1. AveryWhite
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    AveryWhite Senior Member

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    How to create interesting characters?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by AveryWhite, Aug 16, 2011.

    I’ve read a lot of threads here that mention one of the most important things to have in any story is interesting characters. Characters the reader and author will love and come to care for.

    And I completely agree with this. :D But my question is - HOW do I do this? What are your views or ideals for an interesting character? I really want to create interesting characters in my stories, but sometimes I wonder how I can bring about characters that WILL be like this. :confused:

    I know that there are some amazing characters out there, ‘Snape’ being one I love, and maybe that’s because he’s so complex and not always who you think he is; but I am very inexperienced in actually creating characters and developing them, as I haven’t yet written a developed story, only ideas for one and scenes and short chapters.


    Another thing I’ve noticed, is a lot of people say to let your characters take you where they want to go, and I have experimented with that and given them free-range, but it often ends up with them becoming something I don’t want them too, and I feel I’m loosing the character I had created and loved. So how do you stop this? Or deal with this? Or is this something you like? :confused:

    Thanks everyone :)
     
  2. jpeter03
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    jpeter03 Member

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    I think you've hit on something right there, the concept of having ideals for an interesting character. Sometimes it's easiest to model characters after real people, and that's a good place to start, but in the end your characters are presumably there to play a role in your larger story. First, define that role- what purpose does this character serve for you? After you've got that down, start thinking of the usual questions (where did this person come from? Where are they going? What do they want and what is standing in the way of that goal? How do they view the world around them?)

    Once you've got that down, you'll find it easier to see the story through that character's eyes and it may help to keep the characters from running away with themselves. Hope that helps!
    Jesse
     
  3. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Give them distinct personalities, and start off by identifying their "roles" in relation to the story and/or MC. For example, my story begins with the MC (Adalyn) and her mom. So I have to figure out, this woman can't be just "the mom," because that's too vague and there are many types of moms. For the purpose of the story, I needed Adalyn to have conflict with her, so I made the mom into the nitpicky overbearing type whose personality is opposite Adalyn's. Then I made sure she consistently came across that way. With your example of Snape, he has a specific distinction -- "the mean teacher" as opposed to just "a teacher."

    Now, the things I'm listing ("mean teacher," "overbearing mom" etc) are considered tropes, but the trick is to make them enetirely your own. Cliched stereotype portrayals are out there, but you can still use a trope in a way that doesn't seem cheesingly overdone. Just watch how you do it.

    Quirks are fun, too, but make sure you don't overdo it (unless it's satire, which I love, in which overdoing is not possible), and make sure the quirks add to the story and not detract. As Cogito said in another thread, quirks are like cooking: a tiny pinch of chocolate in chili can taste really good, but strawberry ice cream in chili is just going to be weird.

    Finally, dialogue is HUGE. Make sure to get it right, and that it's really the way someone like your character would talk.

    Hope I helped :)
     
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  4. AveryWhite
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    AveryWhite Senior Member

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    thankyou jpeter03 and mallory!! :)

    youve given me alot to think about, thanks. ill definitely go over my characters in relation to the story and ask these kind of questions so i know for a fact where im going with them and the story. and hopefully create some great characters! :)

    and yes i think thats definatly something i need to work on! :)
     
  5. Sundae
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    Sundae Contributing Member

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    It's all in the personality and how they handle situations. It's also has quite a bit to do with perception and how the characters are portrayed.

    I think more of what you are looking for is how to create memorable characters as opposed to interesting characters. Some can be quirky-interesting for a time being, but easily forgotten once you turn the page.

    Interesting really is when something strays from the ordinary. When that happens, you do the *slight turn of your head and mummer in a philosophical voice: "hmm... interesting." Why do you do that? Because something about it was not ordinary.

    Memorable characters on the other have a lot do with the perception of how the character is first presented and how the later change. You saw them one way, but by the time you go to the end of the book, they changed and transformed right in front of your eyes. They have the ability to transform how you feel about them even though they may appear to be physically non-changing.

    Snape is a great example. He first appears to be this aloof, dark, almost cynical character. That alone makes him different from the rest, but once the story progresses, you start seeing conflicting things that oppose your earlier perception of him, and the more contrary his character is, the more you become interested in the character to figure them out.

    These are just some elements to pay attention to, it's really hard to box up the formula for a interesting character because once you do that, they are no longer interesting.
     
  6. proserpine
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    proserpine Member

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    I think knowing your character well is key. Imagine your characters in different situations, and figure out how they would act. Are they introverts, or extroverts? What scares them? What kind of childhood did they have? Are they honest, or dishonest? What matters most to them/ Are they morning people, or night owls? What are their pet peeves? Who matters in their lives?

    If you know your characters well, they are less likely to disappoint you, and you will be able to write scenes more effectively.

    Remember to always try to show things about your character through the story, and not tell with lengthy bios.

    I find characters interesting if there is something about their personality that belies their general perception.

    Remember that the interaction between characters is important in making them interesting.

    Also, readers don't want to read about these amazing characters sitting around on boxes, so an interesting story is at least as important as interesting characters.

    Love your characters. If you don't, the reader won't, either.

    Good luck with your writing.
     
  7. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    Take the time to develop a strong character before you begin writing them - and don't try to rush it. An interesting and believable character forms with getting to know them well. If you try to force the development there is a chance they will come across as too contrived to the reader.

    I let my characters develop in my head for weeks (sometimes even months) before I even begin outlining a story. I don't write down anything about them because by the time I even begin to outline it I can tell you everything about them from memory - it's a gradual development where you just pick up information, just like getting to know a real person. I've found this process, even though it takes a long time (and probably makes me sound a little crazy!), has been successful as I've received more positive feedback about the characters themselves than the plot.* I take them time to get to know these characters well because I'm genuinely interested in them and want to portray them accurately - why else would I write about them if I wasn't interested in them myself?

