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At what point do you blame the writer/author for a character’s personality change?

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This can apply to any medium of fiction, but there have been too many stories I’ve come across recently where a character makes an absurd decision outside of their known behavior.

I usually give writers credit for being able to understand their characters from the ground up. However, it’s hard to have faith when a character makes a calculated decision not because it aligns with their personality but because it serves the plot that they act in such a way. 

Can you still say that character is the worst or dislike a character for uncharacteristic actions, or does the blame lie with an author or writer that needs to find a reason to advance the plot at the expense of an established character?

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Theoretically, you would blame the author or writer in every situation where a character makes an illogical or irrational decision.  In motion picture narratives, you could blame the director, since there is an additional editor between the source material creator and the audience.

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7 minutes ago, scoobdog said:

Theoretically, you would blame the author or writer in every situation where a character makes an illogical or irrational decision.  In motion picture narratives, you could blame the director, since there is an additional editor between the source material creator and the audience.

in the case of blaming the director,

with the above case I mentioned about Star Wars. Rian Johnson I would blame, considering he threw out the original script cause he wanted to do his own version. I understand Directors wanting to add their flavor to the recipe, but he turned the whole goddamn thing on its head.

 

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3 minutes ago, Dread Pirate Roberts said:

in the case of blaming the director,

with the above case I mentioned about Star Wars. Rian Johnson I would blame, considering he threw out the original script cause he wanted to do his own version. I understand Directors wanting to add their flavor to the recipe, but he turned the whole goddamn thing on its head.

 

There's a difference between disliking the plot itself and disliking how the plot is advanced.

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1 hour ago, Dread Pirate Roberts said:

I blame Kathleen Kennedy, Ruin Johnson, and JarJar Abrams for destroying Star Wars.

But none of them had anything to do with the prequels.

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22 minutes ago, stilgar said:

But none of them had anything to do with the prequels.

George's execution of the prequels could have been much better, but they still took SW in a new direction and each film added a shit ton of lore and content to the franchise. Disney on the other hand has done nothing new with their trilogy.

And considering back before the force awakens came out, how they were already talking about episodes 10-12, and how TLJ didn't do much to progress the overall story, and then they released Solo not even 4 months later, which was basically Disney testing the water to see if they can get away with putting out SW films at a rate similar to Marvel films, I do think they had no intention of ending the sequel story at ep 9, them doing some kind of cliffhanger ending, to carry things into the next episode trilogy. But the backlash from TLJ and Solo caused them to change gears, going to end the films at ep 9.

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5 hours ago, imchapp.in said:

because it serves the plot that they act in such a way. 

this is where you can start blaming the author, I believe. Once you're sure that this is the reason why the character reacted in such a way, you're free to question the author.

But it has to be clear; the actions need to be absurd enough to warrant the blame, because of course we can't forget that people will sometimes act unlike themselves depending on what is affecting them in their lives, and how they suddenly feel they need to act in order to bring happiness to themselves.

Humans can be desperate...and can act horribly even if they normally wouldn't, all the while feeling regret even as they act out in the way they choose to.

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Around the point where not even my patented brand of plothole filler can explain the actual fuck that's being presented to me.

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9 hours ago, imchapp.in said:

This can apply to any medium of fiction, but there have been too many stories I’ve come across recently where a character makes an absurd decision outside of their known behavior.

I usually give writers credit for being able to understand their characters from the ground up. However, it’s hard to have faith when a character makes a calculated decision not because it aligns with their personality but because it serves the plot that they act in such a way. 

Can you still say that character is the worst or dislike a character for uncharacteristic actions, or does the blame lie with an author or writer that needs to find a reason to advance the plot at the expense of an established character?

There's so many bad writers out there that take shortcuts that it doesn't bother me anymore. Movies and books are heavily involved in "I need this character to do X to advance the plot" and if the result is entertaining we all just kinda go with it. 

It also goes hand in hand with "I need X character to be at this place" despite there being no logical way for the character to be there. If a character needs to be there, he'll just.. be there. How? Maybe we'll tell you later! Or maybe we'll just go on with the story and you'll forget!

I think we all have to take into account that real life is messy and doesn't really have any rhyme or reason to it, so books and movies are never going to feel 100 percent logical even when they're well written.

