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Old 05-31-2009, 08:45 PM
BEHIND THE MASK BEHIND THE MASK is a male United States BEHIND THE MASK is offline
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Character Development

Good day comrades, I'm, as always, looking to expand my knowledge and apply it to my writing... I've always felt I've been particularly good with character development, however at the same time I'm poor in executing that (actually writing it)

I write this so that perhaps some of you may share with me your own techniques used to develop your characters so that anybody reading, myself included, may learn...

Also, in this same subject, if anyone would like I could PM them so ideas concerning my story and character development, I would post them but I dont want to spoil them for everyone but really any critique or opinions offered would help.

I would also like to thank anyone who offers any help on this subject in advance, thank you.
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Old 05-31-2009, 09:16 PM
Ymirida Ymirida is offline
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Re: Character Development

Ah, yes. Characterization and character development is a tricky business. Think about your favorite character for a moment, Mask- what do you like about the character? What do you dislike about the character? Characters are like people- they too have strengths and weaknesses.

The difference between a good character and a bad character stems largely from those strengths and weaknesses. It's almost like creating a character on an MMO- if you do not stat your character correctly, they become unusable in the context of the game. In writing, it is no different; a believable character has virtues and vices, strengths and flaws.

Before you even get into execution, that is basic character groundwork that must be laid out. I'll give you an example- Peter Parker/Spiderman. He started out life as your typical nerdy bookworm at first- shy, socially inept, not in any way shape athletic, and is apathetic in the beginning. However, he was also quite intelligent and clever, not to mention all of those nifty powers he gets from that spider bite.

That's all for now. I hope that helps you! :>
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Old 05-31-2009, 09:32 PM
Gold Gold is a male Australia Gold is offline
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Re: Character Development

*Continuing from what Veyvey said*

Spiderman is also a good example of reasons why he developed. I'm sure everyone has probably seen a verison of the hero now but if you havent I'll give you a small example:

At first when Spidey gets his awesome super powers, he uses them for his own gain. But when his uncle is shot, his whole attitude changes, and he starts to use his powers to stop bad guys. Now if his uncle wasn't shot, would have Spiderman become a Super Hero? Who knows, but without that point he would have continued using his powers for himself.
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Old 05-31-2009, 09:42 PM
BEHIND THE MASK BEHIND THE MASK is a male United States BEHIND THE MASK is offline
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Re: Character Development

Aye, I suppose I understand what your saying...

I suppose, while Super-Fergus posted the guide on Story and Structure over a three point set, a somewhat similar idea can be fashioned to characters (either on a small, larger or even scale)

I think one of the problems I've had over the years is trying to reveal and develop the character immediatly.

Spiderman was a great example.

If I might ask, could I send either of you a PM detailing some of my ideas and developments of a charater, Keeta (He's in the story, and while I dont want to make a character that steals the spotlight, I cant help but feel some of my ideas do just that), I mean, if its no bother of course.
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Old 05-31-2009, 09:51 PM
Tar Potomi Źngrn Tar Potomi Źngrn is a male United States Tar Potomi Źngrn is offline
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Re: Character Development

well to develop a character you need to put him in situations and then make him/her make a choice according to how he/she would think/do things.

hope that helps.
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Old 05-31-2009, 09:56 PM
Hank Pym Hank Pym is a male United States Hank Pym is offline
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Re: Character Development

Characterization and character development all come down to how believable your characters are. The best way to do this, as stated before, is to make sure that your character has both positive and negative traits to them. A flawed character is much easier to relate to than a perfect character. And relatability is one of the best ways to convey a sense of realism to the audience. If they can identify with the fact that the hero has his/her weaknesses and shortcomings, but still realize that the character is ultimately good, then you've got a bona fide believable character on your hands. Vice versa, if the audience can despise the villain, and yet still perhaps have at least some understanding of where he/she is coming from, it will be much more believable.

All of your main characters should be dynamic. Period. There is NO reason that the heroes and the villains shouldn't make changes over the course of the story, for better or for worse. Often times though, these changes can be lost within the plot. The best way to compensate for this is to throw some supporting characters in who are static. This way, the audience can react to the changes the main characters are experiencing and going through by comparing them to these generally static support characters. Not to say that these static characters should be completely flat, two-dimensional cardboard cutouts. Static characters can still have depth, but ultimately, they will remain the same, and thus should (generally, though there are some exceptions) be relegated to the status of support.

