1. Meteor
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    Meteor Active Member

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    How do you write a character synopsis?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Meteor, Sep 12, 2014.

    SO perhaps this is just a pitiful question but, I can't seem to get it down. I've been using a method referred to as the snowflake method recently. Step five tells me to write a "character synopsis" of sorts and "tell the story from their point of view" in simple terms. I'm struggling to get my mind around this because for some reason I don't understand what it is demanding. I understand what a synopsis is but, I just can't seem to perform this step.

    Does anyone have any suggestions? Anything would be most appreciated and thanks for taking the time to look at this. It really does mean a lot. I've included the URL to the page I'm using as well just in case anyone asks to see what I'm using.


    http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/articles/snowflake-method/
     
  2. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't. Even if I were to try to use the Snowflake Method, I think that this is one part that I would mostly skip. I don't like planning characters in advance in any level of detail.

    If I didn't skip it entirely, I could imagine taking "tell the story from their point of view" literally--I could write a letter to a friend, as written from them, or something like that. Or a scene with them talking to a counselor or a career counselor or a dating site interview or a news reporter or whatever seemed appropriate.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I don't either, nor am I a believer in Snowflake or anything else labeled "xxx Method."
     
  4. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've never followed the Snowflake method, but I can see the value in this approach. It would be helpful to really understand how each different character sees the events of the story in order to make their actions make sense and feel compelling.

    Like... what's a well-known story? Say... Hansel and Gretel. If you wanted to elevate the story beyond fairy-tale-banality, you'd want to understand how both Hansel AND Gretel felt about the events of the story, and you'd definitely want to know what that evil witch was thinking! So maybe Hansel sees the trip through the forest as a test of his masculinity and his place in a patriarchal society, and is torn between his own fears and his need to appear strong in front of his sister. Maybe Gretel sees the events of the story as just one more struggle in a life that already seems overwhelmingly cruel, and finds herself tempted to hide away in the woods and learn the ways of the forest rather than continuing to fight. And the witch, of course, was just like Gretel when she was young and DID hide herself away in the forest, and now her quest to destroy Gretel is just one more aspect of her need to erase her self and her memories of a purer, simpler time. Or whatever.

    So then when you write a scene involving the three of them, you can make sure that Hansel is speaking like a boy trying to be a man, and Gretel is world-weary and depressed, and the witch is crazy and evil, sure, but also sad and desperate.

    Or whatever. The point being that I can see writing the story from each characters' perspective as a good way to make sure there's plenty of interesting stuff going on, lots of undertones and subtleties, and nice, rich characters to play with.

    But, as I said, I've never done it. But maybe I should...
     
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  5. jaebird
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    jaebird Active Member

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    I've tried to write a character's history from their point of view, but it didn't really go that well. I mean, why would my character actually sit down and spill all this personal stuff all at once to a complete stranger, so to speak? It felt forced, very unrealistic, and not like the character at all. I focused too much on that instead of the facts I was actually trying to get down.

    I do write out parts of their history, though, first of all to make sure I have the facts in order, and to see how many of them there are. I know I don't have all of them, but it gives me something to work with until I figure out more about that character. Usually, by that time, I know the character well enough that I don't need that history written down anymore.

    If I were you, I'd just write down some important points in the character's past that you know already, then as you use that to build your story and find out you need to add some other events to their life, you can do that then. Don't feel like you have to have the whole thing written down all at once.
     
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  6. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    I only write a list of events for my story in chronicle sequences for the plot. Then I just write the story out as I figure how my characters react in their situations.
     
  7. Christine Ralston
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    Christine Ralston Active Member

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    I write detailed character profiles for my main characters using a template that I found online. Not everything in the profile ends up in the manuscript, but it gives me a better understanding of the character and how they would react to a given situation.
     
  8. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    A while back, I found character sheets useful in planning my characters. These days I prefer to 'get to know them' as I write. You can try thinking in terms of their life, who they are, how they reached the milestones growing up, school, study, work, relationships, what makes them tick, what their attitudes and values are... Then you can see the story from their perspective, and can more easily imagine how they would react to story events, but also it would help finding their 'voice' perhaps?
     
  9. Superbean
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    Superbean Member

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    My understanding of the snow flake method is that you map out the whole story before writing it. You start with finding the main plot points and build from there, until you have the whole story lined up. Then there is the editing and making sure everything fits to your satisfaction. But before you start with that, it's the characters. You write a character, all his/hers strength and weaknesses. Then you write his/hers whole story arc, development, goals and motivations. The larger part of the story the character is, the more detailed you do this part. And then there are a few more points I don't remember, but finally you start writing the story. As you know the main course of the story, and you know everything about the characters, all that remains for you is to fill it inn and make the story come alive.
    Knowing this is important for understanding what you ask for, because the whole method is based on planing ahead.
    Whit writing a story from a characters perspective is a tool to make you understand the character better, and also a way to make him/her consistent. Take Harry Potter. You don't have to write the whole book from every characters point of view, but you write a synopsis of the story from the main characters point of view. The characters I would consider large enough to do this is Harry, Hermione, Ron, Hagrid, Neville and perhaps Draco. Then you write a short synopsis for each of them. Here is a quick and short example with Hermione:
    (I don't remember the whole book, but I take the parts I do remember.)

