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Character Flaws: Pride and Apathy

Another interesting aspect of creating a character: pride. And its reverse of apathy. I'm including a bit more with pride, but I don't really have the words. If you think something is the best, its pride. If you think you live in the greatest country in the world, that's nationalism and pride. If the words, "they don't deserve the land", its probably related to what I'm calling pride.

I consider apathy actually to be a goal, on very general things. I don't care about country of residence, religion, gender, sexual preference, skin color, or age. I strive my best to complete remove those from most preferences, simply because I think it is more important to not care than it is to care. In specific instances, like someone being robbed, I hope that I don't have apathy since that is the place you don't want it.

Pride is a variable value. Let's take my favorite country as an example, the United States of America. I'm proud of being an American (though I wish we would have a better name that didn't include the continent name for half the planet). However, being "proud of being an America" can actually mean a lot of things:

  1. Happy I have a place to call home.
  2. Agree with the views that this country was founded on.
  3. Fly a flag on holidays.
  4. Fly a flag constantly.
  5. Plaster flags on everything that holds still.
  6. Has the Constitution tattoed to ones ass.
  7. Think the USA is a great country in the world.
  8. Think the USA is the best country in the world.
  9. Think the USA is the shining role model for all other countries to emulate.
  10. Think the USA should make everyone follow its lead.
  11. Will get into fights when someone says America sucks.
  12. Will get into fights when someone suggests USA isn't the best.
  13. Will kill someone to prove the line above.
  14. Will kill lots of people to prove it.
  15. Will bomb the hell out of countries that have people that need to have this fact proven.

Obviously, these are all "proud of being an American" ranging from the relatively bland (why not, I live here) to the I WILL KILL YOU rabid pride. You could also replace USA with "gay", "black", "white", "Christian", "Wiccan", and "rabbit" and change the appropriate other nouns and get the same thing. Some of the world-wide problems we are having right now, are over issues of pride mixed in with other things. Ownership being one of them, which can be a form of pride.

Pride by itself is a good thing. It makes people care and helps prevent them from just taking something for granted. It also helps them make decisions. Someone who is proud of their city probably doesn't spend their nights spraypainting their name on every wall at night. Likewise, someone proud of being gay would probably be expected to help another gay person who needs help.

But, pride creates conflicts. When you have two (or more) senses of pride that are apparently at odds (say proud of being gay verses proud of being straight), you set up a situation where people's prides are butting like two pissed off goats in a dairy barn. They go at each other because their statements or beliefs disagree with others. The higher the level of pride, the more this can escalate.

A less cheerful example is the Israel and Palestine fighting in the last few years. This is a fight of ownership and pride and stubbornness. If one of them said, "you know what, I don't care that much", it would be over (and they would be considered weak-willed, but pride is also something you are measured against).

When creating a character, give them something to be proud of. Say you have a warrior, make them proud of being a warrior and a female. It can be a single statement of each one:

  • I am proud of being a warrior.
  • Women can do anything men can.

Those two statements create a framework for the character. Obviously, they think being a warrior is important, so they probably keep their weapons near by and treat their lives as being closer to the edge of combat. On the other hand, they are also sexist and probably take an effort to prove themselves. Coupled together, you have a militant sexist.

You can also have someone have a reverse of a typical pride. You can have someone who says "At least I'm not white or Jewish" and that will also help you create an interesting character.

Another point, there should be exceptions. Many people will have at least a few exceptions to a grand statement like that. Someone who thinks women should stay home and be quiet might be terrified of their mother.

Having a statement of pride is one more tool I use to create interesting characters. It might seem like a little thing, but I think it helps create someone who exists in more than two-dimensions. Also, I write by creating characters, then seeing what they do. So, knowing where they are coming from (pride, bias, etc) helps me respond to anything my story, novel, or players come up with.