The best way (in my opinion) to make a character change is to change his/her motives and/or goals. What I love doing with my characters is making them have the same goal, but for different motives. For example, a villain is trying to kill the hero because the hero is a high ranking political official, and assassinating them will make it easier for the villain to carry out his/her plan. However, during an attempt on the hero's life, the villain loses something. Perhaps their lover somehow gets wound up in the affair and dies. Now the villain is still trying to kill the hero, but rather than doing it for political gain, they are now acting out of revenge. Of course, there are many more ways to change motive without changing goal, and vice versa. The character may have a different goal, but for the same reason. One of my favorite things to do, in fact, is to have the hero and the villain have the same motive. Let's say peace between two nations. But the way they go about doing it, their goals, is completely different. Where the hero tries diplomacy, the villain wages war.

Anyways, I'm kind of rambling now, but hopefully that helps you out a bit.

Oh, and just to continue as to why Spiderman is a great example of a well developed character: he is in constant battle with himself as to whether he wants to be Spiderman or not. Although he feels the obligation to fight crime, and stop people from experiencing what he experienced with his uncle's death, at the same time, he's not sure if that is worth the loss of his social and love life. If he remains Spiderman, he fulfills his sense of duty, but he also can never be with the one he loves. That conflict makes him a superb, and relatable, character.
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Old 05-31-2009, 09:56 PM
Ymirida Ymirida is offline
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Re: Character Development

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Originally Posted by candc32 View Post
well to develop a character you need to put him in situations and then make him/her make a choice according to how he/she would think/do things.

hope that helps.
That's only part of it, though. You must also explore what the character is thinking or feeling in regards to that choice. Everyone feels something when they make an important/life-altering decision- characters are no exception. :3

With situations, you have to not only bring in decisions and personalities, but strengths and weaknesses into play as well. Just making a decision =/= character development.
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Old 06-01-2009, 01:08 PM
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Re: Character Development

Let's not forget the different ways to show characterization, which can be an important aspect of character development. Like Mask said, he has trouble actually writing the character development. There are two different ways I know to characterize. Direct and indirect characterization. Direct is telling it through the story. Indirect is reading between the lines. It's always best to use both. Direct is best when working with the character's conscious mind. Now since these characters are to be life-like, they would also have a subconscious, which can be shown with indirect characterization. The character themselves may not understand their own actions or feelings but are reacting impulsively off them. So often it is like they read between the lines themselves. To bring the reader deep into this it often best not to always explain everything right away. To keep them guessing and wondering why. Keep them interested in this character.

Being a good writer is knowing when to use these both and how much to use them. Obviously you need to find your own balance for the feeling and over all tone you want to set for your characters and for the story. Maybe certain characters have a different balance of direct and indirect characterization. Developing a character is also developing the style of writing you use for each character. Each person has different way of speaking and thinking to themselves. You can show this in your writing as well. Maybe they often use certain phrases. So you should also consider how you word the thoughts and speech of each of your characters. Other characters might seem different through the eyes of one character than the eyes of another. That's also something to consider while developing characters and writing it. One character may notice details more than another. Things like this should also be considered while writing and developing a character's depth and personality.
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Old 06-01-2009, 04:13 PM
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Re: Character Development

I guess one thing I’ve always seen with my characters is that they often develop on their own. I know that sounds kind of stupid, but to me, characters seem to take on a life of their own when you write them. I’ve had a character go from being nave and quiet to arrogant and boisterous because of the way the story turned out. I never even planned for that kind of change; it just came about as a result of the character’s own actions. What I mean is this: if you have a good character, they will evolve and change on their own. If your character sucks, actions you write for them will often feel forced and uninspired.
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Old 06-11-2009, 08:45 PM
Lly Lly is offline
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Re: Character Development

Characters are one of my favorite parts of writing. Really, they are.

I think one of the things I've learned about characterization in my writing career is that what makes a story relatable--even if it takes place in an unfamiliar setting, even if it deals with abstract themes and unrealistic things--is characters. Every good story I've ever read has delved, even if only a little, into human nature and the human condition.

Which raises the question: how is a writer to create characters who are believable, even when the world is not? Furthermore, how do we develop them to a realistic level?

