1. writingismypassion
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    writingismypassion Member

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    Creating Characters Before Writing A Story

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by writingismypassion, Mar 27, 2013.

    Well, I know it's best to set everything up before writing, getting the Who, What, When, Where, Why and other factors into place before starting your piece of writing. But my biggest problem when it comes to planning is the characters that make up the story. I have no problem coming up with plots and subplots, but character sheets I am terrible at...Basically I am seeking out advice, hints, tips, and tricks to help me to create better and detailed character sheets for the characters themselves before I start writing the actual story I wish to put them in.
     
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  2. Mithrandir
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    Mithrandir Contributing Member

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    I just have a vague idea about a character's gender, age, and over-arching role in the plot before I start writing. Anything about them that is relevant will come up during the writing, and it gives their character a little room to grow naturally.
     
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  3. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    Actually, that's not always what's best, at least, not with characters. The fact of the matter is, character sheets don't actually help some people, and you may be one of those people. I'd say forget about developing your character before you write (which isn't the intended use for bio sheets, anyway) and instead just get into writing the book and let your character teach you about his-/herself as you write.
     
  4. Keitsumah
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    Keitsumah The Dream-Walker Contributor

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    i agree wholeheartedly. my characters all develop completely on their own after an initial idea gets them into my head. if you have a story in mind, imagine that someone is trying to tell you it through their own words. That is the character, and once you can picture them and their general attitude (wise, quiet, shy, agressive) then you move on from there. characters only get more complex as the story goes, so keep them simple to begin with.
     
  5. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    The fact is, your character may not be the same by the time you get a few chapters in. Their name, age, gender, physical appearance, personality, sexual orientation, history, location...it could all change. So if you're just embarking on the writing journey (and especially in your case, where you haven't started at all) you should avoid trying to force details. This will only cause you problems later when the character doesn't seem to work with where you want the story to go. Just let the facts come out naturally - through the writing and exploration of your world.
     
  6. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Exactly. Create the character but make sure you have the big stuff in there first, the things that give the character a reason to be in the story in the first place. The little details like eye color, preference in music etc. come when they come, just bide your time. At least that works for me when I have trouble getting a "feel" for a protagonist I kinda like and don't want to change but don't truly "know" yet. It once took me around 50 000 words before a lead character of a medieval fantasy story started coming to life. Granted, this meant I had to go back and rewrite some bits, but in the end it paid off and now she's a fully developed protagonist all the way down to the smallest freckle.

    Of course, usually this isn't the case with me: I absolutely love planning characters (to a fault: I even have characters ready for stories I haven't even started to properly plan yet. I just get a "vision" of a character and s/he starts developing in my mind and the next thing I know, I have a 3-page character data sheet). In my case the flipside of the coin is that while I'm ok at coming up with characters, I suck at creating plot twists or building worlds.
     
  7. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    It's much easier on the head if you create (or grow) the character(s) and the story at the same time. Plot is merely what happens--which you tweak and revise after you already have most of it written. Like with songs the words and rhythm come first which suggest the melody.
     
  8. ANightDude
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    ANightDude New Member

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    To build off of what Nee said,

    This is exactly what your first draft is for. In theory, three drafts are usually what the standard is, and I always personally use my first draft to simply write, to understand plot and, hopefully, understand a bit more about the characters. Write as much as you can. Hopefully around the middle you can get an idea of what the character is like. Personality and actions will begin to develop if you're doing it right.

    Then when you get to your second draft, you'll probably have an idea of what the character may be like. Use that draft to explore those ideas. And if you decide to do more and more drafts, you can hopefully figure out your own character better each time.
     
  9. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    The thing a lot of new writers [myself included] fall into is the trap of micro-managing. I Believe it's a good idea to know your characters, SO YOU HAVE A STARTING POINT. By this I mean, name, gender, family status, and something about their personality that can be changed or developed or give them relevance [if they are not the MC].

    Characters, like the story need to be free to develop naturally. While I believe in God, he does not dictate my life and all of my experiences. But that is another conversation for another place and time. As a writer, I give life to my characters and let them develop as living people would. Which is Why I say know them well enough to start. Once you start feel free to re-imagine them and their backstories [present in the work or not] according to who they reveal themselves to be. I've been working with the same characters and story for 4 years, but by the time I neared the end I found it the most appropriate action to start over because the story and characters had changed so much.

    While you want them to change you have to be conscious of how they change and the things about them that make them act and react the way they do. If they start out hot-tempered only to get into three major incidents because of it, maybe by the forth altercation they've learned a little. Perhaps a simple farm boy who's thrown into war can come out as the predestined king. Who knows?

    The point is to think about who your characters are, then put them into the story and let them flesh themselves out. Hope that helps, I do gt carried away in my ramblings >_<
     
  10. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Agree with what everyone has said, basically. I don't do character sheets anymore. They're very rigid. And think of it this way -If
    you're on a blind date and you were to read off a sheet that had favorite color, religious beliefs, political views, family, place of
    birth - you still wouldn't know who this person was even if he answered every question
    - the only way to understand who he is, is to see how he reacts with other
    people.
    Give your character a scene and discover who they are by writing it out.
     
  11. Shmendrick
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    Shmendrick Member

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    I tried using character sheets but they don't seem to work as well for fantasy, I've never written anything in which the character's star sign/blood type/first pet was even mentioned so I gave up and now I just keep notes on the important dates and bits of information I need to know.
     
