1. skatingqueenlari
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    skatingqueenlari New Member

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    How do you develop a character and their feelings, wants, etc. without dragging on?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by skatingqueenlari, Dec 11, 2009.

    Alot of the times, when I am trying to describe and develop a character, it is very hard. Most of the time, a lot of it is all at once, and not spread out over the story or book. And then its full of details and I'm afraid the reader will want to skip over those details and move on. But the character needs to be develop and the plot won't make sense if you don't know or understand the character. So how do I develop the character without dragging on with details and distribute it in a way that it's not bunched up but spread out over several scenes and chapters? Any help or ideas?
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the simple answer [and really the only really valid one] is 'by being a good writer!'

    how you get to that point is by reading/studying how the best writers go about it...
     
  3. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    "I didn't know you like banana-vanilla wafer pudding." Obviously, I've known my daughter for her entire lifetime, but when I asked what she would like for a special desert, she told me pudding. I never knew.

    A character in a story should be developed the same way. You learn a little at a time, only when it becomes needed by the story. This helps pace of the story and it provides lots of real-life style moments of discovery, interesting surprises for the reader to enjoy.
     
  4. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Both Maia and NaCl are correct.

    I know the persona of the character might be special and personal to you, but you mustn't forget that you are telling a story. Just as NaCl has pointed out, the character is made known through the story, not through infodump exposition of the inner workings of the character. I have to assume that at some time someone has done just that and gotten it published, but just has you have mentioned, I would quickly find myself skimming over those parts, and if there were too many of those parts, the book would become a bookshelf shim.
     
  5. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    What books have you read recently that you really enjoyed? Look back over them and this time really take note of the way the authors developed their characters. Don't do character-info dumping; nobody wants to read lists of details. Instead, infuse your characters' natures/situations into the storyline itself.
     
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  6. rikithasta
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    rikithasta Member

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    I might on the same journey as you right now, so I may not be the most qualified but I could tell you what I'm trying to do.

    The first is reading. And not just reading, I go back and do character analysis (plural?). I suppose it helps that I'm a psychology major so I was exposed to this in the classroom. If you're interested in this approach, George Kelley's Personal Construct Approach is a place to start I think.

    While I'm realizing this is more character development, I use this as a lens to see how other authors develop their characters.

    The other thing is pretty much what NaCl said: develop characters over time within conflicts and not expository chunks.

    Hope that helps more than it confuses...
     
  7. Phantasmal Reality
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    Phantasmal Reality Contributing Member

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    You need to ask yourself how much the reader needs to know the character at any given point in the story, and what's important for them to know. I obviously can't give you any specific advice since I know nothing about the story you're writing, but here's some general stuff.

    1) The Beginning:

    Most important things we need to know: who is this person and why we should give a crap about them.

    Ok, so let's break that down.

    Who is this person? That's a good question. When we first see a person, they're little more than their appearance and a first impression. We need to get both those things, though how much detail to devote to each is up to you--and is partially dependent on how important the character is, the pacing of the story, etc. In other words, if your story opens with the main character engaged in some intense action, don't slow down to tell us what the character looks like or why she's involved in this action in the first place. That comes after the action is over, or sometimes not at all in the case of appearance. (Some authors never even describe what the MC looks like, beyond giving the reader their age and gender. It's up to you to figure out if that's right for your story or not.)

    Why should we care? You MUST address this question. This is what's going to keep your readers reading in a character-driven story. It doesn't matter how you do it--just make sure you give us a reason to care. (We don't even have to like the character. Just make sure that he/she is interesting enough to capture our attention.)

    2) The Middle:

    The most important things we need to know: why the character is doing what she's doing. What is her goal? If we need to know more of her past to understand her actions, delve into it. If we need to know more of her past to love her, hate her, or just sympathize with her, delve into it. If we don't need to know, don't slow down the story for it. If we do, as long as you don't get too carried away, the reader won't mind the diversion. How to manage that is something you'll have to figure out by writing it and seeing for yourself. There's no secret ingredient.

    3) The End:


    The most important thing we (generally) need to see: closure. That doesn't mean everything is neatly wrapped up and the world is rosy and perfect and in no need of a sequel--it means we need to feel like this particular conflict is resolved, for better or worse. At least for now.

