Comic Talk and General Discussion *

Does a writer “owe” readers a type of character?
mks_monsters at 10:06AM, Nov. 13, 2018
posts: 56
joined: 6-7-2017
There is nothing touchier in writing than trying to be open minded and trying to be inclusive in representation. The not so fun truth is though that you can’t include everyone. Making a cast that is too big gets confusing and token or poster child characters are boring. A character should contribute to the story not just be the character who is of a said group.

However, we live in an age where fans have come to expect certain things of writers and character designers. It is only human because we like what we like and trends have a huge impact on our culture. Art is not the exception of the exemption. Very often when we writers create a character fans will draw theories about them like crazy. I personally think drawing theories is a good thing because it shows that readers stop and think about things and they appreciate a character’s symbolism. What is not a good thing though is when fans cry foul when a character doesn’t turn out how they hoped and accuse the writer of being spiteful or teasing them.

Let me just put this to rest with the uttermost love and kindness. I can’t speak for other writers, but I can speak my own behalf when I say I never pull fast ones or lead people on. When I create a character, I know exactly what they will be from the get go, so whatever you’re seeing in the story is not something I pulled at random. It was pre-planned. I’m sorry if you don’t agree with it or like it, but I never lead anyone on. Plus, when it comes to symbolism, things can symbolise all kinds of things. Just look at the colour blue. It can symbolise royalty, snow, wisdom, water, sadness and much more. It does not symbolise one thing. The same can be said for many things like rainbows, wings, horns, a cape, a fashion style and much more. They never represent one thing because fiction is very fast and there is no telling where the writer drew inspiration from until you see it.

In short, please don’t feel cheated when you don’t get it all in a story. Writers are only human and to write well, they need it to feel natural not forced. A writer only owes the audience to put their best foot forward and if they’re doing that, everything else is just extra.
bravo1102 at 10:40AM, Nov. 13, 2018
posts: 5,561
joined: 1-21-2008
Well said.

Sometimes it feels like if the character does not develop how the reader thinks, its because the author never had a prior idea where she was going with that character. Then there is also deciding to be random and edgy. That's not good characterization or good writing.

Characters can grow organically and go in directions an author may not expect but not totally out of nowhere. Again that is poor planning and poor writing. It's good to surprise the reader but not totally upend the reader's expectations. There is such a thing as foreshadowing.

You want to do a total flip with a character? Fine. Foreshadow it. Hint at it. The reader may not see it and it only be a false flag, but there should always be hints and trends. People can and do change suddenly, but there are always signs no matter how subtle.
usedbooks at 11:21AM, Nov. 13, 2018
posts: 3,335
joined: 2-24-2007
I agree with bravo (hey, I'm doing that a lot today). All you “owe” your readers is staying true to your canon and your story. That doesn't mean characters don't develop, have a change of heart, or turn out to be something other than they first appeared. It means you have a plan. It means that your story is and should be a tip of an iceberg. What supports it, what the characters don't see, is all the stuff YOU know about the characters and the world they inhabit – and the direction the story is heading.

If someone or something is contrary to what it seems, don't spring it out of the blue. Even if you had planned for it, it won't seem that way to your readers and, yes, that will feel like a betrayal. Use foreshadowing. It can be extremely subtle, and, unless you have a HUUUGE following, there's a good chance none of your readers will pick up on any but the most obvious clues. And that's okay. Include it anyway. It doesn't have to be something everyone or most people will get. It should be something SOMEONE could get. So that when the curtain is drawn and the turn/truth is revealed, anyone can go back and SEE the clue, and at that point, it should be apparent.

You don't have to have your whole story planned in advance, but stay a few steps ahead of your readers. And if you are working more “in the moment,” you can always look back at your story and details and turn something into foreshadowing – retroactively. (Yeah, it's cheating, but it works.) A *big twist* or something seemingly out-of-character requires more hints, foreshadowing, and preparation, though.

Btw, some of my characters have things about themselves that I know very well even if they haven't been or won't be revealed, and that's okay too. It could be ‘revealed’ at some point or it could be something that just affects them casually. That's the fun AND the frustration of being a creator, knowing what to tell and when, what to not tell, and how to hold your tongue when a reader speculates everything correctly – or incorrectly.
Genejoke at 6:21PM, Nov. 18, 2018
posts: 3,996
joined: 4-9-2010
I don't think writers owe readers anything, however pissing readers off is a good way to lose them.

As for representation, sod that, I'd rather stay true to the story/characters I have in mind. That said, society is allegedly more inclusive and open and I think that generally shows in what people create.

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