1. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    How well do you know your character?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by captain kate, Jul 27, 2008.

    For the newbies I thought I'd post a thread about character development. While some of it does come with age, one doesn't have to be a full-fledged adult to understand what to put in a character. The thing to remember is what motivates people? What motivates your character and how well do you now his/her life's story?

    With that said, let me show the background of Kate Almir, the main character of my books I write. While I've known her name for years, it's taken a while to create a full fledged background to fully flesh out the character.

    Kate Almir was born in the year 3023 to parents who abandoned her a a orphanage on the planet Selkirk in 3026, when she was 3. Three years later, with the orphanage desperately short on cash and needing money to survive she, amongst others, were sold to the Game Master Ferini from the planet Necko. From that point until she 13 in the year 3033, she was trained in swordsmanship and martial arts training to participate in the blood sport "games" held on Necko for gamblers and entertainment.

    In the year 3039, when 19, she and four of her team mates attempted an escape from Necko since a Interstellar Alliance Courier ship named Avalon was on planet while a Ambassador gambled on the games. After going through many traps and obstacles, the only ones who made it to the ship were Kate and Jennifer Loving. Kate unfortunately, was injured by a plasma grenade which destroyed her eyes, both legs and both arms.
    After being spirited away to the Fleet spacestation BEOWULF, she was rebuilt using cutting edge experimental cybernetic bionics. Once her therapy was finished, she was sent through basic training and placed in Fleet Intelligence.

    During the year 3040, a conspiracy to overthrow the government and replace it with a imperial/national socialistic government is hatched. using loyal troops to the conspirators, 'terrorists' capture the President at his retreat. Intelligence sends her in and she rescues the president, making herself a marked woman. Due to rescuing the President, she is promoted by him from lieutenant to Captain. After being sent personally by the President to assassinate a arms dealer linked to the affair, she is reassigned from Intelligence.

    While serving as a CAG (Commander Air Group) she is shot down and hunted on a jungle world by troops loyal to the conspiracy. Prevously, she showed great heroism in saving her Task Force from destructin by breaking a hole in the trap with her own fighter. Having been demoted to Commander for the position, she earns a second medal of honor and is transferred to be the XO of a battle cruiser, the Hood. After being attacked without warning by a alien vessel, while she was off duty, she assumed command of the ship after the captain and entire bridge crew are killed. Destroying the intruder, and getting the ship home, she is promoted back to Captain and given command of the Heavy Cruiser Roanoke.

    Enough of her career b/c it will give away too much plot of the first book and some of the second and third. Onto personal.

    Kate is a principled woman who believes in freedom above all things. She is a rape victim, having been repeatedly raped by Ferini while under his ownership on Necko. The results of this are manifest in the nightmares she suffers from nightly, and her propensity to drink after wards. She will never admit it, but her risk taking tendencies, and sarcastic mouth are death wish behaviors coming from the rapes she has suffered. However, with that said, she is also loyal to those that matter to her. Her crews and her friends mean more to her then anything else in life, and she never asks others to do something that is difficult, she'll do it herself if she can.

    kate is also a killer, a unadulterated, trained killer who has been trained on martial arts, swords, sniper training, Top Gun flight training along with ship battle tactics. While she doesn't like to kill, and it isn't something she enjoys to do anymore, she will if she has to, and she can live with herself for doing it. her attitude is, except for one battle in the first book, that you have got to do what you've got to do. She also has a intense impatience for BS and people who are dishonest. She has a knack for being able to track conspiracies to their source-when allowed to.

    However, for all her violent tendencies, Kate doesn't like to face her past. When forced to, her discomfort tends to make her unable to speak and she will tend to run from it.
     
  2. HeinleinFan
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    HeinleinFan Banned

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    I know my characters, and their backgrounds and motivations, quite well.

    There's Berendon - my awesomely powerful mage who will die before he's forty, and knows it. He's interested in becoming famous, like the heros and generals and great fighters and peacekeepers the minstrels sing about. Since he is both a werewolf and a mage, people are talking about him anyway; he uses those rumors as a sort of jumping-off point toward fame. He is also headstrong and hot-tempered enough that I can portray him as a sort of benevolent asshat, to good effect.

    Then there's Ossack, a far better mage (in terms of skill, not raw strength) and teacher / researcher / historian. He is interested in preserving artifacts and texts from his culture, which was invaded hundreds of years ago and which gradually merged with the invading culture. He is deeply interested in preserving places of learning, including museums and schools, and in keeping the old royal line intact. (By now, it doesn't mean squat if you're the great-great-grandson or whatever of the old kings; they have no real power and aren't a monarchy anyway. Ossack just wants to preserve the line because he promised his liege that he would protect the liege's family - and since Ossack is still around several hundred years later, he continues to fulfill that oath.)

