1. BallerGamer
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    BallerGamer Active Member

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    A "maybe" new technique to creatingi characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by BallerGamer, Sep 2, 2011.

    This is a technique that I've just thought of 2 hours ago and I'm not sure if it's employed by anyone else because I've read a lot of articles and chapters about creating characters and I've never seen anything like this.

    I'm trying to write a fantasy novel and of course the first thing you need is creating the characters. I already had like 4 or 5 I had in mind, but then creating ones beyond that small group, the supporting characters and minor ones, became quite tedious; listing out their hobbies, their everyday lives, what they do, history, etc. And then I remembered something I've read in a book how a characters true colours come out in the face of adversary.

    I thought, what if instead of listing out boring descriptions of the characters, you outright place them in a dire situation and ask yourself what they would do in that situation? Like for me, the character(s) are by themselves in the woods, and they see a stranger running away. Then they see a person with a knife chasing them, but the character has yet to be seen by both the victim and chaser. What would they do under those circumstances?

    And it's not just a two answer question if the character is going to save the stranger or not. But like would the character completely ignore the situation and continue hiding in the shadows? Would he think about it, but still hide in the shadows? Would he jump out without hesitation? Would he jump out, regret midway, and run like hell? And I could even twist it up; what would the character do if the victim saw the character? Would it change his decision? What if the man with the knife saw him? Would it also change his decision?

    I've already had a lot of fun with this and it's saved me a lot of time creating characters. I feel like everything else falls in place about their overall persona because in the face of adversary, you know what they are going to do.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Close, but why not simply place them in the story, and let the story's crises and conundrums shape them? You don't need external crises.

    Your external situations may cause your characters to develop in ways that don't suit your story as well as if you limit the development to the story's forces. In other words, you can end up overconstraining the characters.
     
  3. BallerGamer
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    BallerGamer Active Member

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    I'm not using this technique as a way to develop their character, but to mold out their personality. When we create characters we still need a good idea of how they're going to operate, and when you put them in extreme situations you have a good idea of their personality fully nude. But I agree nothing satisfies a reading more than seeing development unfold in front of your eyes.
     
  4. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I typically only have a vague idea of who my characters are - in fact, they're almost stereotypes. It's as the story unfolds that they break out of the mold and develop into 3-dimensional characters.
     
  5. Naiyn
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    Naiyn Contributing Member

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    One thing to be cautious about here, is that in extreme situations, you get extreme emotions. This is the realm where the stress response kicks in and conscious thought often plays little to no role. This, of course, can help you get a feel for that character under duress, but not all characters are going to find themselves in those hardcore stressful situations. And thus you might forget about some of the calmer and thoughtful attributes of that character.

    Of course, if a minor character's purpose in your story is to react to some terrible or horrifying event, then this should work great. But any of your minor characters who don't encounter these situations, you'll need a different approach to learn about them.
     
  6. BallerGamer
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    BallerGamer Active Member

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    That's a fair way to put it, you wouldn't necessarily derive their conscious reasoning which you would still need to conceptualize. For my story this works perfect since horrific events happen routinely, but if I were to write a slice of life, I would get little out of it.
     
  7. Reggie
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    Reggie I Like 'Em hot "N Spicy Contributor

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    From my experience in writing, my characters would respond to different situations. I feel a little contradictory of this technique. What if the character in an elevator, trapped with a murderer, has a gun and points it to her head? She may follow commands, do everything that pleases him, and even have sex if he asks to save her own life. On the other hand, she may find herself lost in a dessert. She would respond differently in the dessert to find her personality than the elevator scene. The method may work in some cases, but it may fade away as different situations occur and different story ideas come into mind.

    Think about this a little bit. Do you really want to write a back-story or biography about the main character trying to please the murderous man to find her personality when your story is very different, where the woman is trying out for the WNBA basketball team? On the other hand, do you really want to write a back-story or character biography about a man lost in a dessert to indicate his personal response when the story is about the man doing time in jail? This is where I feel that the contradiction takes place. If the story were different from the back-story or biography, it would be slim to follow up from that back-story as characters change over the course of different, especially extreem, situations.
     
  8. BallerGamer
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    BallerGamer Active Member

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    I didn't mean that everyone should only follow that strict example I used in the original thread. Let's say that someone is writing about a teen novel about a group of friends, and the character at hand witnessed one of the characters' boyfriends making out with another girl, what would she do with that information. To me what she would do with that information would speak a lot about that person's character.

    And again I don't mean to use this to "develop" characters, but immediately come up with a character and have that as their "starting point" as a character. Why I want to do this? A poster earlier said they start their minor characters off with stereotypes and have them be enveloped by the plot. Maybe it's just me but I would find that boring and it may warrant me a yawn or two while reading, I would just think to myself "another cookie cutter character I could care less about". Every single person has something that sticks out about them, and you can't characterize that in a novel if they're stereotypical to start. In real life they say first impressions mean a lot. I think it's the same for characters in a book. When I'm in the middle of reading a book and they bring up a minor character only slightly mentioned earlier, I don't want to have to go back and cross reference who the hell they were again.

    For me I want every page, every paragraph, every sentence to hit hit hit, build suspense or tension, not leave out a single moment for the reader to put the book down for a potty break. Maybe my ambition is too high but wouldn't everyone want their book to be the best?

    [edit] And I don't mean to overcharacterize a character if he just plays a minor role. I think that could be harmful to the novel because then the reader will think he's someone important if he seems important. But as long as I can at least derive one stand out detail about the store clerk ya know.
     
  9. BallerGamer
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    BallerGamer Active Member

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    Now that I read both posts, I may have taken the word "stereotypical" the wrong way as into meaning boring and dull. I take back the whole second last half of my post.
     
  10. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I was going to mention this. ;) I did say "almost stereotypical" - and that's really only in my head, to give me a starting line. I find them breaking out of that almost from the moment they hit the page (some quite offended at even starting there, I might add). :D
     
  11. Falkneon
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    Falkneon New Member

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    I think that it is an idea worth trying, but shouldn't be taken too seriously, because like Naiyn said, extreme situations cause extreme emotions. But it is a clever way to flesh out a character's moral values and show how they handle fear and indecisiveness.
     

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