    Hermione is a girl with long unruly brown curls. She was born in (put in the right town) England. When she was young she found out she was a witch, despite both her parents being muggles. At the age of 11 she gets her Hogwarts acceptance letter and start preparing for school. Her parents are dentists so obviously she has some pressure from home to do good and combined with the fact that she is muggleborn, she is convinced that she has to do so good in order to not being sent home from Hogwarts. Due to her being a witch in the muggle society, she always has a hard time making friends. Muggle kids would tease her for being different, which made her create emotional shields in order to protect herself. Without friends and with that pressure from home, she focus all her energy into doing good in school. As her life before Hogwarts is all she has ever known, she expect it to be just like before and therefore she brings her shields and her attitude towards doing good in school. On the train she meets Harry and Ron in an attempt to make friends. She believes that because of her being muggleborn, she is far behind everyone else when it comes to magic and has read up on as much as she possible could before entering Hogwarts. On the train she is proved wrong by Ron who seems pretty useless. Then there is Harry who seems equally clueless, if not more than Ron. With Ron and Harry don't meeting her expectations of wizards, she gets angry at both of them for not doing enough preparations for school, and partly herself for letting down her guard. This leads to a fight with Ron and she leaves them to be alone again.
    As the year starts, she realize that nobody has prepared more then the two boys she met on the train and she keeps to herself. She does everything she can to be the best in class. Though she has not made any friends, she don't want to go back to the muggle world. She is used to no friends, and people treat her like an equal here. They might call her a geek or a nerd, but she fits in, she is no longer a freak. That doesn't mean everything is perfect though.After a particular fight with Ron she overhear him talking really mean about her, and saying its no mystery she will never have any friends. After growing up alone she is used to be alone, but hearing it from someone else strikes a nerve. Why would anyone befriend her? After all he is right, she is a freak and nobody will ever like her. She hides in the bathroom to sob, when a troll suddenly attacks her. She believes she is going to die when she is saved by no other than Harry and Ron, the boy she probably despise most, except that Draco boy, and his friend. Then the teachers come to see whats going on, and find her Harry and Ron with the dead troll and they are not happy. Nobody has ever done anything like that for Hermione, so she lies and tell the teachers that she went after the troll and the boys were there only to save her. They get detention but nothing more then that, and after that she has made two new friends. Though they still are pretty useless in most the subjects at school, the boys are now being nice to her, and she likes having friends. The three of them stumble upon a plot to steal the philosophers stone, which is apparently hidden beneath the castle.

    I am sorry but I don't remember more of it from her point of view. This is by no means the truth, but this is how I imagined it could be done. It is of course simpler to write when I know whats happening to her, but I think this can be an important step if you use the snowflake method. I don't like to plan to much ahead so I don't use this. I write a backstory for the main characters, but I stop it when I come to the point where the story starts. I hope this was a little help.
     
  10. aikoaiko
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    aikoaiko Contributing Member

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    It might be helpful to use a method like this as a base to clarify your characters, but if it's confusing you in areas you may want to change what you use as an outline, or modify it to suit you better.

    I'm not a proponent of Methods either, but I do find it helpful to make a list of my characters' qualities and the sequence of events in a story. As a tactile and visual learner the act of writing and reading them again ingrains the details in my head and I'm able to 'see' the connections more clearly. Since everyone absorbs things differently you've got to decide what way works best--whether it's one that's already exists or one that is tailored to your own needs.:)
     
  11. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    I use a sheet that states their name, occupation, physique, and a bit about them. I don't use the Snowflake Method or any other method, and I'd rather get to know the characters as I write them, but given that I'm about to start my fourth draft the same story and I forget basic things quickly, it's nice to have this.

    An example for my main character:

    Name: Justin Thompson
    Pre-war Occupation: Airline Pilot
    Physique: Average height. Coal black hair. Has permanent scars from the plane crash, a long gash on the edge of his chin and one on the bottom of his right arm. 30 years old.
    Past: When he was eight he and his family were in a horrible car crash that killed his older sister Ashley and his uncle. Depression set in and he got further distanced from his parents. Eventually they sent him away at age 15 to a teen camp in Utah to deal with his problems. Instead he was tortured with methods of simulating the car crash to try and get over the depression. He came back worse and lashed out at his parents. He moved out at age 17 and into an apartment with friends and put himself to college. He met his best friend, Tyler Nix there. Five years later (age 22) Tyler married his high school girlfriend. The bride's Maid of Honor was Claire Whitebalm, his future wife. Two weeks before his plane crashed and the Death Collegiate invaded, he proposed to Claire.
     
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  12. Meteor
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    Meteor Active Member

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    Thanks guys, really enjoyed the answers. I think I'll go ahead and skip this step since I prefer what I already have on the characters. Might add a little or take some away even but, thanks again for all of the help. :)
     
  13. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    And thank you for the Snowflake link ;) I'll definitely be taking that for a test run next time I write myself into a corner.
     
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