When is a character considered bland/boring/with zero personality?


#1

I’ve played many of video games, read alot of books, watched a ton of movies, series etc. But I never had problems with characters. Sometimes I love them, sometimes I hate them, sometimes both or sometimes neither ( I consider them ok not boring). But I never considered one to be boring or uninteresting. For example, alot of people found Connor from AC boring or Lincoln from Mafia 3 boring ( I believe both are ok). So since alot of people here have more experience than me in such subjects I’d like to hear your opinions on the matter :3


#2

There’re actually several reasons of why a character is considered uninteresting, but I think I can sum it up as “the character stops acting as a character.” They go lifeless, emotionless, and robotic (although robot char can be interesting too). It can be hard to tell when a character does this, but when they do, you can easily spot them when you see them.

In case of Connor, IMO he doesn’t have a good backstory.
I mean, yeah sure, he’s the son of the both master assassin and templar, Haytham Kenway himself. But what else do you find interesting about him? :man_shrugging:t4:
Scenes like where he interacts with fellow homestead-er and Achilles are great to avoid him from being uninteresting, but unfortunately, it doesn’t seems to be one of the major focus of the game.

Aaaand I don’t play Mafia 3 so I can really comment about Lincoln :sweat_smile:


#3

Personally, I find the most boring fictional characters are what’s known as “author self-inserts”. Basically, the author is bored with their own life, so they write a fictional story with an idealized version of themselves as the main character. These rarely work well because even the idealized version of the author is too boring to warrant a main-character position.

Bella Swan is a perfect example of the author self-insert. She’s supposed to be considered a heroine, even though her actions are never heroic. She’s bland, self-pitying and just generally depressing to be around, but for some reason everybody that meets her either wants to be her best friend or falls madly in love with her. She never does anything to earn love, respect or admiration, she’s just given all that automatically because the author thinks she’s entitled to it.

Another, and very similar character that I find extremely boring are Mary Sues and Gary Stus. Characters with a never ending list of skills and virtues and absolutely no faults or flaws at all. (But every now and then the author will be feeling REALLY daring and risk giving their character a teeny, tiny flaw like, they’re clumsy.) :yum:


#4

I personally find a character boring when they either A) Aren’t contributing anything to the story. This is why Tom Bombadil rubs people the wrong way, I think. It isn’t so much that he’s boring in that he doesn’t really add much besides lore that isn’t referred to again and one or two Chekov’s Guns if I recall correctly. Then again, Tom’s appearance is contentious so I’ll just move on to B) When they stop acting like a real person. This is by far the most common error a lot of authors make with character, and it’s hard to get around sometimes. Like let’s say, for the sake of the plot, there has to be a betrayal, but for the sake of a reveal later, the traitor has to be alive and unimprisoned. So then, after the betrayal, the protagonist who has been betrayed ends up forgiving the traitor without any struggle between them at all. This makes the character less dynamic, as their actions serve the plot but not the character itself. Perhaps not the best example of this, I admit, but I hope it explains what I mean to some extent. Finally there’s C) The character is a clichéd character, with no new take on that cliché. I personally don’t think clichés are the worst thing ever, as long as the author is aware they’re using them and try to interpret and represent them in their own way, but when a character is just “The Chosen One” or “The Best Friend” then they can’t really engage with the audience at all.


#5

The Twilight series achieved a fair bit of financial success, however…
So I’d caution against an analysis of Bella Swan that results in "this is a boring character."
Instead, perhaps many “ordinary” individuals were able to pursue their own respective fantasies through the life of a “boring” character.


#6

I agree, the reason a lot of self-insert books like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey are so popular is because the readers like to imagine themselves as the main character. That way they can fantasize about people fighting over them and showering them with love and admiration, without having to do anything to earn it.

Still, whether or not a character is boring is a matter of opinion. Personally I find these kind of characters boring because I don’t want to fantasize myself as being the main character. I’d rather see a main character that’s unique and developed and can carry the story on their own.


#7

Therein lies the big secret.
The reader does feel as if they have earned it because they paid for the story.
So if a consumer is paying for “apple pie,” then why give them a salad? :wink:


#8

I agree. I’m more interested in reading (and writing!) about characters distinctly different from me.

How do you see this applying to CoG? A lot of games seem to be styled around the idea of ‘playing as yourself.’ Personally, I like when choices or setting suggest a certain kind of character. Playing text-based games like this is almost a combination of reading and writing, to me. I’m creating a character and someone else has done the work of writing the plot around them! Good replayability in a game means I can try it again with a different character and see the plot change (it’s a character-driven plot, yay!).

