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Writing characters to promote or avoid audience reactions:

 1 feotakahari, Sat, 10th Mar '12 8:34:42 PM from Looking out at the city
Fuzzy Orange Doomsayer
Normally, I write characters to have certain personalities and do certain things, and try not to worry too much about how readers will view each individual character—after all, if I'm objective enough, there can still be entertainment value in watching how the characters clash. However, I'm currently writing a character who fits a sort of "adorable youngster" archetype—constantly full of energy, loud and tactless but not deliberately mean, never depressed for longer than five minutes at a time, etc. (I think the most equivalent trope on the wiki is Keet, although I'm not sure.) If this character turns out to be annoying, then I don't think readers will be able to stand any of the scenes that feature him, and if they don't think he's cute, then some of the reactions other characters have to him won't make any sense. As such, I'd like to ask both about the specific issue:

  • How do you write a character that the readers will think is cute and endearing rather than shrill and annoying?

and the general problem:

  • How do you write characters that you want the audience to react to in specific ways, without pushing them too bluntly and creating backlash?

edited 10th Mar '12 8:35:10 PM by feotakahari

That's Feo . . . He's a disgusting, mysoginistic, paedophilic asshat who moonlights as a shitty writer—Something Awful
 2 Rynnec, Sat, 10th Mar '12 8:47:19 PM Relationship Status: Healthy, deeply-felt respect for this here Shotgun
Mercenary
You can't. Unless you can control the audiences emotions directly.
"I'll show you fear, there is no hell, only darkness."

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 3 nrjxll, Sat, 10th Mar '12 8:49:15 PM Relationship Status: Not war
I have to say that I have never encountered a character meant to be "cute and endearing" who I didn't find at least slightly annoying (though not, admittedly, always shrill). It's a personal reaction - I just 'don't like these kinds of characters - but it relates to your broader question: you will never be able to write a character that gets the same reaction from everyone in the audience, so don't try.

 4 JHM, Sat, 10th Mar '12 8:51:31 PM from Neither Here Nor There Relationship Status: I know
Thunder, Perfect Mind
Yes, I do sometimes write characters with a particular audience reaction in mind—usually some form of discomfort or non-annoyance-based dislike—but I don't think that I'd be horribly disappointed if the audience didn't react the way that I would expect them to. I actually think that an unpredictable audience is generally an inherently positive one: As a creator, it keeps you on your toes, prevents slouching or laziness.

(Also, there's something weirdly flattering to me about being told that I made a truly reprehensible character sympathetic, intentionally or not. It means that the writing isn't one-dimensional, and that's good.)
 5 feotakahari, Sat, 10th Mar '12 9:30:44 PM from Looking out at the city
Fuzzy Orange Doomsayer
Yes, it's true that I can't write a character who everyone reacts to in the same way. However, I can write a character the audience is more likely to react to one way than another way. Some authors seem to be really good at making characters that most of the audience will react to in the same way, so there's no harm in trying to figure out their style and imitate it.

edited 10th Mar '12 9:39:31 PM by feotakahari

That's Feo . . . He's a disgusting, mysoginistic, paedophilic asshat who moonlights as a shitty writer—Something Awful
Ecce Homo Superior
This is one of the things I wish I was better at, so I can't offer you much help (and certainly not answer your second question). But I have some ideas on how to make a character cute and endearing:

1) Don't exaggerate (well, as an experienced writer you know that already, but it still needs to be said). Make sure they have other distinguishing traits.

2) The things I, personally, tend to find cute always have at least a tinge of prickliness or Ugly Cute to them. For example, one of the greatest thing about kittens or other young animals is that they're so feisty and aggressive. I'd suggest to make your character a bit stand-offish, or at least not ingratiating.

Not sure if this is any use whatsoever, but hopefully this advice'll give you a bit of a starting point.
(it's David Bowie)
To be honest, your best bet is research. Read lots of stories, watch all sorts of shows, play all kinds of games, even talk to RL people, take note of which people/characters are liked and why, then try to make something out of it.

It also depends on the context of the story. An idealistic person in a gritty war story is what you'd call naive.

But here are some things I've noticed:

  • Make 'em attractive. Humans are more inclined to like attractive characters. No joke, it's in our psyche, there's been studies that say we tend to be more trusting of the handsome and/or beautiful.
  • Underdogs. Characters at a disadvantage get a lot of sympathy (as long as you don't go into You Suck territory). Same goes for characters that are unfairly treated somehow (such as someone being framed for a crime) or in difficult situations (<insert typical survival horror setting here>).
  • On the opposite end of the scale, escapist characters! People so awesome you can't help but be endeared to them. Admittedly, these are hard characters to create, but they tend to be the showy, funny, powerful types.
  • Funny characters. Not someone who can give pointers on that, so I'll leave that to you guys.
  • Put them in situations that will make people sympathize. Have your character's loved one die, or have him be rejected, or have him lose a contest he worked so hard for.

That's all I have for now, and... wow, that list looks too general to be of actual use. Heh. I supposed it'd be easier to discuss methods of invoking/avoiding audience reactions with an actual character and plot/setting/story at hand.

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Total posts: 7
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