Okay, so not as obscure as some I could’ve picked, but it counts as obscure, since everyone seems to have forgotten that Lewis didn’t just write for children. *glares at stereotypes in general*
Disclaimer: I don’t think that all atheists write depressing things. As a Christian, however, I tend to find atheistic beliefs very depressing. I don’t intend to offend; this is simply how I read it.
Okay, so first for some background.
Dr. Elwin Ransom is the central or viewpoint character in C.S. Lewis’ novels Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra, and an important character (though no longer a viewpoint character) in That Hideous Strength. He was also featured in the unfinished story The Dark Tower. These novels were written as part of a dare between Lewis and fellow Inkling J.R.R. Tolkien. Lewis was supposed to write a science-fiction story, while Tolkien was going to try a time-travel novel. (Tolkien’s side of the dare is sadly incomplete.) From the three completed books and parts of The Dark Tower, you can gather some important information about the hero’s personal history.
Dr. Elwin Ransom is a philologist. Basically, he studies languages, probably those of the British Isles especially, given that he understands that his name isn’t actually anything to do with the act of ransoming, but is a corruption of the Scandanavian “Ranulf’s Son” (Perelandra.)
He fought in the First World War. I don’t recall where he was in action or if it was even mentioned which unit he was in, but he did see action.
He teaches at a university (I don’t remember, but I think it was Cambridge.) I wish he was my teacher.
Ransom is a pretty likeable character to begin with. He feels frustration with himself and his somewhat-impulsive side, much like Horatio Hornblower (in the books, not so much the movies), but he is very generous all the same, even when it makes things awkward (ahh, awkwardness… Lewis took the chance to poke fun at it… I can’t even come close to telling you how hilarious it is. Seriously, read the book. X-D)
But the truly ironic thing about Ransom is that he’s one of the Lost Generation.
The Lost Generation is a term used to refer to the men who fought in the First World War and came home disillusioned, with war, with themselves, and with the values of the previous generation.
Lewis, along with F. Scott Fitzgerald and Earnest Hemingway (and Ransom!), was a member of the Lost Generation and fought in the First World War.
While some people lost their way, Lewis is a good example of how bad things can either press people to disillusionment or to hope.
Ransom’s character arc is very unique compared to many fantasy and science fiction heroes. Instead of being a high-fantasy hero or a wizard or an Asgardian or whatever, he’s a human with human doubts and human struggles. These books aren’t man against nature or man against his fellow man: they are man against himself, and have perhaps the most powerful conflict of any books I have ever read as a result (with the exception of The Lord of the Rings, which similarly deals with the protagonist fighting with himself.)
The only other characters I can think of at the moment who have the same struggle (in a visible and vital capacity; sorry, Obi-Wan, Lucas really shortchanged us all when he decided to give you less screen time!) are Horatio Hornblower (written by an atheist and therefore depressing) and the Doctor (who is a telepathic, possibly immortal, time-travelling alien, for goodness’ sake.)
The thing about Lewis, however, is that, while he powerfully conveys the agony that is doubt and interior struggle, he is also absolutely brilliant at writing that moment of clarity that ends all doubt and pours new life into the soul. When the reader reaches that moment of resolution, it is a cleansing and rejuvenating experience for him or her as well as for Ransom.
Reading C.S. Lewis is like doing spring-cleaning in your head. C.S. Lewis is a whole new level of metafiction.
Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength are essentially metafiction on the Bible. Seriously, do you need any more reasons why you should go and read them?!
(Afterword: Stick with That Hideous Strength, no matter how hard it gets. There’s discourse on the Arthurian legends, so it is so worth the time.)
Recently, WriteFury and I were talking about Type Four in the Character Profiles series which she is currently working on. Basically, Type Four is the fun guys who are always smiling, really fun to be around.
But, while we were talking, I identified a Type Five.
And since she wasn’t familiar with most of the characters I classed as part of the type, she asked me to write this post. So here goes!
These characters are defined mainly by their sheer complexity. They appear to share traits with both Type One and Type Two, and are almost always extremely intelligent.
They tend to also be perceived as quirky or eccentric, and can be much more emotional than Type Ones, or borderline-sociopathic. Their senses of humor vary between sarcastic, wry, witty, or they may not have an apparent sense of humor. Another trait that they share with Type Ones is situational humor–they may make a wry quip about the mess they’re in.
This may be due to the fact that they’ve had bad things happen to them in the past, and it’s their coping mechanism.
They may be quiet or talk a lot, but you will never get more information out of them than they intend to give you.
They’re very clever, and often pretend to be stupid or use their eccentricity to hide just how dangerous they truly are from their enemies, and sometimes their friends. They’re many-layered, using different “facets” of their personalities as a smoke screen, and often extremely private.
And last but not least, they tend to be extremely dedicated to one or more of the other characters, to the point that they would die for them–but not on the other character’s terms or on their enemies’ terms. Only on their own terms. They will risk everything they hold dear for that one special person. They are also the most likely to do things for the good of other characters without their consent or even knowledge, which makes them more than a little frightening.
