1. ranjit23das
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    ranjit23das Member

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    Doing field research into a character

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by ranjit23das, Oct 8, 2012.

    Hi everyone,

    on a different thread, Mikewritesfic had suggested that to develop one's characters, writers can do some hands on research and interviews regarding a character. For example, if one of your main characters was a police officer in a big city then find out all you can about big city police officers, their backgrounds, attitudes on and off the job, etc.

    I would be interested to hear back from others if they have used this approach and what learnings you could share with others?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Become a peoplewatcher. Observe the species in its native habitats.

    Yes, where your characters have specific professions or hobbies, it certainly pays to do research on that activity, which can certainly include getting to know people who engage in that activity. Google is your best starting point for most research, but even that should not be your only avenue. Get out and TALK to people. Move among them. Get to know their interests, and even explore those interests yourself. Not only will you collect material for your writing, you'll become a more rounded person yourself.

    Much of this advice should go without saying. A recluse in a darkened basement apartment is ill-equipped to write about the ways of the worls, even if he or she continually peers through the Internet window.
     
  3. Bjørnar Munkerud
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    Bjørnar Munkerud Contributing Member

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    Personal experience

    Cogito is just as inspiring and hilarious as always.



    Something I would like to elaborate a little bit on is the "personal experience" part. In a way everything is in the end personal experience, but here I'm talking about what you knew previously (from growing up, family, friends, work, travels, interests, things you know loads about) in contast to what you invent fully on your own.

    I find two things to be important in your choice of the extensiveness to which you would want to mainly use your own past experiences: genre and setting.

    Science fiction stories set to other planets in other cultures with other species who speak other languages are unlikely to be directly linkable to your personal life/past, but as with all storymaking you would still have to get your inspiration from somewhere; the point is that you will twist, alter, combine and exaggerate real-world stuff to create the story to a larger degree than in other situations where you can directly copy a larger number of things.

    If you write the story of a "real-world" journey, romance or crime, on the other hand, you may want to, and will certainly be able to, draw on loads of personal knowledge and experience (and it will be possible to research, in contrast with the science fiction part, which won't), depending in degree to which specific experience you have as a person.

    As for the setting, many of the same things can be said; they border on eachother. Things depend on to which degree the setting is real. And if it is real on how well you know that place. And also perhaps how well-versed you are in locations/areas similar to the one you are using (if you've never seen snow and is describing a harsh winter with icestorms and blizzard and fireplaces and skiing you will need to research a lot).


    My advice:

    : Look at the world around you, just as importantly what you see every day, and play with it. Stories by people who know the world (they are describing) are the best. Stories in places you can recreate correctly are the most real.

    II: Take people you've met and blend and mix them and rename them and change their looks, characteristics, behaviour and abilities until you think, feel and know they are as good as they can be; regardless of whether they still resemble anyone in particular, celebrities or friends, it doesn't matter.

    III: Don't be afraid to be creative and imaginative. But don't e.g. be afraid to make the layout of you MC's house the same as your own's either. That last is a thing 1. something the vast majority of people will never know, 2. the people, if any, who DO get to know it will probably think of it as merely a cool fun fact, 3. it might aid you in your visualising of the setting and 4. it might actually be the best solution for the given situation.

    IV: My fourth and final piece of advice is to think through and make as perfect every part of your writing as you possibly can as that is obviously the only way you will be able to be the best author you can possibly be. It's incredible what one person can come up with with their own imagination. And equally awe-inspiring how much people love that stuff to bits.
     
  4. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    If the character has a job that is essential to your story, you absolutely should find out about what people who have that job do, and what attitudes are prevalent, etc. Otherwise it is best to have the characters have a job that either you have had, or that you know about, and know what sorts of people generally have that job and what issues arise in the field. Ever notice how many books and movies involve a character who is some sort of writer?
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    read the acknowledgements page of major authors' bestsellers... see all those folks they're thanking?... see how many are being thanked for sharing their particular expertise?

    so, if it's done all the time by the most successful writers, it's certainly a good idea for any of you, right?
     

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