Naive Characters

Discussion in 'General Writing Discussion' started by Warren_Paul, Mar 7, 2012.

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    Warren_Paul

    Warren_Paul Banishment this world!

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    Hey peoples,

    As title says, I'm debating naive characters in stories. And by that I mean characters that don't understand something, even though the reader does. It goes along with the 'unreliable narrator' concept I think.

    For instance, the reader understands girl likes the PoV character by the way the girl is acting. But the PoV character doesn't understand the signs, leaving the reader with the intention of chuckling at his stupidity. PoV character's naivety is obvious to the reader.

    Should the character understand at the same time as the reader, or is it fine for the reader to read along, amused at his naive actions, until at last he fully understands? Or is this too fustrating? Should the reader not know until that final moment when the character does?
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    Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    It depends. If the character comes across as relentlessly stupid rather than naïve, readers might get impatient. But so long as you're careful not to cross that line, you should be fine.
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    Perpetual Man

    Perpetual Man Former Comment Giver

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    Personally I'd go along with the PoV character not knowing until the time felt right. Anyone reading it will probably associate with it or get some humour from it. It's all part of the godlike perspective of the reader, looking in to the lives of the characters and being able to slap themselves on the head wondering why the character just does not see it.

    There are television shows that have been successful because of this thing.
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    The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

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    The character shouldn't know until he knows! Some people (not limited to husbands, but...) just don't see anything and hints are completely wasted on them, so it's perfectly plausible that a girl could be close to throwing herself at a guy and he not realise if he's that type of man. If on the other hand he's very astute, then having him mis-read signs for the sake of humour can appear forced.
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    David Evil Overlord

    David Evil Overlord Censored Member

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    It has happened to me, many years ago. A girl who was a friend was dropping subtle hints at more than friendship, and those subtle hints were flying straight over my head. Eventually, she gave me a hint as subtle as a sledgehammer to the head. I thought "Why the hell did she say that?"

    I was halfway home before the reason dawned on me... :eek:

    An alternative - girl likes POV character, and he is smart enough to read the signs. But, last time he checked, she had a boyfriend. So, being a gentleman, he pretends all those hints are falling on deaf ears. At least until he finds out her boyfriend broke up with her...
  6.  
    Warren_Paul

    Warren_Paul Banishment this world!

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    Okay, thanks for the responses. The PoV is not very bright in first half of the story - this is part of his development through the story-, everyone else around him sees it and get a good laugh out of it. Half the problem with him is that he likes another girl, so his blindness to the first girl's feelings for him is because of his feelings for the second girl, and the fact that they have all been friends for years before it started to become something more.

    love triangles eh? :p
  7.  
    David Evil Overlord

    David Evil Overlord Censored Member

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    That should work. Friendship can make it hard to change mental gears to more-than-friendship. Throw in another romantic interest, even if it's unrequited, and your poor POV character should be totally blind to her feelings for him.
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    Esfires

    Esfires New Member

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    Doing this would probably be fine, as long as it isn't too heavy handed. I would err on the side of caution, though. In my own estimation, it is better to be too subtle in hints of this kind and risk the reader missing it altogether than to be too obvious and indicate to the reader that you underestimate their intelligence.

    This applies to hint-dropping of any sort, really. Your reader is not an idiot. Trust them.
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    alchemist

    alchemist Not on holidays

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    Guess what happens in my story? :D

    Ergo, I think it's perfectly okay for the reader to know before the protagonist. As Esfire says, I think subtler is better. Lather it on and the character moves from naive to stupid.
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    David Evil Overlord

    David Evil Overlord Censored Member

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    Then the reader sees all those subtle little hints in a whole new light when the truth is revealed.
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2012
  11.  
    alchemist

    alchemist Not on holidays

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    And writer and reader can all bask in their cleverness. Win-win!!
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    springs

    springs Juggling life

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    I think I'm guilty of sparking this thread, so.... I think it's a fine line. In this case the female character was driving things a lot and the male character seemed not just naive, but possibly cowed by her. So, he seems frightened of her, that she could hurt him. Also, there is an element of how obvious the more worldly wise character was being, and I think perhaps in this scene she seemed so obvious that it made it hard to see how the other character could miss it.
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    David Evil Overlord

    David Evil Overlord Censored Member

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    It will all work out, provided the girl forgives him for being totally:

    A) Immune to her charms.

    B) Immune to her subtle hints.

    C) Immune to her not-so-subtle hints after her subtle hints.

    D) Immune to her not-so-subtle hints after her subtle hints because he's so totally smitten with that other girl, and she's like such a total tart.

    E) Immune to her stiletto in his crotch (probably not, let's not go there!)?

    F) Two or more of the above.
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    Warren_Paul

    Warren_Paul Banishment this world!

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    Thanks DEO, always make me laugh.

    I think TJ said it right, some people just don't get hints, no matter how obvious they are. Perhaps I have lathered in on a bit thick, I'll have to think about it for a bit.

    btw Springs, Elizabeth is a bit scary... I'd be afraid of her. ;)
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    David Evil Overlord

    David Evil Overlord Censored Member

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    Oh, good. When she admitted inspiring this thread, I was worried it was Springs who was scary. :eek:
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    Warren_Paul

    Warren_Paul Banishment this world!

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    Don't you know? Springs is scary too. ;)
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    springs

    springs Juggling life

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    DEO I am very scary... ask the LPITTW participants....:D

    @WP/DEO; see?

    Um, not sure I've seen that yet, WP, which might be the problem.
  18.  
    David Evil Overlord

    David Evil Overlord Censored Member

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    But Springs likes marmite. I thought Hex was the scary one. Now I'm more confused than normal.:confused:
  19.  
    Warren_Paul

    Warren_Paul Banishment this world!

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    Maybe I have failed to portray her that way. She is supposed to be the playful, bossy, over-demanding type. And she hits! :eek:

    Elizabeth is a tease, who thinks its a great game to string boys along. Pace is used to it by now, well not really used to, he still finds it uncomfortable, but knows about it.
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    springs

    springs Juggling life

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    So, the first bit I got, but Pace didn't seem to be able to cope. What you want to say to me now is my own new line, where I want to stick to my guns - I will allow you joint ownership for this. KK! Which stands for Kill K****. But maybe it comes down to the showing, in the scene you're showing the outcome but not the background to it, so maybe creeping towards telling, and I'm - as in the reader - confused. If not KK!


    ]]

    Ah, see marmite, love it or hate it.... and that seems to be the case.

    And Hex is really really scary.... much scarier than me. :D

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