1. earthshadow
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    earthshadow New Member

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    How you create characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by earthshadow, Mar 7, 2010.

    Umm i just wanted to knoow. me i use a little journal and create how person in it and put stuff like what age they could be their additude and stuff like that so when i creat a story i got this little book of people :)
     
  2. Tigress
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    Tigress Member

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    I get to know them as I write them, kinda like I get to know real people as I spend more time with them. If I feel the character is not developing fast enough for me, then I start having "them" keep a journal where their inner thoughts and feelings come out. This doesn't often become part of the story but it goes a long way in helping the characters show me who they are.
     
  3. MsMyth71
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    MsMyth71 Senior Member

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    I usually have a basic idea in my head. Then, Like Tig, they tend to develop as I go. They start to develop voices of their own.

    That said, sometimes this does not work for me. Sometimes I need to really explore my characters. If I'm struggling with a character (and really want to keep that character), I'll create a mini-bio for them, like a background.

    Usually, though, I can "lock them in a room" with another character and their true natures will emerge. It's great fun!
     
  4. Anonym
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    Anonym Contributing Member

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    Huh, i usually create my characters w/ a story already in mind, or to compliment a story basically, instead of vice versa. They're our little babies and all, but really characters are tools w/ which to advance the story for the most part, so their age and attitude and all only matters in relation to the plot... a contextless character is near worthless, is basically what im sayin. IMO ofcourse

    Altho yea, there's not much like cultivating an identity from scratch.

    Interesting method tho
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i just come up with them as needed, while writing a story/novel, find no need to 'store' any away for future use...
     
  6. best_fullback
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    best_fullback Member

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    I usually have the idea of the character in my head and then I do the who?, what?, where?, why? kind of approach.

    If they are a very vivid or prominent character then usually I don't even need to do this as I know who they are and how they act etc. Incidental characters are the ones I struggle with as they have a much smaller input in the story and I sometimes find the picturing of their persona very hard.

    Sometimes I find when i'm struggling I will compare a character to a person I know who closely fits their persona. Then I can gather a much clearer picture of how they act, speak, think etc.
     
  7. KP Williams
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    KP Williams Contributing Member

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    A lot of people seem to only create the fewest characters needed, only to serve specific purposes. These people tailor their characters to fit their stories. I do the opposite. I create my characters first, and then craft a story around them. This way, they don't exist to suit the story. Instead, the story exists because of their actions.

    Here's another way of putting that: My characters make my story, not the other way around. I try to think of them as living, breathing people. Real people don't usually have novel-worthy things just happen to them; they make things happen. Real people aren't created with a specific purpose in mind; they set their own goals, and change the world to accommodate those goals. That's how I view writing.

    Anyway, I guess that's sorta off topic. I never really have to work that hard at getting my characters the way I want them to be. They always come to me easily. I get the general idea for him/her, and then I sit down and write scenes where he/she is an prominent figure. And it all just unfolds naturally from there. In my opinion, it's a much better and more fun way of getting to know my guys and gals. And it keeps your writing skills sharp, so that's two birds.
     
  8. Frederyk
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    Frederyk New Member

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    I think of my characters and my story as one and the same. Each of my characters have a past, present, and future, and these things craft the story between all of their interactions.

    -Frederyk
     
  9. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have to second this. For me, the characters and the story come together.
     
  10. Irish87
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    Irish87 Contributing Member

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    I think of a character type that I need - main character, support, villain, etc, etc - and I think about the story and create someone who would struggle to deal with that situation. I always figure most people don't want to read a story about people who how to deal with the problems that are presented to them. I suppose there are exceptions, but aren't there always?

    I'm not one of those people who believe in creating characters with long and overly detailed indexes which goes over every little aspect of the character. Does it honestly matter if your hero enjoys pizza? Or, better yet, do you think the reader will even care?

    You can't toss people into categories. Well, no, I take that back. You CAN toss people into categories, but ultimately you'll find yourself disappointed when those people naturally expand beyond those boxes. Instead of creating an archetype character, create a character who is reflective of a real people. We're varied, enigmatic creatures who have a thousand little ideas and beliefs about life. Some of us had to deal with abuse as children, some of us are alcoholics, some of us are perfect. Just ask yourself what character you want and then start writing your story. Your character will evolve over time.
     