  12. mbinks89
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    mbinks89 Active Member

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    "Well, I know it's best to set everything up before writing, getting the Who, What, When, Where, Why and other factors into place before starting your piece of writing. But my biggest problem when it comes to planning is the characters that make up the story. I have no problem coming up with plots and subplots, but character sheets I am terrible at...Basically I am seeking out advice, hints, tips, and tricks to help me to create better and detailed character sheets for the characters themselves before I start writing the actual story I wish to put them in."

    Since when do you have to have the who, what, when, where and why. I have a basic idea, but often times spur-of-the-moment imaginative twists are what drive my plot and scenery and characters. I often have ideas for characters first, and that's what leads me to write the story.
     
  13. Simmy1993
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    Simmy1993 Member

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    My flaw tends to be knowing too much about my character before hand, sometimes going so far as to plan them out so much that the plot revolves around them instead of them being an instrument to tell the plot. I think a simplistic approach can be beneficial.
     
  14. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Character and Plot are the same thing.

    You can not separate the two.

    Plot is what happens when you put characters together in a situation.

    Take a few people, and put them in a room...what happens?

    ...instant conversation. They can't help it. It's what people do.

    Same thing with plot: plot is a byproduct of characters interacting with one another.

    It is not something you figure out then shove a few characters into it.

    Stories are people going through crisis. What they do about it IS plot.

    Plot unfolds--like your characters--as you write it.

    Then in the revising stage, you tweak it as you do with all the other aspects of your story until it appears to be of an intelligent design :p

    Everyone always looks at this backwards.
     
  15. doghouse
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    doghouse Member

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    Before I write. I ensure a character has a starting state, and an end state. An overall goal. I'll consider what the character needs to be happy. What it would take for the character to be happy. What it is willing to risk, and later sacrifice in order to achieve it. As time or options run out, the stakes will raise. These will lead to incident and drama -- the making of a story.

    Character and plot is an interesting thing. Also, I'm not sold on them being one and the same -- although I wouldn't completely disagree with you there, Nee.

    Plot can occur, and a character will react. At some point, the character will move from reaction to action -- seemingly driving the plot. Incident should create conflict, and incident is like plot acting on character, or character acting on plot -- however that interaction is.

    I must go to bed!
     
  16. SuttonMichael254
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    SuttonMichael254 Active Member

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    you could have your idea of a character, but by 20k words in they are a completly diffrent person. They will evolve through out the story, let them evolve and grow. They are going to change anyway. Dont make them robots that are assigned roles and set disiplines, let them tell you who they are themselves
     
  17. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Ahh...but the inciting incident is not plot. Plot is what the character does in response to the incident. The incident is more like the part of the situation that can not be ignored. That must be dealt with.
     
  18. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    What you can do is take inspiration from a character that you admire, say a cartoon character, movie character, whatever you fancy. Now the next step is think about how you would make that character or that type of character. Then from there start changing different parts more and more and more til it resembles much less of the original and more of your own design WHILE still having the original character as your base.

    Keep doing this til you no longer need a base character and you can do this on your own, this is how I started anyway
     
  19. doghouse
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    doghouse Member

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    Indeed, although I wasn't referring to the inciting incident, only incidents that occur in stories (there can be many). The inciting incident, however you look at it, is a plot point. And, yes, one in which causes change in the character in some way.
     
  20. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    It's okay to have a blur picture of the character(s) when you begin writing a story, in a way they are like clay, easy to mold whichever shape you want. Eye color, hair color, height, skin type doesn't matter much until you find out the core of their existence in the story, and the core of their existence usually is closely related to their deepest desires and wishes. Write trial scenes or may be even short short stories just to get a clearer picture of the characters instead of listing random qualities. Characters are your babies, and we all know that how a baby turns out as an adult depends a lot on how they are brought up by their parents. As a responsible parent of your character the least you should do is find out their deepest feelings and desires. Good luck.
     
  21. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    The inciting incident gets your character making decisions that have the immediate consequence of bringing on another crisis and so on; which each situation growing out of the last: the cause and effect cascade that continues with greater and greater consequence--like a string of pearls--'til you reach the climax, that is what plot is.
     
  22. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I've only written one novel so far, but it's been a huge learning curve. I found myself adding layers to my characters on every new rewrite, shades and nuances that I knew should've been there. The thing I have found least helpful is character sheets - a list of traits doesn't help you create a character at all. Simply play around with your characters, do some free writing with your characters in it and see how they develop, as you'll already have a feel for who they should be or could be. Once you have a better, close to 3D character, I'd say just start writing your first draft. You'll have to rewrite your draft several times and your characters will change with the rewrites.
     
  23. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    My idea of a character sheet is clearly very different from the character sheets that everyone else has been using. Not to imply that mine would work for any of you. As I've said - they help some and hinder others. I'm just saying; it's not a list of traits the way I do it.
     
  24. The Codex
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    The Codex Member

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    I prefer to let character bio to be simple, clean and non-revealing at first. Throughout the story, your characters can evolve. Like my main character's best friend doubting the main character's leadership because of what he has been through recently. I created a argument, and an argument slowly revealing the character's past.
     
  25. Winged-Walls
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    Winged-Walls Member

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    Haha, I'm, I have a character database filled with pages and pages of character data... to the point where I end up handpicking characters from it when I have an idea for a good story.

    That said, characters end up changing, sometimes almost completely, as you write them and the plot starts to develop - so as long as you have an idea of the role they're to play in your story, you're ready to go. Make sure you go back on your writing afterwards to check your characters are consistent, though.
     
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