1. jassin
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    jassin New Member

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    How can i meet/find my characters?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by jassin, Dec 9, 2014.

    (This is my first post, hello! haha :~p)

    Hi, i'm currently drafting/starting my first novel and having trouble creating a main character(/any characters).

    I'm not sure where to find inspirations or how i can mentally meet whom I'm going to write a whole novel about? I want to feel close to my characters, and know as much as i can't but I'm not happy with anything i think of. I want it to come to me and feel close to perfect. I want to be able to talk about them as though they are real - I'm sure you all know what i mean(hopefully).

    I want to totally avoid my main character being exactly like me or how i want to be also .

    HELP!?

    any advice would be greeeeat, thank you!
     
  2. SwampDog
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    SwampDog Contributing Member

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    There are several ways you can tackle this, but these are my thoughts.

    At the moment, you're like an artist faced with a blank canvas. You want to paint, but don't know how to start. So, one of two things may/will happen. Either you stand there until you get some inspiration, then go away, come back and stand there again ad infinitum, or start throwing paint on the canvas and see what develops.

    Start writing, anything. Scribble, even if it's meaningless. Seriously, write what's in your head at that time e.g. I'm trying to write something but I don't know what to say. How do I develop a character? What do I want to write about? This is all nonsense. Should I put my pen down? No. I'll carry on, that's what determined people do, just like my grandfather in the war when he stormed...

    Now you have a strong character to put into a plot.

    WRITE. WRITE. WRITE. And don't stop.
     
  3. FrankieWuh
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    FrankieWuh Active Member

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    Meet them over a drink or two. A glass of wine? A cold beer? Or a coffee if that's better.
    No, really, you can - in your head that is. It's part of the role-play a writer goes through to realise their character.
    So try fashioning a scene in your mind where you are meeting your character for the first time. It could be that you are interviewing them for a job position, as a child-minder or something.
    You could even be on a blind-date with them. On a first date you tend to notice what they look like, their voice, there smell, their idiosyncrasies.
    Or it might be you are interviewing them for a newspaper or at a police station.

    Contrive a scenario and see what happens to your imagination. Writing is meant to be fun, and I find playing these games is a great way for my imagination to meet me on the page.
     
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  4. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    To be honest my characters usually flesh themselves out only when I write, not in the planing. In planning they are only a gender, age and a vague type - such as cynical, sweet, heartless, vivacious, moody etc. They are totally unsatisfying shells. To really discover who my characters are I throw them into a situation. They need a catalyst, they need to react to something in order to bring out their personality.

    I remember in one season in Survivor one of the players ( first day I think ) made himself some enemies by the most bizarre choice. They were passing around a can of cherries. Everyone took a cherry and passed it around Those were the rules. After several rounds though, one man gazed into the can and realized it would not make its way around to him again so he took two cherries and passed it on. Nobody said anything but everyone was floored that he'd dared take two cherries. I was laughing thinking who who dare risk the game over a cherry? I still think of that moment when I create characters because it's precisely those reactions/decisions or lack of them that really shape your character.

    Maybe take one scene from your story ( make it a scene in which the character must make a choice or react to something ) and daydream it out from several types & genders and varying choices/decisions.
     
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  5. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Welcome to the forum.

    Each of us has his/her own approach. I don't start with "I'm starting a novel." I start with at least a couple of characters in my head, at least one of whom has something that (s)he wants/needs to do. I don't have to know very much about them, just a couple of characteristics and the "thing" that must be done. Then I figure out what might make "the thing" hard to do. And what (s)he has to do to get around the obstacle. Those things give me the basic idea, and then I go from there. I plan it out in very broad strokes and I let the writing fill in the gaps, because as you write, you will find that, whatever your characters are like, what happens in the story as new ideas occur to you changes them. And whatever you think the story is going to be, your characters alter it.

    Since this is your first novel, don't be afraid to stretch yourself, try different things, different approaches. There is an old saying that the first million words are practice. I happen to think that's quite variable, and for most of us is probably an understatement. Don't worry about anything except building your story and growing your characters, and see how it comes out.

    Good luck!
     
  6. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I have a vague feeling about them and I just start writing. I'm not one of those writers who "talk" to my characters. I've never even understood what the heck that means lol. My characters become more and more fleshed out as I write and rewrite. I tend to follow my gut instinct rather. However, my characters do come out similar in general - which I was worried about for a while - until my friend with whom I wrote a collab told me some readers actually enjoy that. They find it comforting to know this writer will always deliver a character they can love, rather than changing all the time.

    That was new to me and rather comforting lol.

    Anyway, there you go lol :p

    PS. I usually start with a concept or story premise, rather than a character per se. My characters come into the story, as opposed to a story being created for them.
     