But before I go into development, I would first like to talk about characterization. For a while, I thought that characters were divided essentially into two categories: important characters and unimportant characters. There were the characters who were major who I focused on, and the minor ones whose purpose, above all, was to get the story going: walking, talking plot devices, really. The moral of this story is, of course, that I was totally wrong and my writing suffered from it. EVERY character in the story is important for different reasons. Primary and secondary characters are important for obvious reasons, but it is the lesser important ones--the bartender your characters stop and chat with, the tour guide, the man who fixes their car--who make the world believable. The extent to which you describe the annoying habits of these seemingly unimportant people, their manners of speaking, their clothing, can either enrich or wash out your tone and setting.

But back to characterization.

This is going to sound kind of obvious, but most of my ideas from characters--their personalities, strengths and weaknesses--come with those I meet around me. I used to think that if I thought about them real long and hard, the characters I wrote would be flawlessly written with realistic personality traits. Once again, I was wrong. The best way to write people, I have found, is to base them--if only partially--on real people. Thinking about the people you know and the way they express themselves and the way they deal with tragedy and the way they change over time can help you write your characters, and invent ways THEY deal with the roadblocks in their lives. If it sounds a little uncreative and unoriginal--well, it is. But I find it works a lot better for me and I'm a lot happier with the people I have created.

Anyway, I hope that helped somewhat.

Happy writing!
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Old 06-18-2009, 11:48 AM
Safer Safer is a male United States Safer is offline
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Re: Character Development

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Originally Posted by Sir Calibur View Post
I guess one thing Ive always seen with my characters is that they often develop on their own. I know that sounds kind of stupid, but to me, characters seem to take on a life of their own when you write them. Ive had a character go from being nave and quiet to arrogant and boisterous because of the way the story turned out. I never even planned for that kind of change; it just came about as a result of the characters own actions. What I mean is this: if you have a good character, they will evolve and change on their own. If your character sucks, actions you write for them will often feel forced and uninspired.
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But back to characterization.

This is going to sound kind of obvious, but most of my ideas from characters--their personalities, strengths and weaknesses--come with those I meet around me. I used to think that if I thought about them real long and hard, the characters I wrote would be flawlessly written with realistic personality traits. Once again, I was wrong. The best way to write people, I have found, is to base them--if only partially--on real people. Thinking about the people you know and the way they express themselves and the way they deal with tragedy and the way they change over time can help you write your characters, and invent ways THEY deal with the roadblocks in their lives. If it sounds a little uncreative and unoriginal--well, it is. But I find it works a lot better for me and I'm a lot happier with the people I have created.

Anyway, I hope that helped somewhat.

Happy writing!
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Ahem, the above two quotes are examples of two very helpful forms of character writing, and without a doubt the two most-widely used forms I've seen over my own writing career. Personally, I'm partial to the first type, and I'll explain why. But Lly's approach is extremely helpful as well, and can really help beginners get their feet off the ground, and help seasoned writers keep that running start going for a long, long time. And, as always, the best writers apply both methods to their writing.

Sir Calibur's approach is essentially the "method acting" of the writing world. (For those of you who don't know, theatre arts and writing are extremely close together in their execution and methods of improvement--here is a prime example.) To expand on Sir Calibur's idea, essentially what he means by "letting the characters take on a life of their own" is allowing your characters the freedom to breathe and make their own decisions. The idea is to come up with a plan for the way a scene will start, how it will end, and a rough idea of what you want to happen within the scene. After that, just start writing, allowing your characters to react to one another and the environment. (However, even if you have an idea for the way a scene should end, if your characters are really pulling you another way... rethink it.) Also, never plan the dialogue line-by-line. Biggest mistake of my life, and it resulted in robotic (and I mean REALLY robotic) dialogue and characters. If you simply allow your characters to do the work, you'll find writing your story much more enjoyable. And editing, believe it or not, becomes a lot more entertaining if your dialogue is really good.

