1. Frostcat
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    Frostcat Member

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    Character Flat; Needs Helium

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Frostcat, Mar 23, 2011.

    I feel like my main character Alex, is rather two dimensional, flat if you will. So flat that he's completely covered by a two deep puddle!

    In my head, I can see him, but I have a hard time... understanding him, I guess.

    Alex is a 24 year old vampire who has little recollection of his previous life. He gets bits and pieces, vague and transient memories that he can't grasp onto for long. Ultimately, this has led him to a conflicting issue of desire. He wants to enjoy his life, his immortality, but without knowing who he is, what he's lost, he can't.

    The only things that I've laid out for him to know are that he was once a student, he has a sister and he was already hurt by the time the other vampires found him.

    Unfortunately, this doesn't lead me to understand him much. I know where I want him to go, how I want things to end, but I don't know how he'd believably get there! (I want the story to end with him walking into the sunlight to 'release' himself).

    Any help with panning out my character would be GREATLY appreciated!
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Is it first draft ? I find my characters can be a bit flat in a first draft it takes them time to get to know me, me to know them, and them to know each other.
     
  3. Frostcat
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    Frostcat Member

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    It's definitely first draft, not even a whole draft really. I just find it very difficult to really flesh out where he's going when I don't know who he is very well.

    Mostly I was wondering if you have any advice for this. I've been approaching writing like I do Poetry. I know where point A is, and I let the words carry me to point B. Is this the wrong way to go? Should I map out point A and B and figure out who the character is by how I get him there?
     
  4. Silver_Dragon
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    Silver_Dragon Senior Member

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    People work differently, so it's hard to say what the best strategy is. I'd suggest doing more work on your character and plot before beginning to write to avoid frustration later. Also, by "flat," do you mean your character is lacking background or that you don't find him interesting? If the latter is the case, I'd suggest changing him so he has qualities that make you care about him. Or you could come up with a new character with a more interesting personality.
     
  5. Frostcat
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    Frostcat Member

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    Lacking in background mostly. Part of the issue, I suppose, is that the character purposely has no memory beyond a certain point. I guess I'm just not sure how to handle making a character both interesting and depthy while maintaining his lack of a whole past.
     
  6. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well I write the same way you do. Downside is first draft is rubbish lol I barely look at it when i finish and rewrite from scratch. Everyone is different but most of the writers I know write what they call a dirty draft and rework it in whatever form later.

    I kind of look at my first draft as the rough stone from which to carve out the real story. Several published writers I know don't flesh out or do what they call a deep point of view until after the first draft is finished.

    Mine is worse than most in that usually the story gets reordered as well :) I usually end up removing a lot of characters as well.
     
  7. Frostcat
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    Frostcat Member

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    Ah! I find myself in a similar boat, honestly.

    I've been letting the story flit through my head, jotting down bare notes with the most unholy of notations on them for how things look and feel.

    The problem comes in that my brain is telling me the story, but not in any sort of chronological order.

    I suppose I'll not only have to flesh out my character, but even after I've 'written' my plot, I'll have to figure it out!
     
  8. Ion
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    Ion Senior Member

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    You haven't written for your protagonist enough. Any character I introduce tends to fluctuate until I've written them for a while. By the time they settle into who they actually are, I've ended up with a developed person that's usually different than what I started with.
     
  9. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    My final drafts (i only have almost two of them) - do not resemble my first draft. Basic story is the same and the main characters.

    For example I have Merlin in one of my stories - in one draft he arrives on a beach and is brought to my MC in the first chapter he was a little dark haired boy, bit dull and spoke like a modern teenager. In my current draft he arrives in my sixth chapter and is the means by which my MC finds a sacred chapel which allows time travel, he is taken in hand by a fourteen year old girl called Alice who thinks he stinks, he is big and blonde. He also speaks little modern English and seems to have a lot of Cornish.
     
  10. Frostcat
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    Frostcat Member

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    Hm... I suppose I have to let the leash loose on my character, holding onto him so tightly seems to be vitriolic to the overall goal.
     
