1. Infinite Bob
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    Infinite Bob New Member

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    I don't think it's complete enough...

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Infinite Bob, Jul 14, 2009.

    I'm creating a bunch of new characters to start a book. I've written a page (front and back) for a couple of characters, it still seems like it's missing something. I can post a full character if you want, but right now I'll just post the things I'm filling out.

    Name:
    Age:
    Gender:
    Appearance: (height, weight, hair, eyes, build, other[tattoos, etc])
    Personality:
    Specialties: (Military based character)
    Short History: (I try to take up as much space as I can to fill it out)
    Usual Wear: (what they tend to have on them)
    Major Flaws:

    Any help would be much appreciated. I love completing details so any idea to fill out the character I'll be happy to.
     
  2. cybrxkhan
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    cybrxkhan Contributing Member

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    Personally myself, I do think outlines are a good thing, but I also think its better if you plan out by writing out small paragraphs about your character, instead of filling chart-like outlines, because the charts can get rather constraining at times.

    It's important that you think about what attitudes and actions are typical of your character, and, furthermore, and even more importantly, why they are the way they are - it's through this "why" part that you really get to know your character.

    Even something as mundane as a physical trait could have some backstory. Let's say you have a scrawny character. Why is he scrawny? Maybe he has anorexia - if so, he could have problems with self-image; maybe he just migrated from a third-world country - if so, he could have serious issues understanding a foreign culture and other thing.

    On typical character charts, you would put down "Bob's greatest flaw is his arrogance", for example. That's fine enough, but if you really want to make your character better, you have to figure out why he is arrogant in the first place. Maybe Bob was a spoiled kid when he grew up who got whatever he wants; maybe Bob is a genius at everything and thus he is never able to realize that he could get something wrong; or maybe Bob is not necessarily arrogant, but just acts that way for some twisted, hidden reason.

    Once you know why Bob is arrogant - say because he was a spoiled rich kid - then you'll be able to figure out many more things about him; maybe he's actually pretty lonely, because he lived in a huge mansion all his childhood, and now he has problems socializing with people (another weakness! yay!); or, maybe because he was a spoiled brat, adults treated him badly, and now he has a hatred for authority figures. See the many possibilities you could make from just figuring out the whys of your character - you could learn so much more about them, as I have.

    You get the idea. Once you figure out the reasons behind their outer shells, many of the "hard" parts of making up a character - the flaws, the weaknesses, the strengths, the relationships - can become much easier and funner to make.
     
  3. Infinite Bob
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    Infinite Bob New Member

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    So, basically, I'm playing psychologist?
     
  4. Brightsmiles
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    Brightsmiles Senior Member

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    cyb makes a great point, and if you really want to know the ins and outs, its a great way to do it.

    BUT if you prefer your charts, then how bout adding these

    nervous habbits
    anger triggers
    feels happiest when
    self image
    fav food
    fav memory
    lowest point so far
    fav colour
    moral code (sex before marriage? porn? drugs? alcohol? smoking? and what they think about them)
    first love
    first heartbreak
    closest friends - and why they are
    enemies/least favourable ppl in their life and why.
    siblings?
    relationship with parents
    What did they do at christmas when they were a kid?
    attitude towards ugly ppl
    attitude towards money
    where do they fit on the social ladder?
    what do they do in their free/spare time?
    if they had one day to live, what would they do and why?

    okay, hope that got thinking some more. good luck with it!
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Chuck the whole thing. Instead, start with a blank piece of paper for each character. As you write the story and add in a detail that you might forget, write it on that character's sheet.

    Lt the character grow with the story. Like meeting a stranger for the first time, get to know your characters through your relationship with them, through what they go through in the story.

    Why collect details you may never need, or worse yet that you discover you need to change for the sake of the story?
     
  6. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Here's a character development chart, Cogito-style:

    First Impressions.......................after getting to know the person

    Blue eyes.................................Damn, they were contact lenses
    female.....................................uhhh - turns out to be shemale
    tall, athletic..............................those are man muscles on those legs
    long, blond hair..........................brown mullet under wig
    nice teeth................................they are just as white soaking overnight in the glass on the sink
    warm smile................................cold heart
    likes music, reading and sex.........likes Country Western (yuck), reading he-he romance novels, wrong kind of sex!
    deep voice................................and big Adams apple that wasn't noticeable in dark bar
    polite to bartender.....................dating bartender after hours

    Hi folks, just dropping by and couldn't resist this topic.
     
