works for a Good Powerful Organisation. Superhero stories do this all the time; the Justice League are unquestionably more powerful than almost any enemy of the Justice League. You can also do spy dramas, or mysteries, where the Bad Guys are the weaker side and the tension comes from the good guys' lack of knowledge or current circumstances making them weaker in this specific circumstance but they're stronger in general. But if you're looking for a direct conflict? Of course heroes are overwhelmingly going to be underdogs. If the protagonist is obviously stronger than the opposition, there is no story.

Re: I've grown to hate stories where the underdog is automatically the good guy

#25
I think my problem isn't the underdog so much as the evil is so cardboard evil.  The only reason they didn't starve their own kids to death is it is easier to feed them than bribe the courts.

Nobody is that evil.  Everyone tries to be nice and do nice things.  You often get it wrong, make mistakes, and such, but at heart everyone is a good person. (there might be some lone wolfs that are exceptions - but they don't get very powerful because that needs people to agree and they can never get that much of a following)  Yes, the cult leaders who get their cult to commit suicide are nice in general, with many good qualities.

Re: I've grown to hate stories where the underdog is automatically the good guy

#26

Crusixblade Wrote:
Apocryphal Wrote: That’s because if the stronger force was the good party then the story would end almost immediately. 

If the rebels were the bad guys the empire would have lolcrushed them statistically and financially speaking and like usual, would only lose due to plot armor. 

This applies to pretty much any villain vs underdog story.


There is a military saying from the past... "The elephant can not kill the mosquito."

History shows a lot of big empires having trouble dealing with rebels.
Trouble? That’s because they’re irritating, not extremely dangerous.


If your house was infested with spiders, you could stomp on them all day. The only issue would be finding them, but in all honesty, they’d pose no threat to you because 1 - You’re too fucking big for them, and 2 - They know that. 

You could say, “oh, the spiders venomous!” But then take into account that lethal bites from spiders are rare nowadays due to medical treatment.

Re: I've grown to hate stories where the underdog is automatically the good guy

#28

hank Wrote: I think my problem isn't the underdog so much as the evil is so cardboard evil.  The only reason they didn't starve their own kids to death is it is easier to feed them than bribe the courts.

Nobody is that evil.  Everyone tries to be nice and do nice things.  You often get it wrong, make mistakes, and such, but at heart everyone is a good person. (there might be some lone wolfs that are exceptions - but they don't get very powerful because that needs people to agree and they can never get that much of a following)  Yes, the cult leaders who get their cult to commit suicide are nice in general, with many good qualities.


You are fortunate to still be able to have that kind of view.

Some people, like me, have been bitten a few too many times that we become jaded.

I do not think that all men are evil, but they are very much capable of doing things so evil it goes into history books. Hitler, pol pot, you know

Re: I've grown to hate stories where the underdog is automatically the good guy

#29

hank Wrote: I think my problem isn't the underdog so much as the evil is so cardboard evil.  The only reason they didn't starve their own kids to death is it is easier to feed them than bribe the courts.

Nobody is that evil.  Everyone tries to be nice and do nice things.  You often get it wrong, make mistakes, and such, but at heart everyone is a good person. (there might be some lone wolfs that are exceptions - but they don't get very powerful because that needs people to agree and they can never get that much of a following)  Yes, the cult leaders who get their cult to commit suicide are nice in general, with many good qualities.
I agree on the cardboard evil thing. 


But yeah, some people are definitely that evil. I encourage you to look up war testimonies. What warlords do, what regular soldiers do, what civilians do, there's a lot out there that can be called "evil" and most grimdark novels has nothing on reality. 

Re: I've grown to hate stories where the underdog is automatically the good guy

#30

Apocryphal Wrote: That’s because if the stronger force was the good party then the story would end almost immediately.
That may not have to be the case. If anyone is familiar with Wuxia and Xianxia, you may know what I'm talking about. Usually in those books, the main character is the underdog, but because of some serious stroke of luck he now has the ability to grow stronger than anyone around him. Except once he does so, he realizes there is this whole other place with even stronger people and the MC is at the bottom of the barrel again. You could say that they grew too big for the pond they were in and went into a lake, and then into an ocean, and so on. What I'm trying to say is that the MC could be the topdog in his little corner of the world, but as the story continues, the scope of the world they're in grows too.

It would probably go something like
MC is topdog
Antagonist is underdog
Antagonist uses charisma to undermine the MC cause he doesn't like him and leaves the 'pond' to grow stronger
MC now wants to get stronger too and maybe get a little revenge on the antagonist depending on the character

If you want to keep the MC = topdog and antagonist = underdog, you can make so that the MC is actually pretty talented and he always manages to catch up to and exceed the antagonist, and then the antagonist would use some luck, charisma, and maybe some bribing tojump ahead again. Though I'm not sure how well that would work.
The main point is that the MC could totally be the topdog and you could still get a good story out of it.