This type, along with Type One, is the most likely to punish themselves over things that may or may not have been their fault, in ways that are subtle and not easy for others to notice, whereas Type Two may do dramatic or drastic things (such as attempting suicide, in extreme cases) and Type Four falls into a deep depression.
These are also the hardest characters (along with Type One) to kill. They simply can’t give up, and refuse to die. (Sometimes literally. *gives the Doctor a meaningful look*)
Type Five characters have a strong moral code, often in lieu of following their emotions, because they (sometimes) fear that emotions will lead them in the wrong direction. They tend to be logical, but will sometimes choose non-logical options, especially as they tend to be extremely loyal to their friends–and sometimes not merely their friends, but to their cause.
When a Type Five is a villain, they may still have this strong moral code, but in a corrupted form (I present Count Dooku for your inspection.)
Also, sometimes the line between a Type One and a Type Five may be so blurred that it’s difficult to tell where they should be classed–but if there’s any doubt, your character is probably complex enough to be a Type Five. (Case in point: Horatio Hornblower, who shares most of the traits on the list, only he doesn’t use different layers of his personality to maintain his privacy in quite the same way as most Type Fives.)
Here’s the list of common traits:
Strong-willed or stubborn
Does not trust him/herself to do the right thing much of the time
Planning ahead and/or last minute planning/split-second decisions
Dubious or dangerous history (VERY common!)
Extreme empathy bouncing to near-sociopathy (or one or the other)
Sarcasm/finds things that no one else gets ironic or funny
Self-hate (to an extent)/possible masochism (what? It’s true.)
Uses appearances to make others underestimate them
May make subtle into an art form (see above)
Can be unscrupulous or ruthless
Rigid moral code (especially the ones who don’t trust “feelings”)
Now for some examples!
Baker Street’s resident not-a-psychopath,-Anderson, Sherlock Holmes is most definitely a Type Five, wherever he is portrayed. Brilliant and often unfeeling, and holding a soft spot for Watson, Lestrade, Molly Hooper (in the BBC series) and Mrs. Hudson, Sherlock is among the most complex of literary characters. A rare hero, in that he doesn’t hesitate to pull a gun on the bad guys, Sherlock may be “on the side of the angels,” but if you mistake him for one of them, that will be the last mistake you ever make. Sherlock holds himself unflinchingly to his own code, knowing that if he ever steps over the line, that will make him no different from his worst enemies, and he is willing to sacrifice himself for both John (The Reichenbach Fall) and Mary (His Last Vow)–in one case, a physical death (though, again with the planning ahead, that didn’t actually happen) and in the other the death of his good name.
Rigid moral code? Absolutely. Obi-Wan’s code is probably the one thing that defines him most as a character. Take the loyalty and boost it by five hundred percent. Situational humor? Definitely.
While Obi-Wan is less extreme than most of the others on the list, he is absolutely entirely in the details. Subtlety is his other defining trait; sometimes he’s even so subtle that it meshes right into the other related item, using his appearance to fool others into underestimating him.
Obi-Wan is not above using Anakin’s attachment to him to manipulate Anakin for the sake of the greater good (Deception et al.) It would be safe to say that he’d do the same for and to Anakin for Anakin’s sake.
Obi-Wan’s least-Type-Five/most-Type-One characteristic is his extreme selflessness, but again, he’s certainly complex enough to warrant a spot on this list. Extremely empathetic and deeply passionate, Obi-Wan still does not trust his own emotions to guide him, relying on logic and intuition instead. He holds himself to a much higher standard than he does others and is somewhat disillusioned, but his honesty and kindness are strongly endearing. (The reason there are Obi-Wan haters in the world, in my opinion, is because Obi-Wan is so subtle at times that he even fools his fans!)
Another BBC favorite!
Merlin, also known as Emrys (which is, in case you were wondering, the Welsh equivalent of “Ambrose” and means “immortal”), is the protagonist of the BBC show of the same name (rather than having Arthur take the reins, as usual.) Merlin is, like many BBC characters, a very complex character, and might almost have been classed as Type Two or Type Three, except for his darker side. He is friendly, charming, a bit of a dork, and just generally the type of guy you want to have backing you up, but on the flip side he has an inner darkness that, fed by his magic tutor, the dragon Kilgarrah, SPOILERS eventually indirectly leads to the fall of Camelot. END SPOILERS However, under the guidance of mentor Gaius, he builds strong, lasting friendships with Arthur, Gwen, the knights, and fellow servants.
Merlin is brilliant with magic, but he doesn’t act like it. He’s sometimes clumsy but at other times he can be graceful. It’s mainly his ability to fool everyone (including Arthur–again, for Arthur’s own good and at the cost of wanting to tell him desperately about his secret) around him into underestimating him that has him here on this list.
Shut up, you’re adorable.
