What ruins a great character?

#1
In my opinion the worst thing that can happen is the author making the character a shell of who they once were. For a lot of up-and-coming authors, they tend to have a problem with consistency. For the first few chapters they establish the set of characters that the audience will get to know, but soon after that the characters will say and act contradictory to their personality and identity. 

I can understand that for many, consistency is the greatest problem when it comes to writing. Even worse are the novels that implement systems for the protagonist, especially those that choose to put in data such as attack power and agility in points and such. this goes without a saying that everything is easy to manage in the beginning, but once the novel gets going it's important to maintain the set rules and laws of your world alongside the personalities of the characters. 

Not easy, but this is the mark of a seasoned writer. In your opinion, what else ruins a great character? 

Re: What ruins a great character?

#3
I think it does come down to inconsistency. If the character comes to learn something, change, or even have their worldview altered only for it to be thrown out the window in favor of a scenario, or out of inconsistency, then that tells me the character didn't learn anything and opt-out to act in a way that contradicts their character growth, development, progression, then I think that ruins their character. And since I love seeing characters grow from where they were not just physically but mentally and emotionally, whenever their character is inconsistent or downright contradictory, then that ruins the character for me. 

This is my two cents on the subject. Hope it helped.

Re: What ruins a great character?

#5
Coffee... To give proper answer but different from the above - power creep. The characater is mostly the same but they have all this power. All the challenges are too easy they just cheat their way through. They also show no sign of being corrupted by that power because they are a 'good' person without a hint of complexity. 

Power creep or cheats done wrong sucks.

Re: What ruins a great character?

#7
As other people have said, inconsistency, but what I'd add is staticness. Some characters can get away with not changing, as long as they've got a really interesting personality. Eithan from Cradle is one example. He doesn't change much, but we do get to learn more about him the further we go into the story. There is still some development there to be honest, but that's the most static character I can think of off the top of my head. But if you've got a character whose 20 books deep into a story and their most defining trait is still being an average joe personality wise, then that's gonna be hard to follow.

Re: What ruins a great character?

#9
I get really put off by characters that are awesome only because they're the lead. Walk through any challenge with out a sweat. Girls/women/men love them for existing and hurl themselves at them. They are more skilled and powerful than other characters who presumably have years of experience training ect. These MC will show growth but nothing drives it. They just suddenly have an innate talent.
I read mostly indie novels and it's a trend for sure.  

Re: What ruins a great character?

#12
Misogyny or a lack of basic empathy.

To be clear, these are totally acceptable as deliberate flaws the author wants the character to have, if written well. But oftentimes the author is just misogynistic or lacking empathy in how they think, and it translates to their works. I can only handle a very small amount of these things if it's just the view point of the writer accidentally shining through. I specifically avoid translated Russian books because this frequently pops up. Along with a weirdly specific "everyone is so woke they're somehow, literally, aggressively killing people with it and it's the worst" narrative every other chapter.

You know what. Let's just broaden it to authors with narrow view points where it shows up in the characters they write, whether gradual or sudden. That's what can easily ruin any character for me, great or not.

Re: What ruins a great character?

#13
Lothaire Wrote: In my opinion the worst thing that can happen is the author making the character a shell of who they once were. For a lot of up-and-coming authors, they tend to have a problem with consistency. For the first few chapters they establish the set of characters that the audience will get to know, but soon after that the characters will say and act contradictory to their personality and identity. 

I can understand that for many, consistency is the greatest problem when it comes to writing. Even worse are the novels that implement systems for the protagonist, especially those that choose to put in data such as attack power and agility in points and such. this goes without a saying that everything is easy to manage in the beginning, but once the novel gets going it's important to maintain the set rules and laws of your world alongside the personalities of the characters. 

Not easy, but this is the mark of a seasoned writer. In your opinion, what else ruins a great character?

Depends on the type of character consistency. People behave differently depending on the situation and the social circle, so I don't think this is a hard and fast rule. Also, self-image is often at odds with others' assessments, particularly when it comes to character weaknesses, so an unreliable narrator is always a fun factor. 

But yes, there are some kinds of character inconsistencies that detract, rather than add, to the complexity or believability of the character. I do agree overall with the consistency point: inconsistent worldbuilding, characterization, etc. can be jarring, and can annihilate suspension of disbelief. 

Re: What ruins a great character?

#14
Do you know the "would he really?" - test? I've heard about it from one of my favorite authors, at least when it comes to books about writing. He explains it like this:

Quote:Nothing will send a book to the garbage can sooner than a character that causes the reader to say, "[The Protagonist] would never do a thing like that—at least not the [The Protagonist] I know. "
James N. Frey - How to write a damn good novel

What's a good character, really? We might define it like this or that, have a list of scientifically correct criteria that we all agree on are essential for a great character, but at the end of the day, what we enjoy reading won't conform to lists like that. We'll love characters that are sometimes a bit badly written and inconsistent while we'll acknowledge that some brilliant characters will leave us cold. 

Some really enjoy reading about the exploits of some self inserts with godlike powers and don't mind their personalities being flatter than the chest of a particularly anorexic model. In that case, we don't have a good character on our hands, but a somewhat enjoyable one at least.

Which brings me to my point. What's so incredibly bad that even the heroes from our guilty pleasure escape reads become unbearable? When they fail the "would he really?" test. When they go against everything we know about the character with no other reason than that the plot demanded it. 

