1. MrMidnight
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    MrMidnight Member

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    Building a beleivable set of characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by MrMidnight, Apr 24, 2014.

    Hey all, I am still a noob by all means so any criticism or critique is greatly welcome.

    I am brainstorming for some of the characters of my story, which are the following:

    1. Protagonist: A rookie cop, about to be released from his training officer to operate as a lone officer on a rotation or "shift". He has mounds of potential, but has had a history of not finishing what he starts (college, projects, relationships,etc.). He also lacks experience. He is an athletic, sharp individual, but is very critical of himself which leads to him questioning his decisions at times.

    2. Antagonist: The rookie's first sergeant, he is a gruff, silent no B.S. kinda guy that doesn't make any attempt to connect personally with anyone and is very stand-offish. He was in a horrific on the job shooting 15 years prior that is related to the main "bad guy". He is very critical of the main character and abrasive, and while they are on the same side, he tends to interfere with the Protagonists actions at times.

    3. "Bad Guy" - The former Sheriff, who was arrested 15 years prior, has been recently released on parole and has returned to his home town. Despite his record and heavy surveillance, he still has connections to the drug world as well as new connections he has formed in prison. Despite his age, he is more dangerous than before.

    4. Father of Protagonist: A retired cop from a previous era when policing was done "differently". He now runs a small gunsmithing shop and was towards the prime of his career when the former Sheriff was brought down. He will be the vehicle that helps the Protagonist connect the present to the past, and will be the way I connect the "bad guy" to other characters (through the fathers memories).

    Now, having explained these characters, I want to develop them. I have a story in mind, I have some twists and turns, but this is all I currently have. So....

    1. Any tips on how I can further develop these characters?

    2. Any thoughts come to mind when you read these descriptions (actions, what does a character look like, what famous movie/book characters pop into your mind)

    3. Where should I go from here?

    Thanks in advance, this is my first run at this. I have purchased a few books on writing and they seem to lean heavily on character development up front, so this is where I'm at. ANY other advice would be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. ciderfylla
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    ciderfylla New Member

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    Do you tailor your characters to your story or vice versa? If you have a preference, that is. Otherwise, I'd suggest trying to come up with stuff that might work both as a humanizing and perhaps relatable element in your characters, as well as fit in your story. Obviously not every characteristic have to be like this, but the more the merrier, I like to think.

    First off, you might want to add some personality to the main antagonist before going further. Motivations, opinions, traits and so forth. This is just how I work, though. Personally, I like to come up with a story first, then tailor my characters after it, and then change both as I go along.

    Generally, I'd suggest simply fleshing out your characters more, assuming you have a story arch in mind.
     
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  3. Smoke Z
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    Smoke Z Active Member

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    Crash has a young and idealistic cop. Psych might have some clues about the father.

    You could always write some stupid moments from the backstory, like two characters just hanging out on the porch or in a garage and drinking beer.
     
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  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Start writing. Put your characters into situations, problems, dilemmas, crises, and then have them work out of them (or succumb). You might also want to review some of your favorite literary works, paying strict attention to how characters start out, and how they change over the course of the story.

    It doesn't matter what comes to our minds. It only matters what comes to yours. When the reader sees the final product (s)he isn't going to see the thumbnail sketches you posted above, they're going to see the final product, that progression through the problems you create for your characters and how they emerge.

    Write.
     
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  5. justlang
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    justlang Banned

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    Write. Edit. Rewrite. Don't think too much into it.
     
  6. Christine Cholette
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    Christine Cholette Member

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    1. Any tips on how I can further develop these characters?

    I created an excel sheet for myself for characters and have various columns such as: favourite music genre, hair colour, family tree, traits, past loves, sexual orientation, skills, etc... random stuff -- the things that make a person unique.

    2. Any thoughts come to mind when you read these descriptions (actions, what does a character look like, what famous movie/book characters pop into your mind)

    Create a very brief life timeline for the rookie cop. I do that usually for a main character. Rookie cops always makes me thing of Quinn from Dexter, but his character is quite different.

    3. Where should I go from here?

    Flush them out, take a page or two for each and write down how you see them, what stories you think might have been important in their life.

    My suggestions may seem time-consuming, but it goes pretty quick I find it really helps in the story telling, especially when a character can relate a scene/situation to something in their past that you've already decided is a part of what makes them "them".
     
