1. BurningPaws
    Offline

    BurningPaws Member

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2015
    Messages:
    15
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    Wollongong, Australia

    How do you put together a character?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by BurningPaws, Aug 27, 2015.

    Hey everyone,

    I'm currently in the midst of writing a story that I have in mind but I wanted to try and focus on character development a bit more than any of my last. Generally I would plot out my story and begin writing without putting too much thought into my character and I would find myself contradicting myself often.

    Now that I'm sitting down trying to put a character together I'm feeling a bit silly. I have some general subheadings for charactertistics of my character that I want to create such as

    Physical appearance (including hair colour and length, ear colour, skin colour, height, weight, physical defects, attire.
    Mental: Likes, dislikes, hobbies, habits, favourite colour, favourite smell, sexuality, abilities (such as being able to sew, not being able to read, being able to use a knife but not a gun) best trait, worst trait, what they hope for the future, religion.
    History: How they grew up, parents - names, occupation, siblings, family, friends, education
    Current: Where do they live, occupation, relationships, how do they spend their time, children? Family?, friends, crimes, successes.

    That's all I pretty much have right now. If you have anymore suggestions for more let me know

    OR

    if you develop your character differently, using a different method, please expand and let me in on the secret, anything will help!

    Kind regards,

    BurningPaws.
     
  2. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,997
    Likes Received:
    5,506
    I don't like lists. I think it's best to just write some throwaway scenes including the character.

    Of course, that assumes that you can persuade your mind to come up with someone; that you're not just an absolute blank when you try to think of a character. If you are, perhaps you could try various ways of sparking your imagination, such as imagining what an elementary school classmate might have grown up to be like, or searching through Google Images for pictures of people, that sort of thing.

    Edited to add: When I say "write some throwaway scenes" I'm imagining scenes that involve mild stress that might bring out personality characteristics. A waitress accidentally dropping a glass of iced tea on the character, a minor traffic accident, an encounter with an irritating co-worker, that sort of thing.
     
  3. Kallisto
    Offline

    Kallisto Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2015
    Messages:
    183
    Likes Received:
    87
    How do I put a character together? It's pretty easy.

    1. I start out the basics. "This character is named _____. S/he is _____ and they ______. His/Her role in the story is _____." This helps me establish where the character fits. So it will go for example "This character is Katiniss Everdean. She is a resident in District 12 who is selected for the Hunger Games. Her role in the story is the protagonist." My stories are very plot based, so characters have to have a purpose or else I can't properly develop them.

    2. So I now have my basic cast of characters and basically what I want them to do. So now I need to get them what they need to accomplish their role. Every character in the story is going to need a Goal, a Motive and a Conflict. (I put that in bold so you remember that.) So let's go back to Katinss. What is her goal? She wants to save her sister's life. What's her motive? It's her sister, the only she knows she loves. And her conflict? The capital has these hunger games where they lock 24 kids up in an area to kill each other and her sister was lucky enough to be selected. So what do you do if you have a character you planned but you can't figure these three things? Merge them with another character. Problem solved.

    3. Now that I've got what my characters are going to do, and why they're going to do it, I need to plot out their journey. Most characters go through something called an arc. They start in one point and then all this stuff happens to them, then they learn and grow and they come out something different in the end. They learn something from all the conflicts which makes them view themselves or life differently. Now not every character needs to have an arc. Some characters are going to stay the same throughout the story and that's okay. But protagonist (lead character) and major supporting characters should go through this change. If you're like me, then you don't sit down before you write and say, "How's this character going to change."

    Obviously if you do pre-writes, you can incorporate this step by step, but you don't have to do this as a pre-write. Because I don't do pre-writes before I begin my rough draft, I'm always doing all this as I'm writing. Usually, I have a few chapters penned before I start this process because that's just how I roll. I need to know what kind of characters I'm actually going to need, what the tone of the story will be, and what back stories would actually be plausible. Obviously a goal of going to the moon, isn't necessarily plausible in a story where everyone, including the main character, believes the moon is a painting on a big canvas.

    Things I don't do. Keep in mind, others might do these things and it works for them. I just don't.

    1. Think of characters as my children or my friends. I like my characters. I enjoy writing about them. I have fun with them. But I find it a little creepy to think of them that way, especially when I have to give them the ax later. And I do ax a lot of my characters.

    2. Think of flaws my characters should have. When I follow those three steps I pointed out, I never have to go back and say, "Oh, this character is too perfect. I better make them flawed." The flaws come as the character develops.

