1. aguywhotypes
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    aguywhotypes Active Member

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    how detailed do you get?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by aguywhotypes, May 22, 2014.

    when creating a character:

    do you just create just enough to keep moving or do you create a very detailed character all the time and then use that to drive the plot?
     
  2. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I actually don't create a character. I start with a named gender - a kind of static paper doll who begins to take shape according to the scene. I found that when I tried to create a detailed character before writing I was forever referring to details that somehow didn't fit the scenes or the emotions, or the mood I was trying to create. This way I can pick details that suit the mood or scene or sharpen the character. I let mood and scenery do double-duty and allow the way the character notices things say more about him than the setting.

    In one of my stories Pecking Order a set of twins inherits their father's farm and I mentioned the master bedroom almost as if in passing, that one twin had taken over his parents room and it still had flowered wallpaper. Though he'd been there for two years - it showed the brother had no time, and no ambition to change the space. A very simple but telling detail.
     
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  3. Renee J
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    Renee J Contributing Member

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    My characters develop as I write the story. I don't have character charts, though I do think about back story that may or may not appear in the book.
     
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  4. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    I don't create characters before the story so often the characters take on archetypes and personalities that compliment the world and situation before them.
    At that point, I start thinking about them more to flesh them out a little as I figure out how they became who they are and why after I found them solid footing in my world.
     
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  5. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    I have a firm idea from the off. But that said, I need to allow for the growth of the character as the plotting and story progress. I start with the psychological aspects of their character and background first, their appearance and motivations next.

    One of my main characters, Vale, came into being by complete accident. I'd been working on a medieval birthing scene. It was nothing more than a throwaway scene just for the sake of trying to capture the mood. The midwife asks the father to make judgement call... she can only save one or the other. It appears the child will survive, whereas his wife has hemorrhaged and has lost so much blood death seems certain, so he makes the call against his better judgement, knowing it would be his wife's wish to save the baby.

    So, I got to thinking... what kind of guilt would a child feel, how might that point of entry into life have affected him? I wrote up a couple more scenes and started to get a feel for him. I decided to give him unfashionably long red hair, but this is no affectation for vanity's sake. It is truly the only thing he feels he has left of his mother. Like @peachalulu says... double duty. I let the reader wonder about it for quite some time before his reasoning becomes apparent. Then in a cruel twist of fate, I took his father from him too.

    And it just kinda snowballed after that. ;)

    For me, it will always be character first...everything else comes with time and familiarity.
     
  6. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Since I write with @KaTrian, we kinda have to use character data sheets so that we know at least something about each other's characters. Otherwise we'd be constantly interrupting the writing process, asking stuff about each other's characters.

    Actually, we do that anyway, but you get the point: I need to know her character's age, sex, looks (including style), personality etc. so that I can adjust the behavior of my characters towards hers. For instance, if my character is, say, a straight young man, his behavior will be different towards Kat's character if, e.g, her character is another guy, a hot girl, or an old grandmother.

    Then again, even if I wrote alone, I'd still have a very detailed idea of my characters. Usually a new character is born as what I call a "vision." No, it's nothing supernatural, a Hollywoodian trance during which I see flickering images or anything like that, but I might just get an idea, and during that one glimpse, I immediately see the character's looks in great detail, have a pretty clear understanding of their personality etc.

    Of course I then expand upon that, and more often than not, the character will reveal new sides of themselves as the story progresses, sides I never would have expected them to have, but a lot of it is also a conscious process: I need to know the character's detailed history (where and when were they born? What was their upbringing and early life like? When did they fall in love for the first time? What hobbies did they have as kids? Were they popular in school or loners?), their likes and dislikes, their interests etc. because all that helps me to gain a better understanding of who I'm writing about. That, in turn, allows me to better maintain the character's psychological plausibility throughout the story.

    And I just plain love coming up with new characters, thinking about them, even dreaming about them etc. I don't know if it's a good or a bad thing, but that's just how it is.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    that!
     
  8. grimmsistr
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    grimmsistr Member

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    For some writers, such as myself, I really think that characters are like Dolls or teddy bears. Writing is playing, like you played with Dolls as a kid and made up personalities for your Dolls, now as grownups we dont keep Dolls- just characters... Some of my characters pop up in different stories, I re-use them, sometimes under different names sometimes using the same name, those characters I know every Little detail about... they are like old friends :)
     
  9. GoldenFeather
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    GoldenFeather Active Member

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    Not only do I make a detailed profile, but I create an entire life for them. Even if I don't mention this in the story, the fact that they have an entire life that has shaped their personality helps me determine their behaviour.

    For example, one of my main characters had an abortion as a teenager, and I never mention this in the book, but knowing that, I am constantly reminded that she has a particular outlook on life (that is brought out in the book). I find it helps you keep consistencies with your characters. So instead of writing what may benefit the story or move along, you write about the characters as they truly are, and I find this is a more authentic and genuine approach to a story than simply writing to make the flow "easy" if you know what I mean.
     
