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  1. IVIilitarus
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    IVIilitarus Member

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    Help Needed on Creating Characters who are Lovable, but Expendable

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by IVIilitarus, Sep 27, 2010.

    I tend to a gritty, realistic writing style and stick to war stories, where everything is at its harshest. If 1 out of 4 soldiers didn't get out of a battle alive, why should all 4 of my characters get out alive?

    I introduce a stack of characters. I introduce a stack that I don't care about and make the second group bite the dust in violent ways. The first has a far smaller risk because I like them or they're too important to die.

    My current method is to have the character do or say something that shows a personality trait, so readers have something to know him by, as if 'That's the obnoxious joker who's never funny' and 'he should be a paper-pusher'

    Thing is, I want to tug at a reader's heartstrings a bit before a character they know and love catches a bullet to the face.

    Along with that, I want to know how I can shoehorn a quick physical description into it. People like characters more when the can paint a picture of what they look like. I don't need anything overly detailed and I don't want people to be able to gauge importance of a character by the description alone as in 'He got a long description, so he won't die in the next chapter'.

    What I need, is to make a reader get attached to a character. Give the character some distinctions that make him stick out, let the audience become attached to him and then make him bite it.

    Any ideas for this? The gist of it is that I want to be able to shoehorn quick description and memorable aspects into a minor character without the audience knowing about whether he'll die or not in the next sentence.

    Halp, please?
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Lets see - all my characters are expendable I just argue with them and cry over them when they die - however tend find when they argue with me it is worth listening too they are usually right:) Also don't expect as much from a first draft my characters develop better during later drafts of a story when I know them and their way of doing things.

    I make scrapbooks, base mine on actors I can imagine playing the parts, find songs and music videos that inspire, talk to them, keep a blog based on my main character where he tells everyone about the frustrations of having me for an author lol I don't always describe minor characters - I let their character create an impression.

    Physical description is fairly easy except my MC because my stories are usually first person. I agree I like to know hair colour, eye colour, idea of build and what they are wearing. With my first was the hardest - I had his father to threaten to drag him out of his bedroom so he commented on being 6ft10 and built like a behemoth. He knocked his blonde long unwashed hair out of his eyes, and commented on his brothers eyes being the same blue as himself. Then he sniffed the jeans and tshirt by the side of his bed - not bothering to put on underwear or shoes completing the image.

    Second I am still working with lol I have to describe him like my character in the first book his appearance is relevant to the story - this time round it is also important. So far have had his brother spill a cup of tea on him to describe his uniform and his boyfriend bought him a blue sweater to go with his eyes and running hands through dark hair. However in process of changing thinking of there being a comparison between the two brothers:) (my behemoth from first story is his brother).
     
  3. IVIilitarus
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    IVIilitarus Member

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    This being a war story, and people being in the middle of a battle most of the time, I can't do a 'missile whipped close by and nearly singed her blonde hair' that often. We only have so many missiles that'll come too close.

    Also, I'm trying to make readers feel something, but appearances don't matter. Google a picture of soldiers standing together. It's difficult to spot anything other than race beneath all of that. It doesn't really matter to me or the story, but I still want a minor description in it. My characters all have sheets, no matter how small they are, but I ain't releasing those.
     
  4. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I grew up with a WW2 family and live near two RAF bases believe me I can see differences when I look at those pictures, I feel obliged to - why because I feel I owe it to someone in that situation to care.

    Characters are the same, the author can build a relationship with them and care for them. If you don't your readers won't - a sheet is helpful but won't make them real, I personally need to make mine more 3D. A lot depends on how you are narrating the story - a word exchanged, a scream shouted. A joke told in the heat of battle. Smell of fear on them. This will all build a character you feel for and more deeply than too many character descriptions. What does the body look like etc Did they cry out for Mummy or God etc Describe how they move etc

    Do you read much world war 1 poetry? It is a good place for how to build atmosphere for a war situation and can be extended to prose.
     
  5. IVIilitarus
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    IVIilitarus Member

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    Smell of cordite, fear and caked up blood on a guy. I'll use that.

    Because there's one in particular I wanna build up. I actually plan for this guy to go bye-bye, so he's important. I don't usually get enough dialogue over the screaming and explosions to much develop it.

    I do have a sniper team. 2 guys. Always hanging back, haven't been shot at yet. They're both rather distinct. I find it easier to develop people and build fun people when they're not getting shot up.

    So it really boils down to how I describe characters and tell readers of personality traits in the heat of battle.

    Hate poetry. I'm still a teenager, you know. I'll look into the whole World War 1 poetry thing, anyway. A lot of this is done in defensive trenches and battlements.
     
  6. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Wilfred Owen and Siegfred Sassoon are probably the place to start. Being a teenager doesn't prevent you enjoying poetry. I read Dulce Est Decorum Est to my kids, every November 11th. Read their short biographies on Wikipedia.

    Also try watching Blackadder Goes Forth comedy but incredibly poignant portrayal of the trenches. These should help flesh out your descriptions
     
  7. IVIilitarus
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    IVIilitarus Member

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    Heard of Blackadder goes Forth and saw a bit of an episode. Black comedy is always nice and this might help.

    Thing is, I'm more worried about composition and building trenches, rather than conditions over long periods of time, but seeing how people act in trenches is helpful.

    Oddly enough, I had just found and started to read Dulce est Decorum when I refreshed this page to look for a reply and found yours.
     
  8. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I haven't read it since last November but for me the line that always stands out is the limping on blood shed feet. The condtions of the trench also affect how you view characters - trench foot was the most appalling thing. Wilfred Owen died a week before the end of the war, his last letter was so positive. bizarre etc - his Mother received it on armistice day. Unlike the more patriotic poems Siegfred Sassoon and Wilfred Owen aimed to show war in all it's grit was both had shell shock at various times - like Wilfred Owen suggests where they knock kneed, sleeping as they go, coughing like hags etc

    It is the little things like blood shod feet, clutching his crucifix, does he have a bible in his pocket or a quran etc that will form a description as much as the colour of the hair- did go over bravely - did he quiver, was the top of his skull blown off. etc Interesting little details about them - how shiny were his buttons - how did he carry his rifle, was he shooting as he went, covering his head with his hands. Was he mouthing something or screaming it.
     
  9. IVIilitarus
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    IVIilitarus Member

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    Yes...yes...

    That helped a lot!
     
  10. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Good lol:) Good luck with your story and maybe you will get more help from people. War is a terrible thing but for me just remembering the people involved on both sides are human helps however makes the book a heck of a lot more difficult to write.
     
  11. IVIilitarus
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    IVIilitarus Member

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    War is Hell, natch.

    Another challenge for me is writing the attackers. They're AIs. Getting the audience to feel any sympathy for a band of glorified toasters isn't an easy job. I've shoehorned a team of mercs in with the AIs so I can get a human to pander AI opinions rather than have a compooder drone and on about it.
     
  12. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Isn't the point of using an AI enemy to make us distance ourselves from them, since they're inhuman, without emotions... Such stories are usually about human spirit vs. cynicism. If we were meant to care for the robots, then why make them robots?
     

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