  7. Infinite Bob
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    Infinite Bob New Member

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    I understand the whole "growing" thing, But shouldn't I know a small background in order to move a story along.

    Maybe it's just a preference thing I have. I throw a few characters I know/relate to/etc.. and pit them against whatever comes to mind.

    As for this (sorry new here I haven't figured out how to quote yet):
    "Why collect details you may never need, or worse yet that you discover you need to change for the sake of the story?" - Cogito

    I'm bored, I don't really see anything I'd have to change to go with the story. My plotlines are so flexible it's like I just let it go, oh wait, I do...

    The whole "WHY" thing sounds like the best thing I can do for any of these characters. I suppose that can be integrated with the 'growing' throughout the story. Well, I'm still unsure. I have lots of testing to try out. So glad I have plenty of paper here.
     
  8. Marshmallow
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    Marshmallow Member

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    Hell yes! :D

    This is exactly what I do, and I knew I couldn't be the only one.

    Now, I do develop a general idea of what I want the character to be beforehand, mind you. I don't just play God and stick a random person into the events of my story and say "I wonder what would happen if they were here."

    No. Not ever.

    But it is interesting to let yourself develop with your characters. It mostly depends on what angle you write from. In first and limited third-person stories the main character(s) won't know everything you know about supporting roles. In omniscient third person, the reader knows (for the most part) exactly what you want them to know about the characters.
     
  9. MarlzBob
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    MarlzBob Member

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    If you're going to use charts fill them out as if you are the character. Not from the all-seeing g-d perspective. Or third person point of view. Write the charts from first person point of view.

    Example:

    3. Height: Tall. I guess.

    4. Eye color: Brown, dark, whatever

    5. Physical appearance: Buff. Hah. Average…sleeve tatt - it's this large red dragon on my right arm.

    6. Strange or unique physical attributes: Hmmm…I'd have to say I have this kinda weird shaped spot at the corner of my left eye. Like a mole or something. Y'know on Rottweilers they have those browny coloured spots above their eyes..they're called 'pips' maybe that how I got my nick name...

    7. Favorite clothing style/outfit: Flannel Shirt, jeans

    8. Where does he or she live? What is it like there?: Perth, mild.

    9. Defining gestures/movements (i.e., curling his or her lip when he or she speaks, always keeping his or her eyes on the ground, etc.): I suck on my tongue…it pisses Elliott off no end.

    10. Things about his or her appearance he or she would most like to change: I'd like to try being less morose. But maybe that has nothing to do with physical appearance?
     
  10. thabear637
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    thabear637 Member

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    That's a great excercise to use. Not only do you get all the physical stuff out of the way, you get to know their personality a lot better.
     
  11. MarlzBob
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    MarlzBob Member

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    Exactly, and sometimes my characters surprise me and throw in things I wouldn't have put if I'd filled it out from the author/creator perspective.
     
  12. Toomai
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    Toomai New Member

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    I don't know if this is what you mean, this is just how I perceived it. You talk about how you feel as if your characters are incomplete. For me, my characters always come to life when I begin writing my story. Once he began to talk and to do things in my story, he was 'real' for me. Sometimes I changed my story outline because my characters grew out of them. Best of luck bringing your characters to completeness!

    -Toomai
     
  13. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Characters that can fit into a chart are static ones. Real people are forever and always transforming from one being into another. That's your story.
     
  14. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Not necessarily. You could answer the questions about yourself, couldn't you? Obviously it wouldn't give a complete image of you as a person but it would presumably give a rough enough idea for someone to start filling in the blanks about you and bringing you to life as they perceived you. Character sheets are good in that they force you to start thinking about the details of your character in ways you might not have had you only allowed them to unfold in the story. If asked "Does your character have any scars?" you may decide he does, and its from X in his childhood, and that backstory relates to Y so you could extend it and add it to your story. On their own, they are pretty much useless, but as a way to develop a character they are a useful way to get into the pretty impossible task of creating a real person.
     
  15. Fox Favinger
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    Fox Favinger Contributing Member

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    I use sheets when I do game design because I usually have a large cast. Most of the characters don't change at all, I just need somebody for the player to kill. However for my stories I go into far more depth so I just use paragraphs to describe characters.

    One method I've developed is to combine both. I use the sheets but fill them out with paragraphs. I even describe how the character changes at certain plot points.

    Here's an example of something I did a few years back. The info depends on the story.

