1. Doctore
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    Doctore Member

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    How to make a likable and memorable character

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Doctore, Dec 19, 2015.

    I don't think that I have ever created a character that was really likable AND memorable as well. If I have, no body thought to clue me in on this, because that would have been helpful. I think of the many memorable characters from books I've read, movies I've seen, and they really have IT. I can look at these characters and it is as if they are real beings. THAT is excellent writing! As much as I admire these works, I refuse to try and copy these characters in any way shape or form. What I do is simple, I come up with a character, and I tell the story of their life, or parts of it at least. It is, after all life experiences/decisions and the memories that follow that help to mold us into who we become later on, so why not do the same for a story? But in doing so, I don't believe-it doesn't seem that I've captured the IT that would make them likable and memorable.

    I've read, seen videos from authors/directors and listened to what they put into characters, the why and the whole process that brought them to life, and while that is inspiring I think I must have missed something along the way, a key element perhaps because in truth I'm really eager to get make this cake, but my bread won't rise. So what do you do to make your character likable and oh so memorable? How do you draw in the reader, take them on that wonderful journey and have them still remember it later on?
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2015
  2. Bjørnar Munkerud
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    Bjørnar Munkerud Contributing Member

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    I think you have to take the leap and think of the character as a person before you can make it human enough to have it trigger naturally, with which I mean that you have to write the character's backstory, description, dialog and actions based on the idea that they are real people, rather than assuming that with writing a certain number of pages, they will spring to life of their own accord. Characters need to be emotional to make them realistic; not reactionary, which just makes them robotic. You also need to make sure you're putting your characters to the test: it doesn't matter how smart, stupid, cowardly or courageous they are if they're never faced with situation that expose such characteristics in them, characteristics they may not even have known about themselves.
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2015
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  3. Doctore
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    Doctore Member

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    I agree those are important things, but I'm not sure if that would make a character memorable. possibly more likeable should a reader identify with them. It seems like a more general way to approach it, but that only gets you so far. Has this pacificly worked for you in the past? Just as is?
     
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  4. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
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    Duchess-Yukine-Suoh Girl #21 Contributor

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    Your character will not be likable or relatable to every person who reads it, because not every person has the same personality, backstory, goals, etc. (Example: Type-A personalities bother me on characters, however I can still enjoy the story) So, yes, the best you can do is make them as fleshed-out as possible. Make sure you like your character, and that you love them as you write them. Also, keep in mind that a character doesn't have to be completely relatable or flawed to be understandable or likable.
     
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  5. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    If readers identify with in some fashion or feel empathy for a character's plight or struggles or desires...if they make a connection, the character will be one they like and will be memorable. One they can in some way admire, or see a partial reflection of themselves (or who they'd like to be).

    Like Duchess-Yukine-Suoh indicated, a character won't be liked by or related to, by every reader.
     
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  6. NeighborVoid
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    NeighborVoid Active Member

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    People often forget to include a subtle hint of humor when developing their characters. People read fiction for entertainment. It shouldn't sound like an instructions manual.
     
  7. Doctore
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    Doctore Member

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    This is all very interesting, all good advice, but it gives me thought to more questions. Such as, when creating your stories/characters how much of it is YOU and how much of it is your perception of what your reader will see/think? I'd like to think that when I write, I write the story as is and hope that somewhere people might enjoy it. BUT, then I start to think of those peoples, those picky readers and I wonder...I wonder. Many people will say/have said just write, be happy and enjoy it, it's your story. That's the advice they give, and while I do agree, I still wonder...I wonder. If a writer wants to be a serious author, should they maybe take more into consideration? It's the YOU vs Them here. In your/our minds our imagination is something so far beyond anything that has even been written in a book. That is good and it's a problem because now you have to narrow down what genre you're placing your story in because..yea you have to in order to publish it right? So what happens from the start is, you're no longer writing your story as is, you're considering others..which changes the project. When doing character development, maybe you have an edgy/rogue type character, do you consider what may be pushing too far, or do you just write the character and hope for the best? Perhaps you have an emotional character, do you write them as is, or do you worry people might find them whiny? Neighborvoid made a good point, they mentioned adding a hint of humor into the character because people want to be entertained, but what if your character isn't funny? What if your story isn't funny? This gives me thought, I love literature, rather I should say I love the old world writings of Hardy, Salinger, Dumas etc. Many of the characters in these books aren't the least bit funny, little if any humor through out and the stories can be rather dark, but it still made for good readings. Today though, it does seem like the characters in most stories are witty, smart, somewhat sensitive, and several other factors that EVERY character has in EVERY book. Is it just me? It seems like there is a template, a guide to making "the perfectly memorable character" and they do that by trying to make their character the every man/every woman. They're all Mary-sues I tell you! Mary-sues and Gary-sues and I just can't do it.
     
