Creating Characters

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Creating Characters

Post by Garmar on Mon Feb 23, 2009 9:05 am

How do you turn your character from an idea to a living, breathing person that seems to just jump off of the page? I know they aren't actually real, but that is how we want them to seem.

Do you start out with a character sketch? Or a general idea, and let the character grow from there?

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Re: Creating Characters

Post by Red_Venus on Mon Feb 23, 2009 7:28 pm

I always envision my character's appearance first (though I don't put much thought into their clothing for the most part). Then I imagine thier personality (i.e. "serious", "smart-ass", "dizty"...you get the idea). After, I imagine how they view things and how they respond to and interact with the people around them. It always has to fit in with where the plot is going of course, but visualizing my characters is the funnest part of the whole process!

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Re: Creating Characters

Post by Garmar on Mon Feb 23, 2009 8:37 pm

I never think much about my characters before I start writing. Weird, huh?

This may be why I've had reviewers say they couldn't identify with my MC and that they couldn't empathize with their predicament.

I tend to put someone in a situation then let it evolve from there. I need to think a little more about my characters before I write.

I loved the MC in the story I reviewed at WF.com of yours, venus. I could really envision her because she is written so vividly.

Thanks for the insight. Now I need to do something with it!

gar

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Re: Creating Characters

Post by Red_Venus on Mon Feb 23, 2009 8:59 pm

I think it can be a double-edged sword. While you should have a bit of an idea what is going on with your characters, there is also the organic "growing" that does take place as your story unfolds. Characters in a book are much like real life humans, you don't know what they're going to do sometimes until they're faced with a dilemma.

I think it's important to know the basic construct of the character's persona, but there's nothing wrong with a little "flying by the seat of your pants" either. I didn't think through every thought or reaction in my book, a lot of it just...happened.

Hope that makes a little sense?

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Re: Creating Characters

Post by Garmar on Mon Feb 23, 2009 9:10 pm

It just hit me. I wrote a story (my first ever) a few months back called Emily's Secret, and the MC's, Emily and Kate, are basically my wife and sister-in-law. I didn't realize it at the time, but later, when my wife pointed out that Kate seemed just like her sister, it clicked.

I'm so gonna get sued...

Yeah, I'm very newb to this writing thing, but I'm learning!

And yes, what you said makes perfect sense.

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Re: Creating Characters

Post by Red_Venus on Tue Feb 24, 2009 11:51 am

That's funny! I also draw a lot of my personalities and traits from people around me. The ones you know always seem to figure in to some degree because their reactions and conversation are real to you.

And I doubt you'll get sued. I would be honored if someone created a likeness of me in fictacious writing!

hugs;

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Re: Creating Characters

Post by MC on Mon Mar 09, 2009 3:36 pm

If I put too much thought into my main characters, it seems to make them more fake in the outcome.

So far, it's worked for me to let them all be an off shoot of one part of my own personality. Of course it helps if you have MPD. Hahaha, just kidding.

But I don't go with anything that doesn't feel natural to me. I guess I sort of act things out in my head.
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Re: Creating Characters

Post by Red_Venus on Tue Mar 10, 2009 12:51 pm

I'm very much the same, in some respects. The character in the novel I'm writing has a lot of my personality traits...the other characters are drawn from people I know and have interacted with. I always finish a segment of the chapter and then sit back, turn on some music, and think hard about how what I just wrote is going to play out in the following paragraphs and chapters.
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Re: Creating Characters

Post by MC on Tue Mar 10, 2009 2:20 pm

"What caused this character to become evil or bad?" In real life, people don't just act mean or bad for no reason. There was a pivotal moment, or a lot of smaller events that led them to this course. They clearly feel justified in their behavior for a reason. Villains don't see themselves as evil, they just want what they want and they'll do whatever it takes to obtain it because it's that important to them. I try to understand their background to make it more real.

In A Library Card for Eli, the homeless boy doesn't feel guilty about stealing books or people's lunches because he feels there's no other option for him and he needs it more than they do. Likewise, the cruel, cold hearted Marion character can't see anything but black and white, so she views his behavior as unforgivable--stealing and defacing library books is just wrong; no excuses. She lacks the capacity to reason it out and see past the letter of the law--so she comes off as callous and mean spirited.

Likewise for good characters, I try to envision their life philosophies and experiences to understand why they are noble and pure of heart. What kind of upbringing and family life a character had is a big factor--even if it's never mentioned in your story.

