Posts Tagged ‘Jerk’

The last time I wrote a character focus it was about a villain you could respect, maybe even love. This time were going to focus on a much different kind of character, one who get’s slapped around by a dwarf, one who let’s his sword be stolen by a little girl, on who hides behind his mothers skirts. This weeks Character Focus presents none other than Joffrey Baratheon.


May the Others take him.

For those of you who don’t know, Joffery Baratheon is one of the major antagonist in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series,  for those of you who haven’t read the books I need to post some quite obvious spoiler warnings

spoilers Ahead

That ought to work, now down to business. Joff is signigficantly different then most  characters and even villains that you read about these days, mostly because he’s a intolerable twat. Most writer’s resources will tell you that your villains need to be deep and likable in one way or another, Joff however stands out as being as deep as dry lake bed and only being slightly well like more the AIDs and yet the character serves his purpose quite well and while I may never like Joff, I always have some sort of emotional response to his scenes, albeit it’s mostly hate, mixed with some disgust. So how do we emulate such response from our readers regarding our dastardly villains?

Threat: somebody is going to die

Martin is well know as an author who loses little sleep from killing beloved characters, and when Joffery takes center stage that threat becomes overbearing, When ever he has scene the tension jumps dramatically simply because of the characters reputation. In the TV show Game of Thrones, Joff has Ned Stark beheaded even though his mother and all of his councilors had planned to spare him. In the Show this is done in the middle of a courtyard, but in the books it’s done in the middle of a temple so that everybody got the idea that this was to be a pardoning not an execution. Joff made short work of that and the started off on his own blody rain of death and brutality.

plotting: The best laid plans…

Outside of fits of violence the boy king can be counted on to make bad decisions,  which act as boon to enemies and torment to his family. In book series like A Song of  Ice and Fire which follows characters from every side of the central conflict, you have to juggle success and failure vary carefully, because for evert victory a pov character has counts as failure on another, let one person grow to strong and the book becomes one sided. Joffery helps balance out the successes of his compatriots who normally wouldn’t make such foolish mistakes, and forces them to work around Joffery’s madness.

Foils: Making Men out of monsters

For those of you who aren’t in the know, a dramatic foil(just foil for short) is when a pair of characters are paired together to make there traits stand out, often done in a simple fashion to make strong characters look stronger and make smart characters to look smarter. However a foil can be used for far more the exemplifying simple traits, it can be used to muffle them as well  take Joffery’s loyal hound Sandor Clegane, who spends most of his time drinking, killing, and the drinking some more. Yet in moments when he, Sansa are together, the reader has to pause and really think about whether or not Sandor is all that bad of guy. Joff has a similar affect on everybody around him, by the nature of being the most monstrously hated character in the room, everybody else looks like better person for it.

 
“I may have started a war that killed million and committed acts of genocide, but at least I never laid a hand on Sansa Stark”- Hitler

Joffery is going to go down as one of the most hated characters in the history of American fiction, he’s craven, crule, incompotent, he’s everything that writers are told to avoid, but leave it to writer like Martin to pull off such a character in such a splendid fashion, and let it be reminder to other writers out there that at the end of the day, write the characters you want to write, write the characters you need to write and don’t let any other writer tell you otherwise even if that writing leads to little incestful balls of hatred and abomination so evil that Dalek wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole.

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Ever wake up in the morning and think, “Man I hate people.”  If so you’re well on your way to being a Jerk, if you’ve actually worked up the vitriol to actually tell people you hate then; and I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you are a jerk. Other symptoms to watch for include but are not limited to:

Anger
Snark
Greed
Arrogance
Lack of patience
Aggressive or passive aggressive behavior
And a general disregard for the safety and feelings of others(not to be confused with apathy towards others though it may apply as well)

What’s that? My foot up your ass you say, well okay.

The Jerk is an interesting and old character easily older then Shakespeare whom has several prominent Jerks in his works . The Jerk has survived through the generations as other characters and tropes faded into the ages, the question is, Why? Why do we love these people in media when every time you meet one in real life you have to  hold your self back from pushing them into oncoming traffic. Though truth be told there are plenty of discussions and pseudo philosophical debates as to why people like watching these characters, so instead let’s look at how to make our fictional Jerks awesome.

