1. QuicksilverKite
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    QuicksilverKite New Member

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    Having issues with a MC who can't die...

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by QuicksilverKite, Jul 14, 2011.

    I'm having trouble fleshing out my character. Specifically, he's immortal...ish, therefore matching his motivations to his history, distant and recent, is a daunting (and somewhat confusing) task. I could use some advice on how to organize the mess of five millenia into a workable format...

    any ideas?
     
  2. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    You don't have to include every bit of history of the MC's life. Just focus on the ones that are important to the story. If something from history is required knowledge for readers, slip it in naturally in passing, avoiding any type of infodump.
     
  3. WriterDude
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    WriterDude Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't know how old you are, but how often do you tell your entire life story to people? Most people don't tell much at all, so why should a character in a book? And after such a long time, wouldn't he be bored of it by now? If I lived that long, I wouldn't tell more than absolutely necessary simply because I have already told it hundreds of times in the past.
     
  4. QuicksilverKite
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    QuicksilverKite New Member

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    I wish my thoughts we're more organized, so I apologize in advance if I get confusing...

    I'm writing from a third person pov, and while the character doesn't speak of his past, it's what drives him.
    Essentially the story is about how he's lost his humanity fighting a save mankind, in a constant war that no one knows about anymore, and he's searching for a reason to keep fighting.
    I'm trying not to infodump, but to explain his actions so that the reader understands and can relate, all while not breaking the pacing of the story.
     
  5. QuicksilverKite
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    QuicksilverKite New Member

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    I guess what I'm saying is how do I sort out his history for me so that I don't infodump on the reader but still make it understanable and feel... organic?
     
  6. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Slip in little things naturally. For example, if he's drinking a glass of water, slip in some cryptic mention of how hard it was to get water during the war. Or if he cuts himself accidentally, compare it to something violent a bad guy did, but don't elaborate. Insert little tiny clips and hints within sentences, without going on and on. Less is more, and readers will be able to put the pieces together.
     
  7. WriterDude
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    WriterDude Contributing Member Contributor

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    What if someone mention a new invention, and this guy comments something like "I've seen it all before". He hasn't seen the new invention, but think about everything he has seen the last five thousand years. World religions like Christianity and Islam wasn't around back then. Empires like Egypt and Nubia rose to power and fell to pieces. The Roman Empire was born, prospered and fell apart, and so on. So when he says he has seen it all before, he means it. What could possibly interesting him now? New inventions, new kings and queens, new countries, it doesn't matter. It's old news to him.
     
  8. QuicksilverKite
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    QuicksilverKite New Member

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    I guess it's time to get this into action then... thank you for you input, it is greatly appreciated.
     
  9. Ubrechor
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    Ubrechor Active Member

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    Have you read any of the books in the Bartimaeus Trilogy? The protagonist, a spirit called Bartimaeus, has lived for 5000 years (give or take) and his history is fully fleshed out through the use of little whimsical little asides and footnotes on quirky past experiences, that sort of thing. I THOROUGHLY recommend it.
     
  10. Patrick94
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    Patrick94 Active Member

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    Contradiction? Or did you mean you've told only what you've needed to hundreds of times?

    Anyway, if you made your character relatively young he wouldn't have too much to tell (make him your age and you'll know exactly what he needs)
     
  11. Sundae
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    Sundae Contributing Member

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    Retrospection is an easy one. It is flexible enough to let you tell only the parts you wish to tell.

    Parallel stories - two stories happening at once, usually in different time lines coming together as one. Example of this "The Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss. The past affects so much of the future and you can see how they are tied.

    Another way is through writing devices like the interview method. Example of this is Anne Rices's Interview with a vampire. The story follows a vampire who lives hundreds of years and it's basically the story of his life.

    There are other devices too. Like in fantasy, you can use magic. An example of this is the pensive in Harry Potter.

    Or you someone can just making a passing comment and it reminds you of your past etc.

    I usually have stories where my character's past is an extremely important element to my story and a crucial element that guides me character's present. And I'm one of those people that when I get a novel idea, I end up getting that character entire life history too, and finding a balance of what to include and exclude is something I definitely empathize with.

    The biggest thing that has helped me when dealing with history is to figure two things:

    A) what kind of story do I want to tell. (Retrospection, parallel, flashback, or a normal story that starts out in the present and stays there)

    By figuring this out: it gives me a skeleton structure to follow and it's probably the biggest help.

    B) What perspective do I need to tell my story in and what tense.

    Once I have this, I now have boundaries to work with.