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9 hours ago, scoobdog said:

Theoretically, you would blame the author or writer in every situation where a character makes an illogical or irrational decision.  In motion picture narratives, you could blame the director, since there is an additional editor between the source material creator and the audience.

While it'd be easy to get mad at a director or author because of the decisions they made with a character, it can provide a little more depth to a character if there is some kind of foreshadowing that they would be the type to make an irrational decision.

To me, a worst case scenario situation would be if you had a character that transformed from a somewhat troubled yet well-balanced individual to an outright villainous figure who antagonizes their friends and starts acting psychotic around those they like.

I placed it in the anime section because I know a larger problem with anime in general is being able to follow a manga where a character would appears to be stable until the plot decides they'd be more interesting if their character changed. Or if you have a filler where, because you have different writers handling a specific character, you have a character who acts even worse than normal because the writer of that section has it out for them. Would it be right to judge a character by their whole merits by including their behavior in filler material with how they are in general?

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5 hours ago, Hidden said:

this is where you can start blaming the author, I believe. Once you're sure that this is the reason why the character reacted in such a way, you're free to question the author.

But it has to be clear; the actions need to be absurd enough to warrant the blame, because of course we can't forget that people will sometimes act unlike themselves depending on what is affecting them in their lives, and how they suddenly feel they need to act in order to bring happiness to themselves.

Humans can be desperate...and can act horribly even if they normally wouldn't, all the while feeling regret even as they act out in the way they choose to.

True, it was a particular manga that I was into that inspired this question. There's a character I really liked in this harem romcom who was a confident actress that winded up struggling with figuring out whether she wanted to help her sister get with a guy she was interested in, or try to pursue him herself because she slowly started to fall in love with him.

Spoiler

And then, out of nowhere, she starts to take personal digs at her sister, going so far as to impersonate her to give the guy the wrong idea about who he should pursue. Her personality then started to change accordingly as she became far more cunning and snide in her attitude. 

It felt like a complete departure from the character I remember and got to know. It felt like her character was hijacked because they wanted to find a way to write her out of the narrative and disqualify her from being the final girl.

Similarly, there's the trouble with characters like Tien or Sakura who are blessed with the power of suck because they are either dogpiled by the writers who want to make the characters look worse and worse with time to devalue their image or have little material to go off of to give them some time to shine beyond the moments that the characters around them just keep dunking on them.  Nadia's filler also aimed to make her look like a worse character so that Jean would have some kind of adversity he'd have to tackle with getting her on her good side. At that point, would I place blame on the writers for mismanaging the character or the characters themselves for being poorly conceived or inherently flawed? 

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2 hours ago, imchapp.in said:

At that point, would I place blame on the writers for mismanaging the character or the characters themselves for being poorly conceived or inherently flawed?

I'm still not quite sure what you're on about, but still the writers, whether they mismanaged their own character or for doing a shit job of conceiving them or making them inherently flawed (if the flaws aren't part of their characterization traits).  How could you blame fictional characters who have zero agency in their existence?  :)  It sounds like the flip side of those people who defend shitty characters' shittiness by saying "Being an egocentric misogynist is just who he is.  You can't blame the writer for that!"

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2 hours ago, imchapp.in said:

True, it was a particular manga that I was into that inspired this question. There's a character I really liked in this harem romcom who was a confident actress that winded up struggling with figuring out whether she wanted to help her sister get with a guy she was interested in, or try to pursue him herself because she slowly started to fall in love with him.

  Reveal hidden contents

And then, out of nowhere, she starts to take personal digs at her sister, going so far as to impersonate her to give the guy the wrong idea about who he should pursue. Her personality then started to change accordingly as she became far more cunning and snide in her attitude. 

It felt like a complete departure from the character I remember and got to know. It felt like her character was hijacked because they wanted to find a way to write her out of the narrative and disqualify her from being the final girl.

Similarly, there's the trouble with characters like Tien or Sakura who are blessed with the power of suck because they are either dogpiled by the writers who want to make the characters look worse and worse with time to devalue their image or have little material to go off of to give them some time to shine beyond the moments that the characters around them just keep dunking on them.  Nadia's filler also aimed to make her look like a worse character so that Jean would have some kind of adversity he'd have to tackle with getting her on her good side. At that point, would I place blame on the writers for mismanaging the character or the characters themselves for being poorly conceived or inherently flawed? 

