1. Kaynic
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    Kaynic Member

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    Defining character moment

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Kaynic, Oct 15, 2011.

    So, I was wondering what you would all consider to be one of your character's most defining moments, something that makes them who they are or speaks most clearly about their personality? Or even a moment that stands out vividly in your mind? Heck, even something you found surprised you about them?
    For me, one of the most defining moments would have to be my character Commander Kielo Vanhala's decision to leave behind a convoy of 1000 or so troops, stranded due to heavy damage from artillery during a rout of their forces, in favor of saving 3000+ that still can escape. She informs those she's leaving of her decision and refuses to break radio contact, listening to their broadcast as long as it goes on, though most are pleading for her to reconsider or telling her that she can't just leave them to die. Afterward, she goes off by herself and breaks down for several minutes, careful to avoid letting her soldiers see her, then pulls herself back together and returns to duty.
     
  2. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    The example you give would only tell me that the character does not empathise enough with people and that her sense of 'duty' is above all the normal human emotions. What would really interest me is how she got to be that way. If the novel continually offered no clue on this, I'm afraid I might lose interest in her, since generally I want to know why I like or hate a character.

    I rarely show defining moments to describe characters' personality. I offer explanations (background etc) and then show them reacting to people and events. This is because I don't think a person's character is fixed necessarily, it changes and develops over time according to all sorts of circumstances, interactions, and the aging process.
     
  3. Kaynic
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    Kaynic Member

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    Well, the fact of the matter is, she had no other choice; the battle had become a complete and utter rout with overwhelming opposition numbers and weapons. It was either leave them, and save those she still could, or go on a veritable suicide mission and lose every last one of them. Emotions cannot interfere with such decisions; cold hard fact is the only way to make the "right" decision, in her mind. It's either lose 1000, or lose everyone on a senseless and suicidal rush back into territory that has already been lost, against a far superior force. I do hope to convey her complexity as a character; there's a lot more to her, hence her decision not to cut radio contact with those left behind and her break-down after all is said and done. Course, there's a lot of build-up to this point and beyond, but it stands out as one of the most telling moments for me, personally.

    I tend to agree; guess the title is a bit of a misnomer. Static characters, no matter their intriguing characteristics, grow boring after a while if they do not change, though in some cases I suppose this would make sense; rarely are people in real life so deeply affected by something they suddenly become radically different.
     
  4. Mr What
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    Mr What Member

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    Waking up in a back alley with a bedpan dumped on his head.

    No, really.
     
  5. Kaynic
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    Kaynic Member

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    Certainly sounds like there would be a good story behind that.
     
  6. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    A friend of mine critiqued (intensely critiqued) a story I wrote last year. It's about a character in a mental asylum. Here are a few excerpts from his critique.

    (This is more for a major secondary character)

    Those are two extremely defined moments for those two characters who are probably the two most influential (the first being the catalyst for the story, the second being the catalyst for the ending) characters in the story.
     
  7. Quezacotl
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    Quezacotl Contributing Member

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    Static Characters can be interesting. Both static and dynamic characters are real, some people are adamant and stubborn while others are more willing to compromise. Traumatizing events do happen to people - it is not rare.

    The defining character moment is when we can see into the mind of the character, when they break down and show their vulnerability. This can be in the battlefield, while giving/witnessing birth, or in the hallway between classes. Any stressful situation can become a DCM.

    One character of mine has generalized anxiety disorder - the first then she does when she arrives in a strange new world is gaze out the window, panic, and then to appease her compulsions. While otherwise a strong, vocal, extroverted individual, she constantly is fighting her uncertainty, fear, and anxiety and masking herself.
     
  8. James Berkley
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    James Berkley Banned

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    The only one I sort of have is when Portia goes around looting. They just finished invading a more primitive planet and are at the capital. Portia is a genetically engineered soldier and has generally been a cold killer in the book so far. Now she is going around a palace complex looking for one of those “white poncho things” and other articles of cloths she can steal. This is seen through the eyes of a civilian co worker. Its sort of an insight into how Portia is not just a soldier, and has such things as vanity. It attempts to show a more human side to her.
     
