1. Sephie913
    Offline

    Sephie913 Member

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2008
    Messages:
    34
    Likes Received:
    0

    Character self-development

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Sephie913, Oct 20, 2008.

    I'm a few years into writing, and I've noticed that several characters that have been with me from the beginning have, quite literally, taken on a life of their own. What I mean is that, without any conscious thought on my part, I add new characteristics to them, characteristics that slide into place as though they should have always been there.

    Habits, hobbies, moral fiber, and much, much more, seems to develop dynamically as I write, as though the character him or her self has tapped me on the shoulder and told me what should be written.

    I've heard of several people claiming that Middle Earth existed before Tolkien wrote a word, and I find the comment funny, after experiencing this. Has anyone else noticed something similar in their writing?
     
  2. Little Miss Edi
    Offline

    Little Miss Edi Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    214
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    South East, England
    Absolutely.
    I wouldn't say that there was a big gaping hole where all this stuff existed prior to its creation in your head. But you'd be surprised about what was lurking in your subconscious! ;)

    Nearly all of my characters grow organically, so that it seems they have a life of their own, regardless of my input. :p
     
  3. tehuti88
    Offline

    tehuti88 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 13, 2008
    Messages:
    642
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Michigan
    For the most part my characters create themselves; I'm just here to write it all down. If I set out to GIVE a character all their characteristics, it will fall flat. So I just let them hang out in my head, and I hang out in theirs, and it falls into place.

    I have a detective character, for example, who I've been working on for years. A few years ago I suddenly realized he has DID (formerly multiple personality disorder). I hadn't known this at all (and I even HAVE other characters with DID), but looking back on the things I'd written about him, all signs pointed to it almost from the start. Some unconscious part of me had known.

    It's the same way with most of my other characters, albeit not always quite so dramatically. I just find this normal, since they're like people to me; I might spark them to life but then they can do all the rest on their own. *shrug*
     
  4. Khilo
    Offline

    Khilo Member

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2008
    Messages:
    32
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    California
    The two main characters in my novel I'm working on right now, Jane and Adam, really created themselves. I didn't mean for that to happen, and was shocked when it did, but really pleased. I gave them their basic shapes, and the rest came from them. They were so life-like, I began to hear them in my head. My favorite thing to do is to create a scenario with the two of them, and see how they react to each other.
    Of course, they don't only tap me on the shoulder to tell me what to write, they love to tell me what not to write. If I start thinking too much and write stuff down, Adam likes to say, "Excuse me, Kayla? I wouldn't do that." And Jane likes to say, "Yeah, that would never happen. What are you thinking?"
     
  5. Khilo
    Offline

    Khilo Member

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2008
    Messages:
    32
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    California
    The two main characters in my novel I'm working on right now, Jane and Adam, really created themselves. I didn't mean for that to happen, and was shocked when it did, but really pleased. I gave them their basic shapes, and the rest came from them. They were so life-like, I began to hear them in my head. My favorite thing to do is to create a scenario with the two of them, and see how they react to each other.
    Of course, they don't only tap me on the shoulder to tell me what to write, they love to tell me what not to write. If I start thinking too much and write stuff down, Adam likes to say, "Excuse me, Kayla? I wouldn't do that." And Jane likes to say, "Yeah, that would never happen. What are you thinking?"
     
  6. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    I'm not trying to be contrary, but characters do not create themselves. The author creates them, and develops them. They have no independent existence.

    The author may unconsciously introduce facets to each character, or it can be a conscious process.

    Certainly, you will discover cases in which what you have previously defined in a character makes certain choices of the character inevitable. But it's the writer's conscious decisions to perturb a character's traits, or to select an unexpected reaction, that give the character dimension.

    Unconscious development is a matter of instinct, as well as association with real people the author has known. But being able to make conscious decisions in the development of a character is a writing skill, and I believe an important one.
     
  7. Khilo
    Offline

    Khilo Member

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2008
    Messages:
    32
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    California
    I didn't mean they literally created themselves, of course. I mean that the thought in my head happened, I began creating them, and I didn't have to work at all at it. It was a pretty unconscious effort on my part. I didn't believe that they simply came to be a living, breathing being and created themselves.
     
  8. Farseer
    Offline

    Farseer Member

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2008
    Messages:
    29
    Likes Received:
    0
    I was told once that a good character is one that takes on a life of its own.
     
  9. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    A character exists to fill a role in a story. It should appear to have a life of its own, but only under the control of the writer.
     
  10. Khilo
    Offline

    Khilo Member

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2008
    Messages:
    32
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    California
    I agree. If characters were to start having minds of their own, bad things would happen.
    A character has only the limits offered by the writer, after all.
     
  11. tehuti88
    Offline

    tehuti88 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 13, 2008
    Messages:
    642
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Michigan
    And this is just one opinion of many. Nobody can say with 100% finality what the purpose of any/every character is, without knowing the heart/mind of every single writer, and that seems rather impossible.

    Just saying. I hate when people who don't know me presume to speak for what's in my mind. *shrug*
     
  12. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Let me rephrase. The purpose of a character in fiction is to carry out the actions that move the story. If you have other attachments and purposes for your character, that is outside the context of writing.

    The story does not exist for the character. It's the other way around.

    If you try to make your character serve a separate purpose apart from its use in fiction, you are operating at cross-purposes, and I can just about guarantee it will impact your writing.