It's entirely possible that you simply missed cues.  In Nadia's case, her character has a built in flaw that's integral to the plot and diametrically opposed to her overt confident personality.  It's not unfeasible for an orphan to express illogical and destructive tendencies in tell relationships with those closest to them, and is not a coincidence that Nadia becomes more eratic the closer Jean gets to her.  Still, that's not to say the compressed nature of the story contributes to the jarring sight of her abusing Jean out of nowhere.  A good deal of the time, what appears to be illogical character behavior is a product of plotting.  

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4 hours ago, imchapp.in said:

True, it was a particular manga that I was into that inspired this question. There's a character I really liked in this harem romcom who was a confident actress that winded up struggling with figuring out whether she wanted to help her sister get with a guy she was interested in, or try to pursue him herself because she slowly started to fall in love with him.

  Hide contents

And then, out of nowhere, she starts to take personal digs at her sister, going so far as to impersonate her to give the guy the wrong idea about who he should pursue. Her personality then started to change accordingly as she became far more cunning and snide in her attitude. 

 

that spoiler seems super desperate--not to say those actions aren't believable, though.

this makes me curious about her past..like whether or not she has these sort of possessive tendencies, or if she has a complex about being second fiddle to her sister or in general (which could perhaps be tied to her being a successful actress, always in the spotlight--if that's the case). Maybe the author sheds light on one of these things later? I wonder..

but if you're bringing this up, i guess that might mean you haven't seen any signs of negative behavior up until this point (even to a subtle degree), in which case i myself would be surprised by what she's doing. But I'd be anticipating the end just to see if this sudden personality change is justified in any way..that might be where I officially make my choice about whether this character was flawed, or just forcibly turned into a villain.

scoob's first two sentences had me thinking about some of this. made me wonder if there's some context i'm missing that could explain this wild behavior to simply be a character flaw.

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7 hours ago, Gina Szanboti said:

I'm still not quite sure what you're on about, but still the writers, whether they mismanaged their own character or for doing a shit job of conceiving them or making them inherently flawed (if the flaws aren't part of their characterization traits).  How could you blame fictional characters who have zero agency in their existence?  :)  It sounds like the flip side of those people who defend shitty characters' shittiness by saying "Being an egocentric misogynist is just who he is.  You can't blame the writer for that!"

True, it wouldn’t make sense to need to fight over a character’s true behavior when it’s all dependent on how you read it. It might be frustrating when a character acts differently from when they first were conceived. But when it comes down to it, if you aren’t a fan of one part of the story, it isn’t like the other part never existed or the writer hadn’t created an otherwise convincing character before the plot changed them. 

What convinced me to ask the question is purely weeby. There was a character I liked in a romcom who, after 70 chapters, went from being a confused but well meaning older sister to being a nefarious schemer who aims to stab her sisters in the back to get what she wants. It feels paradoxical and they’ve recently softened her character, but it was a miserable arc because it felt like character assassination to see her play the villain to add some adversity to the story.

Still, as you said, it’s a fictional character whose existence, motives, and actions are ultimately determined by the reader interpreting the piece. While I might see it as her acting against her ordinary self, another might see it as her snapping from the pressure of holding her feelings in. 

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6 hours ago, scoobdog said:

It's entirely possible that you simply missed cues.  In Nadia's case, her character has a built in flaw that's integral to the plot and diametrically opposed to her overt confident personality.  It's not unfeasible for an orphan to express illogical and destructive tendencies in tell relationships with those closest to them, and is not a coincidence that Nadia becomes more eratic the closer Jean gets to her.  Still, that's not to say the compressed nature of the story contributes to the jarring sight of her abusing Jean out of nowhere.  A good deal of the time, what appears to be illogical character behavior is a product of plotting.  

That is an interesting way of looking at Nadia as a character. It’s easy to feel miffed at her behavior in arcs like the Island or Africa ones that were padded on by execs. But it also calls to question whether a character’s personality is fluid enough to be captured accurately beyond the original author. If Nadia’s hubris and temper make it so that her actions wouldn’t feel out-of-the-ordinary based on multiple interpretations. Much like with the Star Wars example, if Luke would have acted as he did in TLJ regardless of whether Lucas or Johnson was behind the story.

