1. lizbeth0808
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    lizbeth0808 New Member

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    Does it have to be so calculated?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by lizbeth0808, Nov 28, 2012.

    Maybe it's because I know little of organized writing and am still working on it, but is there anybody who doesn't use a calculated formula to all of this? Someone who doesn't think about it all, or is it necessary?
     
  2. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    I've never used a calculated formula on my writing. The closest I've come to is was three weeks ago when I ended up doing a lot of world building because the universe my novels are set in expanded exponentially. Nor do I use a formula for my word counts. Average novel is 80-120k with new unpublished writers needing to submit 80-100k with 110k the max. If I have more words then that, then stuff gets cut during editing.

    However, if I understand what you're asking, there's no real 'formula' to writing a novel anyway or creating a character. Character's are basically fictional people and need to have the same wants, needs and desires as a real person. That's about the only formula I can tell you.
     
  3. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I start out with an idea or a character, and the only 'formula' I use is that the sentence, paragraph, page I'm working on has to fit into the story and keep it moving. Oh - and at the bottom of the last page, I type "The End" - just for my own use. ;)
     
  4. Webster
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    Webster Senior Member

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    I get where you're coming from. Sometimes it feels like there should be a way to do it as if you were making an omlette, or something. 'Et voila! Here is my novel!' I, personally, only feel what you're describing when I'm re-writing. Just let the Muse guide your hand in the early drafts.
     
  5. Dagen
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    Dagen New Member

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    I always found it restricting to think too far ahead. I save all the nitty-gritty organization and planning for later drafts. My first draft is really just me putting random thoughts on paper until I start to notice some trends or ideas that could work together. Its only after those naturally start to form on their own that I begin planning at all and even then its very little. I found that over-thinking the development made both the characters and plots rather flat.
     
  6. Fivvle
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    Fivvle Contributing Member

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    It seems like lots of people tend to overplan."Planning" can easily become an all-too-tentative approach to giving your ideas life, and it's not long before everything you "plan" becomes robotic and static.
    The general knowledge you need for a character is already somewhere inside your head, and really figuring them out requires a leap of faith. Writing the story is what gives your ideas life of their own.
     
  7. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't plan anything other than the page I'm on - and that depends on what I've already written. I love finding out how it all ends! :D
     
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  8. Pheonix
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    Pheonix A Singer of Space Operas and The Fourth Mod of RP Staff Contributor

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    I have ideas, then I start writing them and things usually go completely different, and I'm totally fine with that! :D
     
  9. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is a discussion that pops up frequently among writers, to the point that some people insist on deconstructing every novel they read in an attempt to determine whether the author was an "outliner" or a "pantser." ("Pantser" meaning the opposite of outliner, as in 'by the seat of your pants'). Often the guess proves to be incorrect if the author has later been directly asked.

    It really comes down to your own style and personality. If you like to just sit down and write, figuring out or seeing what happens as you do so, go ahead. If this idea paralyzes you with fear, or you just can't seem to make anything happen, maybe you prefer to outline your story and write as the outline directs. (Although it is possible to find that in doing the writing, you end up veering off from the original plan and the story goes in an unexpected direction. This can often be a good thing.)

    So, to answer your question, the answer is no -- a definite no, to the question of whether there is some rule in the universe that the act of writing a story must conform to some calculated formula or it cannot be done. However, for a particular person, it is possible that the answer is yes. You just have to figure out which type of writer you are, and the possible answers exist on a continuum, rather than a black and white answer of always or never outline.
     
  10. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Chicagoliz is right and for that matter - everyone else is right too! - it's whatever works best for you and the project.

    I fly by the seat of my pants for short stories - starting with a vague idea and just write. No character sheets, no direction, it all just flows
    out rather stream-of-consious. For novels though, I have to plan a little. I don't do the character sheet thing - they can be
    distracting and limiting - I keep my lists very short - name - goals - interests - flaws. I write out happenings and events
    that I want in the story and organise them according to the rise and fall in action. But I don't have everything worked out.

    Book writing is like taking a trip - you know basically where you're going and what you'll be
    doing - but while some people plan every minute out, others are up for a spontaneous meeting
    or moment. Neither trip is necessarily better - each works best for the individual.
     
