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  1. Froggy
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    Froggy Member

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    How close is too close?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Froggy, May 11, 2011.

    So I am hatching out a new MC. I start with a magical talent, give her reason to have it, create her parents, give her a job, and then it strikes me - female, half fey, private investigator. Heck if I haven't read a book like that before.
    That's about it with similarities though...

    Any thoughts?

    I could make her a journalist, but it would seriously impact her motivation and other characters perception of her... And I personally don't like journalists (they're all so inquisitive :p ), go figure.
     
  2. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    lol I'm a journalist but I"ll help you... ;) I see what you mean though. In most of my stories, the protag is unraveling some kind of conspiracy, murder, phenomenon, etc, so I need to put him/her in a situation that allows him/her to do that. Then I end up with someone in an investigative career, who wants to do the right thing and knows how to dig things up effectively, and then I'm like "Crap, it's a Sue..." lol. But you can easily solve this with some development.

    My recommendation is that you give your character some quirks to make them really memorable. Think about Sherlock Holmes and those types; no one picks on them for being cliche, because they are unique and not just the obnoxiously cute/cool and suave superhero who annoys readers.

    Give your character some flaws. Serious flaws, not just having a messy apartment. Things that will cause the MC to make critical mistakes. While perfect characters who always do the right thing and never screw up are annoying, it's also annoying to have someone who does idiotic things in a way that makes you want to put the book down and slam your head against the wall. You don't want the mistakes to happen randomly like that, you want them congruent with the MC's personality. So let's say your character is too rash, too timid, too OCD (think Monk; another investigator with personality!), etc, then their critical mistakes will make sense with their character, and will work perfectly to create those "Noooo! I know what's coming! Don't do it!" tension moments for the readers.

    Also, you need to think about a motivation. I'm not sure what exactly she's investigating: murder, paranormal, evil forces (you mentioned magic), government corruption, rape/theft, etc....but if she gets sucked into something that's big for her, make sure the reason isn't a barf-bag one. If you have a character who's always teeming of "I must stop the corruption and will die to do so because I love my country," then you'll seem sappy, Mary Sue ish, overly benevolent etc. Tie in some personal drive; maybe the thing she's fighting is something that will directly impact her, her kid, her friend etc. But also include some selfish motivations and some hindsights.

    As a closing note, I have a character development clinic thread in the Word Games section, if you want to use it (might help you out).
     
  3. Froggy
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    Froggy Member

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    Wow, lots of great info there, thanks :)
    Sorry about the journalist thing, you're not all bad - My mom's a journalist and I love her, but i was in the paper often enough because her colleagues couldn't come up with a better picture or story - maybe that's tainted my view :p they also never leave anything alone - makes them good researchers, I guess, but on social occasions with random acquaintances... Too much ;) did I mention I am a bit anti social - I must have been a real challenge, I don't talk much and there they are trying to figure me out...

    As for personal motivation for the character - aye, I have a plan :D quirks, yep. I tend to make my characters too good, so this is pretty much an exercise in screwing someone up a bit...
    The idea's there, now I gotta sit down and do some details...
     
  4. Leonardo Pisano
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    Leonardo Pisano Active Member

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    There can be more reasons to get your MC into a sleuthing mode, apart from being private eye or investigative journalist. It can be anyone who gets obsessed finding out what happened with a dear friend, a relative she didn't know was existing, events that must have a reason, etc.
    You could also place her talents in a hobby environment, that is OUTSIDE her normal job. Can be a theater group, a reading class, a photographer workshop, dog training club,...
     
  5. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hahaha. :D


    Ouch! lol. that is tough. I went through the same issue with one of my characters, his profession seemed a little cliche'ed, but i couldnt for my life come up with another one that sounded like him... That is what he was, and if someone for example is an actor, you couldn't just force him to become a scientist just to give him a more plausible profession, hehe. In the end I don't think you should worry about that. there are so many stories with similarities that people can't keep rack of them anymore...then of course if the book you read (if it is the one im thinking of) is quite recent, it might evoke some reactions, but if the story is good, i don't think it matters that much.
     
  6. Nightshade
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    Nightshade Senior Member

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    Maybe you could approach the profession in another way, give her a job which will aid her in the story or has a link to the plot. In my book the main character is a teen so I don't need to give her a job but I made her guardian a hematologist (and I probably spelt that wrong because I'm on the wine) because I needed her to have access to test results on certain blood types at a later stage in the story.
     
  7. Froggy
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    Froggy Member

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    Yeah, I'm still working on alternatives. The private detective is a simple and plausible way out, but there are other options which might be harder to intertwine with the plot, but eventually create more depth.
    The motivation to solve the murder, is there because it was a family member, I just want to make sure she gets enough tools and connections to actually get to where she needs to.
    Also, I decided that she doesn't necessarily need to know all about her or her family's past, so the story and character setup will be significantly different enough, even if I chose the PI job...
    Maybe I should work out the other characters some more and she'll cath up on her own.
     
  8. Nightshade
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    Nightshade Senior Member

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    She could be someone you really wouldn't expect to be trying to solve a murder. You could have her as a somewhat meek librarian who has access to all the old archives through the library and can perhaps find old newspaper headlines about past murders which link up to the one she's desperate to solve?
     
  9. Bran
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    Bran Senior Member

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    what i tend to usually do is build up the MC's life, make it very close, very routine, something routine, something the reader can relate too. then, i unexpectedly tear it all apart. It causes a lot of drama, suspense, and gives the MC a plethora of motivations. I dont know it that will help, but i usually put large, intricate twists on my overused plot line.
     
  10. ithestargazer
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    ithestargazer Active Member

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    The hardest part about this genre of writing is that there seems to be a cascade of it lately (and not a whole lot of originality) I think it all comes down to character development and fresh plots. If you haven't read it before, that's great, but don't let a great idea go because you know its been used before. Give it your own touches and make sure your characters don't fall flat.
     

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