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5 hours ago, Hidden said:

that spoiler seems super desperate--not to say those actions aren't believable, though.

this makes me curious about her past..like whether or not she has these sort of possessive tendencies, or if she has a complex about being second fiddle to her sister or in general (which could perhaps be tied to her being a successful actress, always in the spotlight--if that's the case). Maybe the author sheds light on one of these things later? I wonder..

but if you're bringing this up, i guess that might mean you haven't seen any signs of negative behavior up until this point (even to a subtle degree), in which case i myself would be surprised by what she's doing. But I'd be anticipating the end just to see if this sudden personality change is justified in any way..that might be where I officially make my choice about whether this character was flawed, or just forcibly turned into a villain.

scoob's first two sentences had me thinking about some of this. made me wonder if there's some context i'm missing that could explain this wild behavior to simply be a character flaw.

The actress had recently been going through confidence issues since she was wondering whether she should continue helping her younger sister get with a guy she liked or if she should try to have that guy for herself. In retrospect, it’d be easy to see how the actress would end up trying to get with him in spite of her younger sister, but she didn’t seem like the type of character that would go desperate and crazy lengths to sabotage her sister’s efforts. She spent a good 70 chapters as the eldest sister that had helped keep the rest of the sisters together and had been levelheaded about her career goals and maintained a close relationship with the younger sister she was a wingman for. 

The insecurity over her other sisters showing interest might have been what had done her in. It just left a bitter taste to see that her main method of trying to get with the main guy was to stab her sisters in the back and rewrite her character to portray her as someone who always was a backstabbing opportunist who didn’t hold everyone together nearly as much as the other sisters did. 

The character wasn’t perfect because there were instances where she had a clever and crafty streak, but it had more of a mischievous big sister feel to it than someone who intended on hurting her sisters. From a writers standpoint, I can see how it’d be interesting to see a character like that lose her way as someone who is buckling from the pressure of having to put her feelings aside for her sisters, but it doesn’t feel good that, as soon as her younger sister gave her permission to fight for the main guy, she went full psycho. 

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The key there is that she was given permission to pursue and then started acting out of character.  It is difficult to predict how resentment presents itself, but that seems to be too sudden of a reveal.  What series is this?

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Just now, scoobdog said:

The key there is that she was given permission to pursue and then started acting out of character.  It is difficult to predict how resentment presents itself, but that seems to be too sudden of a reveal.  What series is this?

Spoiler

Go-Toubun no Hanayome, or Quintessential Quintuplets in English. 

Shes the character of Ichika, the eldest sister of the family. I’m not sure how much it’d help but here’s her wiki page about her: https://5hanayome.fandom.com/wiki/Ichika_Nakano

 

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ok i see now. so yea, this one is a little difficult for me, because on the one hand, i'm noting her mischievousness (even though the nature of this was fairly tame), and her waning confidence as reasons why she decided to act this way, but i think i'm in your boat with my feelings..ultimately, i see this change, and regardless of how she acted in the past and what might be going on with her now, i'm still super taken aback by what she decided to do for love.

scoob again makes a good note with the resentment point, but yeah--i personally walk out of the manga wondering what the hell happened to her..you saying "it doesn't feel good" i think describes things perfectly, because i don't think i'd expect that level of crazy from her, and would even be a bit sad about it if i liked her enough.

so do i blame the author?....again, maybe that's just her brand of...competitiveness (difficult to say--as in it feels difficult to support this level of crazy given what i know). But man, i might go with the author on this one..i'm leaning towards this being too over the top for her character.

on a side note:

Spoiler

this is that quintuplets manga? holy shit, i was not expecting that. i'm planning on reading this, haha. i thought this was some shoujo/drama/josei.

and thanks for making this topic. reminded me of the days when there'd be all sorts of cool anime discussion in OA. <3. @imchapp.in

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4 hours ago, imchapp.in said:
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Go-Toubun no Hanayome, or Quintessential Quintuplets in English. 

Shes the character of Ichika, the eldest sister of the family. I’m not sure how much it’d help but here’s her wiki page about her: https://5hanayome.fandom.com/wiki/Ichika_Nakano

 

I'll have to read that to get a better idea.  It's worth noting that based solely on the knowledge that she's an aspiring actress and the wiki, the character in question tends to show traits that might indicate a chameleon.  Additionally:

Spoiler

Fake smiles in fictional narratives are iconic of and frequently used by characters who are masking either pain or anger and are often layered (for instance, an obvious fake smile often disguising a more insidious authentic looking fake smile).  That's not something you would expect most readers to pick up on until the figurative trap is sprung.  Being the same age as her other sisters also seems to be something that might complicate the relationship.  Unlike a true older sibling, she's adopting the role without having any of the experience that might come with two, three, or more years of experience.

