6

We've seen this character archetype before: A character despises being born into a well-off family. ("Well-off" can range from rich-to-anywhere-on-the-middle-class-spectrum, regardless of whether or not their family has committed any atrocities against lower social/economic classes.)

If successfully pulled off, the character will feel fresh, realistic, and open up the reader's mind to a whole new way of thinking. However... most characters within this archetype end up sounding like spoiled angsty brats.

My Question: How do I write this character archetype without making the character seem like a spoiled, overprivileged brat?

  • What galaxy is that? – user23046 May 30 '17 at 23:49
  • Whichever route you choose, it will be tough to defeat the reader's assessment that the child is either nasty or simply detached from reality. And no matter what age you tack onto the character, he will be seen as a child. You are writing a polemic with the express intent to "open up the reader's mind to a whole new way of thinking." This is usually at odds with most goals of good fiction. Usually. – Haakon Dahl Aug 26 at 23:36
17

Show, don't tell.

Simply show the reason. A nice girlfriend leaving him after others started calling her gold-digger and money-whore. False friends who are there to mooch money and bask in glory of "being pals with the rich guy". Getting accused of buying his way into some elite group while he worked hard to get there. Getting blackmailed for money. Getting a close person killed through an expensive gift (sports car, paraglider). Parents expecting him to "live up to his status and not mix with the rabble" depriving him of actual friends and throwing him between vain idiots.

Generally think of whatever curses the financial fortune can bring upon him, show them - then show his behavior afterwards - and then let the reader draw the conclusions without ever telling a word about his personal feelings.

  • 1
    ^ this answer right here basically nails it on the head..... Being someone that grew up in a family that didn't have to worry about the next paycheck and growing up in an area that... was a bit affluent...... I pretty much rejected the lifestyle for pretty much everything you said above. – ggiaquin16 Feb 20 '17 at 15:14
  • That is exactly what I was going to answer. Do not tell the reader, show it through the actions and reactions of the character. Ideally without having the character actually saying the situation. – JP Chapleau May 30 '17 at 21:08
  • ^ No privacy: bodyguards and chaperones, always tailing you, reporting to the parents. No freedom of association: parents choose your friends. No rights: everything is a family matter, the cops won't get involved. Can't get a job and financial independence: parents will make hell for your employer. – aniline Aug 27 at 9:44
8

Give them a reason to despise their wealth. If they just flip a switch one day and decide that having money is the pits, the reader will have a hard time, not only relating to them, but believing them. Which will give them that spoiled air.

Perhaps they've seen the world outside of their little bubble (By choice... like maybe volunteering at a homeless shelter, or taking day labor work, or by circumstance... maybe they're in an accident while away from home / country and have to 'Rough it' to get back), and now they are having a hard time relating to the lifestyle they've taken for granted before this point.

  • Or maybe they truly are spoiled angsty brats who think they hate their wealth but haven't yet realised they don't know, and don't want, to live without it. – Sara Costa Feb 20 '17 at 8:19
  • @SaraCosta Ignorance is still a valid reason and can be shown to the reader like any other reason. Being ignorant of our own mind is pretty much definition of human. Just show why and how they are ignorant on this matter. Same with spoiled and angsty. Even more so, really. Angst without a reason reader can relate to is pretty annoying. – Ville Niemi Feb 20 '17 at 18:02
  • @VilleNiemi: I completely agree. I believe a lot of spoiled angsty brats characters are simply poorly characterised which leads to them being very annoying. – Sara Costa Feb 20 '17 at 20:53
6

We hate those things that keep us from the things we love. If a character hates being a member of a wealthy family, it is because that family, or its wealth, or its responsibilities, keep them from something they love, or harms the thing they love. To write hatred simply as hatred, therefore, is never convincing. You have to start with love, and the thing that keeps that character from the things they love, or that harms the things they love. Then their hate makes sense.

We have to save the old dance hall/beach/donut shop/park from the evil developer who turns out (shock twist!) to be the heroine's father. Cue the dance number!

5

Sometimes it's a lot more low-key. Your main character may just not like how it makes them an outsider.

Going skiing with your family is fun, you have a good time, and then you come back to school and everyone's talking about their winter break. So-and-so played a video game and you all laugh at their anecdote about a particularly gruesome death, your best friend stayed at their grandmother's and you all nod appropriately about how family is good in small doses. When you talk about a spectacular fall on a black run, you can sort of see the disconnect in their brains. They don't relate to you. You are an outsider. You seem like you're bragging, even though you're just trying to tell a funny story.

Little things build up. You discover your friends are uncomfortable inviting you to their house because it's smaller than yours. They turn down a dinner invitation because they can't afford it, and suddenly you have to constantly question yourself every time you hang out. Would it be appropriate to ask them to spend their money? If you offer to pay for them, it hurts their pride, and creates another rift.

Even if you don't flaunt your wealth, and you're not oblivious to the real world, a coworker might resent you, because you didn't have to work through college.

Your character doesn't need to be angry, they don't need to be angsty, they don't need to be spoiled. They just need to be uncomfortable with the fact that they are more well off than the people around them. Hesitate a second more whenever money comes up, not because they can't afford something, but because they can, and they aren't sure if they should or not.

  • 1
    Absolutely true. And you don't even have to be from a royally rich family to feel this. – Sara Costa Feb 23 '17 at 0:05
1

Decide whether it's the wealth and comfort of the family which they dislike, or their family which they don't click with.

The former scenario would alienate a lot of your readers unless you got it spot on - you're bordering on "poor little rich me" territory here which has far too many cliches already. The latter conflict is much more relatable and you can use the family's precious prestige as the protagonist's foil.

0

First, you create a character that thinks and acts like a non-well off person from a poor or middle class background (adopts their values, hangs around with such people, etc., even though s/he can afford "better." Then you have intrusions by people from the person's blood family who feel like some unwelcome, half-forgotten distant relatives, except that these people are parents and/or siblings. And, of course, when the person dates, it will be someone the family looks down their noses on, but someone who has obvious "non-wealthy" virtues that the audience can relate to.

And so you have the audience rooting for your hero/ine against their rich, spoiled relatives. Because "rich and spoiled" (especially the latter) is something your main character clearly is not.

0

Make your protagonist a good person who comes into conflict with his upbringing at all and only the places where it acts against his own moral standards, rather than one who has a knee-jerk reaction against his family. In other words, he's acting in reaction against the corrupting effects of wealth on his family, rather than directly against his family himself.

0

If the character's family is unpleasant enough, the reader will typically side with the protagonist that divorces them. In your case, the unpleasantness needs to be intrinsically tied to the wealth - so that if the character chooses to not participate in their share of the family wealth (think of how many of their friends they could help this way) it's because it comes with so many strings attached that even the protagonist's friends understand it's just not worth it.

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