  11. soujiroseta
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    soujiroseta Senior Member Contributor

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    Quite right, i tend to do this as well, even though 80% of what i end up learning about them never makes it into the story it helps to know exactly who they are and what causes them to make specific decisions. This failing though i have often rounded up my character herd and locked them up in a room like MsMyth71. I find it a fun exercise and it makes for a lot of out of character jokes when the protagonist and antagonist begin to argue.
     
  12. Anders Backlund
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    Anders Backlund Contributing Member

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    Well, they usually start out as a image in my head. This can be a very vague idea or a very detailed picture, depending on how inspired I am.

    Then I wait for a while, gestating this concept until I have a basic understanding of who the characer is.

    Then I start building a story around this person, adding in details concerning his or hers personality and history to fit that story.

    Then I start writing it all down, working out the kinks as I go.
     
  13. Scoody
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    Scoody Member

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    I create characters the way I meet real people. At the very first you know a couple of things right off the bat when you first meet. He is tall/short. Speaks like a redneck so probably is a redneck. Seems aloof about things. Then as events unfold, you learn more about him. He knows how to fight. Is good with a knife/pool cue/ knife or he gets his ass kicked and depends on smarts. You do not know these things about someone in real life until they reveal themselves with unfolding events.

    When I was in prison I got a new cellmate named Hugo. He was quiet. Did not say much. A really nice guy. When we introduced ourselves to each other I learned that he had been raised in Mexico but was born in the US. A few days later some guys playing volleyball were short a couple of guys he got in the game. Turned out he was a hell of a volleyball player and had tried out for the Mexican national team.

    Later he watched another inmate getting beat to a pulp and asked the guy beating him to stop. This in prison is a big breach of protocol so the guy went after Hugo. He took about six or seven swings at him and Hugo easily blocked or ducked all of them then took the guy by the wrist and flipped him to the ground. Grabbed his neck and twisted it to a near breaking point. Hugo had had a dojo where he taught Brazilian Ju Jitsu in Mexico. With characters as with real people, getting to know them should be a mission of discovery. You learn about them relevant to what the unfolding events are.
     
  14. Centurion
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    Centurion Member

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    I create my characters in two ways.

    First - I try to model them on someone I already know, such as myself or a friend. This way I already know a little of the character and so I am able to build on that. This is the easy way I think, and I would not recommend it unless the person really suited the story.

    Second - I make him up as I go along. I get a basic idea, say a reluctant hero for example, and I build on that as the story progresses. It can be difficult sometimes, but this is the way I usually do it these days. As you write, just think and write down the details of the person as it goes along. It does work.
     
  15. cressida_tt
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    cressida_tt Member

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    Rather like Centurion, I tend to base minor characters on someone I know.

    This is helpful with physically descriptions as you have a really good picture inside your head already. If you visualise the character in that way you always describe them like that so you don't get any continuity errors like saying they are very short and then having them look a tall person in the eye!

    Sometimes I actually meet people and they give me a good idea for a character. Similarly I have found that I often set my stories in places I am familiar with as I like including authentic detail.

    I started writing years ago in the early Harry Potter fandom and it was full of foreigners trying to recreate a world that was essentially part of the UK. It was so odd when they talked about proms and cookies. I would never try to set a book in somewhere that I wasn't familiar with or hadn't researched carefully.

    Perhaps that limits my stories but I am just an amateur who does this for fun!
     
  16. writewizard
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    writewizard Contributing Member

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    I like your idea of using a journal. I'll try it!
    I have a basic character laid out. I know what they will do in the story. Then overtime they develop. One of my characters went from being the most major character to dying in the first chapter. They all develop over time. :)
     
  17. HeinleinFan
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    HeinleinFan Banned

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    Hmm. I tend to spawn plotbunnies and characters without really having to do much. The process may be weird, though, for other folks.

    I tend to think first of a situation: "A mugger picks the wrong victim," "Mourning cripple is tempted by money," "Humans use genetic engineering to influence the local wildlife." Then I start sketching in details: The cripple was hurt in a car crash. The victim was a thaemonai. The aliens are four-limbed, but walk upright and climb with equal ease. Next, I describe them internally -- their attitudes, their past, their goals. Finally, I describe them physically.

    It's kind of like drawing a face by drawing the oval first. Then you add the eyes, and then the eyebrows and mouth and other features.

