Keep Your Darlings: Raves on Writings
Welcome to a compilation of tropes and character types I love! I thought I'd take a break from writing pet peeves and see how passionate I can get about things I actually like.
Disclaimer: The purpose of these raves is not to convince you to like what I like. These rants are only retrospective discussions on my favorite literary things.
The Talentless, Never-Give-Up Character
Talentless. It sounds insulting, doesn't it? Especially if it's attached to words where some amount of skill is needed, like "singer" or "artist" or "writer." That's certainly not the way to describe someone who is supposed to entertain you. But as much as I love watching an expert at work, I also enjoy seeing a character start with zero skills and work up from there. A character can be horribly inept, but with a "never give up" mentality and the right tools or mentor, s/he learns the skills needed to achieve what s/he wants. Along the way, s/he becomes an example of how willingness to learn, persistence, hard work, and patience eventually pay off. It's that kind of inspirational narrative that entertains me, and I keep coming back to it, but under at least two conditions.
For me to like this type of character, I must see them fail spectacularly at least once, or make a multitude of small mistakes. Otherwise, there's no big struggle, and thus no big emotional impact when this character reaches his/her goal. Bonus points if the mistakes are played realistically (like the character makes mistakes due to lack of knowledge) and played for laughs (like a faceplant while learning how to snowboard). It shows that the character doesn't take him/herself too seriously but takes the task at hand seriously enough that s/he's willing to do multiple things to get it right.
Next requirement: the character has to choose to not give up. That sounds like something that happens consistently off-screen or is implied consistently on-screen, but I'm picky. I like seeing another character or the character him/herself try to inflict doubt and discouragement, so that Talentless can show through words or actions that negative feelings are not going to blind him/her from his/her mission. To do this, a character can try to cut Talentless down so that Talentless can show him/her up, or Talentless may feel down and another character can cheer him/her up. No matter how it happens, in the end, s/he must be given the choice to give up and choose otherwise.
All in all, a "never give up" character's struggle highlights something important about skill-building: you start from zero, you constantly fail from there, and that's okay because with the right attitude, qualities, and tools, you'll get better in time. It's one of the most encouraging messages a character can embody, and that's why this character type gets the first post in this rave series.
Favorite Never-Give-Up Characters:
Rei Ryuugazaki from Free! Iwatobi Swim Team
I love how he's willing to learn but is also kind of arrogant about it, thinking that he can learn something as complicated as competitive swimming by reading up on its theory before actually experiencing it. He fails so fantastically, it's hilarious. I can laugh at him but I can also sympathize with him because he knows he's failing and he's frustrated about it, but he's going to learn and no one is going to stop him from achieving aesthetic athletic awesomeness.
What's also important is that he still needs to level grind after he learns how to swim. He doesn't become as good as his peers, who have been swimming ever since they were kids. His form is terrible, and everyone knows it, but he works hard at improving and does what he can to apply what he reads in textbooks to how he performs in the pool.
Hiccup Haddock from How to Train Your Dragon (movie-verse)
In the first movie, Hiccup is not good at protecting his village. In fact, he is a hazard to his village. In the opening sequence, everyone around him tells him to stay inside, because no good comes from him being outside in a dragon-Viking battle. But he does try to help. He makes a net launcher to catch a dragon and the movie has a whole montage of him using trial and error to get better at (both kinds of) dragon training.
Vanellope Von Schweetz from Wreck-It Ralph
This character just wants to be a racecar driver she was designed to be, but the competition rules are against her so she can't participate in races. Despite that, she makes her own racecar, a pitiful thing that can't possibly help her win, but it demonstrates that she's willing to make the best of her situation. She's able to upgrade her car and learn to race. Bonus points because she got a funny progress montage.
Those are some of my favorite character that have the right attitude! Does this type of character appeal to you? If so, what's his/her name and where is s/he from?