That is the Tenth Doctor, just to avoid confusion among non-Whovians. 😛
Anyway, the Doctor is the very definition of complex. With thirteen different incarnations, all played by different actors and each with different personalities, he sort of has to be. While all the different personalities tend to revolve around a theme and all involve some version of a few basic traits, each version of the Doctor is still entirely unique. And he tends to use his apparent clumsiness (recurring theme here) into fooling people that he’s stupid or doesn’t know what he’s doing. He’s got some pretty toxic guilt over something that I gather is still a spoiler (?!), and definitely does not trust himself.
While he is in an age group comparable to Yoda, it just feels as if he’s been much farther than Yoda has ever traveled and seen more messed-up stuff. While Yoda does the funny-old-guy routine, the Doctor takes a route that is a bit more logical, in my mind; that long lifespan has only gone to make him much more complex, and he’s probably the most experienced person in any field that you’re ever going to find.
He also tends to find jokes in things no one else gets, is brilliant to the extent that it’s possible that he’s the most intelligent of any person on this list, is on par with Steve Rogers at thinking on his feet, has phenomenal situational awareness (um, that has nothing to do with the list, more to do with him being good at split-second tactics), and is both extremely compassionate and utterly unfeeling at times.
And I can’t even begin to list how many times he’s done things for his companions that they would never have allowed him to do, if they knew what he was planning.
Gandalf the Gray, Frodo Baggins, Aragorn, Faramir
Boromir is a Type Two and Merry and Pippin are Type Four. What about the others?
Well, Sam Gamgee might be a type one, but Frodo is a Type Five. Almost everyone underestimates him, and rather than a hidden darkness, he has a hidden majesty–as does Aragorn. Faramir is conflicted (though not in quite the same way as he is in the movies). And Gandalf… well, when you’ve been around for about three thousand years, you’d expect a character to be a bit complex!
Now for my own characters!
Winter and Tairya
Winter has a personality somewhat similar to Merlin’s or the Doctor’s, except without the clumsiness, he is a bit more grim, and people underestimate him more because they don’t know him. However, he also has a sense of humor, is very loyal, especially to his mentor and friends among the Rangers, and has a kinder side that is rarely seen, except by his apprentice Elian. He is the bodyguard of the Princess and sworn to protect her.
Tairya, the woman Winter is sworn to guard, is probably the only villain on this list. Less blatant than most villains and completely without remorse, mercy, or compassion, Tairya is a Type Four gone horribly wrong. She is the archetype of everything any Type Four could slip into becoming. However, she does have a slightly lighter side; a soft spot for her husband and child–but this turns her even more sour when Winter, in an attempt to fulfill his oath in some way despite his failure to save her, kidnaps (or rescues) her son.
Winter and Tairya both appear in my unfinished novelLoyalties and are among my most complex characters ever.
More in the vein of Master Kenobi than any other character on this list, Connor’s personality is somewhat similar to that of a type two. He’s mild, clever, funny, and a good friend. However, under his mild, kind exterior, hidden so deep that even Connor himself is not aware of it, he has a secret:
Connor is a trained assassin, part of a failed conditioning experiment by a ruthless businessman, and his perceived colorblindness is psychosomatic–in rebelling against the conditioning, he effectively “made himself” colorblind. While he appears to fold to any situation, when he takes a stand it’s quite clear that he’s got some steel in his backbone, probably inherited from ancestors who fought in the American War for Independence. Connor stars in my unfinished novel Colorblind.
Wait… mild-mannered reporter living in a superhero world… Never mind. Connor’s only real “superpower” is the ability to see in the ultraviolet spectrum… which is pretty useless in a fight.
Nothing to see here, DC Comics.
If there’s another character who I missed who you think should be on this list, please tell me about them! I’d love to meet them. 🙂
Well… a character who I’ve created who will probably never feature in a novel… Casceny! No, just kidding. The steampunk time-traveler heroine may or may not have a novel in the works. Eventually. So far, the time travelers in the Mind Palace are Charles Wallace Murray and Meg Murray (A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels), the Doctor (Doctor Who), and my own characters, Emrys Williams, Casceny, and a young Hispanic lady who is going by the alias of “Maria” at the moment until I can pick out a better name for her. Emrys is first in line and Maria is second (multi-cultural time travel academy, here we come!) But Casceny is still not eliminated from the running.
But she’ll be in the countdown anyway, since right now she’s more of an interest person and an agent of chaos in the mind palace at the moment.
More seriously, Kysherin. Kysherin is my evil muse. Generally a not-very-nice person. Pesters me to write, and then bothers me while I am writing. If I come up with a wonderous thing, she comes up with a way to corrupt it totally. All angst, posted here and elsewhere, is absolutely 100% her fault. (Okay, except for the sensory-overload type, which is me trying to cope with my overwhelming surroundings.)
