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Zee

I’ve Created a Jellyfish...

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So, I have a problem. My (male) main character in my current story is displaying jellyfish tendencies. He’s supposed to be on the cautious and uncertain side of things, while at the same time being a bit impulsive. However, I think I’ve done a bit too thorough of a job, and I need some help building him a backbone—without changing his character completely.

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Maybe play off his cautious side to give him some backbone. What happens when people try to force him into something without giving him a chance to think and process? How does he react? What would trigger him to "freeze up" and not be impulsive? Maybe something happened in his childhood that when people adopt a certain tone of voice, a stubborn streak appears in him? 

Edited by Claire Tucker
Typo

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You could also use this as his character arc. So he doesn't have much backbone at the beginning of the story, but grows and develops one as the story progresses. 

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I think Claire has the right idea, but I may just need to wait until finished and beta readers can help me get a "big picture" view.

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39 minutes ago, Jeff Potts said:

Force him into a "fight or flight" scenario.

 

Well, he just had one, and he “flighted.”

 

I think that may have been part of the problem, but I couldn’t realistically see him doing anything else.

 

Maybe it’s time to dream up a new one...

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Or...a situation where he can't run.

 

Ever seen the movie A Bronx Tale?  I keep remembering that scene with the bikers and the mobsters.  The mob boss goes over to the door of the bar, locks it, and says, "There.  Now yous can't leave."

 

That aside, you know, there IS a certain challenge to making a coward a compelling character.  Not that you'd want to, but it would be a unique angle.

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54 minutes ago, suspensewriter said:

What would be the worst that could happen if he stood his ground?

 

Pain.  Lots, and lots of pain.

 

Drawing from personal experience on this one...

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11 hours ago, suspensewriter said:

What would be the worst that could happen if he stood his ground?

 

Well, you’ll just have to wait and see...

 

But to be honest, as I reread my story to this point, cowardice is not the primary characteristic that comes through in my main character. Caution, yes. A certain amount of uncertainty or indecision, yes. But I feel Rado has already showed himself to be determined in a quiet, low-key way, and has done some things that were (for him) pretty risky.

 

You almost always seem to nail my exact problem, and I can generally see it when I go back and read again, but this time I can’t...so I’m a little stumped.

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9 hours ago, carolinamtne said:

Is there something he would stand up for? What is so important in his life that he would fight rather than run?

 

Yes, there is...but he’s still not going to be pushing anybody around. 

 

In in real life, I know plenty of people who are very strong without being forceful, or even particularly memorable, but perhaps this is a harder character type to create in fiction. Yikes.

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Stand up for is not the same as pushing anybody around. Strong without forcefulness is IMHO a good thing. It does not mean he has no backbone. I would just keep writing and see where this goes.

 

And yes, it may be harder to create him in fiction. That does not mean you should not try.

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3 hours ago, Zee said:

 

In in real life, I know plenty of people who are very strong without being forceful, or even particularly memorable, but perhaps this is a harder character type to create in fiction. Yikes.

I'm with you in trying to create less pushy heroes and heroines. I've had enough of the snarky, in you face MC who gets his/her way by mouthing off.  

 

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I think I’m going to have to see the story to the end, like Carolina said, to see if I’m successful at subtly strengthening a pretty low-key character. He’s the main, POV character, so if he doesn’t work, the story doesn’t work.

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2 minutes ago, Tom Laurie said:

Let him wear a MAGA hat - that shows courage in this day and age!

 

I’m not familiar with what MAGA is. Acronym for something?

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Just now, Zee said:

 

I’m not familiar with what MAGA is. Acronym for something?

Make America Great Again. President Trump's slogan.

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50 minutes ago, Sarah Daffy said:

Make America Great Again. President Trump's slogan.

 

LOL! I'm afraid that wouldn't work for the story...

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To give him some backbone, just create a problem and he sticks with it

I can be a fight, but it also can be getting up everyday and doing something hard.

He could run a mile in the cold, 5 in the morning knowing that he needs that time. Create a consistency in his life that will show strength.  My input.  

Edited by jennifer1113

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42 minutes ago, jennifer1113 said:

To give him some backbone, just create a problem and he sticks with it

I can be a fight, but it also can be getting up everyday and doing something hard.

He could run a mile in the cold, 5 in the morning knowing that he needs that time. Create a consistency in his life that will show strength.  My input.  

 

Well, that’s exactly what I thought I was doing. Perhaps I didn’t start soon enough in the story?

 

Or maybe a Make America Great Again hat really is what Radolsav needs to be the hero of the story...

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43 minutes ago, suspensewriter said:

You've got to have him struggle with a problem, Zee, otherwise, the novel just won't work.

 

Hmmm, I thought that's what I was doing. In fact, that was one of the first key things I learned from you. Why isn't it working this time?

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My suggestion would be that you're too close to your work to see it.  Take a break--ideally for a week, but at least three days-- and you'll see it through fresh eyes.

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