 There are all kinds of problems with writing a character like that, so I don't doubt that the writer did spring the bad behavior without any warning.

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13 hours ago, imchapp.in said:

Still, as you said, it’s a fictional character whose existence, motives, and actions are ultimately determined by the reader interpreting the piece.

Well, no, I said it's on the writers for what they've scripted, not the readers' interpretations.  I'm usually not very big on the "death of the author" viewpoint that once a work is out in the world, what the author intended or was trying to say is irrelevant, and all that matters is the consumer's interpretation.

That said, I do think novels and to a lesser degree, manga/comics, are collaborations of the author and the reader, where anime and movies are essentially the creators spoon-feeding a relatively passive audience that either likes what's presented or doesn't (along the same spectrum of whether you like various foods or not).  With novels the writer offers their words, but those words take shape in the mind of the reader who provides the final visuals, sounds, scents, tastes, etc. completing the experience. The author guides this, but can't control the final "product."  Likewise manga, except there are more visual cues from the author.  With movies and anime though, almost all of that is provided.  Like, Black Widow looks and sounds like Scarlett Johansson if you're watching a movie.  Her acting influences how you view the character's actions.  You can be literally rattled in your seat when things blow up real good.  You don't get to decide those things like you do when reading, when it's just you and the author.

Sorry for the tangent. :D

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17 hours ago, Hidden said:

ok i see now. so yea, this one is a little difficult for me, because on the one hand, i'm noting her mischievousness (even though the nature of this was fairly tame), and her waning confidence as reasons why she decided to act this way, but i think i'm in your boat with my feelings..ultimately, i see this change, and regardless of how she acted in the past and what might be going on with her now, i'm still super taken aback by what she decided to do for love.

scoob again makes a good note with the resentment point, but yeah--i personally walk out of the manga wondering what the hell happened to her..you saying "it doesn't feel good" i think describes things perfectly, because i don't think i'd expect that level of crazy from her, and would even be a bit sad about it if i liked her enough.

so do i blame the author?....again, maybe that's just her brand of...competitiveness (difficult to say--as in it feels difficult to support this level of crazy given what i know). But man, i might go with the author on this one..i'm leaning towards this being too over the top for her character.

on a side note:

  Reveal hidden contents

this is that quintuplets manga? holy shit, i was not expecting that. i'm planning on reading this, haha. i thought this was some shoujo/drama/josei.

and thanks for making this topic. reminded me of the days when there'd be all sorts of cool anime discussion in OA. <3. @imchapp.in

I think that in the grand scheme of things, it can be tough to come to terms on whether a character’s change is for the best for the story and would be a natural progression for such a morally conflicted character, or if a shift in personality marks a desperate attempt on a writer’s behalf to create a plot twist necessary for a new arc to begin. Especially when you’ve become emotionally invested enough in a character to feel let down when they are written differently from what you’d have hoped. The two points you make are on point with the balancing act on how it would make sense for a character like the actress to be susceptible to being led to making rash decisions out of emotional strife, yet feeling resentment that the only way the plot could create true adversity for the character would be to make her more villainous. 

Yes, that’s the series I was referring to. Didn’t want to give anything too plot sensitive away since it is far later than the anime got to. I also wanted to make the question general enough that it would allow people to bring in their own examples of stories where they would feel one way or another about a character’s personality shift or moral event horizon arc.

Thanks, I’m glad that this topic was able to take off and give off an old OA vibe. I got too used to UE threads where it became about a user instead of a topic, so I figured it’d make for some fun discourse, especially when it’s a broad enough topic that both sides of the aisle are understandable. 

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9 hours ago, Gina Szanboti said:

Well, no, I said it's on the writers for what they've scripted, not the readers' interpretations.  I'm usually not very big on the "death of the author" viewpoint that once a work is out in the world, what the author intended or was trying to say is irrelevant, and all that matters is the consumer's interpretation.