  8. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Doctore,

    While you may have a particular 'audience' in mind when you're writing, or even an individual (and that individual could be yourself), in the end you're telling a story. The story is important. Characters, events, descriptions, dialogue, pacing, humor, theme, foreshadowing, conflict...all of those come together.

    There are writers who write to a market, and do it well, and successfully. Take formula romance, for example. it sells well, and is structured with plot and character types, and in a lot of ways, predictable. But it sells.

    I don't think, however, that is the way most writers go at it. Many writers, including myself, write the stories we'd want to see on the shelf, if we hadn't written them ourselves.

    Writing is both a talent and a skill. It takes practice. Reading and studying, and writing and rewriting and studying some more, and editing and revising and...

    There is no quick answer to developing characters people enjoy or care about, or infusing humor into writing. Writing a novel takes a long time. It requires a lot of effort and work. And there is no guarantee for success at the of the process (however you want to measure success).

    It's going to require multiple drafts for one novel. I'm completing my fifth novel...right now I am revising based upon input from my editor assigned to the project by my publisher. This is the 7th (or maybe 8th) pass through the novel, working to get it right. And once that's finished, I will have to proof the galley before it goes to print. Each pass (editing/revising) has improved the work. Refined dialogue or characters or description, and a host of other things. The point being, you cannot judge the final product (your novel) based upon your first draft, or even the second. And you know what? Your writing will be better by the time you reach the end of your novel's first draft, for two reasons. First, you're just going to be a better writing because you've been at it, practicing and improving. Second, you'll know the characters and story and world you've created better.

    Writing isn't for everyone. I hope it's for you, but to have a chance at success, you just have to press forward and learn and improve. Maybe that first or even second novel won't be good enough, but you'll get better and maybe that third one will turn out to be a gem...or maybe the first will. You'll never know until you finish.

    Good luck as you move forward.
     
  9. Prett
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    Prett New Member

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    I'm writing my first novel, so i have no idea yet how likable or memorable any of my characters are yet because nobody has read any of my book... However, one of the things I've been focusing on is making my characters feel real, so i just try to give them real interests and traits that may seem irrelevant but are just a part of them even if i/the reader or the character themselves don't like them, and i just try to keep a list of these so i keep consistency. If i already have a plot point planned i always try to make sure their acting how they would act and not just try to sneak in actions or dialogue which i really like! Occasionally i end up with having a character say a line which i originally envisioned being said by somebody else because i think it's more realistic.
    Also, i think for a character to be special he has to be surrounded by challenging situations and characters to play of off and bring out their true personality - it's pointless having one really well developed character and then a bunch of one-dimensional characters who never force the MC to have to defend their beliefs or show off who they really are! :)
     
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  10. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    The book is all me. I rarely think of an audience because I write the books I'd like to read - so I am the audience.
    The trouble with writing to an audience is how do you know you're achieving your goal? How do you create a freshness that will sustain and make you stand out among the other hundred thousands writing with the same audience in mind.

    Genre is only placement on the bookshelves and a selling point. If you can come up with a new phrase to sell your book than you don't need to worry about genre. William Gibson wrote ( I think ) the first cyber sci-fi novel. I doubt he was concerned with taking sci-fi in another direction. He just wrote his novel. And if your book doesn't have a specific genre placement it can easily be sold as general fiction - no limits.

    Unless I'm writing YA I think very little about how far can I take my character. But then again if I know I have to be with a character for six months of writing I'm less likely to make him an a-hole. I exercise self censorship - how far do I want to go.

    What kind of current books are you reading? I've been reading Richard Hell's Go Now. Tom Wolfe's I am Charlotte Simmons and a few other books and the characters in them are very well developed. Not to slam genre but I know they can be trendy and characters can start to sound the same, hence the Mary Sue factor. And one of the main problems with a lot of genre books is they can tend to be dialogue heavy which progresses the plot but tends, inadvertently, to divert focus away from the characters.

    If you're looking to get away from the Mary Sue - don't concentrate on big things your character will do to make them memorable. Make the little details important. Avoid bunching up tropes - nice guys with big mouthed best friends or oversexed friends, or the good girl with the slutty bff. Also pick details that will make your reader go wow. I recall in The Long Summer - the Harriet the Spy sequel - Fitzhugh created a hillbilly family that made toe medicine out of watermelons in their drive way. Those details made it a wow moment. Unexpected and wholly original.
     
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  11. Greenwood
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    Greenwood Active Member

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    First of all, I don't agree on that a character should be likable. Memorable? Certainly. Interesting? Yes. But likable? No. When you write about a raging alcoholic that abuses everyone around him, that's not a likable character. But he can be interesting.

