So, I am writing a story based around a character that has the personality of a Computer. Emotionless, logical, does what he is told and if he can't or won't, will state it in the plainest way possible.

From a first person perspective, his analysis of things might seem interesting and capture the audience's attention, it is only that:

Hadden sighed. Standing, he stretched. Slowly exploring the movements of each individual joint, muscle and tendon. Three hundred and sixty degree rotation in the shoulder at a sixty degree angle. A minor click in the rotator cuff as it passes fifty degrees in a clockwise direction. The joint begins to dislocate when extended past one hundred and thirty-two degrees behind me. Full movement in the elbow and wrist. The thumb on the left hand is hyperextensive. Interesting. Ultimately useless. A pain in the hip as the leg raises above seventy two degrees. Potentially due to inactivity; will continue to monitor. The knee and ankle without issue. The toes click consistently when overextended. Again, interesting yet ultimately useless. One hundred and seventy two degrees of movement laterally in the neck, favouring the left. One hundred and forty-three degrees of rotation horizontally, one hundred and twelve degrees rotation vertically. Right eye dominance.

So, instead, I was going to use other characters third person reactions to his behaviours, as a hook to give the audience that relation to him. They may not find him relatable, but they do relate to the other people's interactions with him:

The Priest extended his hand toward Hadden, "Welcome, welcome! I am Brother LeMarc, how can I help you?"

Hadden looked past him and up the road to the massive temple on the crest of the hill. "We have been assigned to investigate the temple. I understand your presence is required for us to complete our job. If you are not the one we require, please fetch the appropriate personnel."

Lemarc's smile faltered, changing into a look of polite confusion, but before he could drop his hand, Zane stepped between them and gripped his hand in greeting. "Sorry about that, just ignore him. You'd probably get more of a reaction from a toaster!" He chuckled.

The important thing to note is that I am not trying to make the character himself relatable, simply create hooks that the reader can relate to, in regards to this character.

Is this a practice I should be employing, and if so, what mechanisms should I use to employ this? For example, develop minor character profiles for all character that might have a significant reaction to his behaviours, regardless of their overall impact or involvement in the overall story?

  • 1
    Hi Ben, welcome to writing.se! Take the tour and visit the help center to learn about the site. Nice to have you here on writing :P Why do you not want the character himself to be relatable? Is there some benefit to that or do you not believe it is possible?
    – linksassin
    Oct 30, 2019 at 4:47
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    More the latter. Some may find him relatable, but I feel most probably won't.
    – Ben
    Oct 30, 2019 at 4:53

1 Answer 1


It doesn't hurt to have other characters react to him, the potential problem I see here is in repeatedly showing the same reaction, which is likely. Confusion, a sense Hadden is a rude jerk, etc. The reaction of Lemarc is the obvious one to a Spock-like or Data-like character, which is what Hadden is. Showing the obvious response first is fine, but readers will likely get bored with it quickly.

I will point out there are a few other possible responses. Great offense, and a refusal to interact at all with somebody so rude and unfeeling. How will Hadden respond to that?

Brother Lemarc turned his outstretched hand palm up, looked at it, then looked at Hadden, furious. "You are not eager to take the hand of a holy man? By the word of the true God, you are possessed by demons. Leave this instant, I deny you access."
He looked to Zane. "Leave. You keep the company of demons."

Originally the handshake proved you carried no weapons. Perhaps that is still true in this culture, when Hadden does not shake hands, Brother Lemarc pulls a knife or gun and demands they leave.

Or just petulance.

Brother Lemarc realized Hadden wasn't going to shake his hand, and withdrew it. He folded his arms, his face grew impassive. "My presence is indeed required, and you shall not have it, until you learn to be civil. Return tomorrow, rude child, and I will judge your progress. Now, I rather fancy an apple, there is a nice orchard a few hours from here. Have a blessed day of learning, gentlemen."
With that Brother Lemarc, head held high, walked between Hadden and Zane, away from the Temple.

Of course even these could get tired after awhile. You don't want to show the same aspect of Hadden too often, usually if you show something twice, the reader expects you to show a character "learn their lesson" and overcome it. If Hadden is setback 3 or 4 times without ever learning his lesson, he looks dumb. If he's supposed to be dumb, okay, but if he is supposed to be smart, he probably realizes his mistake on the first setback, definitely by the second, and doesn't make it again, because he doesn't court setbacks.

So as a writer, you can't keep fiddling the same song over and over, it's like a concert where the band sings the same hit song twelve times and calls it a day.

You don't need to develop the walk-ons reacting to Hadden very much at all, stereotypes will do. A religious person, a prostitute, a businessman, a housewife, a taxi driver, a front-line soldier, a military general, a politician, a waitress, an artist. Or equivalent stations in your world.

Since Hadden is your POV, the reader expects him to have some super-goal to achieve that applies to his lifetime as a character (either a single novel, or throughout a series). Data (of Star Trek Next Gen) had the super-goal of becoming as human as real humans, which was accomplished in the end by intentionally sacrificing his life for his friends (which was not completely logical, but that was the point, Data acted emotionally in opposition to logic).

Emotion is frequently in opposition to logic, the proof is in any addiction: Logically alcoholics know alcohol is killing them, but emotionally they fail in resisting the feeling it gives them.

You can use the dichotomy of emotion vs. logic in scenes that educate and change Hadden. Obviously he has emotions, which I gather from his sigh: In general, the experimenters noted that sighs are associated with a negative mood—a sign of disappointment, defeat, frustration, boredom, and longing.

Sighs are also evident in sexual situations, to indicate longing or (the more positive) satisfaction. And it is true sighs can have a physiological reason (expanding the lungs to clear alveoli), but in writing we wouldn't call that a "sigh", we'd call it a deep breath, because 'sighing' generally connotes an emotion.

But the main reason I believe Hadden must have emotions is that we don't really act without them. No matter what we do, it traces back to an emotion. There is something we want to happen, or don't want to happen, and we act to affect the future. If we don't care about the future, and don't care what happens to us, if we live or die or suffer pain or joy, then we have no reason to act at all.

In Mathematics, we call the things that are self-evidently true without any proof "axioms." The only way you can prove any kind of relationship is to reduce it axioms, things that are self-evidently true and require no more proof.

In a sense, emotions are the axioms of life. Much of what we do is ultimately because we don't want to die. Why don't we? We just don't, we don't have to give a logical reason for that, and if we do, it is going to circle back to something else we want and cannot explain why we want it. Being less grim, I could say I want chocolate. Why? because to me it tastes good. Why? I don't care, it just does, give me chocolate!

You need to do a similar thing with Hadden, explore the axioms underlying his actions, what does he believe is self-evidently true? (Or if you find yourself reasoning in a circle, the set of things that explain each other and cannot be reduced any further).

This can vary from person to person (e.g. death is not everyone's #1 fear), but those things will also be his reason for being, and his super-goal will be consistent with them.

Then your incidents can be lessons for Hadden and create personal growth, making him more competent to pursue his super-goal and eventually achieve it. Or just better able to fit in.

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