1. Eric242
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    Eric242 Member

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    How do your characters come to be?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Eric242, Mar 1, 2013.

    Hello everyone. I was curious about the origins of your characters. I'm curious about two questions in particular:

    One: How do your characters begin? Do you create them to fit a role in a story you already have in mind? Do they come from some random spark of inspiration? Share :)

    For me, my characters always begin with a random scene. My mind wanders randomly throughout the day and sometimes a scene pops into my head. Something exciting, or something emotional. This little tid-bit exists in a void, centered around some character that I know very little about. And as I think about it more, I begin to stretch backwards in time from that point, expanding the character's history and fleshing them out.

    Two: How do your characters grow from there?

    This is the part I often get caught up on. I sometimes find it difficult to give my characters depth beyond their initial creation. One of two things seems to happen to me: The character gets stuck in a stagnant state that is not well developed or understood, or, alternately, the character constantly evolves into something new until any trace of what the character used to be is confused and lost.

    So, thoughts on the topic?
     
  2. mg357
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    mg357 Active Member

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    I have a list of male and female celebrities and i use little details about them such as height hair color eye color body measurements and i use these little details to mold and shape my characters and i sometimes use little details about myself for characters as well.
     
  3. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    For every character for every story I do, the first thing I usually do is end up drawing them or a scene. I might have an image of them in mind, but it's only solidified when I draw them. I probably created my characters to fit the story...in a way? But they weren't made up on their own, they came with the story I had in mind.

    Ha, I just play about with them in my mind, imagining scenes and getting new ideas. As I do that, my characters become deeper, more realistic characters. Although, I've got to remember to jot it all down one day and sort through all these ideas.

    It's not a bad thing if the character evolves into something different than what you started with, maybe it's better that way. If you work with it and put them in different situations and use their personality to see how they react, you could sort out the confused 'traits' of the character.

    You could also ask yourself: What made them who they are today? What experiences shaped them? Was it good or bad experiences?

    I hope this helped :)
     
  4. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    One: Most often the spark of creativity for my dynamic characters, but out of plot necessity for the others.

    Two: There are a lot of ways to develop your characters.
    • Do a dating profile. Eye color, hair color, favorite foods, what they look for in a girl, what they want(ed) to be when they grow(grew) up...
    • Have an interview with your character. You can take different roles. You can be a canon interviewer, talking to them before or after your story takes place, "How did you figure out that the slug monster WAS the key to the door?" Or you can be the real you, interviewing them for the book. "So, what makes you think you're cut out to be a main character?"
    • Write scenes from their history, even though you will never use them in your book. This not only gives you a chance to see your character behave in other situations, but you can start to see exactly how their past has affected them today. Show them getting picked on by their older brother, driving their first car, whatever. Also put them in situations that are not immediately obvious. For example, if they are popular, show them in the 2nd grade being excluded from the table. If they are really smart, show them losing the science fair.
    • Keep track of when characters from books and movies remind you of your character. What do you like about them? How can you apply that knowledge to your own characters?
    • You can check out models of personality, where they categorize different types of personalities and give detailed descriptions. Enneagrams, Briggs-Myers, MMPI, "Big Five" are some good ones. A single person's personality will never truly fit into any one category of any personality model, but it can at least help you make some crucial decisions about your characters' personality.


    But in the end, the new character will be drastically different than the old. That's okay. Let them grow and evolve, and then later go back and rewrite the old parts with MainCharacter 2.0. If you are still working on your first draft, your first priority is to finish it, no matter what happens. Maybe your character will change genders or suddenly sprouts a hunchback with psychic powers. Just pretend they were always that way and keep going.
     
  5. Fivvle
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    Fivvle Contributing Member

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    I've actually had a nice conversation with myself on this topic today! I've been questioning myself on what I want a certain character to learn (he's really young) by the end of the story. He's been in a stagnant state like the OP mentioned, and I've really been trying to get him out of it.
     
  6. Oswiecenie
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    Oswiecenie Active Member

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    They usually materialize at night in my bedroom, accompanied by spooky bluish light.
     
  7. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    It depends. Sometimes they come in as what-if questions, like "What if Leon VeMoon had a kid?" and boom, the kid comes to life. Or they appear out of a random thought I had from observing someone. Once, I saw two middle-aged professors walking down the hallway at the end of the day, with the sunset right in front of them. It was really something out of a typical romance flick, and I thought, "Are they dating? 'Cause if they are, I think I just saw the ending play out." Then two middle-aged professors come to life.

