1. Headroller
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    Headroller Senior Member

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    Character backgrounds

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Headroller, Feb 18, 2010.

    A problem I have with some of my stories is flushing out the background of characters. Sometime's I'll give a long winded intro, sometimes I let their actions speak, sometimes from the first person POV I'll drop in small memories. With the MC I'm usually good at this, but secondary characters sometimes pose a problem. I've found I spend pages describing one person and only a blurb or two describing another.

    Help...?
     
  2. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    This isn't necessarily a bad thing; not all characters are created equal. The MC obviously deserves a lot more focus in your writing than any secondary characters, who only need to be described at all as the story (or your style, or vision, or whatever) dictate. It shouldn't be done arbitrarily just because you think it's too short based on what other people have done, you should only expand their descriptions if it services the work in some way.

    It seems like you already have a decent grasp on some of the ways to expose character and background, so if you really need to, why can't you just apply those principles to supporting characters in the same way you would the MC? You control the text, not the other way around; if you want to include a paragraph on the background of a character, do it. If you want to skip over a character in a sentence, do it. If you want to devote an entire chapter to a random character, do it. Have a little faith in yourself, and if it all goes wrong, fix it then.
     
  3. Cosmos
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    Cosmos Contributing Member

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    I agree that not all characters are created equal. Main characters deserve significantly more detail than secondary characters do. That said, if your level of detail between characters of equal importance varies a lot, what you could do is start some brainstorming on the characters. Decide to leave out some details from the overly-fleshed-out characters (does the reader need to know it all?) and come up with new details for the ones lacking them. I tend to find a character sheet works well for me. Good luck.
     
  4. Neoaptt
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    Neoaptt Banned

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    I have an idea of what you are saying. You have a MC that takes up all the space for your story. But you also have a SC (side) that you really like that there just isn't room for. So here is the awesome idea!

    Write a short story about him/her! Loads of authors do it. And i find that it helps me with character developement too.

    If you have a character that is nee deep in problems and you need a SC to help them out. Just wright a SC short story. Then if you want to put that character into the Main story. You can just put clips and peices into it.
     
  5. Cosmos
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    Cosmos Contributing Member

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    Indeed, that's a great idea. I do that sometimes myself. Small stories, but they make for great details to use in the main, much larger novel. It'll also help you flesh out other characters more, help you visualize the setting more and inspire you to expand your world. Just don't get so caught up in the secondary character as to forget your main story, like I did. xDDDD
     
  6. writewizard
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    writewizard Contributing Member

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    That's totally okay! Especially if it's the first draft of your novel. The first draft of your novel is getting everything on paper. The second draft of your novel is all about toning those things. It's totally fine to have one character spell out a whole page with another character taking up two blurbs. Writing about a main character is important, we need to know his or her background; writing about a secondary character isn't as important; we don't need to know as much about them. Therefore, totally justified. Like I said, too, when you are finished, you can also revise it if you don't like it. That's what writers spend most of their life doing anyway. Revising. Revising. Revising.
     
  7. SilverRam
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    SilverRam Member

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    Yes, the MC does deserve a lot of backstory but don't forget to develop the antagonist.
     
  8. Headroller
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    Headroller Senior Member

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    Thanks for the suggestions guys!

    @Silver Ram: What about an environmental antagonist? Same rules apply?
     
  9. tcol4417
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    tcol4417 Member

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    Character development isn't something that you should shove down a reader's throat - good character development is typically something that occurs across the entirety of the story.

    Here's two examples:
    Snatch (Guy Ritchie) and Smokin' Aces
    Each of the characters are defined by their actions and attitudes. You learn more about them by watching what they do on screen that you would remember if you read an article about them. Any voice-overs are punctuated by relevant actions occurring on screen. It's one thing to hear "this guy is a psycho" and actually witness the devastation the person is capable of with a smile on their faces.

    Don't develop a character with exposition and long-winded back stories. Actions speak louder than words.
     
  10. Evil Flamingo
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    Evil Flamingo Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've always been a fan of letting the story bring out the character, rather than front loading. I think that if you front load a character and let people completely know what they're mindset is, then you lose the entire sense of mystery and development of the character. I'm always interested in characters that are developing throughout the story with allusions to their past and how they feel. A story is just text on a page if it's description without development and emotion. I enjoy delving into their lives through progression, and get bored with endless description. Let their background come out slowly, you have a whole novel to put it in. :/
     
  11. Oblivion
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    Oblivion New Member

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    You just need a basic outline for a side charector, perhaps involve them in the story a bit, make it so that the MC perhaps needs to assasinate him/her but recruits the charector and then add feelings later, if the MC needs to slaughter some bandits and the side charector is good, you need the side charector to argue, eventually making the side charector or the MC to change.
     

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