Any thoughts on good mc writing?


#9

I actually meant the character didn’t do anything to earn it. Usually in fiction, a character has to do something to earn another character’s love. I find, in self-insert stories, love is just given to the character straight away for reasons like they’re beautiful or they smell nice. :yum:


#10

The Twilight and 50 Shades books/movies were a success because they were aimed to a certain demographic (teen girls and middle aged women) so the authors gave them those traits in order for these peple to identify with them. I mean, who (an antisocial book worm in those cases) doesn’t want to be swiped off their feet by a handsome man and experience a forbidden and endless love? I was (and still am a bit less) an introvert and when I was 13 I also wished for a handsome guy to fall in love with me and go to super wacky love adventures (thank God I grew up yikes) etc. All kids are like that, it’s part of growing up. But those characters hit Mary and Gary Stu levels and end up annoying and are full of unhealthy Role models and :expressionless:


#11

Actually I find that “self-insert” characters work really well in COG style games. The difference is that, with a regular novel, the characters have pretty much no personality whereas in a COG, the player gets to choose their personality, so it’s the players job to make the character interesting. :yum:

That said, I personally enjoy interactive fiction games where the main character already has a set personality. Some people aren’t keen on it, since they might not be able to relate to the characters, but I actually enjoy playing as characters that I don’t relate to.


#12

I think that background characters are bland. The characters who either don’t speak (and are not mute) or say generic thinks and are only there to make the scene look populated or act as shop keeper #1.

Bland characters perfectly fit a troupe. The bad guy is a bad guy in order to fill the bad guy role or someone’s just there to play the rival or lover role and there is nothing unique or special about them.

Boring characters say boring things that the reader doesn’t care about. There are lots of school-based fictions where the characters are almost never seen going to class, because lectures about trigonometry are boring to most readers.

For general Main characters, the story is centered around them and it is interesting for them to have a personality for Character driven Stories. For plot driven stories, like Mysteries or Horror, the MC is less important and you’re suppose to root for the slasher killing everyone or just care about solving the case.

For interactive works or works where you want the player to imagine themselves in the role of the MC, a defined personality can hurt the work. The have been plenty of otome games where the MC was so awful that people didn’t want to continue the game. The ability of the player to define the MC’s personality is a great addition, but the plot and characters should carry a majority of the story’s strength, although funny defined MC’s are always great.

I like Gary and Mary-Sue characters where everybody loves the MC. It’s like escapism and is fun because it never happens in real life. I also think the whole romantic comedy thing where one lead character thinks the other lead is a PoS who should die is still chased after by the other poor unwanted lead, who should try to find a little self-esteem, is kinda meh especially with the turn a no into a yes thing. The dating sim theme of buying your loved ones gifts, answering trivia about them, and stalking them by joining all the same clubs and classes is also meh. It’s nice when you don’t have to change yourself to get the guy/girl and they love you for you (and your Sue powers).


#13

To me, what makes a boring character is simply if a character has no personality. If you can go “Oh yeah I know < insert name >, they’re the gruff badass,” and “Oh yeah, I know < insert name > because they’re kind and caring,” even if those are one-dimensional traits, it’s at least something. A boring character is someone you point to and go “Well yeah, I know < insert name >, they… Uh… Are the one that…Does the stuff, in that one scene…”


#14

Not really a disagreement, since I don’t find Mary Sues or self-inserts to be especially compelling protagonists when it comes to readability, but I came across a blog post awhile ago that caused me to re-frame the way I think about them. Link: http://unwinona.tumblr.com/post/76199740643/the-importance-of-mary-sue

Excerpt:

There is a reason that most fanfiction authors, specifically girls, start with a Mary Sue. It’s because girls are taught that they are never enough. You can’t be too loud, too quiet, too smart, too stupid. You can’t ask too many questions or know too many answers. No one is flocking to you for advice. Then something wonderful happens. The girl who was told she’s stupid finds out that she can be a better wizard than Albus Dumbledore. And that is something very important. Terrible at sports? You’re a warrior who does backflips and Legolas thinks you’re THE BEST. No friends? You get a standing ovation from Han Solo and the entire Rebel Alliance when you crash-land safely on Hoth after blowing up the Super Double Death Star. It’s all about you. Everyone in your favorite universe is TOTALLY ALL ABOUT YOU.

I started writing fanfiction the way most girls did, by re-inventing themselves.

Mary Sues exist because children who are told they’re nothing want to be everything.