That said, I do think novels and to a lesser degree, manga/comics, are collaborations of the author and the reader, where anime and movies are essentially the creators spoon-feeding a relatively passive audience that either likes what's presented or doesn't (along the same spectrum of whether you like various foods or not).  With novels the writer offers their words, but those words take shape in the mind of the reader who provides the final visuals, sounds, scents, tastes, etc. completing the experience. The author guides this, but can't control the final "product."  Likewise manga, except there are more visual cues from the author.  With movies and anime though, almost all of that is provided.  Like, Black Widow looks and sounds like Scarlett Johansson if you're watching a movie.  Her acting influences how you view the character's actions.  You can be literally rattled in your seat when things blow up real good.  You don't get to decide those things like you do when reading, when it's just you and the author.

Sorry for the tangent. :D

Apologies for misreading your comment. I ended up interpreting the "fictional character" comment as a means of saying that it's hard to get angry at a character's lack of agency when their decisions come from the interpretation of both the author and the vast audience that takes in a character's actions far differently from one another. From there, I made my own tangent after remembering every time I've heard that the author often loses agency after they make a story because the audience has their own perspective on a character or events in the narrative. It can be kinda poignant where you can have a character that one person hates with the passion of a thousand suns and another person loves because their motivations or triumph in the narrative "saved them" when they were reading or watching a narrative during a difficult time in their life.

At the same time, the "Death of the Author" rule can be heavy-handed in trying to take agency away from the writer and acting as if what they wrote is meaningless compared to how their audience reads it. It does rely too much on fluffing up our role as the spectator and the emotions we feel from a story from a passive perspective rather than doing anything constructive to contribute to the framework of the narrative's intended view. At the end of the day, the author lays out the ground rules on how the story is structured, how the characters behave, and how it all ends, open-ended or not. I guess that would be the main crux of my issue where it's hard not to be resentful at a manga's writer for taking a character that ended up having a personality change to serve the plot rather than show the natural progression of the character. It's that level of powerlessness the audience has in being able to change the events of the story, so the two options the viewer has is to either lash out at the writer(s) for the decision they made or reinterpret the events from the audience's POV to salvage or explain a character's motives for the sudden change.

There is a little duality in my views in the two paragraphs above, but that's what makes it exciting to discuss. That, depending on circumstances, a writer's narrative is powerful enough to evoke a response necessary to debate whether to accept or reject an author's decisions if they go against your understanding of the narrative. You always have a small fragment of a story where you can relive the halcyon days, but at the same time, would that be doing too much to cast aside any of the positive merits of a story or is it a statement that you won't accept a new interpretation of that character that contradicts the narrative you have invested so much time with?

As much as I'd like to reject the notion that anything has changed with a character I wished didn't make certain decisions, it's up to me to see what the author's intention is with making those decisions rather than trying to come up with emotion-driven reasons why to distrust their logic. With the one actress character I was discussing, I was angry with the author's decision to vilify her, but that's only one perspective since there can be an easier trajectory to see where she was slowly becoming more reckless as soon as her sisters enabled her to pull any move she can to get ahead, tapping into her desperate dedication and emotional strife in creating the right situation for her to make a heel-turn. The writer also takes measures to give her some justification through the mental state she's in, as well as gives us an alternative reading of a big sister character who goes against the tropes attached to her archetype by having things together far less once love comes into the equation.

It's alright, I feel like this topic is a welcome space for any discussion of this sort. Fiction is one of those subjects where it's open enough for interpretation to be able to stimulate conversations that bring out interesting questions regarding how people react to situations outside of their own lives or what experiences they bring into a story they read or watch. Similarly, an author's thoughts, ideologies, and experiences go into enough of a story to paint you a picture of what emotions they want to evoke from a story, whether it be appealing to basic impulses or challenging our notions of understanding the reality we live and breathe.

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15 hours ago, Gina Szanboti said:

Well, no, I said it's on the writers for what they've scripted, not the readers' interpretations.  I'm usually not very big on the "death of the author" viewpoint that once a work is out in the world, what the author intended or was trying to say is irrelevant, and all that matters is the consumer's interpretation.

That said, I do think novels and to a lesser degree, manga/comics, are collaborations of the author and the reader, where anime and movies are essentially the creators spoon-feeding a relatively passive audience that either likes what's presented or doesn't (along the same spectrum of whether you like various foods or not).  With novels the writer offers their words, but those words take shape in the mind of the reader who provides the final visuals, sounds, scents, tastes, etc. completing the experience. The author guides this, but can't control the final "product."  Likewise manga, except there are more visual cues from the author.  With movies and anime though, almost all of that is provided.  Like, Black Widow looks and sounds like Scarlett Johansson if you're watching a movie.  Her acting influences how you view the character's actions.  You can be literally rattled in your seat when things blow up real good.  You don't get to decide those things like you do when reading, when it's just you and the author.

