May 24, 2019, 10:13:14 AM

Author Topic: Inherently "good"  (Read 2180 times)

Online Eli_Freysson

Inherently "good"
« on: June 05, 2018, 12:25:54 AM »
I'm cursed with coming up with a new setting/series well before I can actually start working on it. Now I'm 1/3 through my Gothic/Lovecraftian series, and have just gotten the very earliest ideas for my very own Tolkieneque old-style epic fantasy. You know, with lots of travelling, lots of travellers, high stakes and a sense of myth.

Assuming I can pull it off, of course.

I'm currently pondering the basic elements, including the Gifted Hero. In short, I want my next setting to have people gifted with special powers that come with an inclination toward heroics.

I guess I'm going to define "goodness/heroism" as empathy for other people's suffering, and the passion and will to do something about it.

On the empathy thing I think I'll go with them being up-to-eleven sensitive to the suffering of others, possibly to the degree of literally feeling it just by being near them. This would make doing something about it as natural as looking after one's own emotional state. It would also give a "this sucks" angle to the whole thing, and make these people prone to either nervous breakdowns or living as hermits in the middle of nowhere.
I would also make them driven and passionate to the point of often charging in headfirst, and being prone to melodrama and meltdowns. Ie. someone you want leading a charge, but not making plans.

This seems like it would give me characters with a reputation for/tendency towards do-gooderism, while also allowing for a bit of depth.

Any thoughts?
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Offline Lady Ty

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Re: Inherently "good"
« Reply #1 on: June 05, 2018, 02:11:55 AM »
If your hero has a natural empathy for suffering, could he not also have the opposite, an empathy for people's joys & happiness? This power could help balance his mind out at times. Otherwise he is destined to become a depressed mess or hermit as you suggest and that wouldn't make him a convincing hero.
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Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Inherently "good"
« Reply #2 on: June 05, 2018, 02:51:26 AM »
I'm cursed with coming up with a new setting/series well before I can actually start working on it. Now I'm 1/3 through my Gothic/Lovecraftian series, and have just gotten the very earliest ideas for my very own Tolkieneque old-style epic fantasy. You know, with lots of travelling, lots of travellers, high stakes and a sense of myth.

Assuming I can pull it off, of course.

I'm currently pondering the basic elements, including the Gifted Hero. In short, I want my next setting to have people gifted with special powers that come with an inclination toward heroics.

I guess I'm going to define "goodness/heroism" as empathy for other people's suffering, and the passion and will to do something about it.

On the empathy thing I think I'll go with them being up-to-eleven sensitive to the suffering of others, possibly to the degree of literally feeling it just by being near them. This would make doing something about it as natural as looking after one's own emotional state. It would also give a "this sucks" angle to the whole thing, and make these people prone to either nervous breakdowns or living as hermits in the middle of nowhere.
I would also make them driven and passionate to the point of often charging in headfirst, and being prone to melodrama and meltdowns. Ie. someone you want leading a charge, but not making plans.

This seems like it would give me characters with a reputation for/tendency towards do-gooderism, while also allowing for a bit of depth.

Any thoughts?

An interesting idea. Off the top of my head (really just brainstorming out loud) it seems an interesting REASON for heroics. A cornerstone of the Mary & Gary Sues out there is they're good for the sake of the story, not for any character-driven reasons. This gives these people a palpable reason - you can scale the effect as much or as little as you like. I can totally imagine a hero saving me and saying with a roll of the eyes "It's not you - I just dig good vibes. Anyone's good vibes."
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Online Eli_Freysson

Re: Inherently "good"
« Reply #3 on: June 05, 2018, 08:26:01 AM »
If your hero has a natural empathy for suffering, could he not also have the opposite, an empathy for people's joys & happiness? This power could help balance his mind out at times. Otherwise he is destined to become a depressed mess or hermit as you suggest and that wouldn't make him a convincing hero.

Oh yeah. Of course. I guess it would give them kind of a manic-depressive vibe.
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Offline Peat

Re: Inherently "good"
« Reply #4 on: June 05, 2018, 12:36:39 PM »
I think more than just a feeling for suffering and happiness, there needs to be responsibility.

Because if you're just naturally very sensitive and driven by other's emotions, you'd probably become a musician who comes out, basks in the love, then runs back to hide in their chateau or where ever.

It's the sense of responsibility that'd keep people from doing that.
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Online Eli_Freysson

Re: Inherently "good"
« Reply #5 on: June 05, 2018, 05:16:26 PM »
I think more than just a feeling for suffering and happiness, there needs to be responsibility.