There’s also Oliver, who is one of my all-time favorite characters, and who Writefury and I came up with. I probably shouldn’t even be talking about him yet, but I haven’t mentioned what he comes up in, so we’re good… you’ll all probably recognize him when he does, though. Technically he doesn’t count because he DOES exist in a project in what Rosalie terms the Erin!verse (which is a composite of all my ongoing projects at any given time.) But it’s not a novel. I just HAD to post about him, since he’s AWESOME, and let me just say, I can hardly wait. ;-D
And finally, there’s Chaos, who is barred from the mind palace for obvious reasons. Chaos is my artistic vent. She always wants to fight and start minor class wars. She’s a teenaged Marxist and anarchist and I sometimes doodle her getting into well-deserved trouble when I’m particularly hot under the collar about something (mostly politics). Favorite pastimes include random vandalism and Luddite-ing with copies of Das Kapital. Needless to say, I never plan on posting anything featuring her on this blog. If she were here, Chaos would claim that she was created as a caricature of Bernie Sanders, but she is a blatant liar and you should not trust anything she says. Ever. (Caricacturing Bernie Sanders would be giving me far too much credit, and I can’t draw Trump.)
Okay, so I was thinking about science fiction this morning (trying to decide what the best way to fix my doodle of the Doctor that looked nothing like the Doctor) and I got around to the topic of changelings.
Like this one:
Cato Parasitti is a bounty hunter, a Clawdite from the Star Wars mythos. She appeared in Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season Two. And this is her “real” appearance.
I don’t know about you, but I see a problem here.
If a shapeshifter doesn’t have any problem maintaining a disguise, who’s to say what their true form really is? If all forms feel alike to them, then what’s their “real” form?
On the other hand, some species of shapeshifter appear to be uncomfortable while outside of their “true” form, anything from a sort of out-of-body feeling to discomfort to actual pain. Maintaining their appearance when they’re outside their own forms is difficult for them, and thus they tend to revert whenever they can.
But what about the first type, the ones who have no problem maintaining any appearance and thus don’t actually have a default one?
“True” form is, in their case, probably a cultural thing.
For instance, you might have a society of shape-changers who maintain different forms to denote their status or caste (if they have equivalents.) Shapeshifters who have a certain preferred form, just as humans have favorite brands of clothing. Perhaps you don’t have actual clothing and certain forms are seen as similar to the nudity taboo and you don’t use those in public. Temporary shifts being part of everyday conversations and used to convey ideas and concepts which don’t have the words in English….
There is so much possibility there.
In other news, the fact that we like people like us is not the reason why the viewpoint characters in sci-fi are nearly always human.
It’s also because the viewpoint character HAS to be as clueless and ignorant as the audience, otherwise nothing would ever get explained and we’d miss out on all that awesome theory.
I never expected this segment of the project to take this long! Oh well.
In the first segment, I discussed why anger is important to your writing (you have to include emotion or your characters will come off as unfeeling or sociopathic), and typical ways character types get angry. In the second, I talked about some specific examples.
Now it’s time for the tips on how to work characters getting angry into your own work. Yay! *throws yogurt instead of confetti*
Now that everyone has had their free yogurt facial, I’m going to start talking.
As you saw in my last post in this series, characters often act in given ways due to their backstory. This isn’t necessarily part of their personality, though. For the sake of this post, I’m referring to personality as an enduring set of traits that influence a person to act in a certain way.
Some characters may go through a lot of trauma and never show any outward sign of it. Others may struggle to come to terms with it, but their core personality remains the same. Others are completely different following the experience.
Another quick checklist, this one for determining whether or not an experience (traumatic or otherwise) changes a character:
How intense was the experience?
How profound an effect did it have on the character?
Was it a “first time” of some kind?
How old was the character at the time?
How long did it last?
How long ago was it?
How much of the character’s entire comparative life span did it take up? (e.g. if it’s been happening to them all their lives, or if it’s a more recent occurrence, or if it happened years ago but took up years.)
Also you have to consider the character. Some characters are just more resilient than others.
When a character gets angry, consider how they do it. Do they rage? Do they threaten violence? Do they use their words, and how do they use their words? Do they just walk away, or do they confront the problem?
Here’s an example from one of my novels:
Before the monster could shatter Cael’s bones with that massive paw, it suddenly reeled backwards, writhing in agony, a faint blue light shining from somewhere in the area of its maw. Its death throes lasted for only a few seconds, but it seemed much longer. As the beast fell, Arden leaped down from its back.
‘What are you doing here, Cael?’ he asked in a quiet, calculated voice, his face immobile.
‘I thought someone was in trouble,’ Cael stammered.
‘And you just wandered off?’ The words were velvety smooth but as perilous as quicksand. Not trusting himself to answer aloud, Cael nodded. ‘What did I tell you?’ Arden asked, his eyes flashing. Cael wondered if Arden was going to punish him in some way. But rather than doing anything, Arden continued in that dulcet, threatening tone, which was, in a way, more terrifying than anything he might have done.
‘Don’t wander off.’
If you can’t tell, Arden is a Type Five and Cael is either a Type One or Two. 😉
Remember that some characters are just innately more terrifying when they’re angry than others.
If your viewpoint character is the object of the anger, make sure to decide whether the other character’s form of anger is frightening to them or not, then pick out a few details that stand out to them. Choose just a couple of reasons why the anger is frightening and focus on them. Scrub your writing of too many details and purple or flowery prose–you can use a few details and a few unusual words, but don’t use too many, which will bog your writing down and detract from the emotion of the scene.