  11. svartalfheim
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    svartalfheim Member

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    I've never actually heard of this "formula" Of which everyone seems to know off, however from reading its just the writing type. I personally plan a few things but not a lot only the basics i can branch out on. I'm a bit of a spontaneous person sometimes though and new characters are made and then they just live on in my writing, without any basics being written down. they tend to be my favorite characters as they have grown from the location instead of just my imagination.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I abhor writing by formula, including character sheets and contrived interviews. I begin characters very minimally, and let the story shape them.
     
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  13. Luna13
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    Luna13 Active Member

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    I 100% agree.
     
  14. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    "Tell me a good story populated with people I care about."

    That's the only formula I use.
     
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  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i have been writing for well over a half century and have never followed any formula for any aspect of my writing...

    i do use a formatting program for scripts and generally structure them according to the 3-act norm, but that doesn't affect how i write the screenplay or develop characters...
     
  16. SuperVenom
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    SuperVenom Contributing Member

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    Just to ask what are character sheets and interviews. Like the vast majority here I just feel my way through the story and see where flow takes me. I have like a couple lines in a note book about what i want to achieve with the character but that's about it. Just out of interest more than anything else. Because I agree that there are a lot of people out there selling formulas and points to follow and it's nice to know what to avoid.
     
  17. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Character sheets are (sometimes) questionnaire type things where you decide if the MC likes the color purple or meatloaf. Interviews are where the author 'interviews' the MC to see what they think about the color purple or meatloaf.

    And no, I don't use them. I learn about my characters just like I do real people - the longer I'm around them, the better I know them.
     
  18. hippocampus
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    hippocampus Active Member

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    I love this idea! Thank you for permission to just LET IT GO. :D

    I do tend to overplan - in part because I get this vision of the huge mess my "Muse" is creating for me to untangle later! But if I keep censoring myself and trying to perfect the characters and storylines now, I may never finish.
     
  19. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    The only reason to use them is to make 100% sure you are not going to screw up and make his favorite color green in the first chapter, but red in ninth. Other than that... waste of time.

    As said so many times, if you need to plan - plan. If you can't stand it - forget about it.

    The only thing that makes sense to me, on the other hand, is to make note of what you have previously written. If you have a character you develop for pages and then you just completely forget about him for the rest of the novel, or if you start writing one thing and move to another, and lose the context and consistency - it's time to turn back, re-read and keep it clean.
     
  20. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Or there's some place in between total chaos and uber-planning. ;)
     
  21. idle
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    idle Active Member

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    I do tend to plan ahead a lot. Partly, I guess, because that's how my ideas work, I usually know already how it will end and have to work up to that. And I only write short stories and like them to be pretty tight, with no extra fat.

    On the other hand, this way I get stuck pretty easily, so I wouldn't actually recommend it to anyone else. :)
     
  22. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think character sheets and interviews are fun little exercises that enable you to spend some time with your characters and get to know them. I wouldn't however, become beholden to anything I wrote down on a character sheet. Actually, I rarely actually write any of the answers down to any of the questions I've seen on suggested character interview lists. I just think of what the answers would be. I only do this when I don't want to or can't write, yet I'm still thinking about the story and want to do something that's at least related to it.

    I know a lot about my characters, such as the colors they like, the cars they drive, the clothes they wear, etc., even though they aren't actually written anywhere in the story.
     
  23. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    I do this a lot. I think much of what makes up a strong story is untold information forming a penumbra around the tale, just as one might get a general idea of undersea geology by observing how the islands are arranged. It is not exact, and it should not be exact; much of what makes for a good story or character is establishing the intangibles. I have characters who have never gotten near a plate of caviar ... but I know which ones would like it, and which ones would not, because I know them. The trick is evoking that vibe in the mind of the reader.
     
  24. alcarty
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    'The world is composed of people who believe that they are right.' I don't remember who said it, but whoever was right on. I have my way and I am in good company. Mark Twain said that the character of Huckleberry Finn was drawn from life, and Tom Sawyer was a composite of several boys the author had known. Someone on this site said that he let the story define the character. O.K., good for you. My way is to get to know my characters; I draw them from many sources, from people I have known, family, friends, book/movie characters that resemble my people, get to know them well. If you know your people well you know what they would probably do in any situation. What would your dad/mother/brother/Dirty Harry/Sister Mary Margaret/do when they are put in the situation you have? You not only have a character whose voice you know, and the direction they might move in, you have a story that the characters are writing for you. The story does not create the characters, the characters do what they HAVE to do, because it is in their nature. Just hang on and write it down. Stop arguing with them. They know what they're doing. They might just find a different author. Nyaaa!
     

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