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  7. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Don't worry about your main character being too much like you. They should all have a piece of you in them, anyway. So don't let that stop you.

    My characters generally show up when they're needed. The only way to get to know them is by spending time with them, which means writing scenes for them. So start doing that and see how they develop. These scenes don't have to make it into your story. They can just be exercises.
     
  8. Renee J
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    Renee J Contributing Member

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    I usually start with a scene inspired by something I see on or read in the news. Then, I think about how various people would react to something similar. I take the more interesting people and go with it. Usually, the scene in my book ends up nothing like the real scene.
     
  9. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just a note - this may work for some people, and it's great if it works for you, but it's not typical, really. It's not "part of the role-play a writer goes through to realise their character," not for most writers.

    Again, if it works, great. But I get the feeling from the OP that you're trying a bit too hard to find something almost magical, 'meeting' or 'finding' characters that exist as independent entities. As the other responses show, this is far from the only way to create characters. Many of us build them gradually, refining them based on the events of the novel or demands of the plot. You may be setting yourself a very difficult task for no reason, if you want to go into your story with characters fully formed and then not change them at all.
     
  10. Some_Bloke
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    Some_Bloke Active Member

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    I find myself having conversations with my characters in daydreams.

    One way of developing my characters is something similar. I throw them into a situation they're not prepared for (i.e a different story), or when I face a situation in real life, see it on the news or in another fictional story I think about what my character would do in that situation.

    I tend to not base characters off of myself or people I know per say but I take elements of that person or myself as part of the "clay" for my "creations". Sometimes it's appearance, many characters have the same haircut or hair colour of someone I know personally or know of. Personality is rarer and only really happens if I really like or hate that person. Someone I see in the news for instance that has done something terrible may have one of their traits attached to a nasty character or even an antagonist.

    Ironically, no character I've written has had the looks or personality of my girlfriend. I don't know why, as other people I know have been part of the basis for some characters.
     
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  11. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't actually *base* my characters on myself or on any particular other people, although many of them have been inspired by situations that people I know have been in. Some characters have some personality traits that real life people I know have. And sometimes characters have an experience that a person I know has really had. (Or I have had). But the characters themselves, although they may have some traits of several people I know aren't really based on anyone I know. They stand alone and are each unique.
     
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  12. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't meet them for a drink myself, but I might eavesdrop on them going for a drink with someone else. Follow them home from work. What is their attitude when getting in the car (or boarding the train? or the ferry? or jumping on their bicycle? or walking?) Are they relieved the day is over? Was it exhausting? Boring? How long is the commute home? What is home? What does it look like? Who else is home? Is he surprised no one else is home? Happy no one is home? Sad no one is home? Sad someone IS home? What does he do? Does he immediately take off his tie? (or fry cap?) Does he flop down on the bed? Turn on tv? What does he watch? Does he talk to anyone? What does he do for dinner? Did he make dinner? Did someone else make it for him? Does he like it? Does he talk to anyone at dinner? After dinner?
    What happens? Just be a spy.
     
  13. FrankieWuh
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    FrankieWuh Active Member

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    Ha, yes, that works too! What is a writer but a spy on a fictional life?

    If a writer gets lucky, their characters come to the story fully-fleshed out. For me that happens rarely. I find out about my characters during the course of writing the story, and if that means going back to rewrite passages because a fully-fleshed character may react differently, then so be it.

    It's a quandary; some writers don't feel comfortable writing the story until their characters are fleshed out; but then how do you really know about your characters until you start writing about them in those crucial scenes of the story? As the OP says, they want to feel close to their characters. When I get close to people it's because of shared experiences, some good, some not so good.

    The scenario thing works for me on those occasions because it gets me to write about the character rather than navel gaze about them; it gives me that shared experience. That way they can live on the page which feels more natural to me than locking them away in my head. It was one of the important insights into writing I learned on my masters course. This issue came up time after time with characterisation, and my tutor suggested that we come up with scenarios as part of a writing exercise to develop the characters. Initially I was a bit sceptical, but having adopted this practice since, it has worked for me; it might not for everyone - but what do you have to lose? At the very least, it's a good starting point when all you've got is a faceless mannequin as your MC.

    As the man says, "try whatever works!"
     
  14. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    A writing course I took started with the premise of observing life, observing people and then making up a story about them...e.g. a man with long hair tied up in a pony-tail with a pink band. 1/ He wore it to remember a daughter who died as a child 2/ He wore it to proclaim his freedom from stereotypes 3/...your turn.

    "I want it to come to me and feel close to perfect." As EdfromNY says, the first million words WON'T be perfect, so I'd suggest that your first idea will be pretty rough and ready, too.

