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So, I wanted to spice up the MC in one of my stories by... making him into a stereotypical SJW. The catch is supposed to be why and when he's acting that way. I won't go into any detail because this question isn't about politics, so let's just say he has his reasons and is ultimately a good person, once everything is revealed.

Due to the nature of the story, which mimics Saturday morning cartoons to a degree, I can't go into detail about politics, only the characters' own struggle. Making the main character out of a stereotype is a quick and easy way to piss off virtually everyone. And I think explaining or elaborating on it with an apolitical reason (the classical "then let me be evil!") will only make things worse.

Also, the MC is a walking contradiction in some areas, he's a communist, but lives in a mansion. Sure, after his parents' disappearance, he's almost completely alone in it, except for his grandmother who everyone mistakes for a servant and it's also revealed relatively early that the place was built to accommodate numerous monsters and in the slice-of-life episodes we get to see that every resident has to help with the chores to the best of their ability.

Still, the underlying mechanism seems weak to me. While some parts of his ideology are genuine. Stuff like the Karl Marx stalker shrine and ANTIFA motifs are more of a way for him to get back at the society that ostracized and made fun of him for no reason. However, those parts obviously just worsen his situation and alienate him from even more people.

How can I make this main character work without the political aspect coming off as clickbaity?

  • I mean, if you can't go into detail about politics in the story, then making this character into a stereotype that is going to piss everybody off (whether or not they agree with his underlying politics) seems...inherently clickbaity? Why are you adding this aspect to the character anyway? – Kitkat Apr 14 at 19:52
  • @Kitkat I was modeling the MC after József Attila, a famous Hungarian poet, he was a communist and that frequently showed up in his works. Problem is, my character isn't an artist. – Mephistopheles Apr 14 at 20:31
  • Is your worry that people won't like the character? Or that it will seem stereotypical? Or something else? – Kitkat Apr 15 at 16:31
  • @Kitkat Simply put, Left: "This character is an inaccurate and malicious representation of the average leftist". The Right: This character is an inaccurate representation of the average leftist because he has complexity and a soul". At least, those are my fears. – Mephistopheles Apr 15 at 18:44
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You can't do what you're asking.

There's not really a way to make a character like this without it coming across as intentionally provocative and incendiary. You seem to want two different things - a character with a strong controversial political ideology who is also not going to offend anybody or come off as abrasive to the reader. You can't have your cake there and eat it too.

I've had minor characters in my stories who are very politically abrasive, i.e. one of my protagonist's fathers was a very devout Christian and extremely homophobic. It's generally okay to have that in side characters as opposed to protagonists, because you're not being asked to identify with them, and usually they will serve as a foil to a protagonist with the opposite viewpoint.

But with a main character, you are explicitly asking the reader, who may have very strong oppositions to that character's views, to step into their shoes and see from their eyes. And that's going to be controversial for a lot of people no matter what you do. That's the nature of writing and points of view. There's just no getting around it.

It'd be like having a main character who is a member of the KKK as the first-person narrator, and then trying to backpedal by saying "I don't want this character to be incendiary to anybody." Yet you are showing us this person's extremely offensive and racist innermost thoughts, beliefs and feelings, which by their very nature are going to offend people.

If I have any suggestions for doing this, it's to tread very, very carefully, and be prepared for the strong reactions your story will almost certainly provoke from your readers. And take care that the views of your main protagonist cannot be interpreted in any way as reflecting your own views.

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To Avoid Looking Like Clickbait, Don't Be Clickbait

Well. That advice in itself is not really helpful. So how do you avoid being clickbait? Well clickbait is fundamentally a label we put on something we consider offensively false advertising that exists purely to tempt us into wasting time reading something only tangentially related. So. To stop the political aspect being clickbaity you can either change your story, by making the politics the focus, exploring the ideas of this ideology, ideally with a level of respect; or...

Change Your Frame

This isn't a story about a character with an ideology, hell it sounds like your protagonist doesn't even agree with their stated ideology. So don't advertise your story as such. Maybe even disavow the idea that that is what the story is (side note: you can do this within the text by having a "True Believer" in or opponent of the ideology call them out on this). Tell people that this is a story about an awful person, using what goodwill a stated ideology brings, and their journey to being less awful, or more awful or figuring out why they are awful. Not a story about a leftist, SJW, liberal, NeoMarxist.

How to Change the Frame

Most of the way to do this are very specific to the medium and writing style. A good general piece of advice is to pick a title that leads people to the idea you want them to be lead to. "The Manipulative Sneak" instead of "The Rich SJW".

You refer to a "Saturday Morning Cartoon" feel, so it may not be all that weird to have people talk about him being misguided and not being a representative of the views , possibly with an honest member of the ideology.

Or just outright have him "privately" monologue to the audience about being disingenuous.

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Agree with @Sciborg: if it was not the main character, you could set aside the politics and focus on the soul. But since your plan stipulates that this character is the main one, then keeping his politics out of the plot will be an incredibly difficult task.

For the record, the excessive downvoting of the question is likely not based on its merits. This is a valid question, and even if the correct answer to it is negative, this does not invalidate it.

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  • I still stand by my statement that your second paragraph should be a comment and not part of your answer, but I don't want to get into a rollback war over it and I appreciate that you can't actually post comments yet, so I'll leave your answer as it is. – F1Krazy Apr 22 at 13:47

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