Lly's approach, when applied to experienced writers, works for a LOT of people, and works less for others, just like any other method. I implore all writers to try it out to see if it works for them. However, Lly's approach is extremely helpful to any beginning writer. When you base your characters off of people you know (or other characters), you can make some really awesome characters; provided, of course, that you don't just flat out copy. This is another example of how writing is similar to acting; as an actor, I will often copy a technique or unique quality about another person or character I know and apply it to the role I am portraying, mixed with my own interpretation of the role, to come up with a great conglomerate. (For example, I played the part of a man who was inside a girl's subconscious, guiding her through her memories to prevent her from committing suicide. He was a kind, wise, yet stern man--but, using the aforementioned qualities, I applied the harsh speaking style of Daniel Day Lewis' portrayal of Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood. Interesting mix, and it worked great.) In the writing world, I once had a character who combined some qualities from Obi-wan Kenobi, Jack Sparrow, and V from V for Vendetta--this character has since evolved far beyond those characteristics into something I'm very proud of, but never would have done so had he not had a base with which to start.

The above two methods are great for any writer looking to add spice to his characters, but I would like to give a word on character profiles. While they can be helpful to beginners to get a rounded knowledge of their character, I find that character profiles reduce characters from human beings to documents. Think about yourself for a moment. You can name some of your personal flaws. You can name some of your better traits. But even if you made a character profile of yourself and listed out as many flaws and good traits as you possibly could, you wouldn't have a perfect interpretation of yourself written down. Characters are extremely similar in this respect, and it is for that reason that I don't think character profiles are the best means of knowing your character. If you poured painstaking work into molding the idea of a character, you more than likely know that character far more than a profile will allow. The trick is to let that character develop on its own, and if you just WRITE with it, you'll know how to develop it as your story goes on. This is also why freewriting (just opening up a blank document, coming up with a random non-canon scenario, and throwing your character in it for a page or two or three to practice writing with that character) is so immensely helpful in learning to develop your characters.

Bottom line is, you probably know your characters a lot more than you think you do; you're just not letting them go out and make their own decisions. Don't get too wrapped up in "Oh, no! John was insulted! As a shy type, he would never stand up for himself," and things like that. Just let it happen.

Best of luck, friends!
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Old 06-18-2009, 10:54 PM
Ymirida Ymirida is offline
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Re: Character Development

I agree, Safer. While a character profile is great for the beginner writer to come up with the basic idea for a character, it really is best to just let the character write itself. A lot of the time when I'm writing my fanfic, I go at it with a simple basic idea of how I want a scene to go. Beyond that, I pretty much just let the story write itself. What you also want to avoid is stereotyping; a shy character usually doesn't stay shy the entire story. It also helps to come up with a reason why they feel or act the way they do.

Everyone does something for a reason. While we may not always understand that reason, that reason is still there none the less. Characters are no different in that regard; there is usually a reason or motive for a character's actions. What you don't want to do is consciously think about it, or else it will show up in your writing.
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Old 06-27-2009, 11:55 PM
Fairess Fairess is a female United States Fairess is offline
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Re: Character Development

Quote:
agree, Safer. While a character profile is great for the beginner writer to come up with the basic idea for a character, it really is best to just let the character write itself.
Wow. I entirely disagree. It is extoordinarly difficult to write a story in which the character is unfamilliar to you. If they have no history, no likes, no dislikes, nothing deep at all, then your story will be just as shallow. All those little details that go into a character are the major deciding factors into how they act and think. Without a map to guide their actions, their actions become entirely contrived.

That's also because characters are layered. Their actions affect more than just themselves. The effect they have on the world around them, the people they ineract with--all these things are also part of a character. If you go through half of a story not knowing the depth of your character, you're missing out on a large variety of things that could have developed them better had you known them so.

I'm not sure there is such thing as an overdeveloped character. Obviously, there are teeny tiny details that can be easily forgotten, but if you write them down and remember them, they make for great additions that can add to the depth of a story. And no matter how developed a character is, there is always more to develop, more details to flesh out. The more a character lives, the more they learn. And the more they learn, the more they change. And the more they change, the deeper they become. So, if you start the process with a character you know well, chances are, your story will flow much more naturally.