Because if you're just naturally very sensitive and driven by other's emotions, you'd probably become a musician who comes out, basks in the love, then runs back to hide in their chateau or where ever.

It's the sense of responsibility that'd keep people from doing that.

This whole idea is still very rough, but currently is isn't that these folks are automatically heroes. They just lean in that direction.
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Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Inherently "good"
« Reply #6 on: June 05, 2018, 07:09:38 PM »
Beyond an individual's tendencies, people are heavily influenced by culture and society. Vikings were not necessarily fearless in battle because they believed in Valhalla, as much as we like to think that's the case. In my experience, when shit hits the fan, those notions go bye-bye. However, showing weakness and fear in front of your group is a very powerful force. Shame, fame, credibility, reputation, rewards and punishments: all these have a potential role in how heroic people are or aren't - and I caution about introducing too much logic into your brainstorming. People are illogical, as a rule, and this is REALLY true of those who are heroic.

Han Solo's refusal to join in the Death Star assault was highly logical - what's the point of a reward if you're not alive to spend it? His reversal and assistance at the end are a departure of logic and yet comprise a heroic act. This is not a mistake.
« Last Edit: June 05, 2018, 07:11:30 PM by The Gem Cutter »
The Gem Cutter
"Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There's always the possibility of a fiasco. But there's also the possibility of bliss." - Joseph Campbell

Offline Peat

Re: Inherently "good"
« Reply #7 on: June 05, 2018, 08:37:50 PM »
I think more than just a feeling for suffering and happiness, there needs to be responsibility.

Because if you're just naturally very sensitive and driven by other's emotions, you'd probably become a musician who comes out, basks in the love, then runs back to hide in their chateau or where ever.

It's the sense of responsibility that'd keep people from doing that.

This whole idea is still very rough, but currently is isn't that these folks are automatically heroes. They just lean in that direction.

Gotcha.

Slightly devil's advocate, but if it makes them physically sick, are they going to be able to anything about it?

And if they're only doing it because elsewise it hurts them, is it really good?

And going down a dark route, if they just kill the suffering person so they stop making them feel bad (obviously not great in crowds), does that work for alleviating the pain?
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Offline Neveesandeh

Re: Inherently "good"
« Reply #8 on: June 06, 2018, 09:33:41 AM »
I'm cursed with coming up with a new setting/series well before I can actually start working on it. Now I'm 1/3 through my Gothic/Lovecraftian series, and have just gotten the very earliest ideas for my very own Tolkieneque old-style epic fantasy. You know, with lots of travelling, lots of travellers, high stakes and a sense of myth.

Assuming I can pull it off, of course.

I'm currently pondering the basic elements, including the Gifted Hero. In short, I want my next setting to have people gifted with special powers that come with an inclination toward heroics.

I guess I'm going to define "goodness/heroism" as empathy for other people's suffering, and the passion and will to do something about it.

On the empathy thing I think I'll go with them being up-to-eleven sensitive to the suffering of others, possibly to the degree of literally feeling it just by being near them. This would make doing something about it as natural as looking after one's own emotional state. It would also give a "this sucks" angle to the whole thing, and make these people prone to either nervous breakdowns or living as hermits in the middle of nowhere.
I would also make them driven and passionate to the point of often charging in headfirst, and being prone to melodrama and meltdowns. Ie. someone you want leading a charge, but not making plans.

This seems like it would give me characters with a reputation for/tendency towards do-gooderism, while also allowing for a bit of depth.

Any thoughts?

I really like this idea. It sounds like it has the potential to explore some really interesting themes, and the world sounds awesome.

I think more than just a feeling for suffering and happiness, there needs to be responsibility.

Because if you're just naturally very sensitive and driven by other's emotions, you'd probably become a musician who comes out, basks in the love, then runs back to hide in their chateau or where ever.

It's the sense of responsibility that'd keep people from doing that.

This whole idea is still very rough, but currently is isn't that these folks are automatically heroes. They just lean in that direction.

Gotcha.

Slightly devil's advocate, but if it makes them physically sick, are they going to be able to anything about it?

And if they're only doing it because elsewise it hurts them, is it really good?

And going down a dark route, if they just kill the suffering person so they stop making them feel bad (obviously not great in crowds), does that work for alleviating the pain?


I think this is an interesting path to explore, especially if you have different characters responding to the empathetic abilities in different ways it could help show a conflict of values. You could have a genuinely heroic character motivated both by his/her enhanced empathy and a sense of responsibility, an inherently selfish character forced to act heroically by his/her ability and a character who tries to kill those who are suffering so he/she has endured so much of their pain they can't take it any more. Assuming that would actually work.