Re: I've grown to hate stories where the underdog is automatically the good guy

#31

Emi_The_Fairy Wrote: I think a lot of why underdog stories are so prevalent is because a lot of stories are told to and for people who don't have a lot of systemic power. A lot of fiction is about addressing social ills in one way or another, and those that are most affect by social ills tend to also have odds stacked against them. A character is more relatable if their background has something that the audience can relate to, like oppression, tragedy, being ostracized, etc.

And similarly, a lot of stories that do deal with people in power tend to be about addressing a mistake of a predecessor or the like, or even a public that doesn't trust them because the powerful rarely do.

Although, fun tid bit that may be a factor for more modern fiction, stuff like war which of course paraded powerful leaders, was seen as a very wondrous and prideful thing until stuff like photography caused the public to start seeing how unglamorous it was. Photography during the Civil War was particularly known for that.
If you ever saw Yu-gi-oh 5D’s. This season out of the rest hits home, going into realistic elements. They also make use of the underdog element, but in a much more inspirational way. That show addressed inequality, wealth, high class/low class. Prison cruelty. Hell, it even covers how the convicted can be misunderstood, and that they could have been in there, but can actually be good/decent people. 

On top of this, telling quite a compelling story. Ep 1 to 64, really hits home around every element. Hell, the sub version got into the cruelty in prison can lead to death. That people who oppose the police, can simply just want fairness to live their life away from fear of them. It goes on and on. 

In all of those cases, it is the underdog making a stand. It goes into how friends can betray each other, simply to get ahead in life. While they might regret it, they think about themselves first. This touches on, that peeps are too driven by selfishness, and not even for the morally correct reasons. Even showing the frustrations of people who are left behind, not even by their choice. It is just the situation they were born into, goes into segregation as well.

Anyway, if you haven’t seen it. I recommend it to watch. 

Re: I've grown to hate stories where the underdog is automatically the good guy

#33

Sake Wrote: Most people are underdogs.

They want wish fulfillment. 

Fiction gives them that.

Yaaay.
Not much discussion on this comment, but this is the true reason. Fiction are for escapism and all that, but webnovels are especially geared for wish fulfillment. Which is why OP MC is a very strong genre (not sure if it's even genre). Can criticize the slew of OP MC stories but they are popular no matter what will happen because people who have problems in real life (which is most of us in one shape or form) wants to find escapism in stories, and webnovels provide the underdog turning into OP MC plotline. Since people will self insert into the underdog MC, obviously the underdog has to be the "good guy". Even in stories with a supposed psycho MC, the enemy will be an even bigger ass to make the MC "good". Topdog good guy is generally bad if you want to get a hold of an audience. 


It can be done of course, but there is the reality that the audience will be small. Still can grow I suppose if done well. 

I recall there was a LitRPG story from years back where the MC is not an underdog but a very successful and rich man who played the game because he wasn't able to as a child or something like that. The way the author did it was to make the MC very different from the usual MC of OP MC stories so that the reader can't self-insert like normal and us it as wish fulfilment. 

So I suppose that's the way to use a topdog as the good guy or even the MC. Don't setup a self-insert situation. 

Re: I've grown to hate stories where the underdog is automatically the good guy

#34

Temple Wrote: So I suppose that's the way to use a topdog as the good guy or even the MC. Don't setup a self-insert situation.
Yep, self-insert I just don’t get it. It annoys me in books, and the same with games. I am here to experience a story, not insert myself. I want to be able to connect with the main character, not have to put myself into them. I think this is probably one of the main reasons I dislike first person narrative, since even if it is not. The style used kinda defaults to it in some way. 

A lot of works banks on a blank slate main character, which for me, just ends up killing the experience as well as the story itself. In most cases, parody’s are a different situation. Even then, it is just slight, and can end up being an annoyance.

Re: I've grown to hate stories where the underdog is automatically the good guy

#35

Haust Wrote:
hank Wrote: I think my problem isn't the underdog so much as the evil is so cardboard evil.  The only reason they didn't starve their own kids to death is it is easier to feed them than bribe the courts.

Nobody is that evil.  Everyone tries to be nice and do nice things.  You often get it wrong, make mistakes, and such, but at heart everyone is a good person. (there might be some lone wolfs that are exceptions - but they don't get very powerful because that needs people to agree and they can never get that much of a following)  Yes, the cult leaders who get their cult to commit suicide are nice in general, with many good qualities.
I agree on the cardboard evil thing. 


But yeah, some people are definitely that evil. I encourage you to look up war testimonies. What warlords do, what regular soldiers do, what civilians do, there's a lot out there that can be called "evil" and most grimdark novels has nothing on reality.


All of those warlords are GOOD TO THEIR FRIENDS.  They might be killing the evil Jews, but that is to save the righteous and pure ayran race.  Today we have a different perspective on what is good and evil.