marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,
marycatelli
marycatelli

victimology

Being a victim is sympathetic.  Sooner or later, we all wish that Wile E. Coyote could catch, cook, and eat that silly Road-Runner. 

Not so much with other cartoon characters.  Tom and Jerry -- well, if Jerry launches the carving knives at Tom in the kitchen, he's about to discover that he's tipped the forks over and they're about to impale him.  Bugs actually finds himself being marched around at gunpoint.  Etc.  Spreading the misery around helps.

Then, it's not enough.   In the cartoon where Daffy gets an animator playing fun and games with him (who turns out to be Bugs), every time his sufferings get enough to make us feel sorry for him, he acts obnoxious enough to say -- he had it coming.  And all the characters are clever and resourceful. . . .

And if you're not writing cartoons, you probably want to make your victim something more than clever and resourceful.  Possibly even something more sympathetic.  Even if they have to be (gasp) rescued.

It helps to be legitimately weaker.  Smaller, younger, temporarily or permanently handicapped.  Lacking training that is obviously needed in the situation.  (Actually, some people won't give you slack in that situation.  A woman untrained in any kind of fighting is wise to stay out of the way while the two soldiers are going at it.  Indeed, by removing herself as a possible hostage, she's actually helping.  But some people complain anyway.)

And then there's how you get into your pickle.  This has two axes.  The clever/stupid axis:  ranging from the best anyone could have done, to a mistake anyone could have made, through willfully ignorant, all the way down to affected ignorance.  And the virtue axis:  from a noble and heroic act, all the way down to selfish and willful act.

Of course, circumstances were out of your control is another way.  I think that's pretty neutral.  (May contribute to making you look weak, but that's a writing trick, not an intrinsic problem.  You could be doing something while struck by lightning.)

And then, which is more important, how the victim acts while being a victim.  It lasts longer.  Although to be sure becoming a victim is the first impression, which is kind of important -- but we can accept the victim smartening up with great speed.   Because the clever/stupid axis and the virtue axis come into play here.  Also passivity.  The victim, even if being rescued, can do anything correctly.  And ask only intelligent questions at suitable times.  Of course, if the only smart thing the victim can do is stay out of the way, there is a conflict there.  A writer's life is not an easy one.
Tags: characters, plotting, sympathy
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