I don't know. This idea has such great potential! Good luck!

Offline J.R. Darewood

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Re: Inherently "good"
« Reply #9 on: June 07, 2018, 07:03:23 AM »
I think more than just a feeling for suffering and happiness, there needs to be responsibility.

Because if you're just naturally very sensitive and driven by other's emotions, you'd probably become a musician who comes out, basks in the love, then runs back to hide in their chateau or where ever.

It's the sense of responsibility that'd keep people from doing that.

This whole idea is still very rough, but currently is isn't that these folks are automatically heroes. They just lean in that direction.

Gotcha.

Slightly devil's advocate, but if it makes them physically sick, are they going to be able to anything about it?

And if they're only doing it because elsewise it hurts them, is it really good?

And going down a dark route, if they just kill the suffering person so they stop making them feel bad (obviously not great in crowds), does that work for alleviating the pain?


Oooohhh that would make for an interesting antagonist with the same ability...  a sort of black mirror of the protagonist as they hunt each other....

Offline Yora

Re: Inherently "good"
« Reply #10 on: June 07, 2018, 08:34:42 PM »
I do very much like this underlying concept of what constitutes "good". I think it's a very good approach to make "Good" sincere and admirable without conotations of self-praise and superiority over other groups. It's something that appeals to contemporary sensibilities, where "hero" has become kind of a loaded term often applied to people who obediently die to further the goals of their leaders. It doesn't make good a label for "our way", which is contrasted by the evil of "other ways".

That being said, I think there is a certain risk to it coming across as rather corny when not done with sufficient restraint. Unless that's the style that is being aimed for.
People born to be destined to suffer for the saving of the innocent could be a bit much. Saying "a hero is a person sensitive to the emotions of others and driven to take action to lessen their suffering" is great. That's something to cheer for. But them being tormented by a destiny to sacrifice themselves for the good of the world can easily drift off into angsty drama. If that is the goal, that's great. But otherwise I think it would be better to keep it subtle and use restrain. It probably can work great, but I would work out in advance how I keep myself from unintentionally taking the story into a corny direction.
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Online Eli_Freysson

Re: Inherently "good"
« Reply #11 on: June 08, 2018, 10:51:58 AM »
That being said, I think there is a certain risk to it coming across as rather corny when not done with sufficient restraint. Unless that's the style that is being aimed for.
People born to be destined to suffer for the saving of the innocent could be a bit much. Saying "a hero is a person sensitive to the emotions of others and driven to take action to lessen their suffering" is great. That's something to cheer for. But them being tormented by a destiny to sacrifice themselves for the good of the world can easily drift off into angsty drama. If that is the goal, that's great. But otherwise I think it would be better to keep it subtle and use restrain. It probably can work great, but I would work out in advance how I keep myself from unintentionally taking the story into a corny direction.

My general style seems to be to take potentially corny concepts and do them in a serious fashion.

I'm not planning to descend into wangst. And I really will have to give this whole empathy thing a good long think before settling down on how it works.
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Online Eli_Freysson

Re: Inherently "good"
« Reply #12 on: June 09, 2018, 11:13:14 AM »
Whyyy does my mind do thiiis?? I need to complete two more books in my current series, and here I am getting ever more seduced by this idea and the world around it. I really want to go to a cafe with a notebook and start jotting down ideas.

Well, I guess if I'm going to write something in the spirit of Tolkien it's never too early to start worldbuilding. The man spent decades on it.

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Offline J.R. Darewood

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Re: Inherently "good"
« Reply #13 on: June 09, 2018, 11:36:12 AM »
Whyyy does my mind do thiiis?? I need to complete two more books in my current series, and here I am getting ever more seduced by this idea and the world around it. I really want to go to a cafe with a notebook and start jotting down ideas.

Well, I guess if I'm going to write something in the spirit of Tolkien it's never too early to start worldbuilding. The man spent decades on it.

Or you can be like me and spend decades re-writing your first 3 chapters.  Yay progress.

Online Eli_Freysson

Re: Inherently "good"
« Reply #14 on: June 09, 2018, 11:55:20 AM »
Whyyy does my mind do thiiis?? I need to complete two more books in my current series, and here I am getting ever more seduced by this idea and the world around it. I really want to go to a cafe with a notebook and start jotting down ideas.

Well, I guess if I'm going to write something in the spirit of Tolkien it's never too early to start worldbuilding. The man spent decades on it.

Or you can be like me and spend decades re-writing your first 3 chapters.  Yay progress.

I don't have that kind of patience. As I've established, I always have another idea pressing my old ones out of the way.
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