Just to be clear, this isn't a hard rule about what a work can't or shouldn't do. It's a sign of audience reaction - the moment a reader is screams out confused that the character they know would never do that - that's the moment immersion is lost and trust is broken. Because we trusted that what we knew about the story and the character would be adhered to, only it didn't matter. Anything can happen now. 

And what ends up happening more often than not is some sort of negative backlash. A sudden and abrupt halt to reading, throwing the reading device against the nearest wall or worst of all: a slightly peeved comment or review. 

Re: What ruins a great character?

#15
Author not doing their research on a particular subject when writing a character background, so consistency with what the author present his character as.

Also double standard and/or hipocrisy.

Making your character smirking or snorting. I remember a character in a Dbz fanfiction on RR which happen to do so all the time, maybe to give a Vegeta feeling to it but if it was that and is kind of understandable coming from Vegeta due to his particular background in it's early representation, it wasn't for this MC which was looking more like the kids in the tournament in Dbz, vain and stupid.

Re: What ruins a great character?

#16
Father Wrote: Do you know the "would he really?" - test? I've heard about it from one of my favorite authors, at least when it comes to books about writing. He explains it like this:

The only issue I have with the "Would he really?" test is that some readers/viewers/etc seem to really not understand the protagonist of a given story. I've seen various fandoms debate and disagree over whether a character would "really" leave someone from the enemy faction alive, or violate his allies' privacy like that, or trust someone he's just met. "Would Master Chief really leave a bunch of wounded and terrified Grunts alive? When I play Halo, I slaughter everything that moves". There are fans of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power that can't forgive Catra and accept her into the main cast because they see even her redemption as a continuation of her abuse of Adora, and there are fans who say that Adora is the one who spent the entire show abusing Catra. I feel like--especially for larger works--there are so many people who would project their own version of the protagonist onto what the protagonist actually does that you might get a lot of varying and outright contradictory answers to "Would he really do that?".

Ararara Wrote: Sudden political (communist/socialist) rants that are completely out of the blue


 What about sudden political (capitalist/liberal/fascist/monarchical) rants that are completely out of the blue?

Re: What ruins a great character?

#18
TienSwitch Wrote: The only issue I have with the "Would he really?" test is that some readers/viewers/etc seem to really not understand the protagonist of a given story. I've seen various fandoms debate and disagree over whether a character would "really" leave someone from the enemy faction alive, or violate his allies' privacy like that, or trust someone he's just met. "Would Master Chief really leave a bunch of wounded and terrified Grunts alive? When I play Halo, I slaughter everything that moves". There are fans of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power that can't forgive Catra and accept her into the main cast because they see even her redemption as a continuation of her abuse of Adora, and there are fans who say that Adora is the one who spent the entire show abusing Catra. I feel like--especially for larger works--there are so many people who would project their own version of the protagonist onto what the protagonist actually does that you might get a lot of varying and outright contradictory answers to "Would he really do that?".
Yes, I am aware that here on RR there‘s this consensus going on that readers are all kinds of dim and won‘t grasp the authors intent half the time, nevermind that most of the stories here lack the depth to fatally misconstrue them either way. 

I agree with you that this test seems to put an unreasonably high burden on the author and that a lot of people will disagree with a character‘s actions even if they are perfectly in line. There‘s no accounting for taste after all. 

For me it‘s about those readers who engage with a work, like (or at least fascinated) by a character who are then confused and ripped out of a story because a character does something out-of-character completely out of the blue. Might be they overread the part that explains it, but the reaction has led to a lot of unfinished read-throughs. Whose at fault is not as relevant as the fact that something is faulty. 

Case in point, people might dislike Catra and hate that she got redeemed, but the story shows that Catras fear of ending up alone is a driving force for her character. I haven‘t met anyone who said „The Catra I know would never join the heroes!“, but then again, I haven‘t really talked with anyone about the show. 

Re: What ruins a great character?

#20
I see a lot of people talk about consistency, but I actually disagree.

Inconsistency is exactly what makes a round character (as opposed to flat) and forcefully making your protagonist consistent can make the character come out as dull or even straight up idiotic. It's not to say that there are no good consistent/flat characters out there (Most anime protagonists), I just don't think consistency is a defining feature of a good character.

I think what ruins a great character is precisely the opposite; when the story starts writing off the character's personal growth as a given and only focuses on external conflict

The best example of this issue in webnovels would be power creep.

While it's pretty interesting to see a protagonist overcome trials, many stories will slowly forget that the trials are there to make the protagonists (& Co.) grow as characters, not just push the story forward.

I think what a lot of people try (and often fail) to emulate in their stories is the classic shonen protagonist growth (a la Dragon Balls, Naruto, One Piece, etc). While it's true that all these stories have the issue of power creep, we as reader remain invested in the story because there is always stakes, there is always growth and there is always change through every trial. Rarely does Goku simply train for 3 chapters show up and beat the BBEG. Yes, he does sometimes as it's formulaed, but there are stakes, there's growth in characters despite Goku's own character is as flat as it gets.

Sometimes someone dies, sometimes they lose the battle (temporarily), sometimes they learn something new or become better people and, throughout it all, it remains tangible that everyone is at risk.

Although it might sound similar to power creep (and is, in some aspects), what makes a character bad in this regard is when their victories feel unearned and their growth inconsequential.

My opinion anyway.