    And with that, I just make a small time line of the story, not my character's story, but the story I need to tell. This way, you're only including things that are essential to moving your plot along and not extra stuff that isn't needed.

    If you come to a plot point that needs a history lesson to understand, then you now can figure out which history lesson to give and factor in its importance to the story.

    This is how I usually work with things. Hope it helps.
     
  12. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Okay. If we are talking about five millenia, we are reaching back to 3,000 BC/BCE. That's a LOT of territory to cover. And, obviously, not a lot of momentous events of global import occurred through most of that time. There will be, however, a few highly important events in your character's personal life that would serve to compare one time to another. Even though he is wrapped in this universal war trying to save people who do not know they need saving, his memories will be with him, even over 5,000 years. Bits and pieces of that are bound to invade his thoughts, if not his words, from time to time. He may not be able to voice a lot of what he is thinking for fear of being locked up for a mad man for a hundred years or so, but he will still think about it. That can be related here and there throughout, triggered by his modern experiences.

    As far as keeping track of his life for your own record keeping purposes: I had a similar problem with a nearly timeless character. I built a timeline in my computer starting with his first life. I then proceeded to list a chronology of all of the major historical events throughout his life. In a different color and indented to a different level (as with a writing outline), I inserted his personal history and events. Each time something new came up or I brought up a new time frame or whatever, I went back to my timeline, added the accurate historical data then, below that, added the appropriate date, indented to the appropriate point, and entered his personal data. It made it ever so much easier to track happenings once I did this.

    Hope it helps.
     
  13. the1
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    the1 Active Member

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    I have indeed read the Bartimaeus Trilogy. Quite a good little series.
     
  14. SilverWolf0101
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    SilverWolf0101 Active Member

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    Writing about a timeless character who's lived through a lot of history can be quite difficult, especially when you don't want to info dump.

    But I find that in order to figure out what kind of information you want to include, you have to think back on the type of character. Each character will handle their past differently and address it differently.
    Like for example, say you have a talkative, easy-going character that doesn't seem to mind anything. I can imagine this type of character walking around and when he sees something thinking/saying "Oh that is so like such-and-such from such-and-such time". It's not an info dump, but it is a fleeting thought that gives characters a hint of just how old your character could be.
    Or if your character is the more reserved, emo type, you can make it so they're always pained by memories of their past so they never really talk about it but they're always thinking about it, seeing visions of it, and suffering from it.
    Or even you can have a character like my one werewolf character. My werewolf is very reserved, doesn't like to share anything with anyone, and pretty much keeps everything to herself. So she never mentions her past to anyone and you find that it seems like she never thinks of it. But all around her are hints of her past. Her body is laced with scars from the past, she has her mother's journal/diary with a painting of her (my werewolf) as a child in it. Along with other things that hint towards her past but she never comes out and says any of it.

    But these are all just examples of what you could do. I just find that in order to figure out how you're going to present the past, you have to know your character and figure out how they would react/present the past.
    Personally I think it throws the reader off if you present the character's past in a way that doesn't relate to the character. That's always bothered me when I read stories or watch movies.

    Otherwise, a lot of what other people have suggested is a good idea. Especially the timeline, I'm using one right now to try and get my werewolf's past in order since there's a lot of it to sort through.
     
  15. capmonkey
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    capmonkey New Member

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    If you've ever seen the newer version of Doctor Who, a tale about an immortal, they did a fine job of only releasing certain bits of information at a time. He had so much history to share, but only enough relevant pieces came to light to add to the topics needed to move along the story.

    While it may seem daunting to create thousands of years worth of life, we only need enough to make one character. One of the great things about long-living characters is the mystery behind their story. You know there's so much, and only so little can be told so as to avoid infodump, so fragments of the story are let out at the writer's discretion. Everything else can be speculative, and leaving it just barely vague can entice the reader and give you a bit more freedom in your character development.
     
  16. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Who? I mean - What? You mean there's someone who hasn't?
    The Doctor is an absolute icon of brilliance - all regenerations thereof (although there were a few questions about 20 foot neck scarves and celery boutonnieres.)
    In fact, my favorite description of a book is ... "It's bigger on the inside."


    We now return you to your regularly scheduled topic.
    :eek:))
     
  17. berky
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    berky Member

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    I suggest you sit down and write out a timeline of the characters life. Nothing flashy, just something for you as the writer to help organize your thoughts and the characters history. Chances are you'll end up filling in patches of his history and fleshing him out thinking about how events in his life have shaped him.
     

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