The same advice can also be useful for writing other forms of fear and shock as well. You can also, if you like, include some incongruous details for your character to notice: the color of a friend’s eyes, a brightly-colored balloon, a flower, the fact that it’s suddenly clouded over or cleared up. Use them to create a sense of detachment and for contrast.
Welcome back to this Brooklyn Project special on Writing Anger!
In the previous post, I explained why anger (and other emotions) is important to your novel and the different tendencies of character types in anger. In this post, I will give specific examples, explain how backstory can influence a character’s emotions, and give some advice and handy tools for writing it into your novels.
Anger tends to vary drastically within types as well as within genders. Take Obi-Wan Kenobi and the Doctor, for example. I have them both classed as Type Fives because they’re both extremely complex characters who use a lot of misdirection and subtlety (as a side note, I watched part of David Tennant playing Hamlet and I’d have to say, Hamlet is Type Five as well.) Obi-Wan and the Doctor are both a bit more emotional than the stereotypical Type Five (Sherlock Holmes, for instance), but they have tendencies towards different emotions. Obi-Wan, while he’s a generally optimistic person with a mostly-happy childhood, is also a realist (see? really complex!) and slides toward sadness as an adult (as a child, he had a very quick temper), and I’d imagine that of all the Star Wars characters he’s probably the one hiding the fact that he has to take antidepressants. Obi-Wan has a tendency to switch topics without warning (non sequitur to the Rest Of The World), but has come to manage that in his adult life so he acts more like an INFJ than an INTJ (which I’m pretty sure he is.) The Doctor is much more bipolar. He sometimes has dramatic mood swings, jumps from idea to idea without consistency and gets depressed when he loses Rose in his tenth incarnation. (The Ninth and Twelfth Doctors were both much more focused, while Eleven just seems a bit aimless and underdeveloped to me.)
As a child, Obi-Wan was under a lot of stress much of the time–his teachers had high expectations, he routinely exceeded them, which in turn made his teachers set their standards for him even higher. No one ever particularly told him that he was clever, which certainly helped him to become the humble character we all love, but it didn’t do much to help him cope with his workload–being observant, he knew that most of his age-mates weren’t working this hard. Either he didn’t know the reason, or he simply rationalized it that he was stupid, because he was working so much harder than everyone else. Because he was stressed, he tended to flare up in anger when bullied, which made people perceive him as an angry person when he really was a compassionate and thoughtful one under a lot of stress. (He was probably also dealing with depression, but it went unnoticed because he didn’t fit the stereotype.) This was dramatically exacerbated when he came closer to the cut-off date for apprenticeship. It was a self-fueling cycle that pushed him down, but fortunately Yoda observed what was going on, realized that he was caught in a cycle and they weren’t seeing his true self, and used the fact that he’d recently gotten into a fight with another Jedi hopeful to get him out of the Temple and away from the cycle. (“The Rising Force” by Dave Wolverton. What makes me think he was dealing with depression? The hopeless way he responded to being taken away from the Temple and his difficulty in finding the will to fight back when attacked on the transport. I may be wrong about depression, but that seems to fit the facts.)
As an adult, Obi-Wan was not as likely to flare up, even when provoked. It took a major provocation (oftentimes aimed at his loved ones rather than himself) to get him angry. While he was outwardly a model of serenity, he was really a visionary, passionate and idealistic, and had an innate ability to read other people and respond to them in a disarming way. (Oh, sorry, did I say Obi-Wan was INTJ? It’s really hard to tell if that big letter is a T or an F, especially with him.) Obi-Wan was both a traditionalist and a reformer, and given enough time he might have been able to get the entire Jedi Order back on track. Obi-Wan always had a sarcastic and often dark sense of humor with a love of wordplay and a cutting wit that he used as a smokescreen to hide any internal trepidation. However, his sarcasm was more often a part of his humor than of his anger.
As an adult, Obi-Wan responded to anger in one of two ways. One was a sudden burst of anger (in response to sudden provocation), followed quickly by calm, rational thought, and the other was a cold, distant, controlled and calculated wrath that was completely terrifying, even if you were not the target of it at the time. Obi-Wan was not an angry person, however. His anger was aroused and then when it was over, it was completely gone.
The Doctor, while he had a similar upbringing (taught at an academy with little to no familial contact after his induction), was always more of a rebel. While Obi-Wan had an intuitive understanding of the world and the people around him, the Doctor, while brilliant, would often find himself confronted by situations and things he didn’t understand. The Doctor never particularly cared about other people’s opinions and was often more sassy than sarcastic. Sarcasm was not often a part of his anger, either. The Doctor didn’t often have those rapid flare-ups of temper as an adult–his anger was a constant, a perpetual and constantly controlled presence and as such it was always tightly controlled. When openly angry, the Doctor’s anger was similar to Obi-Wan’s calculated cold fury. He would often be verbally cutting (though not sarcastic,) whittling people down (often to tears) with words. His word choice, posture, and expression would all become menacing. For me, the most effective thing about David Tennant’s performance as the Doctor was the way he could play a character who is sweet, charming, frankly adorable and a little bit ditzy but who is at the same time an intensely driven individual, with an ever-present and deep-rooted anger–especially the way Tennant is able to jump so quickly between the two.