Quote:
Everyone does something for a reason. While we may not always understand that reason, that reason is still there none the less. Characters are no different in that regard; there is usually a reason or motive for a character's actions. What you don't want to do is consciously think about it, or else it will show up in your writing.
I am in disagreement again. Without a reason, there's no motive. If a character does something just because, that defies all human rationality. Characters react to the world around them, and that reation is based on everything that they are. People do the things they do because of what they believe and know. If you don't know what they believe and know, there is no depth to the character, no reason for them to react in any way. And that's hardly a character.
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Old 06-29-2009, 10:12 AM
Safer Safer is a male United States Safer is offline
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Re: Character Development

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Originally Posted by Navi007 View Post
Wow. I entirely disagree. It is extoordinarly difficult to write a story in which the character is unfamilliar to you. If they have no history, no likes, no dislikes, nothing deep at all, then your story will be just as shallow. All those little details that go into a character are the major deciding factors into how they act and think. Without a map to guide their actions, their actions become entirely contrived.
You misunderstand. Most stories start out a good deal into the character's life, so you're going to have some base personality with which you can work. Character profiles work nicely for beginner writers because it allows them to coalesce their ideas into a visible format which they can referrence and use whenever they need to. However, more experienced writers are much better at creating characters out of thin air, knowing their likes and dislikes and flaws and (to at least a basic degree) their history already. They might do a couple of free writes with that character to become accustomed to how the character works, but after that it's best to leave the decisions to the character. Ultimately, you're the one who decides what goes down on the paper, but if you're constantly mapping everything out according to "the way you feel the scene should go" as opposed to the way the characters are taking it naturally, your dialogue will show that your plot is more important; that's not how it should be, however, as plot, characters, and setting must blend seamlessly.

Quote:
That's also because characters are layered. Their actions affect more than just themselves. The effect they have on the world around them, the people they ineract with--all these things are also part of a character. If you go through half of a story not knowing the depth of your character, you're missing out on a large variety of things that could have developed them better had you known them so.
Yes, this is true, however, many writers like to get to know their characters without the entire profile process of "Hmm, I think this would be a cool flaw. Ooh, she needs to have this and this and this! And then this. And she can be good at... that! And then she'll be extra bad at... that thing. Yeah, definitely that thing..." Instead, we like to write with the character naturally, even if we don't know all there is to know about the character--if we're letting the character breathe and make his own decisions, we as authors and creators will learn about him as time progresses. That's why most writers tend to not write full length novels with brand-new characters, instead choosing to do some free writes and smaller projects with those characters to really understand them. Once that level is achieved, writing with the character naturally is even easier.

Quote:
I'm not sure there is such thing as an overdeveloped character. Obviously, there are teeny tiny details that can be easily forgotten, but if you write them down and remember them, they make for great additions that can add to the depth of a story. And no matter how developed a character is, there is always more to develop, more details to flesh out. The more a character lives, the more they learn. And the more they learn, the more they change. And the more they change, the deeper they become. So, if you start the process with a character you know well, chances are, your story will flow much more naturally.
Exactly. See my above point.

Quote:
I am in disagreement again. Without a reason, there's no motive. If a character does something just because, that defies all human rationality. Characters react to the world around them, and that reation is based on everything that they are. People do the things they do because of what they believe and know. If you don't know what they believe and know, there is no depth to the character, no reason for them to react in any way. And that's hardly a character.
Again, most seasoned writers can come up with a character knowing the basics of its personality. I can meet a guy at a party and see that he's shy and reserved. That's basic knowledge, and I could write with that. But then I hang out with that guy later that week and actually get to know him as a person, and see he's not so shy after all, learning that there are reasons he is shy at such social events as parties. That's more intimate knowledge. In the same respect, a writer can come up with the basic personality of his character, then write with that character in a couple of scenarios, each varying in degrees of stress and emotion, and find out that the character deals with certain problems differently than expected.

Of course, the ability to write fluidly with your character and allow it to make its own decisions comes with a great deal of practice. Yet, still, it is far better to take a little bit more time to practice writing with your character for the sake of learning his depth than to simply make his depth around the concept of "he's a bold character," or "he's a shy character," or "she's hot-headed," and so on. Even when you feel comfortable enough to begin writing a large project with that character, you will continue to learn more about the way it thinks and breathes and lives as you write, and you always will--until the day you stop writing with that character. And if you pick it up again years down the road, you'll find yourself surprised again. Such is the nature of living, breathing characters.
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Old 07-03-2009, 07:14 PM
Lly Lly is offline
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Re: Character Development

