1. live2write
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    live2write Contributing Member

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    Compiling character list

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by live2write, Mar 13, 2012.

    As a form of reference I want to create a guide where I can write or type down the character's descriptions. I want to keep organized and have my ideas on paper where I can make adjustments to how they relate to the story and if they properly fit into each situation.

    Any advice to how I can organize and how I should write my character's descriptions? Are there any resources online that would help me?
     
  2. Gonissa
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    Gonissa Contributing Member

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    Um? There's really no way for anyone besides yourself to answer that question. Heck, some writers don't even keep a character list. Basically, write the things you know for sure about the character and try to look back at the list if you feel you're losing them. You've got to keep your own notes.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Any endorsement of software or other products will be deleted.
     
  4. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    Sounds like you want to create as many characters as you can and to plant them in your stories/plots. It can work, but my experience is that characters and stories created in such manner tend to lack 'souls', if you like :) I don't know, I just can't invest emotionlly enough to such chars and stories as much as I would want to.

    As for describing a char, choose few traits and unique physical features from a host of traits and features you might have come up with. Too many can be tiresome to read as oppose to few well chosen ones. A scar on a char's face might be more interesting than say his eye color, hair color and what not.
     
  5. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I keep scrapbooks using google images and make slideshows with them. I use an actor that has an approximate look. For my main characters I use ones I can stalk round youtube, minor characters have just photographs I've found that work. (I've been known to be bad and take a sneaky picture whilst out) - I tend to include an idea of their clothing, where they live, what they drive etc whatever is relevant to the story.

    I find that stays in my mind better than lists of words.
     
  6. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    I do this too. Certain characters were inspired by a specific person's physical appearance (either an actor or real life acquaintence), so I already have a visial resource to draw upon. Others I just google images for until I find one that works. Some are really elusive though, like my antagonist - he's an an ancient Egyptian general in his mid 50s, and the only face that springs to mind is Colonel Gadaffi, and that would be just plain weird!

    I have compiled a list of his characteristics but I just can't visualise him, and it's resulted in him being a bit of a non-descript character in my novel - at least physically. He has reddish brown skin, very dark tanned from spending so much time outdoors, short curly black hair (not afro though) and a very hardened physique, very strong but not the kind of massive bulky frame that most people associate with strength - he is quite short and very lean, wiry looking. He also has quite a long, hard edged face with deep set eyes. I'm sort of imagining Richard O'Brien but less bald and more tanned, lol
     
  7. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    For main characters I tend to use actors like John Barrowman, Michael Ball, Lee Mead, David Tennant, Anthony Head, Ruthie Henshall, Shiela Hancock, Dolly Parton etc ones that have a large presence on youtube and I can find singing and dancing as well. John Barrowman and David Tennant are fantastic they play so many roles, also they and their fans videotape and youtube everything.

    Something about the exaggerated movements of dancing translates better for writing body language in stories. For my MC in my first fantasy I used a large Dutch mixed martial artist which helped just as much, but wasn't very helpful in dealing with his speech as he doesn't speak English.

    For me knowing how they react physically in a situation helps indicate the internal and then it is just filling in the gaps. It also keeps them consistent.

    I use rightmove for buildings, streets, transport ideas etc (for me location is almost like an additional character in my stories. )

    Resources:
    Real Estate websites (in the UK rightmove is the best)
    Google Images
    youtube
    a blog called the bookshelf muse which has emotion and setting thesaurus.
     
  8. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    So... you're a bit of a fan of musicals then? Ugh, my idea of hell. Cannot stand them, and the exaggerated expressions and actions of musical theatre just strike me as comic farce, which I don't think would translate too well to my historical novel ;)

    I think I'd rather base my character on Colonel Gadaffi :D
     
  9. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    None of them just do musicals lol Not sure David Tennant or Dolly Parton have ever done one on stage. Daniel Radcliffe is also on the list (I'm using him for an historical very sucessfully). Oh and Whoopi Goldberg.

    I do love musicals though, along with most other forms of theatre. The exaggerated stage expressions are useful for writing ;) John Barrowman was a children's TV presenter when I first saw him do anything. I chose them all because of their versatility rather than them doing musicals. Also amount of online material available.
     