Sorry for the tangent. :D

I'd like to pick up on your tangent and go wild, if you don't mind....

For a writer, a narrative is paradoxically the bane and the boon of his/her existence.  It is a collaboration, or to extend the comparison, is a language made up of other languages (spoken/written and symbolism) that utilizes its own set of rules and portrays a reality that ultimately is out of the direct control of either the writer or the reader.  A famous analogy, courtesy of Michelangelo, might be to that of a sculptor who "releases" the subject trapped in a block of marble:  as a writer builds the world around his/her characters, the metaphorical stone that holds them in place is removed and they are essentially free of both the safe confines of routine and the inhibitions that prevent them from exploring the darkest areas of their own psyches.  Whether it be fiction or documentary, the ultimate goal of the writer is to establish a path for those characters and have faith that they will ultimately end up revealing what the writer intended to convey.

The thing about any language is that it isn't as absolute as we often like to think.  I've made a pest of myself in the past by using etymology to define words rather than stick to the verbatim definition found in dictionaries, and it stems from something I learned in a English Lit class while working on an assignment for Keats.  I don't remember what words I actually had to look up, but one of the purposed of the assignment was to use the OED to look up the etymology of those words instead of using a dictionary, and in the course of a few afternoons sitting at the back of the university's huge references room, I kind of went down a rabbit hole.  From that point forward, I came to a realization that the history of language itself is analogous to a narrative:  words in their infancy are straightforward devices to convey simple compact concepts and, as time goes on, those words adopt an expanded meaning as they are used in different contexts.  Much as with a character in a narrative, when we encounter a word for the first time, we are looking at it in its evolved form, and its only through an exploration of its origins that we can ultimately determine how that word will further evolve through use both by the individual an by the community as a whole.

In reference to the OP, I think we can partially explain the generic problems with character acting out of character in similar terms.  Another way of looking at this is that the character we first encounter, in his or her "evolved" form, is introduced in context in addition to be being defined for us.  Using Nadia as an example, we have to be told that she is an orphan (although it could be fairly easily surmised) but we are also expected to account for the context in which she is introduced. The fact that she first encounter Jean as circus performer adds further information about her physical abilities, her personality, and, most importantly, clues to core psychological issues that will inevitably pop up later.  As the story progresses, we learn more about her in conjunction with her interactions with other characters and within the context with which those interactions occur.  You can't really have the character of Nadia the personable vagabond without asking yourself, even indirectly, why she chose to become a circus performer before being found by Jean because that sets the path on which her character is "released" from the constraints of the narrative.  However...

The character that is impetus for this thread is the product of the complicated setup.  At the risk of spoiling something that is initial to the story, the character isn't just a sister, but an identical sibling, and that inhibits the context in which she's introduced.  For better or worse, the main heroine and the character in question necessarily share a context by nature of who they are.  It's easy to see how her personality traits are suppressed early on by the fact that everything we know about her is tied to the same circumstances as the main; even the distinction between their personalities are defined by how they interact with each other.  When it comes time to seperate the characters from this symbiotic relationship, the results are going to be unpredictable.

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I kinda get the thing about chipping away the stone to reveal the figure within, from writing fanfic. ;)  I have a couple of short stories and a novella under my belt and in the latter I gave a child a stuffed toy, which I wanted to be anything but a teddy bear.  It turned out that by the end of the story, the toy I picked was the perfect choice and gave the ending such an unexpectedly poignant resolution that if it had only occurred to me that late in the game I would've had to go back and change it had I chosen say, a platypus.  There were a number of other instances where there was no conscious planning by me, but that the characters (who I've denied all agency to! ;)) kept speaking up and saying, "Nope, not doing that.  I'm doing this.  Deal."  I guess that's how you know you're on the right track anyway.