There was another image I was going to use, but it’s the most terrifying expression you are ever likely to see, so I’m going to refrain. This blog is mostly G-rated, after all.
Their angry expressions vary, too: Obi-Wan presses his lips together tightly, the Doctor tends to display his teeth (which is slightly unnerving in its own right–Ten’s teeth are sort of angled-in, which prompted him to comment “That’s weird” immediately after his regeneration.) Obi-Wan’s anger is all in the way he looks calculatedly at people, while the Doctor’s anger is all in the eyes and mouth–eyebrows draw together, lips curl back, and his nose wrinkles a little. The Doctor looms over people, while Obi-Wan tenses up in his core and has to remind himself to breathe. That last one could be more because Obi-Wan’s training was a little more martial in style, so he’s preparing to leap into action at any second. The Doctor’s anger intimidates, while Obi-Wan prepares to fight.
(Bottom line, fangirls: The Doctor is scary. He does have a fluffy side but he also has quite the dark side. Do not occasion David Tennant giving you The Eyebrow… if he did it to me I’d probably burst into tears.)
Let’s talk about Steve Rogers, a typical Type One. Steve doesn’t get angry often, but when he does, you do not want to get on his bad side. Captain America: The Winter Soldier has several prime examples. In the first fifteen or so minutes of the movie, he tells Fury off for not giving him the whole story about the opening mission. Rather than verbally attacking Fury or using sarcasm, though, he lets Fury know he’s angry and then tells him why in plain language that’s not calculated to make Fury angry in turn. As a result, we find out how much Fury really respects Steve–in response to Steve’s accusation, he shows us that he values Steve’s respect by showing Steve SHIELD’s latest top-secret project: Project Insight. You wouldn’t think that Fury would let something like Steve’s respect be that important to him, but it is.
The other notable anger we see Steve display in The Winter Soldier is his anger following the shock of discovering that his best friend is still alive and has been brainwashed into a Soviet superweapon. “Would you have compartmentalized that too?” he asks Fury, the most biting his language to Fury has gotten thus far. He’s being a little bit irrational, which is not really typical for Steve at all. I think that in the scene on the bridge when Sam Wilson says “He’s the kind you stop,” Steve is still angry about it but keeps himself from lashing out viciously at Sam because it is not Sam’s fault.
You can’t really see it on his face when Steve is angry because his angry look is more “calculating” than “angry.” You have to listen to him to know he’s angry. Also, Steve’s sarcasm is rarely connected with his anger–it’s more self-deprecating. We generally only see him use sarcasm when he’s angry with himself or trying to work with people, and then he uses his sarcasm the same way–to defuse the situation through self-deprecating humor. It’s very rare for us to see Steve use anything but plain language–which would seem to be a fairly common trait for Type Ones. They can get technical, but most of the time they whittle things down to the barest meaning they can.
Bucky Barnes is different from most Type Twos. He’s brave, funny, active, adventurous, and a people person. Cool factor was harder to figure out, but he’s the Winter Soldier. However, he isn’t as much of a planner as Steve is and as a result we never see him planning anything in particular. Rather than acting or taking the initiative, we see him reacting (which is probably because his supposed death is the “Mirror Moment” of The First Avenger–the moment the main character goes from reacting to initiating the action.) Bucky is more of what I’d call a mature Type Two–a Type Two who is aware of their own character flaws and dark side, making it more of a character strength for him than a weakness. He’s less existential than Type Ones or Fives though, so he doesn’t deal with such deep self-hate as, for instance, the Doctor, Obi-Wan, or Steve.
When Bucky gets angry, it’s normally because someone has attacked Steve (verbally or physically.) I’d imagine that when someone badmouths Steve, Bucky attacks them personally with his words and tears them down completely. He is quietly angry about the injustice of people constantly taking it out on Steve, but doesn’t quite know what to do about it (because he’s more based in social norms than a Type Five like Sherlock, who would not be held back in going after the wrongdoers simply because it wasn’t “okay.”)
Wow. This post turned out long. I’ll have to split it into three, rather than two as I had planned… Stay tuned for the final installment of this series!
Yes, I know it has been a while. I’m sorry. Also, I am not going to list all my (completely valid) excuses here because that would be an entire post in itself. And a half.
In this post, I will explain the different ways different types of characters get angry and why this is important to your story. In the second part of this post (coming soon,) I will give specific examples and explain how you can use this in your story.
Warning: This post will be working off of WriteFury‘s and my character typing system, so if you are not familiar with it, you should probably go and glance through them now:
Click here for Character Profile #1.
Click here for Character Profile #2.
Click here for Character Profile #3.
Click here for Character Profile #4.
Click here for Character Profile #5.
Now that that’s out of the way, we can talk character!