    *Plus, you know you're doing something right when someone half a world away accidentally says your character's name in the middle of their speech in English class. ;) Unfortunately, that character's name was "Kitten" and she was mocked by classmates on Facebook for it. Her terrible explanation for saying the wrong name did get me a little publicity though. :p
     
  8. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    :D :D is that a "mallorian" word?

    You sure helped me smile... :) for what that is worth.
     
  9. andrewjeddy
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    andrewjeddy Member

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    The key is to make the character memorable. How well this is done depends on how much the reader can relate to them and how realistic they are. What characterizes them? Are they morose and stoic? Cheerful and Improvident? Mean and Ignoble? Or eccentric, romantic (adventurous), and naive? Then you have to either form a internal questioning of thier own feeling, or you have to back their personality up in the dialogue. In the book I am writing, I have found that dialogue is key. In dialogue you can get the reader interested in what the Character thinks and feels, seen both from his own and from others perspective. If you decide you want Character A to be Morose and Stoic that feeling should ooze from everything he/she does or says.
     
  10. JackElliott
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    JackElliott Senior Member

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    Insight of character comes from his circumstance and the other people he interacts with. The people around him (the story's minor characters) provide an opportunity to reveal another side to the main character's personality. Put another way, his relationship with one person may be desperate, loaded with passive-aggressiveness, and a relationship with another character may show his tender side.

    Sorry, I don't believe character strength has anything to do with his relatability. Well-drawn characters will force an emotional response from the reader.

    Really the first step to crafting a great character is to move away from stereotypes. He must seem like a person with a wide spectrum of emotions and conflicts.
     
  11. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Tesoro -- Hahaha. Oops. I suppose it is! And I am glad to hear that. :D
     
  12. andrewjeddy
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    andrewjeddy Member

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    I'm sorry if I mis-communicated. In saying that the reader should be able to relate to the character what I meant was not so much that they should be able to identify with them as that they should be able to see where the Character is coming from. Why does the character feel alienated from life? Why does the character come to the extreme of wanting to kill herself? Why does she change her mind?... The reader has to be able to understand where the character is coming from and why he says or does things. This is built into her personality, and that is why I say the reader should be able to relate to the Chararcter. Not come from the same veiwpoint mind you, but understand the character's veiwpoint given the circumstances and other factors. This will cause emotional response in the reader.
     
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  13. westofthemoon
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    westofthemoon Member

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    "Interesting" is definitely a desired trait, but I don't think it's necessarily inherent in any character; "interesting" is usually determined by the audience. Maybe the character has mass appeal, maybe he's just got that "je ne sais quoi" for only a few people...I agree that the character has to be well-drawn. He/She needs to elicit some kind of response from those reading his/her story.

    BUT, that being said, I always find that the most interesting characters for me are ones with secrets or (along the same lines) with unknown pasts. The memorable ones always have a bit of mystery going on. Blondie from "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly." Rick from "Casablanca." The Joker from "The Dark Knight." These are all film references, but you get the idea. OH! Heathcliff from "Wuthering Heights" and Satan from "Paradise Lost." AND, usually, what makes me even more enamored with that kind of character is that you never really find out his/her secret--they are merely hinted at. Also, the characters I've listed are not absolutely "good" or "bad" (yes, I'm even talking about Satan in Milton's epic). They don't do the whole "dualist" thing. They're more "Byronic Hero" or "Anti-hero." I guess I'm focusing on men, here, but I think the same applies for female characters. Just an opinion. Gosh, I should not drink and type.
     
  14. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Let's take Snape as an example. In the beginning, he's an interesting (but unsympathetic) character because he's dark and a little scary. As the story progresses, we start to understand his motivations, and start feeling sorry for him. Eventually, we understand he's driven by the same human weaknesses as everyone else; he just appears cold and hateful on the outside. IMHO he becomes more and more interesting as this goes on.
     
  15. AveryWhite
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    AveryWhite Senior Member

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    hey thanks for the help everyone, really helps! :) and yes your right memorable is definately a better word to describe what i was looking for :p
     
  16. Declan
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    Declan Senior Member

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    Interview them. (in your mind)

    I've recently started doing this, but it helps develop characters.
     
  17. AnyaB
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    AnyaB New Member

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    You simply have to make them real. Give them quirks that define them from other people. Like George may only drink strawberry milk but he's a eight and pink is still considered a girl color so he keeps it in a Spiderman thermos when he goes to school.

    It's weird original things like that that make a person their own. How we part our hair, chew our gum, tie our shoes, put on pants, on and on and on. Just define the character as them make them black and white. Making them black and white doesn't make them less complex. Snape is your example of an original character his thoughts are very black and white but what makes him complex is that JKR was the only one who knew for a really long time. Give them back stories and play twenty questions with them know everything there is to know. Not everything has to be in the story but your knowledge helps define them.
     
  18. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you're in a fix about creating interesting characters, one of the easiest ways is to not actively try to build a great character. An MC having a dynamic, engaging personality can only get you so far. In the end, it's the plot and conflict that drives the reader forward, and how your main character navigates through these obstacles.

    So instead of starting off by saying, How do I make Jack Hacker interesting. Perhaps rather say how do I make the first scene he appears in interesting, tense and multifaceted. By placing him in a difficult or at the very least peculiar situation, you force your character to make interesting choices, interesting observations and interesting statements. Allow the characters to grow from the plot, actively feeding them combustible scenes and let them ignite.
     

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