  9. James Berkley
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    James Berkley Banned

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    repost
     
  10. Kaynic
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    Kaynic Member

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    If they are done well they can be; but characters who remain the same as ever without showing much more depth begin to bore me. Yes, I know they do; I am referring to those epiphanies so prevalent in media that ring extremely false, not a traumatizing event.

    Wait, what does she do? I think you missed a few words.
     
  11. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    To me, defining moments for characters come with how they act on their beliefs, the choices they make aligned to their senses of right and wrong, and how they fall between the two. For example, if a character stands up for what he believes in in front of others is a defining moment, just as a character who doesn't stand up for what he believes in because the majority of opinion is against him. And there can be so much power behind both, not only with what it shows you about their character but with how it changes their character. Like in your example, Kaynic, a character had to be unemotional to make an emotional decision that she believed was right. That in itself shows a bit of her character, and will be a catalyst that changes her character.

    Personally, I don't use defining moments too often in my writing, but I have a few ... One fits into the second example listed above (not standing up). Another is the internal struggle of a character wanting to do one thing, but believing it would be wrong not to do another. The want and belief clash, and he acts in regards to his belief instead of his want. Defining moments tend to come in all shapes and sizes, but usually focus on belief and action.
     
  12. Androxine Vortex
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    Androxine Vortex Member

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    The setting of my story is a vast world and all cities of Man are ruled by Gods. All of the Gods are are at war with each other, each one trying to claim dominace of Earth so they send out their human worshipers to fight and give praise and glory in their name, and by doing so, making that God stronger. But my main character is part of a knightly order that rejects the rule of the Gods and tries to expunge religion from the world forever.

    Long story short, the character finds a cursed pendant. it is the knights custom to take the token fetishes and relics from slain priests and wear them in mockery so he picks up this amulet. he discovers that a demon (Nexverxe) is locked away inside the magical artifact but instead of destroying it, he decides to use it as a weapon. Fight fire with fire right? So he begins drawing spiritual power from the pendant and he is thinking that he is the master of the demon inside, but the demon is slowly corrupting his mind and soul. Near the end he becomes so corrupt that the demon finally is able to try to posses his body fully. The character (androxine) is so overwhelmed by the dark powers but since his mind was slowly corrupting, he feels no regret from this power. He relishes in the strength pouring through his veins. But then he turns on his fellow brethren and slays them in a flury of violent rage. He hears his name called out and he turns around and plunges his sword into the chest of a Knight. But he realizes that he just struck his brother. He held his brother and life drifted from him. And the last thing that Androxine remembers before the demon nexverxe takes full possesion of his body is holding his dead brother with his sword struck through his heart and knowing that his soul will cry out in eternal torment as the demon takes command.

    Androxine's fall is a great tragedy and as the demon corrupts the world through Androxine's flesh, the soul of Androxine is kept inside, unable to break free and forced to watch the consequences of experimenting with dark and forbidden powers. The moment Androxine killed his brother, it was the defining moment that he realizes how corrupt he was and that he would fail. I took it as a "The road to hell is paved with good intentions" approach.
     
  13. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    Probably being forced to choose between dying with her son or watching him die. (Even if she never had to really choose, the choice, IMO, was defining enough.)
     
  14. Goldstein
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    I think a defining moment should be more about how a character changes, not necessarily an embodiment of his personality. I have one, one of my character has the choice to turn the jeep around and try and save his friend that he has just recently arrested for treason. It would be easy to leave him behind, he's about to be executed anyway, but he instead returns for him, much to the chagrin of his teammates.
    ...
    I just realized how much context my story needs.
     
  15. Marranda
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    Marranda Senior Member

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    I agree with a lot of the posters on this thread. A defining moment (IMO) should be not just a moment where the character shows precisely what kind of person they are, but also show a moment where they've survived something or experienced something that fundamentally changes them. A point in their life that changes their perspective; a line of demarcation, if you will.