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  10. WeWill77
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    WeWill77 Member

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    This is what I was taught in my University fiction workshop. That guy did seem pretty smart....

    All in all, I'll say this: more detail = more color = more novelty = more reasons to read. I always shoot for more.

    Also, I only read realism, so I want characters that are believable as real people rather than ones that kind of look like real people.
     
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  11. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't typically start with too much detail--just a basic premise, some general personality ideas, and a loose framework for the role the character will play. That's usually all I need to get started. I don't want to preplan my characters too much, because even though I have a general roadmap for the story and the character arcs in mind I want to have some wiggle room should I get better ideas as I write.
     
  12. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've done detailed character sketches before, but in general I think I put a lot more detail into the SETTING, plop random characters in, and then see how they reconcile the traits you've given them.

    For instance, the character I'm working hardest on right now was simply the confluence of the facts that A) I've been thinking for some time that I wanted to have a character who practices Jainism and B) my 27-year old female journalist protagonist needed a same-age girlfriend/sidekick. So I plopped in a character who was both a practicing Jain and a 27-year old female fashion blogger with some classic "sidekick" traits (loudmouth, a SoCal valley girl, obsessed with fashion, social media addict, etc.). So I hit two birds with one stone.

    Of course, starting from there, I quickly realized that I'd given my character a serious identity crisis by having her practice a religion based on harsh self-denial while simultaneously being obsessed with the trappings of American pop culture. And her struggle to reconcile her Jain/Indian identity with her American identity has gotten big enough that it's becoming a major (unplanned) plot element...one that I probably would not have had if I put more effort into careful character design before I started writing her.

    That said I did do a LOT of detail work AFTER I created her to give her some depth as a believable Indian-American Jain.
     
  13. Morristreet
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    Morristreet Member

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    I tend to start with the scenario, and then toss characters into it to see how they fit. Once I begin to build the scenario, and the characters begin to flesh out then they develop on their own, as I tend to allow them got grow within the story itself and let them guide me as to what needs to happen next.

    It all really depends on the scenario and how the story wants to develop as to how the characters will work, develop and evolve.
     
  14. Inkwell1
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    Inkwell1 Active Member

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    I create a very detailed explanation in my mind, but don't let the reader in on it just yet. I add one detail every once in a while.
     
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  15. A.J. Pruitt
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    A.J. Pruitt Member

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    I read and hear of many authors who let the progression or plot of the story develop the story's characters. I think this can be a flaw in one’s writing. When writing a story, the primary goal of the author is to create a mental movie in the reader’s mind. It is author’s responsibility to direct that mental movie so it flows smoothly. If the reader developes a picture in his or her mind what the main character looks like only to have the author, in say chapter eight, describe a character that the reader had not seen in his/her mind, what happens to the smooth flowing mental movie?

    I think it is important for the author to give the reader at least an indication of what the main character looks like, or at least what the main character’s personal characteristics are. As authors, we are the mental movie makers. It is up to us to create the pictures (images) in the readers minds.


    AJ
     
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  16. criticalsexualmass
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    criticalsexualmass Active Member

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    I let my peeps develop as i write, for the most part. I mean, you have to go in with something, right? I actually lay in bed at night thinking about my characters as I'm writing them and know more about them than I need, but I rarely put even half of it down on paper. Why should I? Readers don't care if my attorney who became a mad scientist had perfect attendance in second grade (he did) so why should I make it an issue? It's just fun for me to know.

    I have recently realized that I give very little physical description unless it's necessary. My middle-eastern terrorist is larger than most and has big hands, but that's only because i needed him to have difficulty building a bomb with small components. The attorney is slightly muscular, but that's only because he goes to the gym to hit on girls and flex his pecs in the mirror. Whatever. As a reader I prefer not to have to remember too many details. give me enough so I'm not trying to figure out which girl is in the scene and which guy is doing what. Short, simple description of the most important feature or habit for ready identification
     
  17. Chrysostom
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    Chrysostom Member

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    I'm always detailed when it comes to character. I build their background story, characteristics, behavior, and such, then draw the artwork of the character. This makes me feel closer to them.

    My only problem is that how to 'picture' them back in words so audience can visualize them as accurate as possible.
     
  18. Eedjii
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    Eedjii Member

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    I generally have a decent idea of what the character is like in my head, and let it all flow on the paper, i don't use charts or questionnaires or whatever.

    I second Criticalsexualmass in that i only describe an aspect of a characters appearance if it becomes important, otherwise he's a relatively blank-slate for the reader to do with as (s)he pleases.
     
  19. Chesster
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    Chesster Member

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    I don't like to create a map or chart of my characters traits and mannerisms but I always like to write a back story and brief history from birth up to present. Then in terms of mannerisms I like to just go with the flow and use plot complications to shape who the character is.
     

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