'Round' characters and 'flat' characters: that's another thing my HS AP english teachers tried to drill into our heads. No one is always 'one way'. We all have a multitude of different sides that shape us and make us round characters. Sometimes we're one way, other times we're another. There will always be a need for 'flat' characters in the smaller roles of our books too. If you look at your favorite books, you can pick out which ones are flat and which are round. We almost always love the round characters the most because they're more relatable.
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Re: Creating Characters

Post by Guest on Tue Mar 10, 2009 2:49 pm

MC wrote:"What caused this character to become evil or bad?" In real life, people don't just act mean or bad for no reason. There was a pivotal moment, or a lot of smaller events that led them to this course. They clearly feel justified in their behavior for a reason. Villains don't see themselves as evil, they just want what they want and they'll do whatever it takes to obtain it because it's that important to them. I try to understand their background to make it more real.

I think you have pegged the core of the matter perfectly.

This is why I am not a fan of character worksheets. I feel like they try to cement a character into a particular mold without asking why they fit that mold. And the why is so much more interesting than the final shape.

The final shape is an answer. It has nowhere else to go.

The why is a question. Endless possibilities!

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Re: Creating Characters

Post by NaClmine on Tue Mar 10, 2009 3:12 pm

I don't invent my characters, I "discover" them. For example, the MC in my sci-fi book is Simon of Striker Twelve. He began the story with an internal conflict . . . a compelling force that attracted him to the nearby Central Jungle, even though he knew it meant death. Aliens, called "Taskers", ran the human POW mining colony and called it "Runner Madness" when perfectly normal laborers would suddenly leap from their stripper plows and run headlong into the forbidding jungle.

Simon resisted the impulse and his character evolved. Kelly sensed his conflict and pleaded with him to turn himself in for thought-control. Simon responded with independence and stubbornness. I didn't plan it that way . . . it just seemed a natural behavior at the time. Adam interacted with Simon using sarcastic humor and Simon reacted in kind, matching his friend verbal jab for jab. Before the end of the first chapter, Simon's character was well defined by his actions and interactions with others as well as his inner thoughts about Adam's violent death. As the writer, I was just along for the ride, allowing each situation to add to his emerging traits. I actually got to know him through the natural evolution of the story. In the beginning, I only had one rigid notion, that being, he was struggling with a subconscious human need for freedom, a need he did not comprehend, yet one that dictated his actions.

After the first chapter, I simply let him experience unfolding events in as natural a way as possible. Even his physical looks were invented only when the scene that needed such a description arrived on my writing-doorstep. At the end of the story, Simon is conflicted and struggling with a decision, just as he was in the first chapter. And again, Simon grows as a person when he chooses his course of action. I had the honor/pleasure as a writer of helping him make the right choice. This character was a lot like raising a child. We all know how we would like our children to turn out, but fate and circumstances beyond our control conspire to produce end results we might never have expected. Similiarly, my characters begin like a child, a lump of clay I can mold. But, over the course of the story, the final form of the MC is shaped as much by his experiences within the fictional world as by my desire.
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Re: Creating Characters

Post by ebyss on Tue Mar 10, 2009 4:56 pm

In my ms, my character is young and he found out some news that meant a big change in his life. I posted some of the chapter on another site with the news of something big on the horizon that would take my MC away from his comfort zone, and he also found out there was another reason for his purpose in the first place. So, I felt like he should feel betrayed and angry.

Some peeps read the partial and then they were like- why the strong reaction, it seems so dramatic and stuff. I don't see why he would get angry.

So, I tried to explain from a psychological pt of view. For the most part, when people are taken from their comfort zone they get angry.
You can look at this way, you are out in a big sea, grasping onto a big floaty thing. (Floaty thing=whatever is your comfort zone. ie:cookies, home, spouse, whatever) When someone comes and takes you floaty thing, you tend to get angry because of fear of the unknown.
Plus, when you think you are there doing something for one reason, then you find out that the whole reason you were there was only a partial truth, then you feel like you are being lied to. Lying= betrayal=anger.

Anyway, it had me thinking that maybe it was unbelievable. Then, I thought this is only partial of chapter two, my character isn't even fully developed and this is the way I want him to react. So I kept it in.

So I agree, characters should evolve as the book progresses.

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Re: Creating Characters

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