    Sometimes they are inspired by things I read about. The blind protagonist of my Colonial mysteries was actually inspired by reading a biography of Louis Braille, where there were a few chapters of him and his (possibly made up by the author) girlfriend running around Paris on a quest to track down a French soldier who created a sort of night morse code for his men, and Louis was inspired by him to do his invention. They knocked on doors, asked questions, and it was like reading a brief mystery story...and then, it happened.
     
  8. Shadywood
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    Shadywood Member

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    I enjoy writing historical fiction, and I have based the characters in my novel on real people. I spent a lot of time researching persons in the era I was interested in and their stories stood out to me. I then did some character-building exercises, such as asking certain questions of the characters, to develop them into real beings, since all I had were names and actions.
     
  9. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    My main characters usually have a particular characteristic that causes a problem for them, and the characteristic (and the problem) suggest the story. Everything else flows from there.

    The story shapes their growth.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    My characters come to be through the demands of the story.
     
  11. drifter265
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    drifter265 Banned

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    I usually have the plot first and the scenes I want happening in the story. At this point, the characters are just shadows who are moving the plot along and aren't materialized yet. Then I build the character just to a certain point the plot and scenes need them to be and so I never add more than what is necessary. So if I want to show Jack is nice, and that's crucial to the plot, I'll create a scenario/problem completely devoted to that to show it.

    Ha! This is exactly what I'm trying to say. The character, you'll see, will just immediately come alive. If you don't have anything exciting happening to him, or he doesn't do anything exciting, then that's what the character will be. Like what Vonnegut said, you have to put your characters through terrible situations to show what they're made of.
     
  12. Shannonpeel
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    Shannonpeel Member

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    I usually come up with a type of Character I want to write about and then let the Character take me into a story to meet new characters. I've only been writing to practice the art and learn about character development and POV so each story has built on the next.

    Story one was from the point of view of a woman enslaved by a slaver
    Story two was from the point of view of a man who enslaves people
    The Slaver's story introduced me to a new character, a soldier and childhood friend of his.
    The soldier's story introduced me to two new woman etc.....

    Each person has a role to play in the story and I use their POV's, characteristics, and personalities to drive it forward. Throw them into a situation and see how they react. Then reread it to see if its believable or not.
     
  13. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    My characters come from me always acting out my scenes and I might make a character on the spot to fill a role for the scene and might just come up with a name on the spot. Then after I'm satisfied with that I go back, I visualize the character, come up with a reason they exist in the first place and such.

    The second question they usually expand toward their destiny. Currently a character I have D'Angelo Peers is gonna go to Russia to disgrace his father's funeral (for VERY personal reasons) and ends up getting in to a confrontation with his half brother Dmitri who just happens to be head of his father's mafia after his death. I take my characters often on a wild journey that test who they are as characters
     
  14. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    For me, a character starts with an image that just bursts into my head. It's like a photograph, a snapshot. I just suddenly see the character, usually doing something in some landscape or other. Most times, I know what he's like as soon as he pops into my head. If I don't, I just start writing scenes about him, watching what he does, forcing him to become himself. Sometimes these scenes become part of the finished work, but usually they don't.

    I don't really understand starting with plot, then looking for the character to fit it. I don't understand making character sheets. That seems too much like I'm a human resources manager interviewing candidates for a job, and just looking at resumes. How do you know a character properly from a resume? I don't give a crap what my character's hair color is, or how tall he is (usually), or who his favorite band is or where he went to school. All that tells me precisely zero about him. I only know him if I see him in action. What does he do when he's under pressure? What does he do with himself when he's alone? How does he express love? How does he meet death? None of this is resume stuff. It's not character sheet stuff. I need to know my character in my bones before I can make a story with him.

    I can never fit a character into a predefined plot. That's hammering a square peg into a round hole. I have to have the character first, then I can explore his world and make his story.
     
  15. John Eff
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    John Eff Member

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    Some very interesting points there, Minstrel, which I find especially intriguing as my method (if the term will stretch to my blundering approach) is the exact opposite. I start with an idea - often a one-line thought - and construct a main character to fit. As the story grows, so too does the character, with each affecting the other as time progresses. Of course, you have to have a rough outline of the character at the outset, but for me that's all it is.