As a girl, being “selfish” was the worst thing you could be. Now you live in Narnia and Prince Caspian just proposed marriage to you. Why? Your SELF is what saved everyone from that sea serpent. Plus your hair looks totally great braided like that.

That really resonated with me. I’ve never written fanfic, but if I had started in my teens, like the majority of fanfic writers, I know I would’ve written dozens of Mary Sues for exactly this reason.


#15

I would say that a character who lacks motivation can be one of the worst kind of characters in a story. See, the problem that people usually have with “chosen ones” and such is that the characters lacks of a good and compelling reason to be the heroes of their stories, the motivation feels external rather than internal. This is a problem because most main characters are usually expected to grow, change or learn through the course of the story, and in a way that is somehow related to a main theme of the story or a motivation, which is quite difficult to achieve if the character does things because “this is what heroes are supposed to do” or “a prophecy told them to do it”.

Another thing that can create good and compelling characters is their ability to change over time. However, it is not always the character who has to change, but rather the perception that the reader has of the character. Like, the “mean popular girl” can still be the same character with the same personality, but if at certain point you add an extra layer that explains why they are the way they are, it starts feeling less like an stereotype and more like a person.

Another type of characters that I find particularly interesting (although this might be a matter of personal taste) are characters that are supposed to be symbolic representations of a concept of an idea. The way this characters interacts depends heavily on the kind of message that the author wants to send with their stories so there isn’t a well defined rule that can apply to all of them. That said, it doesn’t mean that these characters cannot be repetitive or cliche, tell me if something like this sounds familiar: “a character that is the embodiment of innocence, goodness and purity is killed off to show how good they were for this cruel and sinful world where humans are the real monsters”.


#16

I feel that I also have something to add to the whole Mary Sue discussion, because it is probable that many of you have encountered two definitions of the same term, and I feel different to them.

First, there is the classic definition of a Mary Sue; and idealized self-insert character that pops out in fanfiction and warps the canon around them in a way that is detrimental to the story, other characters or the internal consistency of the universe.
This character is emblematic of a certain type of bad writing, and it is mostly due to the idea of warping the canon around them, which I feel it is the most clear sign of a Mary Sue.

Then, the other definition, which would be something like: an (usually female) character in any medium whose perceived perfection isn’t appealing to a reader. This is usually why the word Mary Sue is used way too often; it has become some way of saying “I don’t like this character because their skills or personal qualities feels unrealistic to me”. By this definition, any character could be a Mary Sue if it makes you feel this way: Cinderella, Harry Potter, Batman, shopkeeper #1… anyone.

And, let’s be honest. Mary Sue is often a word used to dismiss female protagonist as bad or unrealistic, in a way that isn’t equally applied to male characters. In fact, there is a joke that summarises this pretty well:

“How do you call a male Mary Sue?”

“Protagonist.”


What fictional characters do you think are Mary Sues?
#17

I think a character is considered uninteresting or boring when, after spending considerable time with this character, whether watching, reading, or playing as them…

If after all that time you still can’t write down what is character is about, how they act and how they think, they are likely underdeveloped.


#18

When a character is neither likeable or hateable and just does what he does for story’s sake without any motivation or craziness. That is when the character becomes bland for me…


#19

That’s a bad way to write a Mary Sue. I consider a Mary Sue to be a character with no stated flaws (or with minor flaws like clumsiness) that everybody loves, with maybe the exception of a rival. Their powers, if they have any, should fit with the plot. Mary She’s aren’t ment to be the best character as the story might mainly be about hot ROs or something and the MC can just blend in and just be there. Similar to a lot of third person narrators that are just there and aren’t considered a character (unless, in the rare case, they have a personality).

@MockTurtle A male Mary is a Gary Stu which are usually seen in dating sims. Males tend to be more action-y in movies, games, and TV; some females are less action-y and just wait around for the hot RO to save them or whatever like the complaint above about Twilight. Action-y is good because people love looking at explosions (and viewing works by professionals instead of fan works, no offence fan fictioners,but A lot of professional work has male leads with females being there just as a RO).


#20

I could actually see a good story starting with a character like this, who then evolves to actually having real motivations by the end… :thinking: Especially if their later decisions start to go completely against what they were doing at the beginning. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Batman is a total Mary Sue, even by superhero standards. :roll_eyes: It’s not just that his skills are unrealistic, but rather it’s that authors will change plots and characters just so Batman can be the best. Superman’s powers may be far more unrealistic, but the true indicator of a Mary Sue, the plot-and-character-warping, doesn’t appear with him (at least, no more than any regular comic-book protagonist who’s had that many stories).