    3. Make misunderstood characters. This is my number one, please don't ever do this, pet peeve. I can't stand the whole, "Oh, they do these bad things, but they're good on the inside. They just have trouble showing it." No. You're a character is a jerk. When your character doesn't do the right thing, they are not a good person, period. Doesn't matter the reason. Good characters will act based on what's on the inside. If they're not a jerk, they won't act like a jerk. If they're a good guy, they will do what they think is right. And think is the key word. They might not always know what's right and they may not do what's right perfectly. But they'll do what they think is right.
     
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2015
  4. GuardianWynn
    Offline

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2014
    Messages:
    2,088
    Likes Received:
    672
    I don't like this system either. And I did it before! lol.

    Back then I had no real clue what I was doing. So I made a list and checked it. I realized it never really helped. Except! For like things like "Eye Color, Hair Color, Birthday, ext." It is good there. lol.

    Let me explain. The issue I noticed is that you can't really describe important aspects in there. Because good characters like real people are dynamic and have different reactions based on differen situations.

    In that regard a list is too one dimensional. Because you may have put that a character has strong family values but well. How strong exactly? At the end of the day a character sheet can't really capture a person.

    In addition, character aspects like blue eyes or black hair don't really effect them. But they are good things to write down. Incase you point them out and then forget that you did. Because then you might mislabel there color.

    For a better way(in my opinion) for learning characters that are giving you trouble. Interview them! Could be your own interview or maybe look up an interview online. Basically ask yourself. "If these characters where in this situation how might they react?" I personally usually get a strong and most times fast feeling in my gut saying something. Then I ask why. Why did they behave this way?

    Rinse and repeat. I think it is the best method. About recording it. I don't personally. In the same way I don't record what a friend orders when we eat out. I just try to remember. I find in life or in stories. The Important stuff is easy to remember.
     
  5. Sack-a-Doo!
    Offline

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2015
    Messages:
    2,234
    Likes Received:
    1,512
    Location:
    [unspecified]
    I tried that whole build-a-character thing, but it never worked for me. The characteristics they ended up with always seemed arbitrary. And trying to keep all that stuff in mind while writing was driving me out of my mind.

    So, I do it backwards now. I start with the story which shows me what it demands of its characters. Then I give the characters those characteristics, etc. which will make the story work.

    This is a process I gleened from Techniques of the Selling Writer (Swain) and The Moral Premise (Williams). I may have read about it elsewhere, but I don't remember. There have been far too many books on writing techniques under my eyes in the last 25 years.
     
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2015
  6. Tesoro
    Offline

    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2011
    Messages:
    2,825
    Likes Received:
    290
    Location:
    A place with no future
    :confused::confused::confused:
     
  7. BurningPaws
    Offline

    BurningPaws Member

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2015
    Messages:
    15
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    Wollongong, Australia
    Hahaha typo


    Thank you for your suggestions everyone, it has really given me a new perspective to look at things.
     
    Tesoro and GuardianWynn like this.
  8. Inks
    Offline

    Inks Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2015
    Messages:
    655
    Likes Received:
    167
    If rolling through and making a D&D character sheet listing is not for you, start by covering some backstory that interests you. Start with the setting and parents of the character. Build your character up by "events" that shape their early childhood, whether it be something as simple as a free or restrictive home atmosphere. Several life-defining moments could be as simple as being beat up by other children, exploring the outside world or basic hero worship. Define your character as being weak-willed to strong-willed, and their ability to accomplish tasks.

    It can come naturally or you can "roll" it if you want, but enjoy the process or you will not write anything at all.
     
  9. Jack Asher
    Offline

    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2013
    Messages:
    3,571
    Likes Received:
    2,054
    Location:
    Denver
    Your character is only defined by their actions in the story. In order to be created they need to have some. Just write them out, you can always rewrite them if they become something different.
     
    Tesoro likes this.
  10. C. W. Evon
    Offline

    C. W. Evon Member

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2015
    Messages:
    73
    Likes Received:
    29
    I usually start with a character. With my WIP, however, I started with setting, and thought about who would be the best protagonist through which to explore that setting. You could do something like that. What kind of person would best tell the story I want to tell?
     
  11. ManOrAstroMan
    Offline

    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

    Joined:
    May 8, 2012
    Messages:
    817
    Likes Received:
    342
    Location:
    Missouri
    Some stuff, like birthday or favorite food, I make up on the fly, should the subject somehow arise. More important facts, like religion, career, education, etc, I do list out and keep in a character database. (Little facts go in there, too, as they arise, for continuity's sake). As for their appearance, I'm one of those people who gets a nearly complete image of a character, right off the bat. Sure, I may go back and tweak my mental picture, but I'm lucky enough to have a very visual imagination, and enough artistic skill to sketch them out.
     

Share This Page