1. Jimfoxx
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    Jimfoxx Member

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    How to develope better characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Jimfoxx, Jun 3, 2011.

    I'm starting to feel that my characters are not developed enough. Sure I've given them all personalities and their own thoughts and basic information but I don't think they are characterised enough.

    If any one could help me I would appreciate it
     
  2. Ice Queen
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    Ice Queen Senior Member

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    Well, what sort of things do you know about them? Name/Age/Appearence/Job etc. are all basic things that are easy enough to grasp; what's harder are thinking about their Strengths/ Weaknesses/ Desires/ Goals/ Fears/ Personality/ Relationships/ History etc.

    I find the best way to get a better grasp of your characters is to think long and hard about them; what are they like? their role in the story? how would they react to different things? I usually imagine what I need them to accomplish in the story; and how other characters will get in their way: even better how the character will get in their own way.

    :)
     
  3. Leonardo Pisano
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    Leonardo Pisano Active Member

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    You might consider using enneagram type of characters. There are nine different ones. I use them to pick one particular, then decide which enneagram fits, then "perfect" the character according to their profile. Googling the term shd work. If not, PM me and I'll elaborate more on them.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Study people. Become an avid (but stealthy!) peoplewatcher. Pay attention to how people interact, and the differencees between what they say and what they really mean and want.
     
  5. Gigi_GNR
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    Gigi_GNR Guys, come on. WAFFLE-O. Contributor

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    Cog is right. I base a lot of my characters on traits of friends, family or even enemies to give them a real feel. Observing how real people act is a good way to understand how your characters might act.
     
  6. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    Personally, I think the key to creating a well-developed character is time. It's a process that can't be rushed otherwise certain aspects of them will come across as unnatural.

    On Thursday -- in response to an excerpt and a little spoiler I posted on another forum -- a writer friend, Heidi (who I've been speaking with since 2009), said to me, "That's really intense. Lu is such a developed character it's insane." Lu has been in development for ten months and two weeks, with the "main" novel he appears in still yet to be started. The story he currently appears in feels more like a warm-up now that I know him better. The only reason I know him so well is because I have spent so long with him. I thought I knew him well back in November - now I know him so much better.

    I don't think character development is something that can be forced without them coming across as contrived to the reader. Even if you try to there is a good chance you will find a better idea later. Trying to force it just makes the character come across as insincere.
     
  7. Greendog
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    Greendog Member

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    Try thinking up something ridiculous about a character - some weird trait that sounds crazy but is believable. I'll just make one up off the top of my head, but some one who has something against white sofas. If you used this well it could add some realism to the character. It may sound stupid isolated, but it definitely works to throw in some weird quirks to your characters.
     
  8. Norm
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    Norm Contributing Member

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    "No way! I'm not going in there!"

    "Dude, come on. She was nice enough to invite us over, so what's your problem?"

    "White sofa? What kind of bitch has a white sofa in their foyer? Forget it, man, I'm leaving."
     
  9. Declan
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    Declan Senior Member

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    Definitely, I find that sometimes I have based a character on someone I know without even realising. Also, if you write in first person, listen to your day to day thoughts, that always helps. Cool picture by the way, Gigi_GNR I love Doctor Who.

    What Yoshiko said about time is true as well. I have used and unused characters sitting around on scraps on paper and in my mind from over two years ago. They develop, like a person, as you do as a writer and story teller.
     
  10. darkhaloangel
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    darkhaloangel Active Member

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    The people watching will give you a feel for writin body movements and pattens in speech. But when writing a character, you've got to understand their motivations and where they are trying to go. It will give you a clearer idea about who they are and what they want, and this often shapes a person.
     
  11. WriterDude
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    WriterDude Contributing Member Contributor

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    If I struggle to develop a character enough to be satisfied, I try to remove him/her and rather use his/her traits on other characters. As a random example, let's say I have a character who's great at picking locks nad hiding in the shadows. If that's all he can do, I can remove him entirely and let someone else hide in the shadows. And as for lockpicking, there's nothing wrong with a bit of brute force from time to time. Or explosives. :p
     
  12. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I've got a character development clinic in the word games subforum. Post your character there and we will help you. :)
     
  13. Reggie
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    Reggie I Like 'Em hot "N Spicy Contributor

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    Try writing a biography of the characters you want to develop. Where does he/she come from? What relationship does he/she has with his/her parents? Does the character have brothers and sisters? If so, what kind of relationship do the character have with the siblings? Where was the character born? When is his/her birthday? What kind of grades did the character have in grade school? Did he/she have a part time job while he/she was in high school? If so, what kind of job he/she has? Is he/she still working? How does he/she get alone with the managers at his/her workforce? Does he/she like his/her job? Was the character getting paid fairly, underpaind, under the table, or highly paid?

    What is the character's point of view (i.e. his beleif system)? What attidudes does he have toward others (i.e. Life is unfair, everyone loves me, I'm the center of attention, etc.)? What does your character always want? What keeps him from getting it? Did the character get alone with his/her teachers when he/she was in school? Does he/she have any friends? Does his/her friends easily influence the character? What does your character's parents do for living? What is your character's parents' income? What is the character's income? Is your character's parents married, divorced, or even still living? Was the character's parents over-protective, or the careless type parents? Is your character's grandparents living? Did your character's parents find it easy to make financial ends meet? Or did they have hard time paying the bills?

