1. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Anyone else not aiming for realistic ?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Elgaisma, Apr 24, 2011.

    It's odd with my characters I usually start with a stereotype or cliche and then aim for quirky I guess. Have never aimed for a realistic character if I am honest they are all probably a bit cartoonish.

    -Charlotte
     
  2. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe it depends on what kind of fiction you're writing? With fantasy obviously there is more room to create unexpected characters but if you are writing a story that takes place in the 'real world' you want somehow to give an impression of being authentic, of real people I think, even if they can behave irrationally and seem strange they must be identifiable (Is that even a word or did I make it up? :D ) at least in some ways. I want people being able to relate to my characters because that is when they start caring about them and what happens to them.
     
  3. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I seem to be able to create relatable characters even my otherworldly ones lol I think they gain a context and fit in their story. I tend to start out with fire and brimstone abbot, rebellious smelly teen boy, bossy teen girl, elegant gay guy, tough Northern Lady, gentle academic, precocious seven year old boy. All very much stereotypes.

    Even my crime and paranormal ones (set on Earth in made up towns in an undetermined but fairly modern time - they have mobile phones, cars and computers etc) they start out a certain way but whilst I see them as real - I don't in anyway see them as realistic. They fit in their stories.

    Joe is elegant, dresses smart, kind, bit proper, very, very intelligent, has Kylie on in his car. Lives with two Aunts who treat him like he is ten, they met in prison in the sixties one for horticulture the other for assaulting a police officer that tried to 'grope' (search) her on a rally. His real name is Tiger-Lily he changed it to Joe in his teen years. Likes his job and likes life to be just so.

    Tim is garish in dress at work (but conservative in his casual clothes), grew up with five brothers and a single dad who had been in the military. He is the youngest his brothers tease him his Mum took one look at him and left. She lives two streets away from his Dad with the window cleaner. He is good at being prepared. Can be rude and a bit of a goof. He changes Kylie for Medieval Babes or Enya. Lives alone in a pokey medieval terrace and has three cats (Dempsey, Makepeace and Tripod), became a police man to play cops and robbers.

    I kind of see Joe and Tim as Hardy Boys for grown ups. All my characters are quite cartoonlike in their own way.
     
  4. JMTweedie
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    JMTweedie Senior Member

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    I'm aiming for realistic with my main character. I need her to be as believable as possible.

    She's a teen girl but she's not stroppy, bossy or the like. She's intelligent, bordering on gifted genius but is also a pessimistic cynic. She is a bullied loner at school and can't wait until she can leave to do her A-level studies elsewhere. She's passionately interested in science and astronomy. She sees her studies as her route to a decent career and freedom from all the nasty people in her life.
     
  5. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    Like fingerprints no two people are alike, aiming for unrealistic probably lands us closer than the stereo typical.

    More cartoon-ish than cartoons are the "realistic" characters that lack any internal conflict. The characters devoid of neuroses, idiosyncrasies, or defects of character....ya feel me ?
     
  6. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    dunno Garfield seems to have plenty of idiosyncrasies and defects of character :) Dennis the Menace, the Four Marys etc Even the Simpsons or Tom and Jerry. They all have conflict.
     
  7. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    Dichotomy between capability and sympathy is useful. The resounding trend in current fiction is main characters exhibiting both attractive qualities and sympathetic ones, even the antagonistic, the evil ex wives types are written with depth and texture...otherwise the hardboiled gum shoe MC reads as clownish as Pepe LePew
     
  8. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    But then you can have all that without being realistic ?

    My absolute favourite character to write is a fire and brimstrone scary Abbot character - he has cherry-red hair fading to pink as he ages, his language is over the top verbose and pedantic. He is eight-hundred years old. He rules his Order with a rod of iron and strict discipline. He also has a daughter, and a partner (male) who has four sons, he has helped raise those five children in an oddly affectionate and open parental relationship. He has a son he put into foster care and had little to do with until his son was eighteen and he demanded his son return to the order. Because of his physiology he is a little rotund but also nimble on his feet. He isn't flat there are relatable aspects but he isn't realistic either.

    Superman/Batman/Dr Who etc are all cartoonlike but have depth.
     
  9. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    I guess it's just a matter of writing characters. The more you do it, the more depth they get. I've read some really flat characters where nothing seems to happen to them. Characters almost always start with a stereotype so the reader/viewer can quickly identify, then it is the things that happen to them that changes them. Characters in TV series often end up being a lot deeper than characters in TV shows because the writers fill in spaces between the plot with character development, while in movies they have to rely on shorthand to hope that the audience understands. Same as in series I've read, the characters start with a basic pattern of behaviour and the longer the series lasts the more we learn about why they are the way they are.

    For the writer, writing, re-writing and drafting a novel is equivalent to writing a series in the amount of time you spend getting to know the character, so whether it's a one-off or is a series you should have a closer than average knowledge of the character, so the final draft can contain all the depth you need. I know, actually, that writing series makes me lazy; I introduce characters who I just have around for one quick plot purpose and wave them off as "I'll go into the depth and motivations later on in the series".
     
  10. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    It is definitely useful at times to write unrealistic characters. For example, Dostoevsky's characters are not really meant to be real. Rather, they stand for particular ideas, and those ideas are embodied in the characters' actions and words.

