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Author Topic: Writers that shit on their characters.  (Read 7409 times)

Offline Nighteyes

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Writers that shit on their characters.
« on: February 02, 2013, 09:58:58 PM »
Inspired by DEVILDARE's recent thread on the ending of First Law, how do we feel about writers that in DEVILDARE's words, 'shit on' their main characters? Martin and Abercrombie spring to mind clearly.
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Offline Arry

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Re: Writers that shit on their characters.
« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2013, 10:12:05 PM »
Fitz may have felt the weight of some of Hobb's shit.
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Offline Nighteyes

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Re: Writers that shit on their characters.
« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2013, 10:14:52 PM »
Fitz may have felt the weight of some of Hobb's shit.

Yes!  I think Hobb was taking extra strong laxatives when writing Assassin's Quest.
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Offline Jian

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Re: Writers that shit on their characters.
« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2013, 10:16:31 PM »
Inspired by DEVILDARE's recent thread on the ending of First Law, how do we feel about writers that in DEVILDARE's words, 'shit on' their main characters? Martin and Abercrombie spring to mind clearly.

Well. I think most writers kind of do shit on their characters. Most books contain conflict, and conflict needs to affect the main characters. And that conflict normally involves something equivalent to excrement dropping on their heads.  :P

In the first book I wrote, I rather hated the main character. Didn't like him at all. So, I gave him third degree burns, almost drowned him, gave him fifty severe cuts all across his body, and... Broke his shoulder and gave him a concussion. In my latest book, I think I took it to a whole new level.

Limbs, etc. being violently removed and all. But, if writers don't shit on some of their characters, it's not very interesting. It's like how I read horror to make myself feel better. I normally end up going, "Well, he just got eaten by a zombie...  This exam doesn't look so bad."

In a way, seeing these fictional (or are they??? ) characters having the worst time of their lives is simply enjoyable. If this happened to us or anyone we knew in real life, we'd probably be horrified. But in a book? I know I felt just a little bit better about myself after the shit everyone in First Law is put through.  8)

Also, some other writers who shit on their characters severely... Brent Weeks. Jesus Christ. Kylar and Logen from Night Angel Trilogy are just... I'd be spoiling stuff for people, but damn. Let's just say that they literally go through Hell, and I don't think they get back out...

Kip in the Black Prism also goes through the ringer, though not really as badly as Kylar.
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Offline Francis Knight

Re: Writers that shit on their characters.
« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2013, 10:30:06 PM »
It's a form of tough love :D

Nah - thing is, if characters have no shit happen to them, it's going to be a pretty boring story. 'Tyrion walked to the shops. Everyone was exceedingly nice to him, so he went home and had cream cakes for tea with lashings of ginger beer'.

In fiction, we need to chase out characters up a tree and then start throwing rocks at them (forget who first said that). The shit that happens/rocks they get hit by is a little something called 'the story' lol.

Now, granted, some authors do it more than others but say GRRM and Joe, they're writing GrimDark. You can't expect lightness, really....
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Offline Jonathan Campbell

Re: Writers that shit on their characters.
« Reply #5 on: February 02, 2013, 11:48:22 PM »
Writers are just power mad.


Offline shep5377

Writers that shit on their characters.
« Reply #6 on: February 02, 2013, 11:50:55 PM »
I'm surprised no one has said Lynch yet. Poor Locke.

Offline Elfy

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Re: Writers that shit on their characters.
« Reply #7 on: February 03, 2013, 04:02:58 AM »
I'm surprised no one has said Lynch yet. Poor Locke.
It's not all kittens and rainbows for Jean either. In a slightly different medium, I'll throw Joss Whedon out there. This guy just loves to pile the misery on for his characters.
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Offline blendyface

Re: Writers that shit on their characters.
« Reply #8 on: February 03, 2013, 03:23:23 PM »
Inspired by DEVILDARE's recent thread on the ending of First Law, how do we feel about writers that in DEVILDARE's words, 'shit on' their main characters? Martin and Abercrombie spring to mind clearly.

