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  1. LBK
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    LBK Member

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    Associate with characters?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by LBK, Aug 30, 2008.

    I find that when I write something, no matter how much I like the idea, I have a very difficult time writing it if I can't have things in common with the main character. I don't know if there are methods which I can use (other than will-power) to create a protagonist who I don't agree with.
     
  2. ciavyn
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    ciavyn Senior Member

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    Look at other people around you. If you sat down with any single person around, you could find something you have in common.

    You can also think about it from the acting perspective. I wrote the beginning of a paranormal thriller where I wrote from the killer's perspective. Very interesting, very spooky to write, but believe it or not, it was fun. I do the same with my vampire story. I get light headed at the sight of blood, yet I'm writing about a guy that craves it.

    Try to think of the opposite thing that you would do - and then write a short story about what it would be like to do it. You might find it very freeing....on paper, at least.
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I've seen a lot of writers base their characters off people they know in real life. Just be careful though. I remember one famous author (can't remember who) lost a good friend due to this because the character was portrayed in an unflattering way (which is supposedly how the author's friend was in real life).

    Also, you can base a character off people you hear about in the news. I know Dostoevsky got some of his characters in this way.
     
  4. LBK
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    LBK Member

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    Sounds good but has anyone encountered difficulty concentrating on a character that they couldn't feel at all similar to?
     
  5. Acglaphotis
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    Acglaphotis Contributing Member

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    Most of my characters aren't really similar to me at all. I just think about people who would fit the role, mentally imagining how a character may affect a story and then build their personality in such a way that they'd be important to the story/a character. For example, one of my characters started as a "villain", but I decided that her personality would be better fitted for a non-villain. She shares no similarity to me (or at least superficially and I'm just overlooking something minor) but I can write her character just as I easily write about one of my MC's. It's all about knowing your characters. Eventually they'll develop enough life that they'll tell you what they'd do in the situation you put them into.
     
  6. Sophronia
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    Sophronia Member

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    I base much of who my characters are and what they do off of observation from real life and personal experiences, but I usually do not directly associate myself with any of them (some may share a few of my values and feelings in a situation, but nothing beyond that).

    I haven't had trouble with characters that don't share similarities with me. In fact, the really different ones are sometimes the most fun to write about because you can explore a different side of things than what you're used to.
     
  7. Scattercat
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    Scattercat Active Member

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    I have a story I haven't posted yet, in which the protagonist is... well, very much not a nice person. He's arrogant, self-righteous, and uncaring of others' feelings. I found his story very draining to write, particularly as I favor a third-person-limited point of view, which meant I was over his shoulder and narrating in his voice for the entire 7K words.

    Finding things that one can have in common with even the most despicable or unlikeable characters is a good trick. Another is to people-watch. Go out to public places and eavesdrop on conversations or watch people walk past. You can acquire quite a repertoire of attitudes and mannerisms that way, which can help you deal with characters who are very different from yourself. You might not be able to quite get into them as fully, but you'll at least have some tools to describe them from the outside.
     
  8. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    For me it's not so much a matter of AGREEING with a character, as either being able to understand their EMOTIONS or having had emotions similar to theirs (even if not for the same reasons).

    For example, in one story I have an old woman who crushes an infant's head in after her daughter died giving birth to him. On the one hand that's something I totally do not agree with. Her actions, on their own, do not make her sympathetic.

    On the other hand, her EMOTIONS and her REASONS for doing what she did (the infant was in fact apparently possessed by evil; she loved her daughter, her only relative, and just watched her die a painful horrible death; there's another infant son who is now orphaned because of this; etc.), while not excusing her actions, can make her sympathetic. While I don't agree with her, I definitely understand her emotions because I've felt them myself...even if not because I just had to kill an evil baby, but because I've felt them in different situations.

    A character kills his brother out of jealousy. No, most people wouldn't agree with that. But most people can empathize on some level. How many people have felt jealousy toward a sibling at some point in their lives? We don't agree with the murder, but we do agree with the emotions behind it.

    So instead of trying to agree with your characters over everything, why not just try to take a deeper look at their emotional motivations? You're certain to find common ground even with somebody you disagree with 100% if the two of you feel as passionately about different things.

    ETA:

    If you look hard enough you'll find that, unless you have a character completely devoid of all emotion, you will be able to feel similar to just about anybody in different circumstances. It might take some effort to find it, but that's what writing is all about after all.
     
  9. LBK
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    LBK Member

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    That's a lot of good advice. I'm thinking that the one I'm thinking of might be especially difficult because not only do I have very little in common with him. I hate everything he stands for AND he's the main character.

    I suppose that I just need to look at the things I can understand about him and not necessarily look for things that I sympathize with.

    That should work because he does change a lot during the story to something that I can associate with more.

    Am I on the right track?
     
  10. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Here is a question. Do you remember your dreams?

    When I dream there are many characters that are nothing like me. Yet my brain is creating them and supplying them with dialog and actions. Try to drift into that mind set. Let the characters spring forth from your subconscious like magic. They will take a life of their own, just like they do in dreams.

    If you are good at remembering your dreams, and your dreams are populated with people that a very much different than your self, then you surely have the ability to create such characters on paper.
     
  11. Tinja
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    Tinja Member

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    The ability to get inside characters head is vital. I find it easy, no matter what the chara is like. I guess it's something I was born with, and all the other writers in the world.
    Part of writing process is sinking charas mind. Just jumping in. Sometimes I find it scary. Able to sink someones mind who is simply bad person and humanbeing, it feels like something from that chara gets inside you. And you sometimes find yourself thinking like that person. Luckily I'm able to shake myself away from that.
    And making up charas past is vital, 'cause without that you can't now how he or she reacts and feels about things. Why she or he dislikes some issues or likes them. Why is she or he scared of the dark. For example.
    And just strolling around within that chara helps too. Stroll around the city; what would she or he do? What would he or she buy?
     

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