  11. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    See what happens you can always do it a different way if doesn't work. Do you talk to him ?
     
  12. Frostcat
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    Frostcat Member

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    Do you mean, do I talk to my main character?

    Oddly enough, sometimes. Mostly when I'm envisioning how I'd react in the world I'm creating, I place myself there and envision how we'd interact. Though that's hardly the same as directly talking, I suppose. Then again, as far as a story character can go, that's about as direct as it gets, non?
     
  13. NateSean
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    NateSean Active Member

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    Is he literally twenty-four or has he been twenty-four for "a while"? Or was he younger when he was "turned" and now he's twenty-four? Is this his entire life or his immortal life? Is his amnesia pathological or psychological?

    Student can have a broad range of definitions. Was he a student in college or univeristy? Was he still in high school at the time or did he go to a trade school like Job Corps? Was he in a private boarding school?

    Maybe a way to flesh this part out would be to have him do something. Does he find himself reading deep and intellectual books, or is he a trashy best seller kind of guy? Does he do things like tying knots, fixing cars, or other things that would require procedural memory? That could give him clues to follow.

    You say other vampires found him. Were they trying to kill him? Is his sister dead? Is she one of them? What was his relationship with her? Was she a minor or was she older than him? A twin perhaps?

    The suicide angle is a bit cliche. There'd better be a really good reason he wants to off himself, aside from "I'm a vampire and I'm so tortured" because it has been done. Charlaine Harris did it to Godric. Louis and Lestat have tried it at least half a dozen times and Anne Rice's chronicles are filled with a host of other vampires who basically just snapped and didn't get themselves out of the sun until it was too late.

    Does lonliness factor into it? Did he realize he had done something so horrible (That might be related to his sister or family, or might not be) that he can't forgive himself.

    There's nothing wrong with having a character commit suicide. But if you want to flesh it out, then the desire to end his life should be explored.


    Pretty much what I suggested. Have him doing things that, while they don't necessarily pretain to the over all plot, give him clues to follow.

    In The Bourne Identity, the doctor hands Jason Bourne a rifle and yells "Assemble", or something like that. And it's how Jason, with no memory of who he is, realizes that he has some military conditioning.

    Also, how does he interact with people? Are humans basically food to him now, or does he try to interact? Are other vampires involved in the story, or is it like Interview with the Vampire, where he believes he is the only one?

    Just some things to think about.
     
  14. Frostcat
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    Frostcat Member

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    NateSean:

    Wow, thanks for that, you really got me thinking about this! Some of these I might never have even considered.

    As for the cliche bit, I'm aware of that. Normally I'd avoid it, but the ficlet popped into my head in such a way that I find it difficult to alter that one, defining moment. It is possible, however, given that I have the end written out, but no path to it, I may end up bringing Alex to a new ending. Perhaps one where he doesn't die. For now, I'll assume that I'm sticking with the original idea though.

    In a way, understanding his desire to end his life is as much the story as discovering who he used to be. The ficlet came to me such that the character was already ending his life. I was only left with a very vague understanding of things though. For example, he does live with other vampires who saved him from some accident.

    For now, the driving force behind is suicide plans are that he can't acquaint to vampire life. I suppose you could call it authorial insertion on my part. I feel that since he can't remember his life, he can't invalidate it. Since he can't invalidate it, he still holds onto his 'human mindset'.

    I don't know if any of that made useful sense, but thanks for your input regardless! I'm going to take someones advice and 'talk to the character' as a writing exercise and maybe 'interview him' about his life and such. You've given me ideas on that, so thank you.
     
  15. NateSean
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    NateSean Active Member

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    Well it makes sense. But depending on how long this story is, rather than have it end with his suicide, maybe he could find something worth living for at the last minute.

    I mean, if it's a short story, then maybe it could work. But if you're writing a full novel and he actually commits suicide after pages and pages of us all ready knowing he's suicidal, then it'll be a pretty weak ending.

