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  1. elmarko98
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    elmarko98 New Member

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    Developing Characters Help

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by elmarko98, Nov 22, 2013.

    Hi

    I'm new to this forum so I should probably start with an introduction (I know there's a sub-forum for that but I'd just do it here), I'm called Mark, I'm 15, on my last year of school, I love creative writing and I've been at it for a year and a bit.
    Now onto the real reason I'm posting, as the name suggests I want some help with developing characters (If you're here because you think I'm giving help then I'm sorry to disappoint you), I've been writing for a while but I've always felt like my characters are a bit stale, maybe they're not but it'd be nice to get some tips on how you develop one. I've been writing for a year with next to no guidance so I'm sort of hunting for new techniques to better myself as a writer.
     
  2. Renee J
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    Renee J Contributing Member

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    I would think about things that happened in their past that shaped them into who they are at the beginning of the story. Then, as things happen in the story, the past and present influence how they react.
     
  3. elmarko98
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    elmarko98 New Member

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    That's a good point, I do that already though. I have a character who's in a very high position of power (the highest in fact, he's a prime-minister) but he constantly dwells on all the suffering he caused to get there and all the people he betrayed, most of all his mother who he abandoned because he felt she was slowing him down, she soon dies of old age and it leaves a heavy mark on his conscience. Because of all this he rules justly and keeps the people's interests at his heart at all times. Sorry for the rambling, I'm just slightly proud of that character, he has other problems too but I'll leave that for another time.
     
  4. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Write scenes with the character in it and see how they react. I find it's usually in the numerous rewrites where your character starts to really flesh out, because each time you emphasise a slightly different trait, while trying to keep whatever you had previously, which eventually leads to a complex character.
     
  5. elmarko98
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    elmarko98 New Member

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    Hmm, never saw it like that. Makes sense though, I've always tried to flesh out the character in the planning process but looking over my work I realise that they've become more complex than they are in the plan. It's like they have minds of their own :D
     
  6. Spare Time Author
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    Spare Time Author New Member

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    There are lots of little activities you can use to flesh out a character. One I like to use that's fun to do is to answer a list of questions like you would find in an online dating profile or social media profile on behalf of the character. Silly questions. 'What is your favorite color?' Where would you go on a first date? Favorite movie? Those kind of things. It makes you think from their point of view and think about why they would like or hate certain things. If you really go down the rabbit hole, you might think about if they've always liked/hated something. Maybe they had a different favorite X when they were younger, but something changed that.
     
  7. Spare Time Author
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    Spare Time Author New Member

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    I love rewriting an earlier chapter and going, 'Why on Earth did I have them react that way! They would never do that!' That's a fun part of writing that the readers never get to see, the way your characters grow during the process.
     
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  8. Nicki_G
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    Nicki_G Member

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    Sorry, post from long ago...
     
  9. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    Here's the problem: all the writing skills you've been taught are designed to make you a useful and self sufficient adult in life and on the job. They're a general skill, of use to all adults. And that means nonfiction skills. You've been trained to write in an author-centric way. You tell the story. You've worked hard to be concise, accurate, and dispassionate. You do fact based writing, designed to inform.

    Unfortunately, fiction, a profession with a body of knowledge unique to it—just as any other profession—demands character-centric and emotion-based writing, which is designed to entertain. Different goals require a different approach.

    See the problem? No matter how hard you may try to write an interesting story, if you use the compositional skills you worked so hard to learn in school, and which get you passing marks in class, it's going to read like an essay on the life of a fictional character.

    And your teachers will not only never tell you this, they'll insist that they are teaching you the necessary skills. They'll even ask you to write fiction as an assignment. And they'll judge their merit based on the compositional skills they taught you because those are the only ones they know. They learned to write in those same classrooms, after all.

    And yes, I know you've been in creative writing classes. But I've looked at the support materials and it makes my hair (what's left of it) stand on end because it's dead wrong. As an example, one suggested exercise is to tell the writer to assume they're in the room where the Declaration of Independence is being written, and to tell the reader how they feel. But that's a nonfiction approach, a reporter's In fiction, the assignment should have been: Make the reader feel as if they are actually in the room where it's happening, in such a way as to make them react as if they are. Make the ambient, the smells, sights, and the texture of the pen in their hand real. Make them feel exactly what the signer is feeling, through their thoughts, reactions, and needs.

    But you'll never see even mention of such things in the average CW course

    So here's the trick. If you want to write, it's time to stop waiting for the teacher to assign your homework, so far as writing. You need to take over your own education. And t that end, some suggestions:

    Given your situation I would suggest you pick up a copy of Debra Dixon's, GMC: Goal Motivation & Conflict. It's a really easy read, well organized, and full of things that will make you say, "Why didn't I see that for myself." The price is quite reasonable, and it's worth ten times what it costs.

    Next up would be to call in Jack Bickham's, Scene and Structure from your local free library system. It's complete and written by someone who taught commercial fiction writing for many years at Oklahoma University. It's goes into greater depth, and is a more technical read. Some find it a bit dry though. On the other hand, it's free. And free is always good.

    My personal favorite is Dwight Swain's, Techniques of the Selling Writer. But that may be because I read him first. He taught with Jack Bickham.

    One cool byproduct of reading any of those books will be that you can ask questions that will drive your CW teacher crazy. :)

    Hang in there, and keep on writing.
     
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  10. elmarko98
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    elmarko98 New Member

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    Thank you for the advice, I'll definitely give those books a look and hopefully become a better writer.
     
  11. Tharian
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    Tharian Contributing Member

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    Aside from JayG's great advice, I'd like to encourage you to dabble in role playing. Whether it's in an online game, pen and paper, or on a forum.

    You get to immerse yourself and you're forced to deal with consequences, because you interact with other people. It'll help you not to make your character a mary sue, and if you ask for advice it'll be things you can actively use. The downside consists out of people who advise you, but are best to be ignored.
     

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