    When it comes to stereotypical characters, I feel that they are more suited for comedy or satire, but that's just my opinion.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Archetypes are also useful for social commentary and parables. The use need not be humorous. There can also be static characters who are nevertheless pivotal by acting as a catalyst, and they are often archetypes as well - consider Mr. Roarke of Fantasy Island. He is untouchable, all-knowing, mysterious and even a bit sinister. He could be any of the Greek gods walking among men.
     
  12. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    Since I write mostly fantasy, I don't aim for my characters to be realistic when compared to the real world, but I do aim for them to be realistic in the world I've created.
     
  13. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree, but then without internal conflict they wouldn't be much of realistic but rather mary sue'ish :) But I know what you mean. Its the conflicts and how they react to them that makes them realistic, not the 'perfect' persons who never fail in any thing, who always makes the right choices etc. that is not what I want to read.

    Well said! I think that is the best kind of character, the ones we can identify with from the beginning or put into a category, then when we get to know him/her they come real to us. what I mean by unrealistic characters are those with too many contrasting aspects, those you would never see in a living person just because one side of them just happen to eliminate the possibility for the other to exist. some things are just impossible to combine.
     
  14. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    I did not know we were discussing a Fantasy Island adaption, I assumed the context was main characters in pertinent fiction, my bad
     
  15. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If you would prefer a different example, what about Mary Poppins?

    Many action heroes are archetypes too. They are central to the story, but are unchanged by the events they bring about. There has been more of a drift toward heroes who are transformed by adversity, but there are still plenty of the "Teflon coated steel" characters around as well.
     
  17. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    I always believe conflict should come from within the story. No character should be twisted up about an incident that isn't pivotal to the plot. There can be characters written with a huge amount of angst in the opening, perhaps bad stuff happening to them just to be dramatic, yet after it happens, aside from being brought up in the character's whining from time to time if the author thinks there needs to be some introspection, all the drama has no relevance to the plot.

    If all the conflict the character feels inside comes from within the story, and there is a purpose to making them tortured, then it will not come off as bad. There are many fantastically tortured characters in literature, and the important ingredient is they're only twisted up inside about relevant things.
     
  18. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    The Poppins example is a 1934 published novel, maybe ya'll consider something almost 80 years old as applicable. To me the example as non pertinent as Fantasy Island but good luck, nonetheless I hope it works out for you
     
  19. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you mean that even males can be Mary Sues I know that. I found out that just recently. Actually I had my two MC tested for Mary Sueism and the guy tested slightly more positive than the female character :rolleyes: but neither one of them had very high values so Im quite happy with them overall. :p

    Actually I think that normally my male characters are portrayed better than the females, the girls sometimes comes out as a little flat while the guys seem more like breathing, living persons. I really have a good time when creating them and maybe it shows.
     
  20. Ophiucha
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    Ophiucha Member

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    Most of my short stories are works of surrealism, so most of my characters are rather surreal.
     
  21. LucyVMorgan
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    LucyVMorgan New Member

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    There's a difference between realistic and plausible. Sometimes -- mainly in the interests of wish-fulfillment -- fiction is not realistic. It must be plausible, though, or it will annoy your reader (and anger your editor :p).

    Regardless of their outlandish natures and backgrounds though, if you flesh out a character accordingly, they should feel realistic. If a guy grew up living under a bridge with two trolls for parents, when he opens his mouth, a reader must think, "well...I suppose that's what a guy with trolls for parents is going to think about that."
     
  22. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    This for me is half of what is the single hardest concept for me to be able to grasp so that it comes out in my writing. Like I get it, I understand it, but I have zero clue how to translate it.

    I need literal directions on how to go about this. Grammatical, sentence structural, word choice, etc. etc.

    Blah.
     
  23. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Better would be to take a big pile of books of real world and fantasy books - even just browse through them in the bookshop - and look at the language they use :) Just pick the opening chapters and see the first impressions of the character.
     
  24. TheGreatNeechi
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    TheGreatNeechi Member

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    I'm not sure how I should say this, so I will just come out and say it:

    Realism is not good literature.

    Wow, that is going to ruffle quite a few feathers, for sure. But consider a day in your life. If you're amongst the 95%--standard normal distribution--of mundane individuals who get up, go to work, come home, cook, and go to bed, odds are you're not going to read a novel about the same... stuff.

    Even when we try to tell that relatively untold story--of the mundane life--we inevitably must embellish it with something to make it savory to the imagination. Realism goes out the door.

    Style is what makes a good read, and so long as characters fit that style everything is golden. Unfortunately "stylized" is not "realistic", in the slightest sense.

    So no, do not aim for realism, because it will only throw your prose into the banal tedium of ... life.

    I don't know about anyone else, but when I read I want to escape... life.
     
  25. cybrxkhan
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    cybrxkhan Contributing Member

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    ^Great points that I generally agree on. I would also reiterate what LucyVMorgan said about differentiating between "realistic" and "plausible", though I personally use the term "believable" instead of "plausible".

    It basically goes to the old idea of Suspension of Disbelief. Most people are pretty aware that elves and evil rings of doom aren't real, no matter what Lord of the Rings and Tolkien may say. But when you read Lord of the Rings or see the movie, the audience pretends and convinces themselves that they're real, anyways. As long as the elements are intriguing and interesting in some way, people won't care.
     

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