    Think about that character. What caused him to become an alcoholic in the first place? Past grievances, things he could not cope with? A plain lack of willpower? When we know the reasons or motives of a character, it makes it interesting. In the end, the guy is not going to be liked by a lot of people, but when we can relate to what he is going through, understand at least a little of his way of reaction to his surroundings, we do start to feel for him, and start to wonder what will become of him.

    Now, the above explanation I gave helps the readers to understand that character. But before that, before anyone will ever read about him, you, the author, have to know everything about him. Not just that John is a 45 years old plumber who turned to drinking after a car accident killed his family, but you have to go in deeper. From the moment he was born, his experiences shaped him to become John, the 45 years old, alcoholic plumber, suffering from bouts of aggression and despair, abusing people around him because that's the only way he knows how to react. But also a John that somewhere deep inside hates the man he has become and wants to do better, but can't find the way to do it.

    How did he grew up? Did he have many friends? What kind of friends did he have? Get to the very bottom of that guy. Know everything about him, even if only half of that information makes it into your story. It will show in the end.

    As for the way in which to implement character development into a story, there are numerous ways, and I often make sure to use them all. You can't just info-dump the story of his life onto the first X pages. Show it through dialogue with others. Show it indirectly through how his reactions are to things around him. Bit by bit, at the pace you want to. Show it in the way he speaks, the way he thinks, what he thinks and when. Make him reminisce. Seemingly insignificant details often tell a lot about a person. Does he close the door behind him when he leaves a room? How many times a day does he wash his hands, and how does he do it? As I said, these things may seem like descriptions of insignificant things, but they immediately give people a glance of what he is like, without you having to tell them how he is.

    Just my 2cents.
     
  12. Man in the Box
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    Man in the Box Active Member

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    Honestly, it's probably not something that you can consciously do, but you can look around the streets and see what kind of characters people tend to like the most, and do something similar.
     
  13. theoriginalmonsterman
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    theoriginalmonsterman Pickle Contest Administrator Contributor

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    You shouldn't have to think about how to make a character likable or memorable, because it doesn't depend on you, it depends more so on the reader.
     
  14. Doctore
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    I hope that no one took my last post to seem overly serious and or angry because that wasn't my purpose. It was, all of this really, half musing and half joking as apposed to me actually sitting down and writing something. Even so, talking with you all here has sparked me back to life and I actually did get some writing done! But at the start of this I was curious if anyone had any characters that they'd like to gush about or had others do so, but heck maybe you're all in the same boat with me HA. TWErvin2 we're gonna have to chat more, because I am interested in hearing more about your novels and the journey that you've taken to make it to five! Congrads on that!

    Pritt I'm also taking a shot at this for the first time, and what a journey this will be. Hats off and I lift a drink to you in the hopes that we both finish our work! I really don't like formula, though I don't think people understand what I mean when I say that, when I have to come up with a list of things to put in the story to make it 'workable' it loses it's original charm, or what may have been because now it's following a set standard. But enough on that, good luck!

    Peachalulu, ha that name is cute. It's surely better than Doctore! I have been noticing, at least here, that many people say they don't consider, or think of the audience when they write. That is what I am reading, but I do believe that a great many people who are authors do. It seems to me a very careless mistake for an author not to think of the audience, and I don't mean any disrespect to any of you when I state that. I know it seems more self satisfying and dreamy to just write what's in your heart and hope for the best, but I doubt that most writers who have published work think this way. Like with making a movie, video games, whatever you like I think it's a key selling point, and for people looking to make a living from it, and not just a hobby yea...I think they consider this a lot.
    I would like to know, why do you exercise self censorship? That is one of the questions I mentioned before, is it fear of people judging or what? Does that not change the original idea when you have to put a 'cap' or limit your character?

    Currently I am reading The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy after just finishing Tess of the D'Urbervilles, and a few things written by Salinger. These of course are not the books that make my eyes go cross, but are in fact my inspiration. I have realized though that I think what I mentioned before about Mary Sues, may have had a lot to do with what teens are reading these days, so that explains itself.

    Greenwood, I do agree that a character shouldn't have to be likable, but say for example if you're writing about a hero, wouldn't you want them to be likable, memorable? Surely if you're hoping to make a series, or at least a second book? I must say though, if you don't think a raging alcoholic can be likable...you haven't met the type of people I have LOL As many of you have said/done, I have spent the last two years with these characters, and I know them better than some people. I have no idea what people will think of them because they aren't the cookie cut out types that people seem to love to put in stories. It's nothing I'm so worried about, but I think on it between sittings.
     

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