    There's Aru, an abducted Chinese police officer, being held for crimes he didn't commit by a sort of Justice League that enjoys putting the pain to murderers. He's trying to figure out how to escape and what the heck is going on, and trying to convince his jailkeepers that they're wrong about him all at the same time.

    There's a Brighteyes, named John or something similar and sufficiently ordinary (Thomas, or Harry, or Brian, or Louis, or something like that), who is interested in keeping his queen and himself safe despite assassination attempts upon high-ranking members of government. (I'm still choosing a setting. Isn't it annoying when you have large chunks of plot figured out, and aren't certain of the setting?)

    There's Larry (or some other similarly ordinary name) Gardener who is highly biased toward Brighteyes and who is only accepting John as a partner because a) the Queen is in danger and b) John is one of the best secret service-type agents they have. The ones plotting against the government gradually manage to turn his bias into full-blown paranoia, finally edging him to the point where he attacks John in the belief that John is about to betray them all.

    And there are a host of other characters - and yes, I do have a reasonable number of prominent female characters, but feel uncomfortable giving away too many plot points online. They're a fun bunch, even (perhaps especially) the wheedles and other aliens.
     
  3. Scribe Rewan
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    Scribe Rewan Contributing Member

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    It is my personal opinion that while background to a character is important, however the thing that truly makes a character is how they react to other characters/ situations. I prefer to let my characters develop throughout the work, using background as a foundation, but having the actual story shape them. I never was one for planning!
     
  4. Ungood
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    Ungood Contributing Member

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    This is some very good stuff to read.

    Most insightful regarding character development.
     
  5. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    background works for characters like it does for us in real life. Our real life experiences influence how we react to situations, and the same for characters. I can sit here and say "Ok, Kate, how would you handle this?" and i know she will just give me a wink...since I generally know what her reaction is going to be.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    How many of your friends are that predictable?
     
  7. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    friends maybe not so, I tend to be. I react on my preconceptions and life experiences...but then neither does my character...although most of the time I can almost predict what Kate will do...the two of us are similar in some levels I guess, which is why I can predict her behavior a lot.
     
  8. Ungood
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    Ungood Contributing Member

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    Pretty much all of them. I do get surprised from time to time.

    But what kind of friend would I be if I could not at least guess with some accuracy how you would respond to something.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You would be the kind of friend who associates with people who think for themselves. I don't always know how a friend will respond to a situation or a question. The more interesting the friend, the less likely I am to know in advance what his or her reaction will be.

    Sure, there are people I am close to that I will know quite often what their response will be in many circumstances, but I also expect, and receive, more surprises as well. Not out of character, but because they may have information or past experiences I do NOT know about, or I may have information that they don't have or haven't given the same priority.

    So yes, I'll probably make a good guess how a character I know well will respond. But it's worthwhile to stop and think, "Is another response possible, and if so, why might my character make that choice instead?"
     
  10. Ungood
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    Ungood Contributing Member

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    I see you touched on a fun aspect of a "Friend" vs. a Character in a story.

    There are many parts of this that could be discussed but I want to focus on a just a few aspects.

    The first part is of course what would generate the largest rift in the situation. The largest differential between a "Friend" and "Author"

    That right there divides an author from a friend.

    A friend is a temporal associate that someone meets at one point in their life, befoer they met they each had had their own life and expirences.

    However as an author these rules change:

    See as the author there is nothing I do not know about the characters I develop.

    Mainly because I am the author of their life, they have nothing outside of what I have developed and provided for them. With this in mind they can not know something I did not know about them or have some "life experience" I am not privy to.

    Another aspect you brought up "Out of Character" which as authors is very important us.

    Just like real people our creations might be prone to "Unexpected" reactions, but those reactions would be "Unexpected" from the readers point of view, not the authors.

    In this case the relationship is built on the idea that the reader is a "friend" of the character, the author is the creator of the character, akin to a parent perhaps, or even god being.

    In this front an author can allow themselves to know as little or as much as they desire about the chairacters in their story.

    To some they might toss in a bit of background as the situation demands it but had no prior knowledge until that moment of necessity or insight comes. While others could know every intimate detail of their characters life, every nook and cranny of their life, feel their pain and exhilaration on every level.

    It all depends on the author.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Very true. As for me, I may have mentioned once or twice that I don;t try to overdefine my characters, which to me means creating more details baout them than are needed at a given point in their literary lifetime. My reasoning is that it allows the character the greatest flexibility in growth. The character exists solely for the story or stories she or he populates, and I prefer to get to know my characters in much the same way I get to know people in Real Life (TM), through observation and interaction in the situations I encounter them in.

