1. Holo
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    Holo Senior Member

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    Developing protagonist's personality

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Holo, Feb 4, 2012.

    I'm currently having trouble with my protagonist. For many people, the protagonist comes naturally to them after some time, but mine is still evading me. I just don't get her. I basically have two personalities for her at once and it is hindering the story. I want her to be well-rounded and three dimensional, but I don't want her to have a contradictory personality. I want her to develop and mature, but still retain the same basic traits she had in the beginning.
    I can't decide whether she is a feisty, sarcastic, brash, and fiercely independent girl or a quirky, serene, calm mannered, yet forceful girl with a rebellious streak.
    One of my friends who read a short part of my story said she thought my protagonist was a mix between Ginny Weasley and Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter series. The problem, she said, was that those are two contradictory characters. Sometimes, my heroine would seem calm and serene, but still funny and at other times she would be hot-tempered and feisty. She felt like she was reading about two different characters in the same body so to speak.
    I need advice on how to fix this problem. How do you figure out the details of your character's personality? If you use a character profile template, can you recommend it to me? And where do you get your inspiration and ideas for your character's personality? Not having a firm grip on mine is messing with the story. Please help.
     
  2. LemonDrop
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    LemonDrop New Member

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    Some things that help me with character development is zodiac astrology and the Myers Briggs Personalities. What is your character's astrological sign? Once you figure that out, look up the personality characteristics of that sign, then add in your character's backstory and see how those different traits came to be.
     
  3. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Real people can be contradictory. They react to various situations based on their core personality, but that doesn't mean they are always passive, or always feisty. A serene woman can become fierce if her children are threatened, as an extreme example.

    Your problem may be that you just haven't figured out how to meld the two dichotomies. Try looking at the situation that causes the 'clash', and see if you can add in some of the other personality. For example, during a scene where she is brash or sarcastic, perhaps she can have a momentary thought from the 'calm' personality like "I shouldn't say that, but still..." Allow the character to acknowledge her own inconsistencies, or have another character comment on it. Don't overblow it, of course, but a few instances of that where appropriate could solve the issue.
     
  4. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I agree. I'm typically a nice, kind person, but God knows that there are times when I become this bitter, cynical, anti-social jerk for no real reason.

    Just let your characters reveal their personality for you. Put then in different situations and observe how they respond.
     
  5. UrbanBanshee
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    UrbanBanshee Member

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    For me a character's background can reveal a lot about them too. It has helped me solidify more then a few characters. What type of childhood did they have, situations that left a large impression on them? It doesn't have to be bad either, something like a butterfly pin she saw when she was little at a fair that always struck with her could help solidify a love of small wondrous things. Not to mention choices we have made in the past reflect choices we make now. A small mistake in the past can seem bigger and she could overcompensate for it forever without realizing it.
     
  6. I Am Vague
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    I Am Vague Active Member

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    Sometimes a contradictory character IS the personality. It could signify that they are hypocritical, and it truly shows with more definition how they act during certain situations. For example, they could say they hate violence and would never promote it to solve problems, but then later once their friends won't take action against the 'school bully' he or she steps in with violence and saves the day. You could go several ways with this. This is a gold opportunity to share the specific colors of the protagonist through their actions. Hope that helped a little.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If you can sum up a character in a few adjectives, chances are you have developed her too rigidly. Real people act in seemingly inconsistent ways. Change the situation, she can seem to be a wholly different person. As soon as you think you have someone figured out, they do something completely surprising.
     
  8. AndrewH
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    AndrewH New Member

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    It seems the problem isn't that your protagonist is unrealistic; it's that the reader has trouble keeping all parts of her personality in their head.

    Maybe try for another trait that can serve as a unifying element between the two disparate parts of her personality. A physical mannerism, a turn of phrase or way of speaking, distinctive abbreviations, or nicknames for the other characters - all these can serve to help "ground" the reader in the character. That way, when her actions or attitude shift, they still seem a part of the same character. Of course, you need to be careful not to overdo it, or the character becomes a caricature.
     
  9. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Try using the Myers-Briggs personality test. It's used by psychologists and is a pretty sure-fire way to accurately get someone's personality. There are 16 various types based on combinations of 4 different factors and I find it really, really helpful (for both real life and characters). Check it out. :)
     
  10. OutoMaisteri
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    OutoMaisteri New Member

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    I've had a similar problem with one of my characters. He's usually quiet, calm, obedient and strives for perfection. But when things go horribly wrong he becomes aggressive and impulsive - pretty much his complete opposite. He also want's to be near other people - he actually needs to be around people - but he doesn't let anyone get close to him. My character is full of contradictions and that is actually his most important feature.

    Like you, I don't always get him. Sometimes it's really hard to decide what he would do in a given situation. My advice is this: start thinking what are the few most important traits for the character. What are the most important events of his/her past? Stick to those few traits/events you have picked and then start thinking around them. Deviate from them when the character requires you to. It's a balancing act and if you're like me, you won't find that balance unless you keep on writing.

    Real people are multidimensional. Most of my characters are quite deeply based on my own personality, and they have a wide range of personalities. Don't be afraid to throw in some opposites. Just don't let them become too overwhelming. Like I said, I don't think there's an easy way out. You just have to experiment and find out what works and what doesn't.

    What is at your characters very core? Can she deviate from that given a certain incident?
     

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