a year ago
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Help: Trying to write/create a badass character without making him Deues Ex Machina
So in my recent story that I'm writing I have a character that's supposed to be a badass. However, 300+pages in I realize he's essentially not a human character with weakness and faults, but rather he is the shiny answer from god(Deus Ex Machina). Does anyone have any suggestions/advice to balance him, and not make him a deus ex machina device?
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OK. First, not to be a know-it-all. But Deus Ex Machina is a plot issue that is solved by a device that is unexpected and hasn't been setup properly - thus as if "God reached down and solved the problem" - it has it's origins in Greek theater where Greek Gods were suddenly brought on stage via a crane or some other machine/device. In modern writing and cinema it is used to fix a plot hole or failure - or where the writer has basically written themselves into a corner - the "device" of Deus Ex Machina is whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly resolved by the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability or object. So. Your character - unless you are using him to fix a hole in your plot - isn't really a deus ex machina device, he's just one-dimensional and flat. What I mean by flat is again - let's go back to the Greeks - 2,000 years ago to Aristotle. Characters must engage the audience (reader) and help the plot of the story along by creating tension and/or a sense of "drama". There's nothing about a character that is "perfect" that's interesting. You need to show the character's weaknesses and how the character overcomes, or doesn't overcome them, to make the character interesting and give them depth. Are you familiar with Joseph Campbell? His work in anthropology - identifying culturally ingrained and therefore relevant character archetypes - his work is the basis of a story design called, "Mythic Structure". It is also the basis for the "Hollywood Formula". For thousands of years human beings have told stories. It's the stories that really connect with us on a deeper emotional level that survive through all the events of our history and the changes in our culture(s) as time marches forward. The idea of the "Tragic Hero" - someone with all of the makings of greatness - but is given to a flaw or to flaws - that prevents them from accomplishing all that their destiny can be... This was a Greek concept. Then add the Elizabethan concept of redemption - that some tragic heroes can OVERCOME their flaws to actually be all that their potential provides. As storytelling has evolved, we see a trend towards creating emotionally accessible characters so the audience/reader can relate to them in some personal/meaningful way. I can't relate to a perfect, indestructible, god-like character. But a character who is indestructible and could be all-powerful - but instead is riddled with self-doubt or fear that embracing their gifts will make them into a monster - because they witnessed the same thing happen with their father, or their true love - and they had to destroy this person they loved to protect humanity. Now they are full of guilt and sadness for they carry the burden of knowing that absolute power can be a drug that you can loose yourself in. That if they truly embrace their gifts they will loose their humanity. So they are constantly faced with the temptation of using their power but they fight an internal battle to NOT use their power. Even in the face of witnessing evil and being able to stop it. Do they risk becoming evil themselves? Or do they have the strength to resist what they fear their powers will make them become to save humanity from another evil - some other threat? THIS is interesting. This is something people could/would be able to relate to. Does this make sense? Please let me know if this helped you. I've worked as a script doctor and writer in Hollywood for over 10 years now.
Oh, I also would recommend the following books to you - they can really be very helpful - "The Writer's Journey" by Chrisopher Vogler - it is based on Campbell's writings including "The Hero with a 1000 Faces" - Campbell's famous work on the subject. Vogler's writing is easier to follow. So I recommend it. "The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes & Heroines - Sixteen Master Archetypes" by Tami D. Cowden, Caro LaFever, Sue Viders "Poetics" by Aristotle. The Penguin Classics version is my favorite. "Bird by Bird" by Anne Lamott - excellent book on story development.
Thanks for the advice, if these are the only comments i get it will be more than enough. I should have specified I read waaaaayyy to many marvel wnd dc comics when i was very young, the way I'm usinh the character is every time there is a huge disaster they pop up and solve the situation effortlessly and almost 'magically' (So yeah, not complete Deus Ex Machina, but the cousin of it) After your advice I'm going to go back and tweak a lot of things for them. Thanks man^_^