Quote:
Originally Posted by Veyrael
A lot of the time when I'm writing my fanfic, I go at it with a simple basic idea of how I want a scene to go. Beyond that, I pretty much just let the story write itself. What you also want to avoid is stereotyping; a shy character usually doesn't stay shy the entire story. It also helps to come up with a reason why they feel or act the way they do.
normally I would tend to disagree with that- I like to do a lot of planning in my head and often find that unless I've done a sort of psychological profile of a character, their actions and words are inconsistent- but I do agree to a certain point that it is sometimes good to, as they say, "hit the ground running." Although I would disagree on the point of stereotyping: sometimes stereotypes are a great way to start. Beginning with a basic stereotype, a basic archetype for a character, make initial planning easier and smoother. Using your example of shy: if you want to have a shy character, it is often good to start writing a character who is shy with the schema of things associated commonly associated with "shy" in mind. If I'm going to just pick up a pen and go and "let the character write itself," stereotypes are a good place to start (thought not to finish, of course. developed characters shouldn't be stereotypes. but we're all professionals, so I don't think I need to insult you all by telling you that)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Navi007
I entirely disagree. It is extoordinarly difficult to write a story in which the character is unfamilliar to you. If they have no history, no likes, no dislikes, nothing deep at all, then your story will be just as shallow. All those little details that go into a character are the major deciding factors into how they act and think. Without a map to guide their actions, their actions become entirely contrived.
I think, though, that although a physically written character profile is important for beginning writers or those among us who are especially organized, sometimes mental mapping is just as effective. Characters, like people, make unprecedented decisions, do unpredictable things outside the parameters of their usual range of action. Characters are also constantly changing, both throughout the story and throughout the process of editing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Navi007
If you go through half of a story not knowing the depth of your character, you're missing out on a large variety of things that could have developed them better had you known them so.
again, a fair point, but that's where editing comes in.

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Originally Posted by Safer
In the same respect, a writer can come up with the basic personality of his character, then write with that character in a couple of scenarios, each varying in degrees of stress and emotion, and find out that the character deals with certain problems differently than expected.
I'm not really sure I agree with this part, though. The parallel can not really be drawn between meeting a guy at a party and then getting to know him, if only because the guy you meet is a real person. He has a wealth of past experiences, triumphs and tragedies, etc. His personality is a product of his own biology and the world that exists around him. You invented nothing of this guy: you simply observed him. Characters, however, are not things to be observed. I think that while it's sometimes good to start writing a character with just a few personality traits in mind, it's extremely important to keep in mind the questions of "why?" and "how?" I could write a million scenes with a character in a multitude of situations. I could come up with a mental map of how they react in such and such kind of situation and surprise myself. But unless there were some kind of link, some kind of consistency, the character isn't layered: just scattered.

As Freudian a concept as it sounds, sometimes I think that the best way to write a character is to come up with a life story for them before writing, down to all the gritty details, all the flashbulb memories, all the moments that the character himself may have forgotten but you, the writer, remember. If we consider all of the elements which affected the shaping of this character, it makes the character easier to write.

I find it easy to take the following approach if I want to write by using just a few qualities I have in mind: write the character into a couple of situations. Reread them, and consider what kind of childhood and history would create this kind of character. Then consider what kind of interests and other traits this kind of character would have based on this past. Then write some more scenes in some more situations using these qualities. Then think about what other sort of past experiences and situations would be the cause of or caused by these qualities. Consider these situations and what would come of them, how they would affect the personality traits of this person. Use these newly considered personality traits to write more. Repeat. Etc. It's gradual, but it's an attempt at layering and realism and consistency.

But I guess in the end writing a character is about using what works the best for you as a writer. potayto, potahto I suppose.
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Old 07-03-2009, 10:55 PM
American Soldier United States American Soldier is offline
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Re: Character Development

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Originally Posted by Navi007 View Post
[COLOR="DarkOrchid"]Wow. I entirely disagree. It is extoordinarly difficult to write a story in which the character is unfamilliar to you. If they have no history, no likes, no dislikes, nothing deep at all, then your story will be just as shallow. All those little details that go into a character are the major deciding factors into how they act and think. Without a map to guide their actions, their actions become entirely contrived.
I'm going to have to disagree with this. Navi. The thing is, a character's personality and psychological profile should be created and expanded over time. By just creating one right from the start, you're not giving your character any time to grow or develop on their own. It means you've pretty much planned out their whole life. Characters need to guide themselves by reacting in ways that are truly human (or whatever sentient creature you happen to be using) and not just some way that you've decided it best for them because of some form you filled out earlier.
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Old 07-03-2009, 11:52 PM
Shrub Shrub is offline
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Re: Character Development