Anger is always a useful tool to better define characters in your readers’ minds. A character who does not get angry or otherwise show an emotion at some point (preferably multiple some-point’s!) in the course of a story will come off as either an emotionless robot or a soulless, undeveloped, bland nobody.
Of course, different characters get provoked to strong emotion in different ways. Here’s a quick checklist to consider (using gender-neutral pronouns for brevity):
What would xe see as an unforgivable outrage?
Is xir anger more likely to be righteous or not-so-righteous? (More about this below!)
Is xe easily provoked to anger? (Bonus points if the villain uses this character flaw against xir!)
How does xir anger come out? (aka shouting, sarcasm, physical actions, etc.) Also, is xe completely unreasonable when angry? (If so, here’s something for xir to work on in the course of the story!)
Is xe more likely to try to control xir anger?
What most commonly makes xir angry? (As in, what everyday annoyance would be most likely to provoke xir?)
Different character types tend to get angry differently. Type Ones can get this look that they are plotting horrible revenge (I am looking at you, Steven Rogers!), or alternatively get quiet and extremely calculating when they are angry. In fact, they may not seem to be angry at all, but use calculated language to make others angry.
Type Twos and Threes often explode in anger or lash out verbally at others because they feel their Fortress of Solitude has been penetrated or wronged. (Incidentally, these two types are also the most likely to take criticism personally rather than realistically and implementing it to improve performance, like Type Ones and Type Fives often do.) Type Twos and Threes are often blissfully unaware of their own character flaws and defects (unlike Type Ones and Fives, who tend to know their own personalities altogether too well and are more likely to develop self-hate as a result), and when their personal flaws are pointed out to them, they get defensive and angry. They’re also more likely to get worked up about things (taking gentle criticism completely out of context, for instance.) Like Type Fives, Type Twos and Type Threes sometimes do things that are considered inappropriate, but because they are in the grip of some powerful passion and they aren’t thinking ahead.
Type Fours are most likely to explode in anger when their friends are attacked, whether physically (when Steve Rogers was being beaten up behind the theater, for instance) or verbally (if one character says something bad about another character), especially if the accusation is untrue or perceived to be untrue. They are more likely to lash out with words than physically, and when aroused can be just as verbally cutting as a Type One or a Type Five.
Type Ones and Fives are the deep thinkers. Type Ones tend to get angry about social injustice and similar issues, while a Type Five is more likely to go out and do something about it. (However, since Type Fives often tend to be “poorly socialized”, sometimes the things they do about injustice are either blown totally out of proportion or just generally inappropriate, though their solutions are almost never completely ineffective.) Both Type Ones and Type Fives are the most likely to work themselves up about things that may or may not be personal to them, but in a completely impersonal way. Type Fives almost never get angry because of a personal attack. Type Ones may get depressed over being attacked in a personal way, but they don’t retaliate. Type Fives are the most likely of any type to retaliate for any perceived wrongdoing, simply because they perceived it as a wrong and not out of any personal, emotional response. Type Fives always think ahead–in terms of logic, not generally accepted norms–and will reach conclusions and do things that make them appear to others as amoral, weird, or unfeeling. However, those conclusions, to them, make perfect sense, and they often react with surprise or confusion when informed that “People just don’t do that!” Type Fives will also go through with a logical course of action, even if it will have a negative impact on them. They aren’t unware that there will be consequences. They’ve simply weighed benefits against consequences and decided on (to them) an appropriate course of action.
As a result, it may seem like Type Fives don’t get angry, but they may simply not be showing that anger on the outside while their movements are calculated and driven by deep, elemental passion. If you have posed a threat, done something to, hurt, or otherwise upset to the friend of a Type Five (even one who, like Batman, won’t kill you,) you are done for. Prepare for your life to be made miserable. The perceived wrong may not have even particularly upset the friend. In the eyes of the Type Five, you are guilty and the logical conclusion is that you deserve to be punished.
Don’t simply assume that just because a character is male, or female, he or she will get angry in a certain way. Not only is that sexist, it’s also unrealistic, and lazy. (Very, very extremely lazy.) Character types are spread out among both genders, just as all personality types appear in both men and women (though, as a quick caveat, they do operate slightly differently in men than in women.) See this post for more information. Some women will get angry in a seemingly stereotypical way. Some will cry. Others will lash out verbally. Others will resort to cutting sarcasm, while still others will be silently plotting your demise. (On a side note and as a woman myself, I would advise you to simply not make women angry at all. There’s always the off chance that you’ve just insulted a Peggy Carter and you are about to DIE in a creative and impressive way.) Some men cry when they’re upset, too, though Society frowns on this and they try to hide it. (It’s really not shameful to cry, people. However, it’s the Types Two, Three, and Four that are most likely to know and accept this. Types One and Five are notorious for bottling it up inside in that infamous Stoic Hero way.)
Here ends Part One of this post. You might also want to check out WriteFury’s post on Myers-Briggs personality types as a characterization tool. For specific examples and more on how backstory drives characters’ emotions, check back in shortly to read Part Two. As always, thanks for reading, have a great day, and God Bless!