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  7. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    The only difficulty I see with this approach is that you may find yourself spending a lot of time on details that have no relevance to your story. Moreover, you may actually have to change some of them as your story goes along, subplots occur to you or your story requires fine-tuning, and if you've built up a specific, detailed image in your mind of a particular character, you may resist something that doesn't fit the image. I generally start with a very loose conception of the character and then let the story dictate where I go from there.
     
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  8. Christine Cholette
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    Christine Cholette Member

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    It's true, I sometimes find I need to allow for flexibility but usually the basis of the character I am starting with largely directs the details I create for them, so I don't usually find myself in a position where the "person" I have created doesn't work with a certain aspect of the story. But I completely understand where you are coming from.

    Sometimes it is easier to let the story tell itself with your hands as opposed to you molding it into something with very specific concepts of what it should be.
     
  9. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I'm with @EdFromNY on this issue, definitely. Your characters will come to life when you start writing them.

    I'd say don't put yourself in a straightjacket as regards characteristics, because you will likely find yourself fighting against the restrictions as your characters expand into your story. I'd work VERY hard at picturing these people yourself, but then put them into situations where they have to do things, to speak to people, to think and feel about their environment and the people in their lives. Bingo. They'll start to tell YOU what to do with them. You don't need to describe all their physical characteristics to the readership. In fact, it's probably not a great idea. Just trickle details into the reader's head as you go.

    If you've already got the framework for your story, start writing your characters into it.

    While you will need to keep track of various characteristics—careful not to give them blue eyes in chapter three and brown ones in chapter eleven—you don't need to have all these characteristics in place before you start. Their mental characteristics are just as important as their physical ones, as is the way other people feel about them. You've already touched on these concepts in your wee character synopsis you gave us at the start, so I'm confident you already have enough to get started on the actual writing.

    This will be the most fun you'll ever have sitting down, by the way. And you might never tell us the colour of their eyes at all, unless it turns out to matter to your story.
     
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  10. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    I think sometimes you need to start writing with your basic character and see where he/she leads you as don't forget, as your story develops so too will your characters. Events and things that happen during your story will no doubt have some effect on your character, the way he thinks, the actions he takes. Like @justlang says, write, edit, rewrite.

    What may help, is to give perhaps a little thought to the characters past which could determine the way he does things.

    One thing I did notice about your description of your protagonist, you say he has a history of not finishing things but is very critical of himself. Personally speaking, I can't understand how someone can be critical of themselves but not finish anything he starts. Or is it a case of him being angry with himself for not finishing what he starts? Just my opinion.
     
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  11. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, as @cutecat22 says, the person's past makes a lot of difference. That doesn't mean you need to give us tons of backstory, but be sure you have it in your own head. Or, if your character does something odd, try to come up with a reason out of his past as to why he did it. The story will become richer, the more it develops in this way.

    As to him being critical of himself but never finishing what he starts ...maybe he doesn't finish what he starts because he's too critical, and as soon as he sees flaws or mistakes he's made, he abandons a project? That would make sense. It's his perfectionism that's keeping him from actually accomplishing what he sets out to do? That's one way you could go with this. People don't always abandon projects because they're lazy or distracted. Sometimes they quit because they don't think they'll ever succeed.
     
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  12. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    I see where you're coming from now, I never thought of it that way!
     
  13. MrMidnight
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    MrMidnight Member

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    Everyone, thank you SO much. I feel like I hit a goldmine here. I really appreciate it. I'll work with what I've got and come back when I get to another milestone. Simply putting the words down on paper was a huge stepping stone for me, now I'll start working on the story itself. Gotta start somewhere.

    Thanks again!
     
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  14. Vandor76
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    Vandor76 Contributing Member

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    @MrMidnight : everyone writes with different methods and finding a method which fits your needs is one of the keys to success.
    Basically there are two types of writers :
    a) Some just sits down in front of a blank paper / empty document with the intention to write a novel about a young cop and starts writing something like "It was raining all day" and words and sentences simply pop into his mind and the story forms as he writes. These guys just cant wait writing the first chapter and planning ahead is a pain for them.
    b) Others prefer to play with the story in their mind and spend days, weeks or even months planning the plot, characters, places, important items, habit, religion and all other aspects a novel could have. These people sometimes feel that actually writing down what they imagined is a boring activity.

    Most writers are somewhere between these two ends of the scale and if you are able to find where YOU are exactly it will help you a lot. If you are close to type b) -like me- you will need something like the snowflake method. If you are type a) all you need is a blank paper and a pen :)

    For the actual character generation : google for archetypes, Maslow's hierarchy of needs and for advanced character crafting : Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.
     
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