Author Topic: Maytag's characterisation over Book 1  (Read 3120 times)

Asyndeta

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Maytag's characterisation over Book 1
« on: April 25, 2010, 08:38:39 am »
Long time reader, used to be on the old forum under another name.  Hello!

Well.  I've ended up writing an essay about Maytag's characterisation, but I suppose I need to preface it with a question: Brion, have you deliberately been writing Maytag as if her two personalities are merging - or, more accurately, as if her normal identity is being swallowed up by her jester identity?  Because normal May and jester May have been almost indistinguishable for a good few chapters now, and in losing that duality she's being stripped of the only thing that makes her readable. 

Alone, jester May is a hypercompetent one-dimensional figure with, in my opinion, few character traits that would garner the sympathy of the reader.  That she is also a shy, submissive young woman is what tempers her character and makes it stronger.

'Flipside' is the name of the comic.  Maytag's split personality is the unique selling point, and there is so much more you could be doing with this concept.  If you haven't meant to make the two Maytags more similar, you need to appreciate that making normal Maytag more like jester Maytag is making her a weaker character overall - this scene is the worst offender but there are others I could specify.  There is a brilliant scene in Book Zero where May has to run away from an injured Moss and don the jester suit before she can even talk to him.  What about the other way around?  What situations are there that normal May could deal with but jester May can't? 

There's nothing wrong with wanting them both to be strong characters but simply making them the same defeats the point.  They need to complement each other, and you may need to reconsider how strengths and weaknesses are divided between the two of them.  At the moment, her jester personality is so unassailable that it's hard not to wonder why she ever takes the costume off. 

Jester May is fun to be around and you'd definitely want her on your side in a fight, but on the other hand she's (according solely to her Notebook entry) lazy, crass, selfish and reckless.  Why not play up those weaknesses more?  Why not put her in situations where her overkill approach to conflict resolution gets people hurt on her side, or where she loses friends because she's too impatient and refuses to put other people first?  She's written as if you're afraid of having her show any major flaws and suffer the consequences. 

As just one suggestion, you could easily rearrange their characters in such a way that jester May becomes the go-to girl for physical conflict and normal May becomes a source of strength for emotional or interpersonal conflict.  The intelligence that's realised as smooth-talking and strategising in jester May could be realised as wisdom and empathy in her other personality.  If jester May's expertise at dealing with people is revealed as being more superficial, based on cold reading and experience rather than real understanding, immediately she has a weakness that makes her less invincible.  She could be cheated, hurt and betrayed by people who can act better than she can read them.  And then, naturally, normal May has an enormous character strength that she was lacking before.

So that's almost my two cents.  If you have been intentionally writing Maytag's two personalities as merging, then there are some potentially interesting character arcs that might spring from that, but what makes me suspect that this wasn't intentional is that none of the characters have noticed.  Normal May went from being completely horrified by Voulger stripping her naked (and obviously grateful when Bern covered her up afterwards) to being cheerful accepting of Glyph using his magic X-ray glasses on her in Chapter 20.  She even went on to lecture Bern about modesty during the bathtub scene in Bed & Breakfast.  I know the contexts are different, but for her sense of modesty to do a complete 180 over an in-universe timeline of - maybe a few weeks?  Why has this happened, and more to the point, why hasn't Bern noticed?  Heck, why hasn't Crest noticed?

Honestly, at the moment it seems like you've created a potentially fascinating character, gotten bored or frustrated with the limitations her split personality places on you, and decided to simply ignore them just so the plot can progress.   I would really like to be proven wrong but in the meantime, I think you need to pay attention to how she's being written.  She's getting more 'generic badass' by the day and it's a huge turn-off.

Churba

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Re: Maytag's characterisation over Book 1
« Reply #1 on: April 25, 2010, 10:36:37 am »
Hm. I don't know about this - I've seen how a person's personality can change, even becoming someone that the previous personality, as it was, would have hated, under various circumstance - without them even realising this. I mean, hell, think back to you-of-ten-years-ago, and the you-of-now, and consider - would people from then recognise you now as you were then, or would people of then recognise you-of-now as a person? Hell, would the you-of-two-years-ago be recognisable to your current set of friends? Assuming, of course, that the ones who have known you and been in contact with you all that time were deprived of the time in between, and of course, not counting those who met you just a small amount over two years ago, and thus, didn't know you hardly at all then.

However, I'll have to consider what you've said a while, I'll get back to you. Sorry for hit-and-run commentary and questioning, but I'd rather give some sort of intelligent discussion, rather than some hurr-durr.

Edit - Ah, how rude of me - Welcome back.
« Last Edit: April 25, 2010, 10:42:41 am by Churba »

Asyndeta

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Re: Maytag's characterisation over Book 1
« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2010, 11:41:24 am »
Thanks, Churba.