I've also done some editing for people's fan-fics and some published novels, and one thing I've noticed in the less experienced writers' work is a distrust of the reader to do their part of the collaboration in filling in some of the specifics.  They will go into excruciating detail about every tiny facet of how their characters look and sound, and what motivates their every thought and action, from deciding to take a shower to deciding to kill a man, which are given equal weight. They will go to any length (including thousands of extra words, dozens of extra chapters, hundreds of extra pages) to actively prevent the reader from supplying any of the experience. It's very difficult to discourage that without damaging their writer's ego. :)  But even in movies, or at least good movies, they leave enough room by the end for the audience to ponder why a character did x instead of y (and as the author, you'd better have at least one answer for that, even if you don't openly reveal it).  Leaving too many of those kinds of questions is a problem, but too few is possibly worse.

 

Why is @SorceressPol not here?  :)

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3 hours ago, Gina Szanboti said:

I kinda get the thing about chipping away the stone to reveal the figure within, from writing fanfic. ;)  I have a couple of short stories and a novella under my belt and in the latter I gave a child a stuffed toy, which I wanted to be anything but a teddy bear.  It turned out that by the end of the story, the toy I picked was the perfect choice and gave the ending such an unexpectedly poignant resolution that if it had only occurred to me that late in the game I would've had to go back and change it had I chosen say, a platypus.  There were a number of other instances where there was no conscious planning by me, but that the characters (who I've denied all agency to! ;)) kept speaking up and saying, "Nope, not doing that.  I'm doing this.  Deal."  I guess that's how you know you're on the right track anyway.

I've also done some editing for people's fan-fics and some published novels, and one thing I've noticed in the less experienced writers' work is a distrust of the reader to do their part of the collaboration in filling in some of the specifics.  They will go into excruciating detail about every tiny facet of how their characters look and sound, and what motivates their every thought and action, from deciding to take a shower to deciding to kill a man, which are given equal weight. They will go to any length (including thousands of extra words, dozens of extra chapters, hundreds of extra pages) to actively prevent the reader from supplying any of the experience. It's very difficult to discourage that without damaging their writer's ego. :)  But even in movies, or at least good movies, they leave enough room by the end for the audience to ponder why a character did x instead of y (and as the author, you'd better have at least one answer for that, even if you don't openly reveal it).  Leaving too many of those kinds of questions is a problem, but too few is possibly worse.

 

Why is @SorceressPol not here?  :)

Because when I saw this thread, editing made me too stressed out to click it 😂. Since this is something that bothers me in stories a lot, I work very hard to ensure that the characters' personalities, and cause and effect from events try to work out as naturally as possible. Over the years though, I've given more writers slack for this because not everyone is writing under the same circumstances: different deadlines, different max word/page lengths, or if there's a company breathing down your neck to write something that appeals to the masses vs. what's more organic for the story. There are plenty of popular stories out there that ignore plot logic, so some publishers don't see it as something that can make or break a story for fans. If I'm really bothered by how out of character the actions were made for the sake of twisting the plot in certain directions, I'll google the author's circumstances at the time. Sometimes a divorce, death of a loved one, or major illness comes up, so while it is the author's job for a story to run smoothly without a reader thinking, "Why would the established characters do that?", I also accept that people are just human and that can positively or negatively impact one's enjoyment of a book. There's also a funny saying I see posted before the text in some online Chinese novels that goes like, "Please have mercy on me. This book is only as smart as the author is." 🤣I resonate with that a lot.

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1 hour ago, PokeNirvash said:

I'm not sure if all this literary discussion is making me feel better or worse about my own work.

Why do you think I didn't click this topic until Gina @ed me? 

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I think you're the first or second person I've ever deliberately @ed.  :)  Should I have @ed Sponges too?  B|¬¬

As for whether it should make you feel better or worse about your writing, how about neither?  It's been a pretty generic discussion, so if you see something said that validates or improves your approach, then yay.  Coming to your own conclusions about what you're doing right or wrong after reading analyses not aimed at your work is surely easier than being directly in the crosshairs of critics or editors.  No?

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8 hours ago, Gina Szanboti said:

I think you're the first or second person I've ever deliberately @ed.  :)  Should I have @ed Sponges too?  B|¬¬

As for whether it should make you feel better or worse about your writing, how about neither?  It's been a pretty generic discussion, so if you see something said that validates or improves your approach, then yay.  Coming to your own conclusions about what you're doing right or wrong after reading analyses not aimed at your work is surely easier than being directly in the crosshairs of critics or editors.  No?

LOL! Rational thought doesn't break through my internal wails of despair.

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