Preventing Manic Pixie Dream Girl Syndrome:

Total posts: [5]
1 TheMuse11th Apr 2013 06:15:06 PM , Relationship Status: Browsing the selection
So a trope that I really dislike is extremely noticable Manic Pixie Dream Girls. Not simply because of the Unfortunate Implications, but also because you can only have so many "OMG I'm so random and quirky like rawr ;3" characters before it gets really fucking annoying.
  • I'm trying to avoid this is my work, a particuarly notable (and one I may need to worry about) involves a relationship between two Platonic Life-Partners. The way I'm trying to do this is try to keep both the characters believable and keeping the give-and-take of the relationship 'balanced.' Keep in mind that most of this relationship will be told by the female character's point of view and that they enter the story a while after they become close friends.

  • Male character is a former soldier with PTSD
  • Female character is fighting against the Evil Empire to get revenge against a close relative who pulled a Face–Heel Turn.
    • Female character is one of the first people he begins to trust after his discharge (she also happened to be very underfed and nonthreatening when he first met her)
  • She ends up helping him a lot with his mental problems, (she doesn't 'cure' him and his PTSD is treated realistically) giving him someone he can confide him and being someone who can help him avoid triggers.
  • He ends up being a good friends to her as well, and addition to teacher her some more 'masculine' abilities, he teaches her about some more sensitive aspects as well.
Does anyone see any particuarly noticable issues and/or could offer me some tips for avoiding the dreaded Manic Pixie Dream Girl?
You remember Adrian in the first Rocky movie? That's a good example of a character preforming the function of a MPDG while still seeming like a real person.

So, the best advice I can think of is to make her an actual character with her own life and issues that doesn't involve the lead in anyway.
I've yet to see any 'how to write x' or 'how to avoid x' threads that don't basically boil down to the above. Write people, not humanoid solutions to narrative problems.

Plus honestly, I don't think you're that at risk, if you hate the trope then the best person to tell you how to avoid it is probably you. You might want to ask yourself exactly what it is about the trope you hate though. The main problems with it seem to be that MPD Gs are:
  • Annoyingly wacky
  • Shallow beneath their quirks
  • Brainlessly dedicated to their mark

You can have a character that's supportive and transformative without being any of those things, which seems to be what you're going for. I don't think you even need to keep the relationship 'balanced', as long as you take the question of her motivations seriously.

edited 12th Apr '13 9:17:42 AM by Kesteven

4 Tuckerscreator15th Apr 2013 11:51:03 PM from High Charity, the Prophet's Holy City , Relationship Status: Drift compatible
Every film should end with a Deus T. rex Machina
Here's my take on it: the basic idea within the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope, "girl inspires depressed guy to appreciate his life" can work, and has many real life examples, including my own. The problem is the unfortunate implications that get pulled into the story from it, which are:

1. The girl doesn't seem to have any flaws. The guy is the only one in story who has character flaws and problems in his life. By contrast the MPD girl seems to be a perfect person and have a perfect happy life. Since this happens over and over in MPDG stories, it creates the unfortunate implication of "women have perfect lives and men are the only ones who suffer."

How to solve this: Give the girl faults or have some of her actions go awry. Make her also learn. And show that her only personality is not just cheeriness. What's she like when she's alone, and when does she feel confident enough to reveal that side of her to the guy?

2. The girl doesn't have a life outside of the guy. MPDG stories tend to have her appear seemingly out of nowhere to teach the guy who to be happy. Little background, little motive, just quirks. That's pretty much like having a cake that all frosting and no bread.

How to solve this: What does she do when she's not hanging out with this guy? Does she have other friends? Relatives? Parents? Siblings? Does she have any goals, like getting to a good school or becoming a great artist? In fact, think of it this way: if she were the protagonist, what would her story arc be?

3. The girl doesn't have any motive for helping the guy. Why did she take an interest in him in the first place? Just because he looked depressed? Well, there's lots of depressed people. Why not all the other ones not her age or opposite gender? The danger is that her attempts to help him can come off less as helping him out of compassion, and more like a child poking a turtle's head with a stick to make it come out.

How to solve this: Let me give some real life experience here. I have met many girls just as wonderful and cheery as Manic Pixie Dream Girls can be. But though they are friendly, they are not concerned with dedicated themselves to helping one person they've just met. They have lives past that, and comfort zones just like any other person. Unless they have a reason to concern themselves about you, they won't start caring about you just because you run up to them and beg "care about me plzzz!!!" So make it a reason that anyone can sympathize with, so we too can understand their compassion.

4. Lastly, reasons for the quirks themselves. Bad writing has them just inserted at random depending on Rule of Funny. That may be funny, but it doesn't make a good character. Not only does the cake have no bread now, but the frostings' flavors don't even mix well! Of note also is the MPDG rarely has negative quirks, like being claustrophobic or cruel to small animals. Related to the "woman are perfect" problem above.

How to solve this: Give her a reason for liking what she likes. Does she like going barefoot all the time? Why did she start? For instance, I started because one of my fictional characters Does Not Like Shoes and I wanted to see if it was worth it. If she likes bugs, why does she like bugs? Did her dad often read The Very Hungry Caterpillar to her as a kid? And what does she like to do with her friends?

Follow all those, and I think you should avert writing a shallow girl quite throughly. From the sounds of it, though, you're already averting it well.

edited 15th Apr '13 11:52:18 PM by Tuckerscreator

5 VincentQuill28th Apr 2013 09:28:48 AM from Dublin , Relationship Status: Sinking with my ship
a little off topic, but a recommendation based on the previous comment, maybe her motivation for helping him is she finds him about to commit suicide, but he stops and now she feels a little responsible for him. this would help get rid of the MPDG as now she has a less annoyingly cheery reason for helping him, as she's just doing what any compassionate person would do. from there, they become friends etc. plot goes on as normal.
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