1. Revilo87
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    Revilo87 Member

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    Best way to assign attributes to a group of characters?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Revilo87, Aug 27, 2014.

    In many stories, whether on page or screen, you see that the author/writer has broken down a group of characters into specific roles such as the leader, the funny guy, the intellectual, the moral support, etc.

    I understand the reasoning behind appointing the main character with a leadership role, but as far as the other stereotypical roles go, do you think it best to break down attributes the way stated above? For instance do you think it is preferable to have a one character be the main source of comic relief or should everyone just be a tad bit humorous? Is it better to have a "genius" with all the answers or should everyone be a little bit smarter than average?
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    It makes no sense to build characters based on group positions. Your characters should be built up as individuals that fit in your story.

    That is unless your story is about the group itself, in which case you should build the group the way you need to to fit it in the story.
     
  3. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    It really depends on what you need them for.
    Comic relief is usually a cheap way to distract from the main action.
    I think, if the moment calls for something funny, there's nothing wrong with having a character who isn't necessarily comical to make a joke.
    Everyone makes jokes.

    For the genius one, I shall use the Hermione Granger principal.
    If a story has lots of odd info or your protagonist isn't well versed in the world/events/situation, a smarty-pants character can make it easier to give out information but can also be easily considered a cop-out or "exposition" character.

    A protagonist does NOT have to be the "leader".
    Many good stories can come from a MC who isn't the one in charge and a book store is filled with them.

    Finally, you should never, ever write a character in to JUST fill in a particular role of the sort. Every character should belong to that world, be multi-faceted, and have a purpose to be part of the story. Characters should be built around the world they're in and not have the world build around a character.
     
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  4. Revilo87
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    Revilo87 Member

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    Yeah, I guess my dilemma is I don't think I want to use cop-out characters such as a "genius/Hermione" who is smarter than everyone and can solve any problem... I'd rather have everyone be a bit smarter and possibly work together to find the answers. However I don't know how realistic it is to have everyone be equally smart, equally funny, equally talented, etc.

    I mean if Harry and Ron had been as good of students as Hermione, that would have changed the trio's dynamic, b/c they would not have needed her as much, but the added intelligence would have improved Ron and Harry's characters
     
  5. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    I'm with @GingerCoffee

    It really doesn't make sense to me to build characters based on how they fit into a group (though that could just be me). I would build them as individuals and then they just kind of fall in where they fall in the group. It seems more.... solid ... to me that way, rather than building the person around what the group happens to need.
     
  6. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    The fact that you're not choosing a functional "type" for each character doesn't mean that you then have to make all of the characters equal in every way. Characters should be realistic individuals.
     
  7. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    That sounds like the sort of story that I'd give until the second chapter and then throw away because it was too formulaic.

    If you can see the allocated functions as clearly as that, then they're cardboard cut-outs.

    Describing the functions as allocated reminds me of a lesson early in my accountancy studies, where a distinction was made between ALLOCATION and APPORTIONMENT...being that you allocate ALL of the cost to one place, you apportion a portion of the cost to each of several places...so if the intelligence is allocated, it's one-dimensional, whereas if it's apportioned (and this doesn't have to be equally to all the group members) it makes for a more rounded group of more rounded characters.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You might have a team that was assembled by someone based on skills sets. As an exanple consider the original, pre-Cruise Mission: Impossible. But if you take that approach, learn a lesson from the series: If everyone performs within their specialties, it quickly loses its appeal. Throw a monkey wrench into the works, so everyone is forced to improvise outside their specialties.
     
  9. Bjørnar Munkerud
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    Bjørnar Munkerud Contributing Member

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    I suppose the most logical approach would be to reflect normal life in that we are neither the same as eachother nor entirely black and white. It's not reasonable to have every character be exactly as funny (or smart, empathic, childish or obscene etc.) as all the others, but it's just as weird to have one character in who is providing all comedy, but nothing more. That being said, it's absolutely acceptable to take some liberties as to make your story as entertaining as possible, but just tacking on a clown at the last minute and assume that that makes everything perfect is ridiculous.
     
  10. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Seems to me it makes sense to throw a bunch of people together, based on whatever would throw them together in real life.

    Do they need to solve a particular problem? Do they hang out together because they all live nearby? Do they share a common interest or hobby? Has somebody forced them to be together, such as a school, a prison, the army, a ship, an apartment building? Figure out the situation, create a few characters that are true to themselves, then let the characters interact, as they would in a real situation. See what happens and what the group dynamic turns out to be.

    I'm with those who think that deliberately pre-assigning characteristics to achieve 'balance' sounds dreadfully formulaic. I'm not saying it can't work but there is a danger in being too rigid with something like this.
     
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  11. Empty Bird
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    It depends on what type of book you''re making. If the group was put together by someone else, then it would make sense that they'd try and create a perfect team by putting people together who are all different. But if it happens by chance, I vvery much doubt that every person within the group would fit a perfect role individually.

    Things like cut-outs for characters tend to work well in children's books, but I think a bit more depth is recquired for a book for an older person. :) But then it really depends how obviously you write it. Sometimes, you can get away with things if you're clever in your writing.
     
  12. EllBeEss
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    EllBeEss Contributing Member

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    When every my characters form groups the dynamic changes because of their character, their character doesn't shift to fit the group.
    My suggestion would be make the characters have different skill sets. Having all the characters be slightly above average in everything would detract from the story. Have them know different things.
     
  13. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    After thinking a little more on the subject, I'd say there is one believable instance where a group of characters might all have equal, but differing skills. That's if they've been CHOSEN for those characteristics. The director of a project selects the people to work with or accompany him—people who provide the skills the project needs. This one is particularly good at diplomacy. That one is a fantasic mechanic, etc. They might also need to pass a test to prove they can work within a group, or work within the particular setting. However, they're not likely to get chosen for their core personalities as much as their skills. So you can let their personalities develop naturally.
     
  14. ChaosReigns
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    ChaosReigns Be Still and Know Contributor

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    ill agree with all that has been said above because, you hardly want to be just assigning one attribute per character, unless it is a team that has been put together by someone else.

    thinking on this, it reminds me of the group i used to hang out with when i was at school. we were all of slightly above average intelligence, but were able to adopt different roles within the group and change round when needed. ok, i may have been the goofball of the group and supplied the entertainment on occasion, but only because i did it unintentionally.

    it does also depend on how many main characters you have in your story as well, because, if you for instance, like harry potter, have 3 main characters, and you want each to have a different label like "leader" "smart one" etc etc, it wouldn't be plausible, because you would be missing a few of the skill sets, which is where having more multi-faceted characters helps, because it gives the characters a bit more of a skill set. because come on, when was the last time you saw someone who was only able to do one thing well? normally its at least 2 or 3 things that they can do well at any one time.

    i hope this drivel makes sense
     

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