    What's that have to do with your character? Maybe not a whole lot, depending on the story and the changes your character experienced in it. If your character remains static, you probably won't have much to show. You could have her ride off into the sunset for all we care. Job done, time to go home. If, however, your character's development was a crucial part of the story, we need to see that development. Show how that character has changed, and what has changed, and how that affects those around her (if applicable). You'll hopefully have showed us who this person is all the way through the story--it's kind of late to learn about her at the end, at least if she's the MC--so what you have to do now is show us the new picture, the aftermath. Does that make sense?

    Anyway, I hope some of this helps you. If you have any other questions, feel free to ask. I'm not an expert, but I will do my best to share what I know. :)
     
  8. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    skatingqueen, let me ask you something: When you first meet someone do they come with a summery page? Do you know everything there is to know about them in those first ten minutes? I'm guessing your answer is probably going to be no.

    The same holds true for a character. When the reader first meets the character they have no clue who this person is, what type of personality they have, what their little habits or oddities are, and must discover these things through the course of the courtship of the book. Learning about a character in a book is much like dating someone. Even if the reader sits and reads the entire novel in a foodless, sleepless 24 hour reading, they are still on a date with your MC. Each scene the character/s are in is like a date. We get to know them just a little bit better. We learn a little tid-bit about their background and how they tick.

    When you spend several paragraphs, or pages in some cases, going on about who the character is and why they are that way, you are effectively committing an info dump. One of the fastest ways to turn off both the publishing world and the reader.

    By the end of a novel the reader should know the character pretty well, like a best friend, or a potential mate. But that is at the end of the book, not the middle or the beginning. We can care about someone we don't know too well, if we see something in them that is likable. We start to care for them, then eventually we love them, flaws and all. Readers don't fall in love with characters at the beginning of the book, just like real life relationships, it takes time and many pages and situations before the reader develops that deep of a caring for the character.

    Yes, I agree, very much so, with those who have said it's all about being a good writer. And the only way to become a good writer is to write and read a lot. Learn to analyze how others write to learn how to incorporate techniques into your own style. Learn to be able to point out what does and doesn't work in other's writing and you will be better apt to pointing it out in your own. The majority of people (writers especially) aren't born with the ability to write (with exception to some prodigies), so you have to learn how to be a writer, then hone the skill in to become a good writer. Character development is just one of the facets of being a good writer.
     
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  9. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    You don't need to spell out your character in a lot of detail for readers to fill in the blanks. Give us a gender and most of us will easily be able to conjure up a character. As you go on and more details are added, it is easy enough for readers to gradually amalgamate all the pieces of info you drop into a cohesive character. So, you needn't be in a rush to fill in all the blanks at once; readers won't even notice that there are gaps until you call attention to them, and in those situations you should supply the relevant information. As others have pointed out, however, you do need to give enough to keep us interested in the character, or at least in the plot, so that we continue to pick up the clues you provide. It's a mistake to assume that no one will be interested in reading on, or able to read on, if you don't dump all of the information all at once. People understand people; we don't need them all laid out to get them.
     
  10. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Exactly right!

    you expose things about your character as you write. If an infodump is done at the start of the novel, then the reader will put it down in boredom. That was what happened to me in Kevin J. Anderson's 10 novel series...the first 200 pages have been infodump and down went the book for the count.

    Let pieces of your character come out during the course of the story. When the rewrite of my novel started, you would never have guessed the MC had been dead before...it's something I don't tell you until 50k into the story, and it's in a passing comment from Kate and one paragraph after it. Let the reader put 2+2 together after that.
     
  11. Ecksvie
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    Ecksvie Member

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    An important part is showing, not telling. If you have a character who has a hot temper and doesnt trust people, dont tell us. Have a scene where the character gets angry at someone, and then have another separate scene where they're perhaps accusing someone they love of something they haven't done. It's much more effective, and your readers will be more likely to remember these personality traits. If you tell them your character is angry alot, they'll probably have forgotten by the next page.
     
  12. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    The last post is good advice also. Let your character put himself or herself into a position where the character trait you're talking about is shown. Kate tends to be arrogant and cocky to the that she makes stupid mistakes...how do I show that: by letting her walk into traps numerous times during the course of the story.

    Try doing something similar with the emotions/traits you wish to bring out.
     
  13. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    You don't. The story does, with a bit of assistance from the character themselves. As you write, you'll find that you need more information, and that's when you reveal it.
     

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