    As for other characters, they are treated much the same. They will often pop up out of nowhere to assist with the "ah, but what if..." moments, or to help bolster a plot point, or sometimes what starts off as a minor character grows into a more prominent role simply because I like him/her. The demands for and of my characters are entirely story-led and they are consequently shaped to fit.

    Being a died-in-the-wool non-planner, the idea of writing character sheets (or any other kind of sheet, come to that) brings me out in spots. The downside to this is a certain lack of cohesion at the outset, coupled with a bit of a nightmare in the editing suite to make sure your character stays 'in character' throughout. The upside is the freedom to end up with different characters to those with which you started, together with others who you had no idea were invited at all.

    A bit of a hit-and-miss approach? Possibly. Probably. But it keeps me fresh and, as I get to know my characters the same way a reader would, I think it keeps my writing fresh.
     
  16. lauramaidah
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    lauramaidah Banned

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    Mine are usually real people. People tend to approve of those stories better.
     
  17. Eric242
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    Eric242 Member

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    I like that. That's a nice thought. Even if it's not the right situation for the story I should try sticking them in some awkward moments or terrible situations and see how they react.

    I like what you're saying minstrel. This is kind of what I am getting at with the way I come up with my main characters. But once you have your primary characters and your story, don't you create your accessory characters from the plot itself? It seems like at a certain point all the characters you make will be because the plot needs them.
     
  18. lauramaidah
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    lauramaidah Banned

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    Mold them after reality, though no? Primary, tri-arc aside. Life-experience leads to : Oh you must be experienced.


    ..Like in bed
     
  19. jwideman
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    jwideman Senior Member

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    A mix of people I meet and bits of myself.
     
  20. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i almost always have at least one in mind first, or a story that pops into my mind will suggest the characters...

    they don't necessarily 'grow'... they simply do what the story calls for them to do... if they undergo changes along the way, that's the storyline/plot's doing...
     
  21. Phoenix Hikari
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    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

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    One: How do your characters begin?
    They begin from my hunger to tell a story, most of the time they just pop up in my head. Normally I see a scene in which my characters interact then slowly i work back and forth in time to understand them and actually get to know them better. The more i get to know them the more I realise that each of them holds a piece of me or someone I know.
    My current Protagonist resembles my boyfriend when he was 17 and a little bit of me.


    Two: How do your characters grow from there?
    Because I interact with them and research their history in my head and in the story, the characters grow. I also watch their decisions and reactions. I come so close to loving them, right now i am interested in what they are going to do.
     
  22. lauramaidah
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    lauramaidah Banned

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    I wish I were my characters.

    I always say that's how I write. I write real people. I lie about what happened. My characters are real. I wish I was someone else. It works for me.

    I like the above quote "interact".@Phoenix
     
  23. jwideman
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    jwideman Senior Member

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    I'm the opposite. My characters tend to suffer. A lot. I'm glad I'm not them.
     
  24. Eric242
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    Eric242 Member

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    I'm with you. Not that my characters always suffer, but they tend to be in really shitty situations. I would rather not be them thank you. I like my life. :)
     
  25. cavyboat
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    cavyboat New Member

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    One: They usually pop in my head in the middle of the night...

    Two: To flesh the character out, I think of a scene. Then, I have the character enter the scene from another location ("I stalk through the kitchen door", "I fly into a tree", "I fall off the sofa in the midst of a nightmare"). Finally, I write as much as I can without worrying about the plot. Yesterday I spent three hours writing scenes around a crashed spaceship. I ended up covering religion, languages, colonialism, assassination, abusive relationships, bullying, work ethic, animal cruelty, forensics, and computer hacking. All of this comes from my MC's POV (first person), but each topic illustrates each character in a different way. For example, my MC (sci-fi) yells at her father's best friend (and boss) for stomping on a terrified horde of small, harmless wildlife who just happen to cross his path. The man continues stomping the poor animals, saying "They breed faster than rodents." Her father doesn't see this. In another scene, her father notices she is exhausted and tells her to take a break. Not wanting to be appear "weak" (she doesn't realize no one is judging her), she continues working to the point of passing out. She later finds out the two men got into a fistfight after carrying her back to town -- and her father lost.

    Good luck with your characters. I hope this helps.
     

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