Skills

In most fiction you’ll find the Jerk with a group of friends/peers/cohorts, and the first question that come to mind is why do they put up with the abuse that’s leveled at them from the Jerk. One  reason why people continue to stick around the Jerk is that he’s good at what he does, so good in fact that people are willing to or have to put up with the jerk to get things done. The most recent case of this is that come to mind House from the show… well you know. House is a jerk to everyone withing ten feet of him but the patients put up with because he can save their lives, his peers put up with him because he can see things that they miss and his boss puts up with him because of the unparalleled level of success he has. People deal with House because he’s skilled if not the most skilled at what he does, and readers and watchers can admire a jerk for his prowess even if they wouldn’t want to stand next to him on any given day of the week.

It’s never lupus

Humor

Humor is one of the best ways to endear a Jerk to his audience, shows like Big Bang Theory rely on the comedic affect of their Jerk to make him interesting. Sheldon Cooper may be just as brilliant as House but his brilliance has no ties to his group of friends outside of how much it annoys them, in fact most of the time the group tries to stay as far away from Sheldon as possible. No Sheldon’s a great character and great Jerk because of his lack of understanding or concern for human emotions. These lead to situations that while you wouldn’t personally want to be apart of, you can still take a moment to laugh at them. Just remember to have reason to keep your jerk in contact with the rest of the characters in your fiction, you don’t want your audience asking themselves why this guy is hanging around, or why the rest of the guys are hanging around him. Big Bang Theory tethers Sheldon and Leonard together by making them roommates, while Leonard could leave Sheldon he’d have to give up his home to do so, similar plot devices can be used to make your fiction more reasonable. The end goal here is to make your Jerk entertaining, whether that means wacky hi-jinks ensue or that he seems to be the only sane man left in the group, either you make the audience laugh with him or laugh at him.

morals

Most people like Jerks that turn out to be decent human beings, at least for a moment or so. The major point of making your Jerk secretly nice or at least not as jerkish, is that it adds character depth, it shows us and possibly the other characters in your fiction that there’s more here then what meets the eye. Brandon Sanderson does this particularly well with two notable major characters in his Mist Born series, the first is a thief that has the magic ability to manipulate peoples emotions, the Jerk uses his magic not only to steal things but also to manipulate his friends, colleges, servants and passersby to do as he wishes or collect things he’s to lazy to get himself. Being a manipulative Jerk is a core part of his personality, but it’s reveal in later parts of the series that he doesn’t just manipulate people to get what he wants, he manipulates people to calm them down in a tense situation, or to relax away a friends fear before they get on stage to talk, Sanderson shows his Jerk going out of his way to discretely make peoples live better. And while you don’t get to hear his thoughts on why he does this, you get to hear the thoughts of the other lead characters which act a surrogate for the audience allowing them to feel similar emotions towards the Jerk, Making an annoying individual into a much more likable character.

Interests

The most important thing about you Jerk is that he has to be interesting, much like any character in any piece of fiction, one of the worst sin your jerk can commit is being boring. A Jerk has an interesting position because he already sits outside of how people act in there day to day lives, he says and does things with no fear of social backlash.Not only that the Jerk can say and do the things that the rest of your characters can’t or won’t, he can point out the holes in your heroes plans and call your damsel in distress out on her love triangle non-sense and generally lampshape much of the drama that’s going on. Particularly savvy Jerks can see the what looks like a standard plot point and act to avoid it, or manipulate it for his own benefit, though if he’s not skilled he’s the one who can say “I told you so.” Your Jerk is most likely going to be an amalgam of the things stated much like any character worth his font, and it goes without saying that all the things you do make interesting, unique and believable character also applies to your Jerk, your jerk doesn’t have to be skilled jerk, he doesn’t have to be a funny jerk, he doesn’t have to be a jerk with a heart of gold, but he can’t just be a jerk jerk. Because at that point the character isn’t only boring, he’s also annoying and most folks already have enough annoying people they want to punch in the face in their day to day, don’t add your jerk to that list.

imageI’ve had enough of your disingenuiness assertions