    I believe trying to pre-create them in minute detail is trying to anticipate situations they have not yet been exposed to, so the characteristics are more likely to be shallow and arbitrary. Your mileage may vary, however, and I readily concede that.
     
  12. Silver Random
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    Silver Random Senior Member

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    Yeah as an author i personally dont like to try and know everything about characters i invent. The details about their past i concern myself with are the ones that are important to the story and ones that are extremely important to their personality - like if someone had suffered horrifically in their past it wouldn't be realistic to have them constantly upbeat.

    And as for how they react to situations, i prefer to just write it and have them respond in whatever way feels right. I wouldnt presume to know, at least for most characters, exactly how they would react to a given situation until i sit down and write it. And if the plot necessitates that they do something, then i will force situations on them until it feels right that they will do it, rather than have them do something unrealistic.

    In the thing i am working on right now (a fantasy novel), i know my main character in more detail than i normally would, and that is only because if i finish it and continue into a series (and i know realistically what the chances of that are lol...), the 5th out of 6 would be about his life before the events of the others. And even what i know still leaves a great deal unknown, as i have many years in there for him to be travelling a large part of the world and doing whatever he wants.
     
  13. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    I know enough about my characters that my posts would go on and on probably longer than the initial post, so that's why I won't get into it, because I know nobody would read any of it. :D

    The key is just "living" with your characters long enough to get to know them. And seeing as I have no real-life friends or life to keep me occupied, I unfortunately know my characters quite well.
     
  14. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    no offense, but the last part was funny!

    Most of the time, once you've learned enough about your character it ins't hard ofr them to "speak" to you with their own wants/needs/desires.
     
  15. BrinkofDawn
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    BrinkofDawn Contributing Member

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    I like all of these opinions.

    Character's, I think, should have enough of a background to be understood. Someone mentioned an upbeat character with a horrific past. Normally something like that wouldn't work, unless that character has experienced something currently or recently in the story that would cause a sudden change of character or something it just doesn't fit.

    Out of my characters, I'd like to know the backgrounds of the main ones and have my small, less important character somehow tie into them. It fills in several gaps in my stories, develops certain characters more and could also cloak other characters in mystery.

    Other than that, I try to experiment with different ideas like the ones previously stated before me :D
     
  16. J Done
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    When I plan for a story I'm never too keen on going into too much detail about any particular character; I always give them a background, and some basic information on who they are.. But I prefer to make how they react in certain situations in the story spontaneous as to how I believe that particular character would react in a certain situation.. Instead of having fixed guidelines.
     
  17. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I respectfully disagree. Some people wear a cheerful mask to hide their pain. You may have to know such a person for a very long time to see the cracks in the facade.
     
  18. Scribe Rewan
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    Scribe Rewan Contributing Member

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    I have to agree. Many comedians are depressives, alcoholics, or generally unhappy people, and yet by their outside, and their job, you would think they would have to be the happiest people on earth!
     
  19. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    I also would agree, since most people hide their pains very deep. Not all characters let it out in a "open" manner as in spoken words. Several of them, like Kate, can have death wish type behaviors instead of openly telling people what's wrong with them.
     
  20. tnme22
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    tnme22 Member

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    When I create new characters they become a part of me. I have this set of characters named Tori, Amy, Madison, and Emilee. To help me discover their personalities I just live their lives. I go about my day but periodically I think 'what is Amy doing right now' or 'what would Tori think about this' etc.
    I have a file on my computer that helps me remember details about all of my characters. It lists their names, ages, birthdays, family, school, job, car, hair color, eye color, skin color, etc.
    Currently I am working on a story about a girl name Alana in first person. She is a pretty intense character and so I find, when I work on her story, I have to get in her mind. I have to think 'how would Alana put this', 'what would she say'. Then I can get a better feel for her voice.
    Did any of that make any sense? Sorry, I'm really bad at explaining things...
     
  21. xMissEnvyx
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    xMissEnvyx Member

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    One of my main characters in a fantasy series i'm writing was actually created by a friend of mine. She gave me his description and a past history. I took that and expanded it. He was only going to be a minor character but after some working and tweaking, he is actually very important to the whole plot.

    Like what a lot of people have already said, I find it better to just have a basic review of a character and have him/her develop throughout the course of the story. You may be surprised at how far a character can take you! I've had characters totally change their personality from what I had originally planned them to be. And the "new" character actually worked so much better.

    Just keep your options open. Let your character explore his potential :)
     

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