    As has been said before, just write. Learn as you write. Do it again. Do it better. Repeat.
     
  15. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    On the one hand - there's something to be said for starting writing before you find "perfect", but...

    For me it's about creating people I'm curious about, and who I would want to be friends with in real life. What interests you about other people and makes you want to learn more about them and/or hang out with them? Put those traits in a character and you'll want to be friends with that character.

    As an example (and this is a very rough simplistic example) I find the Indian-American community fascinating for some reason - don't know why, just do. That said, I don't have any Indian-American friends. I also find the Indian religion of Jainism interesting, having studied it a little in college, but I've never even met a Jain to see how it plays out in the real world. Guess what - I now have a Jain-American friend - her name is Vinya, she doesn't really exist, but she's a great character in a story I'm writing. It's an excuse to learn about an experience that interests me, and she's a character that feels real to me because she's the type of person I would want to learn more about if she were real.

    Hence, I would highly suggest finding yourself an imaginary friend rather than just a "character". Once you've done that, you can layer in conflict and figure out what inside that character makes them afraid, angry, etc. I usually do that by giving my characters two traits that don't work well together and forcing them to reconcile that duality in their own mind (In Vinya's case it's her anti-materialistic religion balanced against her highly materialistic personality).
     
  16. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    There's an adage that you should write what you know. It's not always essential that you ONLY write what you know intimately (becoming a psychopathic killer so that you could see things through the eyes of a psychopathic killer is probably not a recommended career path!) but you should be prepared to put in a fair amount of research to get as close as possible. One of my recent works was set in a hospital. Having spoken to a nurse, I wrote it, and then got the nurse to review it. The critique from a writing forum was basically that it could have been written by a nurse - but the writing was rubbish!

    It seems to me that you're putting too much "fiction" into your fiction. As in, you've invented a person with some characteristics that you think they might have, based upon a little education and, perhaps, some common stereotypes. As far as the fiction goes, your readers will determine whether they believe what you've written. What bothers me is that you seem to regard your flight of fancy as "a learning experience". You invent something and then try to learn from it, regardless of its connection to the truth.
     
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  17. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    With all due respect. You have no clue how much deep research I have to do and how much effort and double checking I have to put into sensitive and realistic portrayals - especially if I'm writing someone who has cultural differences from myself. That's called taking the craft seriously and putting in the effort to do it right.

    That said I agree with you on writing things that one knows. The character referenced above doesn't share my culture, but she hold a job that I have experience with, as well as having been forced to deal with some of the same problems I have. Half of her consists of things I know well, the other half of things I want to know more about and therefore can spend a lot of time researching.

    For what it's worth my degree is in Global Politics and I'm in the process of applying to do graduate level research on another culture. So when I say research, I mean RESEARCH.
     
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  18. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I know what you mean. I'm just finishing work on a historical novel about a place I have never been and in fact am prohibited by law from visiting. But I researched for about ten years, including some seminal fictional works, and I feel confident that I have portrayed the people accurately.

    Interestingly, I have both a BA and MA in Government and Politics and did post-graduate work in International Relations.
     
  19. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well you've definitely got more time in than me, but I expect that if I continue writing the storyline then I'll end up having to do a lot more work to handle a lot more issues and confront blind spots I haven't even discovered yet. One thing I have figured out and tell other people is that I've found writing other cultures fulfilling, but it's difficult and you have to work at it. Granted I haven't even finished my first novel yet , so I'm assuming I'm not nearly as far down the road as I need to be, but that's the journey, and frankly the difficulty involved in doing it right is what makes it fun for me. Actually I've even taken that back and done a lot more on my main character who was originally designed as a "standard American" and really treated her background as if she's foreign to me (At some level, she is - I had randomly assigned her a Greek last name, and I've expanded a lot of her background from that detail - and I'm trying to do as much justice to her origins in Wisconsin as I would her friend's Indian-American background).
     
  20. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Don't get me wrong. That ten years was on a part-time basis. And then, even when I was writing, and again when I began editing, I found myself going back and checking things. Thoroughness is the key. :read:
     
  21. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    I apologize if I offended you, as you say I have no clue about the depth of your research. My comment was based on:

    with my, perhaps, overestimating how "little" you had studied it.
     
  22. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    I studied Jainism very briefly in college, but when I decided to write and actual Jain character I went back and started putting in the research I was going to need to build a realistic modern Jain American character, and I still am looking for more info. I also made a point of contacting Young Jains of America for information and they were nice enough to direct me to their extensive newsletter archive, which was a better resource than any book on religion because all of the articles werr written by American Jains, for American Jains, about their real-world concerns. Once I finish the first draft I might even try to visit a Jain temple just to get a more realistic angle.
     

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