1. Liza
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    Liza Active Member

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    Discovering your character's personality through writing

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Liza, Jan 11, 2013.

    Has there ever been a time where you thought you had perfectly envisioned the how your character behaved, only to be proven wrong in the first couple of pages? I'm finding that the main character I thought I knew is really someone very different. Has this ever happened to you before? It's a very interesting thing to experience.
     
  2. PaulKemp24
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    PaulKemp24 Member

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    I think it's only natural that the characters grow and evolve as you write. I've found that whatever you knew about your story before you began writing it is only just a rough idea of what the story may be about. As you begin writing, the plot may take a slightly different twist or a sub-plot that you didn't see coming might emerge. Characters are shaped into their personalities. Settings might change slightly. In many ways, the story will begin to write itself. I suppose there's a bit of a gray area between "allowing the story to take shape during the writing" and "getting way off track and making a mess of the original plan." As long as you like your finished story more than your original story.

    And you're right -- it is interesting
     
  3. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Absolutely. That's the fun of writing. I've said this before, so apologies to anyone who's seen it before, but I think it so perfectly encapsulates this phenomenon -- our book club had an author attend a meeting where we discussed her book. Several times someone said, "I was very surprised when X happened," and her reply was "Yeah, that surprised me, too." It took me a while, but after starting to write myself, I totally got what she meant.

    I had two characters fall in love in a story, and I had never intended them to get together. I was going to barely have them meet. But I ended up writing a whole other story about them. Unfortunately, I needed a plot, so I had to kill her, which was sad, but I think made for a decent story.
     
  4. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Characters are supposed to grow and change as the story progresses. That's what makes them interesting. I start with just a general idea of my characters and I begin to write scenes about them. These scenes are not guaranteed to be in the final story, but they do teach me about my characters and the world they live in. Eventually my characters start doing something that looks like a story, and I realize what I'm writing about.

    So I know my characters will change when I set pen to paper. If they didn't, I'd be worried, because that would mean there really isn't a story I can tell about them.
     
  5. Scarfe
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    Scarfe Member

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    Strangely the greatest character arc I have ever seen is in a shoddy film, the remake of Dawn of the Dead. There is a security guard in that film who starts as a bastard and finishes (spoiler) killing himself for the rest; it is genuinely the most seamless arc I have ever read/ seen. Except for Crime and Punishment, but I was more taken with the Colombo character in that than the protagonist.
     
  6. junesummers
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    junesummers New Member

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    How long have you been writing about that character? It's taken me about a year to get a real grasp on my characters' deeper motivations, fears, back stories, etc. I didn't even fully realize this before I started filling out more in-depth character sheets. Of course I tried doing character sheets before, but I could never come up with anything I actually ended up using in the story.

    I think getting to know a character is much like getting to know any other person. You only do so by watching them in different situations to see how they behave and interact with others.
     
  7. Scarfe
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    Not so sure, there is always a part of ourselves we may not necessarily like that we can tap into. Or that annoying twat you know- the latter is of course easier.
     
  8. SilverWolf0101
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    SilverWolf0101 Active Member

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    All the time.
    My characters always end up surprising me by the time I finish writing about them. They're never the person I originally thought them to be, sometimes, by the end of the story, they end up being a complete stranger to who I thought they were and show me someone far more interesting that I never knew before. I find it to be a wonderful experience that I tend to look forward to time and time again.
     
  9. Liza
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    Liza Active Member

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    I've been writing on and off about her for a year or so, but I never focused on her particular story because I was always busy with other novels. I think I'll just trash any expectations of personality traits that I had for her and simply observe the way she acts. It's frustrating, though. She's a lot less emotional and far less trusting than I expected her to be. I feel left in the dark.

    It certainly is an exciting experience, but doesn't it also scare you? I feel powerless to the will of my characters and end up wondering if I'm writing about myself rather than writing about them, and if that is why I cannot tap into the personality I envisioned for them.
     
  10. Talmay
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    Talmay Member

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    Until the moment I start writing, my characters are lifeless. They have a set personality and detailed back story, but no spark, no essence. It's always something I struggled with until the day I said, screw this, and rolled with it. The story is about them, after all.
     
  11. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    Yes, characters surprise me often.
     
  12. SilverWolf0101
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    SilverWolf0101 Active Member

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    @Liza Yes, it is sometimes scary thinking that your characters might get away from you and that you end up focusing more on other things rather then who the character is. I sometimes worry that I'm letting the characters become a mess and it'll take the story too far away from the original plot I intended. Really though, when I stop and think about it, it's not so bad actually. Letting the characters develop on their own and having them show me who they really are seems to make the story more believable and moves it along better then I thought it would have. It also makes me feel more connected to the character in the end, despite the fact that I may not know them too well.
    One of my friends, who I often ask advice from since she is also a writer of sorts, once told me that the development of one of my characters surprised her. When I first created him, he was in his mid thirties to late forties, and he was an irresponsible prick (sorry for the term, but it is the best way to describe him). By the time I was done throwing him into different scenarios, he had turned into a rich eighteen year old boy who was overly responsible, dedicated to his closest friends and family, and felt he had to carry the burden of the family business' future on his shoulders, even if it meant sacrificing his own happiness. It was nothing like how I originally saw him, but in the end I realized that he had developed into the kind of character that I needed him to be to best suit the story in the end.
    So yes, it's sometimes scary, but I think I prefer being surprised and seeing what awaits me.
     
  13. Oak7ree
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    Oak7ree Member

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    Yeah, happens me sometimes when I write a story for a long time. First I try to make a character, then I may have a better idea for a character, and the old one gets rewritten or removed.
     
  14. Keitsumah
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    Keitsumah The Dream-Walker Contributor

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    yep. I had that happen with my main character. (so many name changes and attitude adjustments...) originally a lone warrior and now a dependent teen who is extremely shy. How far off could i get? but it works much better with my story actually which is quite funny.
     
  15. Liza
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    Liza Active Member

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    @SilverWolf0101 Wow, that's quite a change! I'm glad to hear that it worked out, though, so I suppose I will just let her develop and try to toss fear out the window. It's hard not knowing who your character is, but I'll hope for the best.
     

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