    A character in fiction is imaginary. It has no independent existence, no soul, and no will of its own. I stand by that statement.
     
  13. SonnehLee
    Offline

    SonnehLee Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2008
    Messages:
    6,112
    Likes Received:
    55
    Location:
    Far away from home
    Otherwise, we wouldn't spend near as much time with our revisions, eh? ;)

    As for me, my main characters seem very real to me, I know things about them that the reader will never know and really will never have a place in their stories. But, my side characters don't really have their own lives, other than the ones they fill for my MC. I finally finished getting rid of a character in my sole completed novel. I was pleased.
     
  14. CDRW
    Offline

    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2008
    Messages:
    1,532
    Likes Received:
    27
    You could say the same for my neighbor's robotic lawn mower. He's named it Herbie. :D
     
  15. SonnehLee
    Offline

    SonnehLee Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2008
    Messages:
    6,112
    Likes Received:
    55
    Location:
    Far away from home

    We name all of our cars. Mine is Sally :)
     
  16. Sephie913
    Offline

    Sephie913 Member

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2008
    Messages:
    34
    Likes Received:
    0
    I disagree with the point that a character only exists to serve a purpose. No matter how ingenious the plot may be, it should not be the only reason for a character's being. I tend to think that a character is there to exist.

    This is not saying that a character should conflict with the plot. But giving a character some amount of choice, limited by morals and situational circumstances, leads the character to acting in a realistic way, which lends to believability in even the most ridiculous times. As long as you have created the environment properly, it should not be a stretch to lead the character along. things can't go too bad.

    I don't literally believe they should be alive, but they should have some life in them, not merely puppets to control. that would take the fun out of writing.
     
  17. architectus
    Offline

    architectus Banned

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    Messages:
    1,796
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Ca
    At times it feelings like a character literally possesses me and writes. I used to be into the dark arts, and at times it feels similar to automatic writing.

    Naturally psychologist would say that even automatic writing stems from our subconscious, and perhaps so.

    It doesn't change the fact that it feels like possession. It doesn't change the fact that it feels like they are independent from me. They continue to amaze and surprise me. This is the true joy I get from writing. With out it, why write? If my characters didn't make me laugh, cry, and surprise me, I sure in the hell wouldn't write.
     
  18. Samilynn
    Offline

    Samilynn Member

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2008
    Messages:
    17
    Likes Received:
    0
    The writer creates the character, but after creating it, it can seem to become its own self. My characters have started telling me things i would like to tell myself but wouldn't believe if it was me who told me. I think i'm starting to go scytzophrenic because of it. I was driving alone the other day, and was talking to my characters. I actually turned around to talk to one of them at the stoplight. No one was really there.
    I'm not sure how much of this makes sense, and some of you may think i'm crazy now, which is probably true, but i think the point i'm trying to make is that even though the characters may seem incredibly real, they're always a part of you. They're different parts of you seperated into characters on the page. I think that's what i'm trying to say... If you got very confused right now, that's okay. I'm not quite sure what i'm saying anymore right now. :)
     
  19. captain kate
    Offline

    captain kate Active Member

    Joined:
    May 4, 2008
    Messages:
    876
    Likes Received:
    28
    Location:
    Cruising through space.
    or the character is a part of yourself you write about. Kate is a part of myself, the warrior side that I cannot show in a civilized society; however, she also is the side of me that fights for justice and freedom. That's why each of my novels are such a important work because it's a true labor or love along with the joy of writing.
     
  20. TheFedoraPirate
    Offline

    TheFedoraPirate Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2007
    Messages:
    205
    Likes Received:
    1
    For plot-driven stories, yeah, but if a story is character-driven? Things like absurdist plays that often times have no plot beyond character interaction. Like the play No Exit the whole things takes place in a single room with three characters who really don't do much but talk, torment each other, and come to the conclusion, "hell is other people". There's no plot (at least not in the traditional sense) things happen as a result of what the characters say/do but there's no goal and the whole thing leads nowhere.

    I agree with your last statement which is why I'm confused by the one directly preceding it. How can you use a fictional character for anything other than fiction? That's impossible.

    I think these guys are just discussing the subconscious development of a character but I don't think they'd disagree that the ultimate decision lies with the author.
     
  21. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    No, I am thinking of the people who treat a character as a real person. The character is placed in different stories, the writers let the character tell THEM who they are and what they do and think. They are the ones who complain that their character is ill-mannered and won't do what the writer wants, etc.

    It's one thing to recognize that an action you were contemplating is "out of character" because of prior written passages, but quite another when the characters are driving the bus and the writer is only a passenger.

    The character has no existence apart from the story he or she was created to inhabit. Even in your absurdist plays, the character only exists for the role. He or she won't sulk in a corner or demand more pay because you made the character look ridiculous.
     
  22. Emerald
    Offline

    Emerald Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2008
    Messages:
    380
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Dublin
    Bad things happen when writers get too sentimental about their characters.
    Ultimately, your characters are simply an extension of you -- facets of your own personality. Loving them too much just seems like a form of narcissism.
     
  23. Samilynn
    Offline

    Samilynn Member

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2008
    Messages:
    17
    Likes Received:
    0
    I quite agree. Characters are an extension of yourself. But what about if they were based on a real life person, and are very similar to that person? Would they be an extension of one's self and that other person? Or would they still simply be an extension of one's self...?
     

Share This Page