1. Meteor
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    Meteor Active Member

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    How much development?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Meteor, Nov 27, 2015.

    Hello everyone and thank you for taking the time to read this post.

    So I'm here today to ask the question of how much character development do we need here. I've been all over the net searching up all manner of things on this subject and I'm a little distressed. Everything I read gives me a gigantic list of things that "I must have to have a good character sheet". I was under the impression I didn't need to delve extremely deep into the intricacies of my characters as far as their bios are concerned. All of these articles, pages and what not I've read tell me I have to list every single aspect of my character. I usually give the age and race with particular talents then finish up with a brief biography of the character as well as physical description. Do I really need to list their hobbies, spiritual status, mental state, every relative ever known to them and(what I personally find to be)a huge mish-mash of junk information to have a good character?

    Here is a link to one of the many things I've read: Ta-da! They're all pretty much like this here. I feel like virtually all of the information here is pointless. Its either that or I've been doing this completely wrong. Can anyone enlighten me a little?

    One more thank you for taking the time to read/respond to this post!
     
  2. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I used to do all that and then found most of what I put into the character sheets never worked it's way into any of my scenes. They might be helpful for historical novels or novels with a great many character especially when you need to keep dates and info handy but other than that I don't find them useful.
    I usually only decide about 5 things for my characters before I start writing -
    1. Name
    2. Age
    3. Position - i.e since job doesn't really cover all characters I use position cause that also takes care of retired people, students, children, people in job limbo, divorced, married, etc.
    4. Vague personality - most people can be summed up in a few vague words - nice, bossy, crotchety, selfish, giving, caring etc - so I just pick out a vague idea of what I want my character to be without locking it into a type. Before I started writing, I decided my mc would be weak and would eventually use his weakness to become his ultimate strength. ( not physically. ) But that doesn't sum up his entire personality that's just an idea. For me the personality only comes out when the character is in a scene and can be set off with a dilemma. Choices are what shape people and that's going to evolve with scene and plot.
    5. Looks - I do settle on how my character will look. Whether or not I describe him isn't as important as being able to see him in my mind. That makes it so much easier to describe how he moves and reacts.

    By only filling out a small amount of info I'm free to let the scenes shape the characters and the characters to shape the scenes. It allows me to flow with the work and create details that shape and work with the story instead of trying to work the story to fit predecided details.
     
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  3. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Your characters past is only important for the way in which it affects their actions in the present.

    The detail that your character once had a red lunchbox is not important. The detail that your character had a red lunchbox and a girl he didn't like complimented him on it, and he got flustered and confused, and it contributed to his awkwardness with women; is extremely important.
     
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  4. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've never done a character sheet; maybe that's a deficiency in my writing technique. What I do is start out with something like what @peachalulu describes, then as I write I consider the character in each plot situation. Maybe I need him to behave in a certain way in that scene, and I ask, "Why does he/would he do that?" I think on it for awhile and come up with backstory that fits in with what I've written about him already, and that backstory becomes a part of who he is going forward.

    Some of the best character development arises out of little things you might have thrown in for color. If you've mentioned that he had an absentee father or an over-indulgent mother, bring out the implications. What might he have gone through in the past because of that? How does it affect him now? Don't settle for stereotypes. Explore the possibilities.

    Most of the backstory you come up with will never make it between the covers of your book. But your knowing who your character is and what makes him tick will increase the confidence your readers have in him and in your ability to tell a good tale.

    Which is to say that if your novel is character-driven, thorough development of your main characters is essential. But it doesn't necessarily have to happen via a tool like a character sheet.
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2015
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  5. Meteor
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    Meteor Active Member

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    Well I certainly feel much better knowing that I'm doing this wrong. Its nice to know other people aren't just dumping a book's worth of info into their character sheets either. For awhile there(after reading tow or three pages like the linked one)I was so worried I'd been doing this all wrong. Thank you very much for the replies everyone!
     
  6. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    My five cents: When you really truly know your characters, how they are reacting, then it certainly is not necessary to fill out a 'character sheet'. I've never done that and it works just fine (sometimes more than fine as I discover along the way the relationships between me and my MC's and it certainly is enlightening!)
    But the point is that you have to feel real comfortable with them. Get into their heads, imagine them coming to knock on your door for a beer, or meeting them on a battlefield from the other side and imagine them as your best friends. Then there will be no real surprises along the way :)

    Disclaimer:
    I come at it from a different angle then the previous posters (my story is character-centered), as I let the events unfold as my MC's dictate. So I don't start with the storyline, but instead with the MC and what would be the most challenge to them.
     
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  7. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    You mean " . . . feel much better knowing that I'm not doing this wrong," right? :agreed:

    Your "Ta-da!" link went to the WF "Create New Thread" page, BTW . . . So I Googled novel-writing character sheets and oy vey! If I had to fill out out something like that on all my major characters, I'd never get a line of writing done. Yeah, it might be helpful to note down some of those items as you come up with them. You don't want the MC's eyes to be sky-blue in one chapter then turn up as brooding-black in another. But am I the only one who gets the idea they recommend you come up with all that before you even start?

    Gack. I'd rather write a doctoral thesis on the International Implications of the Optimization of the Utilization of Byproducts of Sewer Sludge.
     
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  8. Meteor
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    Meteor Active Member

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    I'm really trying to get to a point where my characters control the entire story which is why i just put down plot points and let them unfold these days. I used to detail the story quite a lot. As a matter of fact I specifically focused on the story line, time line and so forth. Not so much recently.

    Ah, yes thank you I guess I need to read through my posts before I actually post them. Haha, well yes I am happy I not doing this wrong. Thank you very much!

    My linky didn't work? Dang it....
     
  9. HolySpiritActivist
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    HolySpiritActivist New Member

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    I agree with basically everyone above: too detailed character sheets can be more exhausting than rewarding, but it's always good to think one's characters through before writing. Not just to be prepared for how they react in different situations, but also to make sure that key characters don't become to identical, unless that is the point.
     
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  10. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    One thing you mentioned is that, do you have to list your character's mental state, but I think that is the most important in a lot of stories, since characters emotions and motives are what drive the plot, if that is used in yours as well.
     
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  11. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    The thing with character sheets is that you're not supposed to include that info in the book. Most of these things serve to make you - not the reader - get to know your character in order to write him in a Way that makes him feel like a real person.
     
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