I understand that of course people change and develop as they grow, and comics suffer if their characters don't develop at all, but a naturally changing personality isn't what I'm seeing here.  If the change in her behaviour had come about over two or ten years then I'd have much less to criticise.  My problem here is twofold: firstly, Maytag's personality has changed very rapidly and none of the people close to her seem to have noticed.  Secondly, for the comic to be interesting it really needs Maytag to have two very distinct identities, and they keep getting more similar.   

One of the big rules of storytelling is that character should dictate plot, i.e. 'in this situation, Maytag would act in such-and-such a way, so the plot unfolds like this'.  What I'm seeing currently is a plot that dictates character - 'for me to get the story from A to B, Maytag should be acting like this, so she will be'.

Churba

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Re: Maytag's characterisation over Book 1
« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2010, 11:59:49 am »
Thanks, Churba.

I understand that of course people change and develop as they grow, and comics suffer if their characters don't develop at all, but a naturally changing personality isn't what I'm seeing here.  If the change in her behaviour had come about over two or ten years then I'd have much less to criticise.  My problem here is twofold: firstly, Maytag's personality has changed very rapidly and none of the people close to her seem to have noticed.  Secondly, for the comic to be interesting it really needs Maytag to have two very distinct identities, and they keep getting more similar.   

One of the big rules of storytelling is that character should dictate plot, i.e. 'in this situation, Maytag would act in such-and-such a way, so the plot unfolds like this'.  What I'm seeing currently is a plot that dictates character - 'for me to get the story from A to B, Maytag should be acting like this, so she will be'.
Like I said, I need to think about it more before I give a proper response. Another point is that people's personalities can change very fast, and very severely, due to outside factors - Drugs, Environmental stress, situational stress, so on - and May has gone through some pretty extreme situations, recently, as you already know. And let's be honest, they've not had much time to rest between developments, so it seems - We've been rolling pretty fast since about a chapter or so before the bloody Mary story line, with the main character group bouncing from crisis to crisis. Who knows, maybe May is still solid at the moment under stress, but when the stress is relived later, when they have a chance to rest after the crisis is resolved, she might fall apart - Someone being strong, competent and dealing with everything well when under stress falling apart when it's removed isn't uncommon, with the stress almost literally holding them together, and not giving them a chance to think about things. Soon as they get the chance to think about everything, no matter how balanced the gyroscope was before, lacking the motive force of conflict and stress spinning it, it falls over.

Brion Foulke

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Re: Maytag's characterisation over Book 1
« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2010, 03:12:00 pm »
No comment.

Sidralma

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Re: Maytag's characterisation over Book 1
« Reply #5 on: April 26, 2010, 12:40:08 am »
That's an interesting observation. Looking over the comic I have to agree that we're looking at some significant differences from the original character concept and the way it's playing off now. And our awesome author's "no comment" has got me scratching my head. Though regardless I'm a fan, am very much enjoying the work (this current arc included) and looking forward to more updates.
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Re: Maytag's characterisation over Book 1
« Reply #6 on: April 28, 2010, 07:54:28 pm »
Just in regards to the removal of her clothes by Voulger.  Voulger did comment that it created a tingling sensation all over her body so something about that may have been the reason for her to curl up, or even a fear that the ripping was going to continue into her flesh.  It'd certainly scare the hell out of me if my clothes were diced in one move from my body and I suddenly thought the same was about to take place with my skin.  But beyond that, it may also be that the sudden, utter destruction of her symbolic jester suit was also a severe shock.  She was only down for a short while before she stopped caring about covering up again, and she didn't look that grateful about Bern covering her up.  She took to healing the knight first, then Bern came up and put her cape around her: http://www.flipsidecomics.com/comic.php?i=118

The scene with Fata Morgana, I think she was more trying to put a barrier between herself and the illusions to avoid the sexuality of the situation.  She certainly walked up to her without much modesty until the illusionary jester suit was added.

She generally just seems more boisterous in her jester suit.  The main case I can recall where she's stepped out of her quiet revene when not in her jester outfit is after Bern declined to join the knights and she confronted her about it.  The other one would be the carriage ride.  Not how she reacted to the spell but before that when she spoke up and asked Glyph about his scanner.

Another thing I note is that whenever she dealt with an opponent she did it with an air of frivolity while she was in her jester suit.  She did this up until her old one was torn appart and since the new one she seems to take these matters much more seriously and becomes a completely focused warrior while still seeming jovial and outspoken in more casual situations.

The final thing to remember is that Brion hasn't explained the exact reason behind the personality changes.  Apparently Bern and Maytag know the reason/s behind it but its yet to be fully explained to us the reader.  There might be a little more to it than just the suit alone.  This is all we've been told in-comic: http://www.flipsidecomics.com/comic.php?i=118
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