That passive character...
In @toasha's introduction post, @typical_demigod, @toasha and myself started talking about writing passive characters! :D This seemed like a brilliant topic to discuss as I have a question or two for them and others! :D
In that post:
As for the story... I had my MC be passive in some places as part of her character arc from scared teenager to badass rebel. But I think I wait to long to change her over. So I'm installing her backbone a little earlier in my rewrite.
I can understand giving her a backbone earlier on. Writing a passive character is... actually really hard? I had a character who was passive for the first half of the story and it was sooooo hard to write, mostly because it was boring. (I'm still not 100% if it was her plot arc or her passiveness that made it boring, though :P)
You've both made me stop and think (something I love! So thank you!). When you describe passive as a character trait, are you talking about them being physically inactive? Or simply quiet? I've seen and written stories where characters do not act, either due to fear, hate, love, information a spy passed on to them, etc. That type of passivity was explained to the audience, but not the people those characters were being quiet, and not active around.
I'm not concerned that it could be seen as not badass enough (cause I totally want my characters to be badass!), or boring (eep, no one wants that). So, I'm hoping as a community we can look at different types of passive characters, and how to avoid them becoming ... well.. whimpy boring individuals. :D Hehe.
For my character, she was young and waited for the adults to fix everything. But then had to grow up fast and start taking care of herself and her little brother. So early in the story she's not doing much besides observing the crazy stuff going on around her. That's a bit hard to write because I'm thinking the whole time that people are gonna hate her as an MC.
MC in my case was physically active, but she didn't really have any strong motivations. She was doing these things one part out of spite and one part out of me thinking "I feel like this needs to happen to move the plot forward so let's see what happens". 90% of her issue, though, is that she doesn't know anything. She's supposed to find out everything her family is hiding from her as her arc progresses, but that doesn't happen until the end of the story. She starts getting motivated after a traumatic incident at the halfway point, and it's at that point that she starts getting clearer-cut motivations and feelings.
@toasha Hm. I don't think that necessarily sets her up for failure, if she has decent underlying emotions and motivations (for example, she's a kid, so she's scared to get involved because 1. people won't take her seriously anyway and 2. she knows she doesn't know all the details because, well, she's a kid), but it's such a fine line. Not knowing any of the context, I kinda like where you're thinking about going with her mom like you said in the other thread.
That's a bit hard to write because I'm thinking the whole time that people are gonna hate her as an MC.
Out of curiosity have you shared this start to her life with others and got their feedback on her? I know that I am an incredibly harsh writer and character developer towards my own works, but whenever someone has shown me their own writing I sit back and go "wow, how could you see this as boring?!" :D
MC in my case was physically active, but she didn't really have any strong motivations.
You may have just nailed something here. When I think about passivity, I tend to go in two directions (I am flawed so I know I am probably limiting myself here): The first is the character that is the pushover, just does whatever everyone else wants them to do. The second is the character that just sits and watches TV and doesn't do anything. Maybe the secret here is always ensure there is motivation for why someone follows instead of acts, and why someone would rather watch TV then do something. Then again, as the storyteller of my character's stories, maybe the secret is to push them out of their comfort zone. :D
@Josey Great minds think alike! I was just checking the forum myself!
People have read the story and love it (but one of them is my mom and doesn't count). I think I've been listening to a lot of writing podcasts and rethinking my character arc through that lens. I think I'm fine. She's trying to survive and save her little brother. There's a lot getting thrown at them. So it's not boring. I'm just trying to make sure she's likable.
@Josey See, she's not really a pushover. Half her motivation is "They don't want me to do this? DEFINITELY doing it now!"
Idk. I'm wondering if she was just underdeveloped until the end of the story in general, but the other issue is that her plot arc wasn't one I necessarily wanted to do, once I got into it, as much as I needed to do it to complete the story (because it was supposed to explain her character development).
@toasha I agree with Josey; as long as she has motivations and reasons for not jumping into an adventure, I don't think she'll be unlikable. And she's not just sitting in front of the TV doing nothing; she's taking care of her brother, etc.
her plot arc wasn't one I necessarily wanted to do
Omg. This. Just this all the way. I write by emotion. If I am not feeling a story at a particular time i need to stop. Otherwise I think I do more harm than good. Something that is a good story can be destroyed because I'm just not "feeling" it at this moment in time. Ya know?
@Josey Yep! I set down the story for a really long time because I didn't know how to write the story without her POV, but I HATED writing her POV with all of my being. I eventually picked it up and slogged through the beginning portions of her POV until the bits where it got more interesting so that I could finish the story, but the first third of her story was painful.
I think that's very important. That's how my outlines go a lot of the time. How I want the reader to feel.
@typical_demigod What did you do to change it?
@toasha Nothing. Her plot arc was always supposed to get more exciting starting at the mid-point, so I just held out until then. I ended up springing something random to get her arc moving, but it was always about waiting until the end for it to get exciting, once I started writing her POV and realized that it was kinda boring. (Ironically, after her arc started moving, it started moving in the exact opposite direction I wanted it to go.)
If I ever get around to editing the story, I still don't know what I'm going to do about her arc. I can cut out part of it, but then I'm missing build up to the event that kicks off her character development, ya know? And if I take out her arc entirely and replace it with something/someone else, I change the whole story. So.