    This works pretty well for me, although I realize it doesn't always work for others. I mean, in the tempted cripple story, I only know how badly his injuries were hurting him when I wrote down a description of his scars and the way he moved. I didn't know what it meant to attack a thaemonai until the mugger ended up on the wrong end of a curse. I didn't know about the relationship the two aliens had until I wrote about their brother-sister rivalry and why the older one is considered useless in their society.

    The plus side to this, of course, is that I don't need to write down bits and pieces about the characters' pasts. I just sort of know forever, once I've invented it. The downside is that I cannot remember the characters' names or physical descriptions, except for what the characters internalize. So, for example, if a character is grossly obese but is healthy enough (and never needs to run) so that they do not think of themselves as overweight, I might forget that I once described them that way.
     
  18. De La Chretiens
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    De La Chretiens New Member

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    Sometimes, i base characters off people I know, or characters from stuff that I've read/watched before, then sprinkle in other eccentricities until the source is impossible to distinguish. Sometimes I think about characters properly, place a driving force within them, and make everything that they do subject to the same influence. That's for strong willed characters. For the lesser ones, i'd tend to place normal virtues and values within them. Evil characters resonate with me a lot, and I tend to rationalize their evil, to understand why they would want to do such evil things, and make them realistic and allow others to empathize with them.
     
  19. Midnight_Adventurer
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    Midnight_Adventurer Active Member

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    My characters tend to reflect what I want them to do in the story, if that makes sense. I must admit though they do tend to have some sterotypical characteristics which I hate so I'm trying to change that.
     
  20. MsMyth71
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    MsMyth71 Senior Member

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    I think it's the chicken and the egg thing. Some people create the character, build it up, flesh it in and the story emerges from that "biography." Others come up with an idea and snap the characters into place.

    I don't think the method really matters as long as you have good characterization and the story works. You can have the most interesting characters, but if they don't DO anything (or experience conflict of some kind) they get really boring really fast.

    It's kind of a yin/yang thing for me, I guess.
     
  21. Kirvee
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    Kirvee Contributing Member

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    It varies depending on the story.

    There are times where several or more characters will come with the story, and thus write themselves for me (like Sam and Lorain did for my Demon Story). Other times I will be thinking of a story and the characters will appear and develop as the idea progresses.

    And then there are times where just a single character will come to me who won't fit into any current story of mine and will thus be put into a new story.

    There are also times where characters I have established will make a character for me related to their backstory or current story (like one of the characters in my Demon Story made his little sister for me since she's part of his backstory).
     
  22. Scoody
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    Scoody Member

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    Dialog is also a good way to flesh things out about a character. I do that sometimes.

    The marshal came in to the holding cell with a camera. He looked out of place in Oregon. The Stetson he wore, the plaid snap shirt, string tie, ostrich skin boots. Even the pancake style holster on his hip for his Glock was brown and handtooled instead of the usual featureless black. "Gonna have to get some pictures of any tattoos or scars." He said. "Got any?"

    "I have a few." Jogabeth had tried to hide her Texas drawl for years. She made it noticable almost to the point of parody now.

    "Scars or tattoos?"

    "Both."

    Jogabeth pulled up the front of her shirt above her navel. The deputy took a photo of the sun tattooed around it and of the scar a couple of inches to the right. She turned her back to him and raised her shirt to her the back of her neck. She had a bulletwound scar over her left shoulder. The scar was surrounded by a tattooed circle of rose petals. She pulled her shirt into place and raised the left sleeve above her shoulder.

    "Whoa! Never seen one of those on a woman before." The deputy pointed at the pair of Army Jump Wings tattooed on Jogabeth's left bicep. "How many jumps did you do?"

    "Just the five at jump school." Jogabeth lied. She had jumped a lot more than that. No one needed to know that, though.

    "I hope you don't mind me asking, I'm just curious. You're from Texas aren't you?"

    "So are you."

    "I knew it."
     
  23. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    That's using dialogue for direct exposition. Good dialogue reveals character through interactions with others. One speaker may change the subject when certain topics are raised, or give answers that don't really answer the question. Others will reveal prejudices, or natter on about irrelevant matters. Often what is not said tells the reader more than the actual words.

    Real conversations are rarely simple volleys of mutual response to what was said just before. Topics run off on tangents, interruptions and distractions take place, and the participants have other things on their mind. They conceal information, or inject their own agendas that are separate from the surface topic.

    Good conversation is like an Escher drawing. At first you see a pattern on the surface, then you notice another pattern comprised of the spaces in the first pattern.
     

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