Surfing around, I’ve read someone mention dying on their hill three or four times now. The saying completely cracks me up, but I also think it makes a great question to throw out into the aether. So, as an author/writer, reader, gamer or otherwise, what would you argue to the ends of the Earth and breathe your last for or against? Why?
For instance, I will bust out all my powerpoints whenever it’s seriously suggested “insert-villain-here did nothing wrong”. Sympathetic or tragic reasoning does not make justifiable/excusable actions by any means, and I’ve wasted hours of my life going back and forth on topics like this.
“Including too many of X minority [often the LGBT+ community] is unrealistic” is not a valid complaint about someone’s diverse work. That’s the hill I’ll die on. It seems far more unrealistic to make every character white, straight, and cisgender to me, yet many people don’t bat an eye at that sort of unrealistic. Not to mention that it seems odd to me as someone whose friend group of ten or so people has one straight person in it.
“I have to include rape to make the story realistic” It is complementary of @QuixquillianParadise one. Made by the same people. My answer to those people is does you include making poo? Realistic fill Tax documents, Or realistic two hours in a rush hour?
No? Then you don’t have to glorify rape and violence to minorities.
I don’t believe morally gray characters and stories are more interesting than morally white or morally black ones. A morally gray character can be shallow, while a good/evil character can be interesting, it’s all in the writing.
Just because a supporting character criticizes the MC’s actions or strategy and proposes a better plan doesn’t mean that character should be discredited or vilified by other characters(and sometimes the author) simply because they don’t participate in group-think. Does every character that doesn’t like the MC regardless of the fact that they might be the chosen one have to be treated as the villain or worse turn out to be the villain ? Is it so wrong for characters to just not like the MC and not be secretly evil ?
This is an excellent question. Really loving reading everyone else’s answers.
I have a few. I’d prefer to see characters fail in interesting (and character motivating ways) rather than just straight failure. For example, if you have to do something with high charisma and you don’t have it, but you do have high outgoing, you lash out instead of speaking calmly.
Related to this, I would rather see a character’s different traits be different positives and drawbacks in different situations. So if you’re strong, that might be really useful on a battle field but get you into all kinds of trouble in a scene calling for social adeptness.
Similarly to this, though less absolute, is that opposing characters aren’t good/bad, (smart/dumb, kind/cruel) and instead different strengths. Subtle/direct, crafty/straightforward, trusting/suspicious, without connotations
I’m sure there are more, but I will leave this here for now.
+1! I fought many fights at my place of work over this. Thankfully, they’ve changed communications standards so I can stop sneakily adding the proper commas back into all my publications.
Otherwise, my personal hill is that being nice does not make you a doormat. I get really, really tired of options being nice doormat or rude person with healthy boundaries. (Also, Good-aligned characters aren’t inherently boring!)
I guess I better make a more serious post here… the mods are really strict school marms here
Dying on a hill originates from the Vietrnam War where many Marines died on a hill called Hamburger Hill … it was a very controversial decision to try to hold this hill and in the end, it was given away to the enemy…
I know, right?? I was going to write more but I couldn’t make it work, lol
But to actually answer the question, especially in terms of IF, I would say that my hill would be gender-choice. Sure, one of my favorite games of all time is actually gender-locked male, but that’s because I’ll forgive anything of a skilled writer. For unproven/untestes writers, I encourage most writers to give everyone the option to choose their pronouns. Not only will it cast a net for a wider audience (and thus hopefully more feedback) but the argument that you “just don’t know how to write male/female/enbys/trans characters” is why you ought to do it anyway. Pushing the limits of your skills is the only way to exercise those writing muscles and to develop as an author.
A story doesn’t need to have themes relating to the real world to be considered good. Sometimes people just want something fun, not everything needs to be an allegory (or whatever the proper word is I can’t be bothered to look it up lol) for something going on irl.
I think the reason why morally grey characters tend to often be “more interesting” is because people remember to give them motivation and a backstory! After all, to be morally grey, you usually need to understand why it is they’re behaving as they are. Pure evil or good characters can be appropriate and even interesting, but they still need their motivations. Unless they’re a force for evil (like Sauron for example) it helps to know why they’re decided to do what they’re doing rather than they’re a baddie because they’re bad. (And a good backstory/motivation helps for the hero too.)