  10. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    I didn't say they only did musicals, I just said I hate musicals :D

    I actually quite like David Tennant - saw him in Hamlet at Stratford and he really, er, hammed it up. Bit over the top in places but Patrick Stewart was AWESOME. I sat right on the end of the row by the left wing, where they came on and off stage, and I could have reached out and touched him... Jean Luc Picard actually looked at me!! SQUEE!!!

    Ahem. Sorry - OFF TOPIC FOUL! My bad.

    So, character lists - um... have you thought of drawing them? I do that too sometimes if I can't find a suitable pic. Of course it helps to have a photographic reference to draw from, so it's a bit chicken and egg type situation...
     
  11. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    just create a folder and collect all the character descriptions in their own documents, each with their name on. that's the simplest I can come up with, or a notebook that have different sections and write by hand. Otherwise you use one of the programs for notetaking and -organizing, and Voilá.
     
  12. CodeZone
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    CodeZone New Member

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    I do my character organization a little bit different than everyone else on here. I put my characters in a timeline as well as a flow chart. The timeline is my character timeline and is separate from my plot and setting timeline. It shows me when they came into the story (whether it was written or not) and when they met the other characters. The flow chart is where I put more descriptions and traits of the characters and it shows their connections to other characters similar to a genealogy tree. I write my timeline out on paper so that I can easily add and remove things as I see fit. My flow chart I will occasionally write out, but I usually keep it organized in a spreadsheet format.

    I do both of these for writing series of novels where there are a lot of characters and I like to keep a deep background on them. They allow me to do exactly what you said: keep them organized and make easy adjustments. If you are writing one novel or short story you may not need something so intricate. It depends on your own preferences of course, but my methods may spark ideas for you to create your own methods that you feel comfortable with.
     
  13. williamthe1st
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    williamthe1st New Member

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    Charles dickens said: "when writing a novel a writer should create living people; people, not characters. A character is a caricature."

    the very best way to do a character outline is to ask your character everything you need to know. even irrelevant possibly trivial questions so that you know he or she inside and out. this will help give you great insight so that you can create a depthy and interesting character. Where were they born? what do they eat? are they a dog or cat person? what is their sleeping patter like? favorite color/food/place etc. you should know not only what they look like or what they might act like but more importantly you should know what they might do in very specific situations, or how they might feel when something significant happens and how they may respond. ask and you shall receive.
     
  14. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Instead of a list, I'd draw a giant chart that spans the general timeline of your story. Then mark each character's key turning points, motivation changes, obstacles and how they solve them, etc. Use a different color pen or marker for each so it's easy to tell who is who.

    This way, you can put all your character notes together in terms of the whole story. Lists don't provide that kind of unity.

    That's just what helps me, at least. :)
     
  15. live2write
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    live2write Contributing Member

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    I have never thought of that! I am a visual learner and I think this will help with character descriptions, clothing descriptions and personality. I will definitely try this!




    I have used this technique before and gave up on it because I used too much paper that used the entire length of my apartment. Ill give this another try and refine it more.
     
  16. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    ^ Sorry, just realized someone else posted the same idea as me. I didn't read through the whole thread carefully. Oops.

    But yeah, that method works really well for me, but no method suits everyone so maybe it's just not your cup of tea. Or maybe you could designate a wall of your room or something for writing notes and for your timeline?
     
  17. live2write
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    live2write Contributing Member

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    The methods I have tried are:
    1. Character Survey's: answer the questions next to the questions from physical appearance, to mentality and emotions.
    2. Circle Diagram: Character's name in the middle and key points around pointing to the characters (not enough space)
    3. Not writing them at all and going along with it: I was stuck many times with the direction of the story
    4. Before and After Charts: I still use these but only for one specific book I am working on because there is a transition in personality and appearance

    I have a hard time putting physical descriptions onto paper unless I have a visual reference other than my imagination. The photo scrapbook will help me with that weakness.

    The timeline I am going to try because I would be killing two birds with one stone. From what you have described it looks as if you are writing the character's interaction along with how it relates to the story. I am going to try it out tomorrow and then give my opinion on how I feel about it.

    :)
     

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