It's probably important to mention that everyone has their own way of developing characters. Sometimes it's a mix of both things. Carefully thought out and planned one moment and then spontaneous the next. I have to say that characters often can make themselves, though not all the time. In a moment of writing, at times you just find a new aspect of that character you hadn't considered before. It's almost as if it wrote itself. I think everyone has their own balance of the planned and unplanned. It's also a matter of testing things out and finding what works best for you. What works for one person may not for another.
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Old 07-05-2009, 01:33 PM
Tiare Tiare is a female Canada Tiare is offline
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Re: Character Development

I'm not fond of character profiles, myself - apart from keeping track of ages, where they're from, and their main occupation. Reading a psychoanalysis of a real person and getting to know them personally are rather different, aren't they? My other problem is that, whenever I use personality profiles, they don't tend to be much help (to the plot): Oh, he has that flaw; how do I show the reader that he has that flaw? Do I need to show his history; would it matter to this story?

Everyone works differently, no doubt. I don't like planning out a character beforehand because, this way, the character begins his or her existence outside the story. Then I drop this character created from blank space into the story, and it doesn't fit. I usually start with a few core traits and let things go from there.

I also develop a character based on interaction with other characters. What traits can I give these two characters so they annoy each other? I want this character to get along well with another character, what should this new character be like? How do I want this character to react to that character?

Then there's the plot, and the accompanying drama. He comes to this place. What's interesting about this place? Ah, it used to be his home. Why did he leave? What did he leave behind? Look, he's sad. Why is he sad now? Now, within confines of the story, I feel comfortable diving into a character's history.
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Old 07-08-2009, 10:41 PM
Fairess Fairess is a female United States Fairess is offline
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Re: Character Development

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Ultimately, you're the one who decides what goes down on the paper, but if you're constantly mapping everything out according to "the way you feel the scene should go" as opposed to the way the characters are taking it naturally, your dialogue will show that your plot is more important; that's not how it should be, however, as plot, characters, and setting must blend seamlessly.
If a writer is worried about how their character should be acting, the problem isn’t that they’re thinking too much about it, the problem is that they don’t know their character enough. If a writer can’t take a character out of context and write some kind of conversation or reaction, that character needs to be better known.

I had such a problem before. I knew my character’s personality, I knew what her goals and desires were, but I didn’t know why she had them. It wasn’t until I went back and gave her a past and friends and such things that weren’t even added to the story that I finally could write a character that made their own decisions.

I’m all for changing a plot in favor of a character’s natural actions, I’m just saying that they won’t have natural actions if the writer doesn’t understand why they make them.


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Yes, this is true, however, many writers like to get to know their characters without the entire profile process of "Hmm, I think this would be a cool flaw. Ooh, she needs to have this and this and this! And then this. And she can be good at... that! And then she'll be extra bad at... that thing. Yeah, definitely that thing..." Instead, we like to write with the character naturally, even if we don't know all there is to know about the character--if we're letting the character breathe and make his own decisions, we as authors and creators will learn about him as time progresses. That's why most writers tend to not write full length novels with brand-new characters, instead choosing to do some free writes and smaller projects with those characters to really understand them. Once that level is achieved, writing with the character naturally is even easier.
I didn’t say one should sit and ponder all the flaws and such a character has. These come naturally from the kind of person they were long before the story started. And of course your characters expand when you write with them. I’m just saying this expansion happens easier and more deeply when you’ve already got a character with some kind of depth.
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Of course, the ability to write fluidly with your character and allow it to make its own decisions comes with a great deal of practice. Yet, still, it is far better to take a little bit more time to practice writing with your character for the sake of learning his depth than to simply make his depth around the concept of "he's a bold character," or "he's a shy character," or "she's hot-headed," and so on. Even when you feel comfortable enough to begin writing a large project with that character, you will continue to learn more about the way it thinks and breathes and lives as you write, and you always will--until the day you stop writing with that character. And if you pick it up again years down the road, you'll find yourself surprised again. Such is the nature of living, breathing characters.
I completely agree. I’m just saying that it helps to move the writing process of getting to know a character backwards rather than forwards. If you start with their past, their present has a cause and their future naturally goes in the direction the character chooses to take.

