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Writing an authoritarian woobie... :

God rules!
Okay, so I have a character. He's a Commander and is obsessed with order. With teenagers roaming around his ship, he often gets angry with them.

However, he also has a friend, his second-in-command, who is less uptight and tries to encourage him to lighten up. He also has a young crew member with whom he first has tension with, then a romance.

Most of the writing comes off as awkward. But it needs to set him up as... "Dude, what's your issue? Quit being a jerk and lighten up a little." and then change to a Woobie after some tragic events. It comes off as a one-dimensional strawman who has nostalgia moments with an old friend.

"Commander, " a new female recruit said as I entered the command station, ” We’re picking up strange readings from about ten kilometers away."

"Like a ship?"

"No, sir. More like a large mass of energy." she got a call on her earphones. "Sir, the readings have gone off."

"Well, okay, then. Stay alert."

It was probably nothing. Just some nuclear effect caused by the waste people shoot off into space.

“Don’t see what the big deal is, ” I heard her murmur to herself, “It’s probably nuclear effects.

I was surprised. That was exactly what I had been thinking. I had to ask. “What is your name, Ma’am?”

“Alexandra Smith. I’m a new engineer and teacher here. I arrived about a week ago, and…”

I held up my hand. “I only asked for your name, Smith.” I did not care how similar she was to me. I always try to be a bit tough on the new crew members.

“Well, no reason to be so uptight. I guess you don’t like making small talk.”

Now this was odd. Most new recruits get quiet when I say something like that. Smith, on the other hand was….. like I used to be. Working in Huston and wising off to my superiors, and yet somehow, I got this rank. I thought to myself…. Maybe Smith would one day be like me.

“Just go back to your post.” I said, walking away bitterly. For her sake, I hoped that my theory was not true.

And he uses phrases like "order", "chaos", and "wising-off" a lot. How do I make him more relatable?

edited 27th Oct '10 8:36:00 PM by LightningKnight

"Jesus is always the answer." - People who drift off in Sunday School.
One bit of advice - I doubt he'd be so self-aware. Most people aren't. Try to figure out how to hint at this stuff rather than outright saying it, or else have someone who's known him a long time point it out and him deny it.
If I'm asking for advice on a story idea, don't tell me it can't be done.
God rules!
That's what I'm trying to do, but how do I make it obvious to the audience and not him?
"Jesus is always the answer." - People who drift off in Sunday School.
As easily as Ettina said: have his old friend point it out and him get mad about it. "I am not!" Every person has unique justificaitons for their flaws. "A tight run ship is safer for everyone" "i'm in charge, I make the rules". stuff like that.
Amateur cook Professional procrastinator

  • belatedly jumping into the conversation* For one thing, you might want to make it take longer for anybody to figure out "how much they have in common." If they've just met, how would he—or anybody else—be able to tell that he and this new recruit are so similar from, what, a single interrupted sentence of backstory? At the very most, he MIGHT be thinking "oh, engineer and teacher? That's how I started out." (Assuming that's actually how he started out, but since from that alone he's already thinking she's similar...) Even better would be to establish early in the story that that's how he started out, and then don't bring it up again here. When she says that she started out that way, the audience will automatically come to the conclusion "oh... so she's got the same job he used to have."

As for the rest of it, draw it out. Saying "Smith is like what I used to be" based on a SINGLE comment from her is going rather fast. She can't be the only person in the world bold enough to have gone "I guess you don't like small talk, " and even if she is, he might very likely attribute it to the fact that this is the first conversation they've ever had and she doesn't know enough about him to know he doesn't take back-talk. He might think she's a little bit of an upstart or insubordinate—and maybe that's something he'll initially like about her—but to conclude from THAT "she's similar to the old me" is a whole lot. If he does conclude that so fast, there'd have to be a logical reason, like, he's been desperately looking for other people who are similar to his old self, or something. When he DOES start thinking, "she's like the old me, " it'd probably be later on in the story, after he's gotten to know her better. And also, thoughts like "Maybe she'll end up like me someday" are things that would occur to him after he's gotten to know her better.

In fact, those might not even be things HE thinks. His second-in-command buddy might be the one to go "huh, she kind of reminds me of you back when you were starting out" or something like that.
 
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