    My main MC, Sabby, has many moments in her life that changes her and alters her for the worst, and meets someone who begins to alter her for the better (personally) which makes it harder (professionally) to function.
    In the eyes of those she works with, she's cold blooded, emotionally detached, and not above killing indiscriminately to ensure her own survival. In the eyes of her brother, Warden, she's a broken spirit struggling with maintaining her iron walls of self-preservation.
    In the story, it begins with her in current day situations with bits of her background coming to the foreground to show how she went from the happy 14 year old girl her brother Warden loved, to the sociopathic assassin of present day.

    I would say her most defining moments would be The Horrific Event of Her Fourteenth Year (I'm not going to name it here, but if you're truly curious, PM me), when she got into her first fight in prison, meeting Officer Bentley for the first time, finding her murdered 'boyfriend' in his car, reuniting with Bentley, and (much later in the story from where I'm currently at) watching Bentley get tortured by someone she'd actually come to rely on (which will in turn bring forth those pesky emotions she thought long gone).

    Each event is an emotional wrench in Sabby's works, and her continued survival ensures her emotional and mental transformation, gradually sculpting her into the character I need her to be near the end of her story. To me, these are her defining moments.
     
  16. Kaynic
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    Kaynic Member

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    Personally, I don't believe a defining moment should always change them in some way, especially considering all the factors in various stories, such as mine; the experience doesn't change the commander's perspective, does not disillusion her, doesn't alter her mindset at all; she's been at war long enough to understand there is nothing she can do about things like this and that these events are inevitable. Nor did she hold any illusions about what it would be like.
     
  17. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    I think that depends on how you define "change." In your first post, you said she goes off and breaks down. I would look at that as a "change." Not in the sense that after every hard decision she makes now she will go off and break down, but that her decision had an effect on her (and it may affect her in the future--reinforce her beliefs or undermine them). Change can be subtle and it can be blatant, and it doesn't always have to be apparent or long-lasting. In your character's case, she goes from having the knowledge without illusion of what a decision like the one she makes means to having the impact of having made that decision. In essence, it changed her, but it may not have changed her outlook on such decisions, had any severe impact on her life, etc. But, of course, it could if you wanted it to be apparent.

    Then, you also have external change. How do others regard her after learning of the decision she had to make and how she made it? These type of things also have the ability to change her in several ways, but the catalyst starts with the defining moment that challenged her knowledge and beliefs.

    I would venture to say that a character who couldn't change (or didn't change) from a defining moment would probably be a very boring character altogether. People, in general, are always changing in various ways, depending on their decisions, situations, circumstances, surroundings, etc. I still believe a defining moment is a moment that challenges beliefs and works as the catalyst for change, and I think it applies to your character though you may not see it.

    What do you think?
     
  18. Kaynic
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    Kaynic Member

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    I think you made a great point here, and I'd agree with your assessment. Vanhala is fairly unemotional, coolly logical and given to extreme emotional control, but her emotions hit her hard when she allows them to, such as in this instance. So it is indeed a change, but not a long-lasting one; still, readers are able, for one of the few times, to see her at her most vulnerable.
     
  19. Jetshroom
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    Jetshroom Active Member

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    A defining moment in the story I'm working on shows a secondary character's massive inner turmoil.
    He's been separated from his wife and child for years, burying his pain with alcohol and keeping everything bottled up.
    The main character, a young girl, doesn't understand this, and says something about being lonely, but still having friends.
    The secondary character's pent up emotion erupts and he hurls a glass of scotch at her, it shatters on the doorframe next to her head.
    All the while he's yelling at her about how she has no idea about what loss is.

    This has been one of the scenes that has stuck with me ever since I thought of it. I like it because it emphasises the pain that he's going through.
    In terms of this defining moment though, it does preceed a change in the character. After the outburst he feels guilty and decides to give up drinking.
    So, I think a changing moment can be a defining moment, but I don't think it has to be.
     
  20. Kaynic
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    Kaynic Member

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    Seems like it could be a moving scene; certainly provides a chance for a shift in both of them.
     

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