1. Strange.Magic
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    Strange.Magic New Member

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    Do you ever consider a character too developed?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Strange.Magic, May 31, 2015.

    I have a character I'm developing who's background is about 4 pages long and growing. He's 257 years old, so I feel that justifies the length. However, I'm wondering if there's a point where someone should just say, "Okay. I've written enough, this character is developed enough, if not over-developed, I need to put my pencil down." Or do you feel that it's not possible for a character to be too developed.
     
  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is kind of like the "can you do too much research" question from a few days ago.

    If your goal is to produce a finished piece of writing within a given time frame, you need to look at how you're spending your time and decide whether it's being used efficiently.

    If your goal is to enjoy what you're doing, you need to look at whether you enjoy writing the character's background rather than the story.

    I don't think there's a problem with doing too much research or too much character development, as long as you're willing to accept that not everything you figure out is going to find a place in the finished story. It might inform your characterization, but it probably won't all be presented to the reader, if that makes sense?

    I think it's a "kill your darlings" situation, sometimes, when someone has done a whole lot of pre-writing and is then determined to work every single detail into the work itself.
     
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  3. Strange.Magic
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    Strange.Magic New Member

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    Thank you very much for your opinion! (Also I'm sorry, I hadn't seen that question. My accounts only like one day old.)
     
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  4. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    How many words regarding your character do you have in your actual novel? That's how developed your character is.
     
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  5. Lae
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    Lae Contributing Member Contributor

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    agree with @123456789

    You can write all the back story you want but if it doesnt feature then it doesnt mean a thing. I think the purpose of a back story should be to allow you to better understand the character, their actions, emotions etc and improve your portrayal of them or to inform your readers of something important to the story.
     
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  6. Ivana
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    Ivana Contributing Member

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    This doesn't seem to me like your character is developed through those 4 pages or so, rather described. You are developing a character trough the entire book. But generally I think that you can, indeed, overdevelop basically everything. Leave something to the reader's imagination. ;)
     
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  7. Vrisnem
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    Vrisnem Member

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    I agree with the bolded sentence.

    Knowing your character is important and writing a character biography is an effective way of learning about how a character came to be the person they are now. I find it incredibly useful when trying to work out how my character might react to a situation or what sort of decisions are in-character for them.

    I didn't really realise the importance of character biographies until I took a team-writing module in uni and we were required to produce a team bible containing all our planning work. We were required to include biographies of all characters in this. It felt like a drag to work on it, but I found it useful later during the writing stage when I was unsure how to proceed. A re-read of the bios would usually help me work out how the character would best re/act.
     
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  8. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, I think @Ivana, @Lae and the others are right. Your character develops as the story unfolds. What you've done here, by the sound of it, is come up with four bio sheets. These are notes you might refer to as you write the story, but they are only to guide you.

    If you think about it, just about everybody in the universe is a complex character. We all have backgrounds, parents, scholarly activity (or not) skills, personalities, looks, ages, friends, acquaintances, maybe enemies...

    Call your person "Fred."

    If you're talking about Fred to a friend of yours, relating some incident that included Fred, you won't tell your friend everything you know about Fred, will you? All his personal background, his eye colour, height, weight, achievements at school, where he's been, everything he's done in his life thus far. You'll only tell your friend the things about Fred which are relevant to the incident.

    It's really important not to confuse character sheets with your story content. Character sheets are to guide you, and to keep things straight, so you don't suddenly add 10 years to his age or change his eye colour in the middle of the story. But character development occurs when we see him doing things, see how he interacts with other people, if he's the POV character we get inside his head, hear his thoughts, share his feelings. If he's not the POV character, than we get to know him by how other characters react to him. That's how you develop character in a story.

    A 200+ year old man will have a LOT of backstory, and you, the writer, might need to know it. But not everybody else does.
     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2015
  9. Nicoel
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    Nicoel Contributing Member

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    I feel like everyone's advice not to confuse character bio sheets with actual story content is spot on. Writing out such long bio sheets can help you understand your character, but it's the story and how he he acts and reacts in the situation you put him in is how your readers will understand him.

    The other day I got curious and found a copy of my first novel I've finished, and started reading it, and it was painfully obvious that I was determined to put every detail from my character sheet into the story. It's too old for me to revise and get interested in again, but that's the first thing I'd delete if I were to go back and revise it - the two paragraphs of backstory I forcefully shoved in.
     
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  10. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    It is absolutely possible for a character to be too developed, but that point depends on the writer. I generally don't write anything, anything at all, about a character before I put that character into a scene. I learn about the characters as they do things in scenes. Then there's a fair chance that those "learning" scenes will get thrown way.

    If I were to so much as open a file and write "Character Sheet" on it, that character would be over-developed, because that process crushes my creativity, rather than feeding it. Now, if I discovered in a scene that that character, say, studied music at Harvard University and specialized in the harpsichord, then I would fairly promptly have to research that assertion and find out if that's possible, and if it's not, pick another school or another major or another instrument or whatever. But I tweak my characters after they're awake and moving, not before.

    So the question is, at what point is a character too developed, for YOUR writing process?
     
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  11. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I would say yes only if the other characters in the story felt hollow in comparison. In this I agree with @BayView that perhaps the question has a different facet that's not being considered. As was already said, what is the goal and does the amount of development fit that goal?
     

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