    What does the character like to do outdoors? Was the main character ever influenced by his/her peers? What kind of childhood the character had when he was a kid? Does he/she still stay with his/her parants? What kind of life he/she had as an adult? Is he planning on going to college? If so, what is his/her major? Did he/she even graduate from high school? Did he ever get into trouble with anyone? The classmates? Or got alone? Is he/she aggressive? Timid?

    What about the character's personal life? What his his/her hobbies? What is the character's relationship status? What about the character's private life? Is your main character married, divorced, single, or seperated? Does he/she have a sex life? What is his/her sex life like? Even major events can take place before the story does, such as quiting a job or getting a promotion, etc.

    These are some questions you can ask to get to know your characters well. You can even write events that happend to the character before the story even begins. Some things like, the character might have bought a new car or got his/her haircut before the story began. You can even write multi-stories about your characters around the theme or premise of your real story. In the meantime, you'll know your characters as if you are talking to them now. :)

    I'm sorry if you feel overwhelmped about this post I made.
     
  14. keats81
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    keats81 Member

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    Watch Game of Thrones.
     
  15. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    As a theatre major in college, I was taught to keep a "people journal", making notes on how people act in public, how they interact, and how they may avoid interaction. So I would have to agree wholeheartedly with Cogito's comment. I would also go further and ofer this one caveat. Such things will still only give you a superficial, two-dimensional image. You need to take this one step further and extrapolate from what you see what might make those people behave the way they do.

    An old woman helps an even older woman, probably her mother, across a street. Her arm is hooked around the older woman's elbow and they walk awkwardly, occasionally bumping each other with their arthritic gait. Why is the 'daughter' so attentive to the 'mother'? Is she taking her mother somewhere out of love and devotion or duty? What shows on her face? Affection? Aggravation?

    In other words, don't just look at the surface of what you see. Delve deeper to try to see what 'makes them tick'. For writing, that part of the art of observation is at least as important as the initial observations themselves. What is the motivation?

    Naturally, you won't know the motivation for the people you watch. But you can discern certain things from the faces you see and the body language the people present. Look for that in your characters as well.

    You will not necessarily put your characters' backgrounds and past lives down on your pages. That's not directly relevant to what's going on in your story. But it does present a certain causative factor in why a character does what he or she does. You need to know that to understand why they behave the way they do and, if you know that, you will be better equipped to add that sentient, breathing, 98.6 third dimension to their behavior. Once you do that, you have the ammunition you need to more fully develop their characters on the page.
     
  16. James Scarborough
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    James Scarborough Member

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    Writer's Digest Books has a series of books called Elements of Writing Fiction. One of the titles in the series is Characters & Viewpoint, authored by SF writer and editor Orson Scott Card. It is excellent and I'm sure you'd find it helpful.
     
  17. ink_slinger
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    ink_slinger Member

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    A little technique that works for me is something I picked up when I was a theater major. My acting teacher gave us a character development worksheet, then we would read the script and answer what we could. Not everything was in the script, though, but you still had to answer. You made decisions based on what you knew and felt about the character. That made your character a person, with quirks and preferences.

    It works when writing. You know your character somewhat, but it's the things you might not tell your reader, the things you know about the character that no one else does, that makes your character a real person. That's why the "white sofa" idea is so good. Because even if you don't work it into the story, you know that about your character, and the more you know him or her, the more real the character seems to the reader.

    You can google "character development worksheet" and it will give you some pdfs that would help, or you can make your own.
     
  18. SteamWolf
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    SteamWolf Senior Member

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    I base most of my characters on personality traits of people I know or politicians.
    In addition to this, I often write back-story for them. 90% of this detail will never become evident in the story, but it helps me define how they react to situations and hopefully give them a bit more of a diverse and well rounded personality.

    Judging by the reviews I got in the short story section here, I haven't done so well. :p
     
  19. mystrian101
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    mystrian101 New Member

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    Re: Developing Better Characters

    It takes a whole lot of time. When I was in 7th grade I began drawing anime versions of my characters and developing them nonstop. I began emailing rough drafts to my friend who had characters in the same world(we are a collab-team). Now I am almost a junior. My most developed character is my MC, Xhalite, second most is his friend, her name is Kathruia. I have gone through many versions of each character only to find I liked another hairstyle/trait/outfit/skill etc better. I haven't ever completed one book, as I constantly rethink everything(and my friend has his opinions too). Point being, creating a character is a process. I'm no professional, but if you work hard enough, you can create an amazing character, and more characters to follow.
     
  20. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've never written a character bio or anything like that. I also don't focus much on explaining what someone is like, how they look, what hobbies they had in college et al, if it's not relevant.

    I think that character traits are best revealed by the way they react to situations or obstacles. Are they rational? Analytical? How do they deal with receiving painful or happy news? How do they communicate and treat people around them? That kind of thing.
     
  21. afrodite7
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    afrodite7 Senior Member

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    people watching definately works.a good one is habits.example:
    john on things with his fingers when he thinks,kiesha twirls her hair when she's shy.take from things you actually see.also,when people talk,their vocabulary should be different too.
     

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