    I'm suddenly thinking of the episode of Family Guy, where Peter and Louis go to a "chick flic". And in the beginning of the movie they introduce a character called Suicidy, whose basically this depressed looking girl rocking back and forth in a corner.

    Anyway, sorry, I'll stop talking now. Good luck with writing it.
     
  16. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    Is the character flat because you know as much about his history as he does?

    You might need to work on his real background(keeping it from him of course(MC)) to fully know the character. What drives him will be directed by his past, even though he doesn't know the past, it will continue to influence his future. Even finding the reason for his amnesia will have to be done, it might direct the story in itself. When you know the secret you can hint at it, give confusing little bits of information of the past, but until it is all together it won't make much since. The frustration of not knowing the past.

    He will need to remain in the dark about his past, but you have to know the past so you can write his future.

    I have been doing a month long challenge on another forum, and have written alot of one of my MC as a child. Practice writing and it develops the character a little more.
     
  17. FictionAddict
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    FictionAddict Senior Member

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    There's a thread on Word Games called Character Development Clinic where people post a sinopse of their characters and the other members ask him/her questions. (Was that clear?)

    Well, it's a lot like what NateSean did to you, asking questions about your character to help you flesh him out. There's a better explanation there... I'm kind of sleepy now. Sorry.
     
  18. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Just to help you with your English, FictionAddict: The word you are looking for is synopsis, not sinopse.
     
  19. FictionAddict
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    FictionAddict Senior Member

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    That's right Cogito! Thanks.

    I shouldn't post this late at night...
     
  20. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    He doesn't know his whole past, but you could, right? So I'd suggest figuring out his past, maybe by writing some scenes (boring scenes are fine, because they're just for you) from his past life. Once you know things about him, then you could see which of those things carry through to his amnesiac present.

    For example, did he love old movies? Does he still love them, because they were inherently to his taste, or has he lost that interest because he connected them with the grandparents that he used to watch them with and he's forgotten those grandparents? Or does he maybe have some faint thread of memory of the grandfather, and could that lead to a bit of a memory breakthrough if he sits near a little old couple who are talking to each other about a movie plot?

    Did he love running full-speed, and roller coasters, and riding his bike like a maniac, and has that love of speed carried on, even while his memory is gone?

    And so on, and so on. I think that you need to know his past.

    ChickenFreak
     
  21. Frostcat
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    Frostcat Member

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    Thanks for all the assistance!

    SeverinR

    I agree, I've actually started working on his history myself. Don't know why I'd think that I wouldn't need to know.

    FictionAddict

    Thanks for that! I'll check it out.

    ChickenFreak

    More good questions to ask myself!

    Good thing I have today off to answer some of these questions, hmm?
     
  22. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

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    You have to role play the character in your mind, like an acting job. All of your characters are part "you" so what would you think about if you were this character? If you can't do that then your characters are just concepts.
     
  23. Frostcat
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    Frostcat Member

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    Allegro

    I've been 'interviewing' my characters to suss out their personalities. Thank you for taking the time to read my post and supply advice!
     
  24. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    I have felt that way about my characters, and then I work on who they are, and they start becoming more real. Their personality helps to tell how they react.

    Kind of like trying to describe a person you don't know very well vs describing a good friend. Much easier when you know them.
     
  25. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    You can try what I do. The brief description you've written in your original post is pretty much what I start with for my main characters. And then I basically proceed, basing my writing on a simple premise: It's the plot that fills the pages of a book, not the characters.

    Forget about how flat he is. They always are, because they haven't done anything yet. Throw him into the action, immerse him in strife, force him to make difficult decisions. That's what builds a real character, not how well you've fleshed out his background. The Backstory is a sideshow, that can and should be tailored to make his actions in the present more authentic.

    Therefore focus on the dilema at hand, the struggles he must face. You'll find your characters take a life of their own if they're challenged. So the point is don't get bogged down by trying to conjure up a multifaceted hero from the outset. What you have is a perfectly adequate seed. But only the plot will make it flourish.
     

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