I hope your friend reconsiders their position as having the option to choose your character’s gender is hugely important to marginalized groups who have been historically underrepresented in gaming.
On a practical level, I feel like implementing gender-choice is also vital so that the author is forced to look at their game and its plot from multiple angles to see if gender will impact the way a scene or character or plot point may be perceived. I myself hit a snag when I realized the backstory of my game can actually be interpreted wildly differently from a non-cis perspective and I’m now grappling with how to to respond to that in terms of plot and choices in a way that honestly feels more compelling and exciting than what I had originally planned! I think that this will result in a stronger narrative overall, I feel like many authors would benefit from scrutinizing their work in a similar way.
I agree with your overall post, but I’ve got to disagree with you saying that the author usually forgets to give good or evil characters motivation, flaws, or (if they’re evil) redeeming qualities. I think they usually do remember to do that, but, instead of people thinking they wrote a morally white character with flaws, or a villain with redeeming qualities, they’ll jump straight to saying both are actually morally gray, as though a good character can’t have flaws and still be good, or that a villain can’t have redeeming qualities and still be evil.
For example, I’ve seen posts (not on this forum) that’ll argue that Sauron (who, as you correctly pointed out, is a near purely evil force), is actually morally gray because he believed that enslaving all life would lead to order. As though the mere intention makes all the evil things about him disappear. I think that’s why some people think morally gray characters are better than others. Because they see any flaw or redeeming quality as something that makes them morally gray instead. Sorry if I’m repeating myself, but I hope I got my point across.
(And a good backstory/motivation helps for the hero too.)
You’re right, giving the hero a backstory to give them motivation, is definitely a good way to write a story. But I think the reason some authors don’t want to give them too much of a backstory, is because they want to have all the drama happen to the hero, after they embark on their journey. Because, if interesting stuff happened before the story began, some readers might be disappointed they didn’t get to see it.
“Writing fanfiction makes you uncreative, lazy and/or does nothing to help develop your skills as a writer”. Thing is, I owe everything I am as a writer to fanfiction. Writing fanfiction especially helped me develop my skills on character and worldbuilding, and taught me how to outline longer stories. If I didn’t start out writing fanfiction, I would have never had the courage to write, let alone post my own stories for the world to see. And I know plenty of other people who feel the same.
What bothers me especially is that the people who spout this type of nonsense have likely never even read fanfiction before, or have only seen those videos making fun of bad Wattpad stories or whatever. I’ve read fanfictions that are hundreds of thousands of words long, and have more thought, effort, and creativity put into them than the source material they’re drawing from. It’s amazing what people can come up with even when working with a source material that is severely lackluster. To me, telling these people that they’re “uncreative” just because they used someone’s else’s universe as a building block makes zero sense. And telling them that they won’t improve as a writer makes even less sense; after writing a piece of work that is a hundred thousand words long, your writing will invariably be better, no matter how incremental the improvements.
TLDR: Fanfiction is a valid way to develop your writing skills and those who think otherwise are wrong. Sorry if this came across as overly salty I usually don’t post much but I just really wanted to get this off my chest
That any way a character is sub-average, or even just not completely normal in, is some flaw that MUST be overcome by the end of the story. If a character is shy, then they must make themselves outgoing, if they’re nerdy, then they have to have a big scene of getting dressed in a fancy dress and throwing away their glasses. If they’re not completely neurotypical then they must at least act neurotypical by the end.
It is okay to make a character a certain way, keep them that way. Letter them keep stuttering, and have their friends accept them. Have them stay single. Not everything must be “overcome.”
Main characters that are at some kind of serious disadvantage in a story aren’t… bad??? Not everything has to be a power fantasy!! It’s fine to like and play power fantasies obviously, but there’s room for other stories too.
And yes some challenges are meant to be overcome, but not by the end of chapter 1! Give it time! That’s what the plot’s for If you don’t want to play a character who has less power/etc then by all means go play a different game!