I think I’ll post a new Music Writing Challenge next week on Tuesday… Everyone who wants to write one of these Challenge pieces, please post them by then. Or you can post them later, if you want. Also, if you have any music you’d like to suggest for the Challenge, please tell me! 🙂
At a nice, even one hundred and fifteen words, this one was a bit short. But I was just writing what I felt like and then realized, hey this sounds like Isaac, so I made it his thoughts.
Then leap forward with a vengeance. Find your way through the battle. Take your stand.
Some just try to keep their sanity.
Others embrace the madness.
And a few set their feet on the ground and defy the dark.
Isaac had been fighting for hours. It wasn’t just his freedom at stake. It was the fate of the world.
He had to find another way.
Abandoning his powers, he leaped forward, seeking the heart of the battle. He closed his eyes, focusing.
The cracks in the moment spread out from that center, like a spider’s web.
Isaac ran for the center, eyes still shut but aware of the war around him.
For those of you who may not be familiar with my pan-whatsit-theon of characters, Isaac is the hero of The Flame Within, sort of a sequel to Bound to the Flame and set far in its future. By this time, magic is widely accepted across the world, but the practice of magic has become corrupted. Isaac is a student at a school of magic and has been for as long as he can remember, but with banned books and his apparent nonexistence in the school’s records, he has to face the possibility that nothing is quite as it seems.
Okay, I know I posted recently about something along these lines, but I just couldn’t leave it alone.
Character voice is word choice, not accent. But character voice is also defined by regionalism, and while accents are not easy to write, they can be implied.
I’ve been thinking a bit about how word use can define character voice, as well. Recently, I came across the word “nebby”, which evidently means curious to inhabitants of Pittsburgh (Thank you, Professor!), which I had not heard before.
Also, would Obi-Wan ever use slang? Or would Tony Stark ever say “You lot”? (Yes, there are British Avengers fans out there–I can not take credit for this one–someone online mentioned that they wished that there was such a thing as Reverse Brit-Picking for Avengers fanfiction. If anyone from the British Isles wants to write Avengers fanfic–I VOLUNTEER!!! I may not be from New York, but at least I can help you make them sound American. ;-P)
The other thing that inspired this post was a rambling headache. (Yes, I am sorry.)
I was thinking about how different words mean different things to different people (like, in Great Britain, a “jumper” is the same thing as a “sweater” to us. Also, instead of “cell” they say “mobile.” (Major plot point in a Sherlock episode, here. Which is really crazy because the MacGuffin thingy is the same as Agent Carter‘s.)
And then, I was thinking about my uncle who lives in New York but was not born there. Thus, to an American, he’s not a Yankee. To an American, a Yankee is a born-and-bred New Yorker (I think it’s more the city than the state, but I could be wrong.) Meanwhile, in Hogan’s Heroes the Cockney former thief, forger, and all-around conman Newkirk regularly calls his American counterparts “Yanks”. I could go into the etymology of the word, but that’s really not the point here.
The point is that tone can be regional, and you can learn quite a bit about a character, not only by their word choice, but also how they use those words.
It’s very important that each character just sounds like their role. One example of how this is brilliant: How To Train Your Dragon. From the first moment he opens his mouth, you can tell that Hiccup is the sarcastic social pariah. And the phony Scottish accents of the adults? They create an illusion of time and place, even if it’s not an entirely historically accurate illusion… (Well, most modern-day occupants of the British Isles have at least one Scandinavian ancestor… Which is why Steve Rogers can be Irish when his name doesn’t sound like it. Rogers is probably a corruption of a common surname type–Rogerson–which is sort of normal for historical Scandanavians… just like Ransom in Lewis’ Space Trilogy comes from “Ranulf’s Son”… *gets pulled off-stage by a giant hook*)
In short, whether you’re looking to emulate Faulkner or simply to try your hand at creating the regional illusion, word choice is as important as–if not more important than–accent. Maybe you won’t even need to imply accent if you use word choice correctly…
And your spell check won’t want to strangle you as you put together the final drafts of your characters’ dialogue.
Sometimes, you can’t even show the villain’s true Intent of Evil, because it’s simply too dark and unpleasant to think about. You know what the villain really means, whether it’s genocide or betrayal or something else entirely, but it’s too horrific to simply come out and bluntly say it. What to do?
You show your characters’ reaction to the potential evil to show how Very Bad it really is. Even when it’s unclear who the villain is, you can still hint at their villainy by having some character have a strong negative reaction to them… (No, Connor, your bad feeling about a certain gentleman is totally unjustified. Honest!)
And sometimes, just showing the reactions and not the event that evoked them can be more impactful than any amount of gruesome detail. (People have very active imaginations.)
When all else fails, in a well-scripted and acted movie, watch the eyes. You can generally guess what a character is thinking. It’s sort of the same thing here. By watching the characters’ reactions, you can guess at the true horror of the villain’s misdeeds.
It’s like that scene where the bad guy shoots someone, but we only see him as he makes the shot, not the grisly results.