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I think, though, that although a physically written character profile is important for beginning writers or those among us who are especially organized, sometimes mental mapping is just as effective. Characters, like people, make unprecedented decisions, do unpredictable things outside the parameters of their usual range of action. Characters are also constantly changing, both throughout the story and throughout the process of editing.
Too true. I still, however, think it’s a good idea to keep track of the little details that so easily escape us. Names, dates, and places can have great significance, and they can be used well should one remember them.

Quote:
I find it easy to take the following approach if I want to write by using just a few qualities I have in mind: write the character into a couple of situations. Reread them, and consider what kind of childhood and history would create this kind of character. Then consider what kind of interests and other traits this kind of character would have based on this past. Then write some more scenes in some more situations using these qualities. Then think about what other sort of past experiences and situations would be the cause of or caused by these qualities. Consider these situations and what would come of them, how they would affect the personality traits of this person. Use these newly considered personality traits to write more. Repeat. Etc. It's gradual, but it's an attempt at layering and realism and consistency.
I agree ^^ Building a character’s past at the same time one moves them forward brings a great deal of complexity into a story.

Quote:
I'm going to have to disagree with this. Navi. The thing is, a character's personality and psychological profile should be created and expanded over time. By just creating one right from the start, you're not giving your character any time to grow or develop on their own. It means you've pretty much planned out their whole life. Characters need to guide themselves by reacting in ways that are truly human (or whatever sentient creature you happen to be using) and not just some way that you've decided it best for them because of some form you filled out earlier.
Is it really possible to map out a character’s entire previous life? No matter how deeply I delve into a character’s past, there’s always more I wonder about, more to add, and you’re right, it’s not a good idea to get carried away in it. I’m just saying that with some sort of past, you actually give your character more room to grow. By giving them things they already know, you also give them the ability to change this knowledge and grow themselves.

Quote:
It's probably important to mention that everyone has their own way of developing characters. Sometimes it's a mix of both things. Carefully thought out and planned one moment and then spontaneous the next. I have to say that characters often can make themselves, though not all the time. In a moment of writing, at times you just find a new aspect of that character you hadn't considered before. It's almost as if it wrote itself. I think everyone has their own balance of the planned and unplanned. It's also a matter of testing things out and finding what works best for you. What works for one person may not for another.
Too true…but I stay with the phrase, “Good things take a long time, great things happen quite suddenly.” If a person puts a lot of work into developing a character, over time, those wonderful spontaneous epiphanies happen more frequently than one would expect.

Quote:
I'm not fond of character profiles, myself - apart from keeping track of ages, where they're from, and their main occupation. Reading a psychoanalysis of a real person and getting to know them personally are rather different, aren't they? My other problem is that, whenever I use personality profiles, they don't tend to be much help (to the plot): Oh, he has that flaw; how do I show the reader that he has that flaw? Do I need to show his history; would it matter to this story?

Everyone works differently, no doubt. I don't like planning out a character beforehand because, this way, the character begins his or her existence outside the story. Then I drop this character created from blank space into the story, and it doesn't fit. I usually start with a few core traits and let things go from there.

I also develop a character based on interaction with other characters. What traits can I give these two characters so they annoy each other? I want this character to get along well with another character, what should this new character be like? How do I want this character to react to that character?

Then there's the plot, and the accompanying drama. He comes to this place. What's interesting about this place? Ah, it used to be his home. Why did he leave? What did he leave behind? Look, he's sad. Why is he sad now? Now, within confines of the story, I feel comfortable diving into a character's history.
That’s just it…a character doesn’t belong in the confines of one story. Their story existed long before the current one did, and it will go on long after it ends. That’s the richness of life, people coming from different backgrounds and coming into new ones and becoming different people because of it. A character shouldn’t fit into a story. If they did, there’d be no conflict to write a story about. If people don't have a reason to change the world around them, or get away from it, or something, then how can there be any strugle?

But I agree with character interaction. People are always changing as a result of getting to know other people. This just can get even deeper if both characters are already defined to some extent because then you can watch them change and grow because of this interaction.

Never ever go in a different direction than the one your character pulls you towards…
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Last Edited by Fairess; 07-08-2009 at 10:44 PM. Reason: Reply With Quote
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Old 08-17-2009, 07:39 AM
Zeldafreak83 Zeldafreak83 is a male United States Zeldafreak83 is offline
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Character names

This is a great thread! I do have a question related to characterization that I didn't see addressed in here.

In my writing I always seem to have trouble naming my characters, does anyone have any suggestions?
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