Writing "grey" characters:

Total posts: [17]
1 annebeeche28th May 2011 09:17:08 PM from by the long tidal river
watching down on us
So I noticed that a favorite tendency of mine is to write characters who are "grey" by nature—as in, they have some unfavorable traits, and they have the potential to be huge dicks to people (and, considering the nature of my stories, probably already have). Sexual/Romantic relationships are quite often not genuine and usually involve one or both partners being a complete ass.

Long story short, there's usually no straight-out "good guy".

I'm just wondering, do you people like to do this same style of characterization?

edited 28th May '11 9:17:47 PM by annebeeche

Banned entirely for telling FE that he was being rude and not contributing to the discussion.
I shall watch down from the goon heavens.
2 chihuahua028th May 2011 09:23:49 PM from Standoff, USA , Relationship Status: I LOVE THIS DOCTOR!
Writer's Welcome Wagon
I usually favor the whole spectrum, although purely white or black characters are hard to come by. For example, Kevin from the Shounen Project would be quite white in morality, being a Class I Anti-Hero. Even though he has flaws (hyper, naive), he's well-intentioned. However, Justin starts out as a light shade of gray, but he becomes blacker and blacker as the series goes on. Basically, he starts out as a Class I Anti-Hero, slowly slides to Class III, and then dip straight into Villain Protagonist.

edited 28th May '11 9:25:07 PM by chihuahua0

3 annebeeche28th May 2011 09:37:23 PM from by the long tidal river
watching down on us
I don't mean white or black as position in the "sides" of the story.

For example, AB!Beowulf is an obvious hero and he's painted as this kind-hearted, innocent character with a strong sense of right and wrong, but he lies like a rug, is very manipulative and exploits people's emotional weaknesses.

edited 28th May '11 9:37:42 PM by annebeeche

Banned entirely for telling FE that he was being rude and not contributing to the discussion.
I shall watch down from the goon heavens.
4 feotakahari28th May 2011 09:50:09 PM from Looking out at the city
Fuzzy Orange Doomsayer
I would define most of my characters as gray at worst, simply because I define evil very narrowly. My stories have mooks who're Just Following Orders, elites who want to improve the world, and mercenaries who think both sides deserve to die, but usually no more than one or two people who really do deserve to die. Of course, in order for there to be a conflict, those two people are often the ones running the two major factions. (On the other hand, I can and frequently do write protagonists who're basically decent people—not necessarily flawless, but at least good enough to be easy to sympathize with.)
That's Feo . . . He's a disgusting, mysoginistic, paedophilic asshat who moonlights as a shitty writer—Something Awful
Yup. I've bacically none full white characters, and a few full black. But most of them are various shades of grey.
6 LoniJay29th May 2011 03:34:30 AM from Australia , Relationship Status: Pining for the fjords
I have... a similar idea, but coming at it from the other direction. Most of my good characters are almost entirely good (with a few character flaws, but nothing malicious).

None of my bad guys are 100% bad. They always have some spark of compassion, someone that they love. So even the arrogant, misogynistic rapist character genuinely loves his wife and his children. The racist pricks that torment my main characters are never just complete and utter bastards.

It's part of my Rousseau Was Right viewpoint, I suppose.
Be not afraid...
Almost none of my characters fall fully into a clear-cut black or white side. Everyone has their flaws, and their good points. Having characters who are either shining paragons of light or horridly evil Complete Monsters is unrealistic, I think.

I don't actually have anyone who's evil to the core. Everyone has a redeeming quality of some sort. Completely good and pure? I don't have anyone like that, either. Except, maybe, Anaru the Elven Swordsman, who is so incorruptibly pure that he drifts into Stupid Good or Idiot Hero status.

All of my characters end up doing some good deeds, as well as morally questionable things. Given their situations, I think that's pretty realistic.
"Whenever I feel like I know how computers work, I go to class and leave feeling like I'm wearing my pants on my head, eating paste."
vigilantly taxonomish
I'm a bit like Loni; even my nastiest villains have a more sympathetic side, while my heroes are always flawed but very rarely malicious.
Pro-Freedom Fanatic
The Neutral Selfish is a safe bet: Most people are that way, after all.
You exist because we allow it and you will end because we demand it.
I'm also similar to Loni on this one; all my main characters are capable of both good and evil, but in the end I want the good guys to be people I can sympathise with and want to cheer on. My good guys can commit horrible acts — that's certainly true of the main hero in the work I'm writing at the moment — but she repents and shows that she can learn from the experience of having once given in to that temptation.
11 cityofmist29th May 2011 09:33:08 AM from Meanwhile City
turning and turning
[up][up]All of my characters are Neutral Selfish. I think I have a total of two characters who do any kind of major action for someone else's benefit, and the someone elses are their fiancee and daughter.

edited 29th May '11 9:33:26 AM by cityofmist

Scepticism and doubt lead to study and investigation, and investigation is the beginning of wisdom.
- Clarence Darrow
Unfortunately, I'm not very good at writing morally ambiguous characters, which may or may not be related to my admittedly unrealistically high moral standards.

It actually annoys me that I can't write morally ambiguous characters. Can anyone give me any advice?
13 cityofmist29th May 2011 10:06:21 AM from Meanwhile City
turning and turning
[up]Most morally ambiguous characters are out only for themselves, or only for themselves and a few other people they like. Just logically extend that into their actions and don't make them overly altruistic or spiteful.
Scepticism and doubt lead to study and investigation, and investigation is the beginning of wisdom.
- Clarence Darrow
14 annebeeche29th May 2011 10:53:50 AM from by the long tidal river
watching down on us
[up][up] A character has heroic intentions, but has dirty, controversial ways of carrying them out.

Also, a normally noble character does something that they later regret, like murder.
Banned entirely for telling FE that he was being rude and not contributing to the discussion.
I shall watch down from the goon heavens.
Polite smartass.
I'm totally on the boat with you, Anna. Black and white just don't work for me: there's too many sides to a story to make them so definite, you know? I remember being a kid, watching Disney's Aladdin and thinking, "I know Aladdin's gonna win, not just because I've seen this movie because he's the good guy. I guess Jafar winning would be bad, but this story is kinda predictable." Even kids can see that there's more to the world than black and white.
I've returned from the depths to continue politely irritating the good people of TV Tropes.(◕‿◕✿)
[up]Exactly. When I was a kid, I absolutely hated that "the good guys always win", because I always knew how it was going to end. I always thought: "Wouldn't it be so much better if instead of wondering how is the hero going to win, I wondered who is going to win?"

Come on, media. It's not like it'll traumatize the kids or something.
Most of my characters are somewhat morally grey. Some common forms or moral greyness I like are:

  • a nonhuman creature who reverses What Measure Is a Non-Human? to treat human lives as less valuable than his/her own kind (eg a vampire who thinks it's mostly OK to kill humans as long as they're not friends of yours, but it's a terrible tragedy if another vampire dies)

  • someone with a Lack of Empathy, but who is at least nominally on the good side and never does things just For The Evils, only if it actually benefits him/her (this kind is usually a Chessmaster)

  • someone who is strongly committed to a goal that would make him/her a good person, if he/she wasn't making a basic misunderstanding about the situation (eg a character who locks her friend up and does painful things to her trying to free her from Demonic Possession, when in reality her friend isn't possessed)
If I'm asking for advice on a story idea, don't tell me it can't be done.
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Total posts: 17