Well I'm probably one of those awful types in reading/writing circles - I tend to analyse the writer and the story. To me, an excessive amount of nonsense (as in, the aptly called "sh-ing on") - as opposed to a regular or consistent level of nonsense required for conflict etc - tends to pull me out of the story. Instead of reading a story, I feel like I'm uncomfortably close to the writer's psyche - for the most part, this particular "technique" screams that the writer is creating a kind of splinter of their own ego that they actively dislike/feel guilty or ashamed about, and then sh- on them as kind of a twistier wish fufillment. It can work, I imagine, but like other forms of wish fufillment (full-on self-inserts etc), there's a delicacy - and honesty - to it that is frequently amiss.

Not a fantasy example, but Thomas Hardy does this up-to-eleven with Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Tess being one of the most tragic heroic characters. I haven't read any academic work on it, but it always struck me as a strange desperate punishment on Hardy himself - as if he wanted to re-enact his own self-pity on another character and/or lament the kind of person he ought to have been (Tess-like), but was too realistic-cycnical to be. Either way, for me, that was a fairly transparent - but effective use of...er..well, you know the phrase already.

Alternatively, it can read as someone trying (perhaps too much) to get reviews that'll call them "gritty" or "badass"  ::)

EDIT: Someone posted about Joss Whedon...he does this a lot. And actually, there's a TV Tropes which is suited to this - Break the Cutie - since he, amongst others, often focuses this "sh-" on female characters* or making generally like, ~broken-dream girls~, although the trope can also apply to generally naive/optimistic/gentle characters. *Hell, think mostly every horror movie ever (The Shining. That is all.)

tl;dr
90% too ham-handed and distracting. But not automatically a "bad" thing
« Last Edit: February 03, 2013, 03:29:52 PM by blendyface »

Offline Patremagne

Re: Writers that shit on their characters.
« Reply #9 on: February 04, 2013, 03:25:37 AM »
Abercrombie definitely does. Just finished The First Law and he does it oh-so-masterfully.

Offline pornokitsch

Re: Writers that shit on their characters.
« Reply #10 on: February 05, 2013, 09:36:20 PM »
It beats the reverse, right? You're not really a hero if everything's already going your way. It is overcoming adversity that does it...

(Also, Daniel Abraham's Long Price. So mean to his characters. Very, very mean.)

Offline Elfy

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Re: Writers that shit on their characters.
« Reply #11 on: February 05, 2013, 09:42:43 PM »
It beats the reverse, right? You're not really a hero if everything's already going your way. It is overcoming adversity that does it...

(Also, Daniel Abraham's Long Price. So mean to his characters. Very, very mean.)
He's not real pleasant to them in The Dagger and the Coin, either, but then he did learn from the master of this; George R.R Martin.
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Offline Caroline Bott

Re: Writers that shit on their characters.
« Reply #12 on: February 06, 2013, 09:41:39 PM »
It beats the reverse, right? You're not really a hero if everything's already going your way. It is overcoming adversity that does it...

Yup, but that does make me wonder about the following - is adversity always as extreme as sh*tting on your character, or does it need a certain style of book for the adversity to be sh*tting?

There's been a bit of grimdark mentioned in this thread.  I think it is possible to have adversity without the book being grimdark.  One example springs to mind is Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan saga (ok, its sf not fantasy but still probably relevant).  She says that she thinks of the worst thing she can do to her character and does it.  Indeed she does.  But the books are not grimdark.

So is adversity always at the level of the author truly sh*tting on their character, or does it need to be a grimdark book as well for it all to hit the industrial scale fan?

Any opinions on this folks?

Offline pornokitsch

Re: Writers that shit on their characters.
« Reply #13 on: February 06, 2013, 10:12:16 PM »
This is off the top of my head, but a lot of grimdark fantasy has the character sh*tting on someone else. In that case, the reader's required to empathise (or at least keep following) someone that's causing the adversity...

Offline Caroline Bott

Re: Writers that shit on their characters.
« Reply #14 on: February 07, 2013, 10:11:09 AM »
That would make sense Pornokitsh.  Must admit I've only seen the very evocative term grimdark for the first time this week.  I do know there are some authors whose books are just plain not to my taste.  Well written, big sellers, very popular - but way too miserable for me.