    Elliot Yaler, age 35

    Role: CIA HUMINT field agent

    Position: As a sharpshooter he prefers to hang back and provide cover fire. Sometimes he will take up a sniper position. Be mindful of where he is so he can protect you.

    Weapons: M25, HK416, M9

    Background: Yalor doesn’t speak much of his past. However a gray fox tattoo and older CAG members’ recognition his face has led most people to believe he was once apart of ISA. It is well known that he joined the CIA as a Human Intelligence field agent. He has never spoken of what kind of work he has performed. Rumors has spread that he is...

    Personality Description: He makes it very clear from the start whether he likes or dislikes you. His insults are relentless and intentionally hurtful, and he issues them with a grin. Of course it’s the same grin he gives everyone, even on the battlefield...

    Weapon knowledge: He is skilled with a vast array of firearms, but his personal preference is sniper rifles and other high-powered scoped weapons. In close quarters he is very good with a knife.

    Physical description: Very tan skin, possibly sun damaged. His age and race are difficult to determine, the perfect face for a man who can pass himself off as any race or age. He has very long, slightly thin, scruffy looking black hair. Brown eyes. Good posture but he tends...

    Just a rough idea for you. Don't use plan spread sheets, they are constricting. Either use bios or something like I have here.
     
  16. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    I think certain things should be listed with characters. Important things that you plan on being used throughout the book that you might forget. Stuff like appearance and clothes just seems petty to me. But knowing that a character is a pathological liar and being reminded of that is important.
     
  17. tcol4417
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    tcol4417 Member

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    I honestly think you should chuck your whole list and write it down in paragraph form instead of point by point. This way your description can accommodate the little tics and bits that you think of as you write the core details.

    If you're worried about forgetting details about your character, then I'd review how well you know them and how strongly you "feel" them as such - if you're relying on a character sheet to keep your impression of them consistent (which you shouldn't, seeing as characters evolve over time) then your connection with them probably isn't as strong as it should be, and more often than not that disconnection is made evident in whatever you write.

    Putting a character into such an "Microsoft Excel" style like this suppresses their character before you've even started, so it's generally not a good idea =P
     
  18. Vagabond284
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    Vagabond284 Member

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    I'll use a personal example of a character I wrote in for a movie script my friend was developing (project is dead now, so my character is now mine again).

    Whenever I have a character, I start out with just the basic outline, ie age, race, where from, etc, which you basically have in your OP. From there, I write a quick paragraph or two about something interesting about hte character, ie if they were top of their class, a slacker, smoking habit, over-eater, etc. Just little quirks. Then I keep writing these little paragraphs until I have a basic bio.

    From that rough bio I write in the details and have a bio of the character, like such (I'm not going to translate the acronyms, they're being recycled for my next space-combat sci-fi novella) :

    --------------

    CHIEF ENG. Jennifer Killian

    Jenny Killian was born on the Europa Mining Colony in 2444, to Canadian parents. She grew up around machinery, tinkering with broken bits since age 4. At age 8, she built a completely functional cooking plate from scraps that she had gathered from friendly miners that had broken units. Her father was impressed and began to practice emphasized mathematics with her, to which she took an immediate liking.

    At age 16, she graduated from the local high school with honors, and expressed her desire to go to the UEF Academy Engineering Division. Her father and mother immediately agreed, and as a 17th birthday present gave her the ticket for the system jumper that took her to Earth, after she had applied and been accepted to the Engineering program.

    In 2461, after 3 months of training, she was already proficient with plasma physics and was placed into an advanced program for experimental dual plasma reactor setups in ships. It was partly because of her theoretical formulas and actual hands on work that the miniature test ship with dual reactors worked, and the idea was immediately implemented into the then super-secret Super Cruiser project. As one of the design engineers, and still a cadet, Jenny was privy to the project but under a blackout order about it. When she graduated in 2465, she immediately was assigned as part of the team developing the final parts of the reactor implementation into the Super Cruisers.

    A natural for crew selection, she was assigned chief engineer of the Vigilance before Kara was selected as captain. She reported for duty in 2471 and assisted in the final shakedown of the Vigilance before she was commissioned in November 2472.

    Description:

    Jenny is the most analytical of all the main crew of the Vigilance. She is obsessed with physics and math and how they affect the real world of space and hyperspace travel, to the point that her crewmembers will physically clamp a hand over her mouth to get her to stop babbling.

    Thin from a life of low gravity, she stands at 5’ 5” and 130 lbs, with shoulder length blonde hair, which she keeps in a ponytail instead of the regulation bun. Her engineering crew appreciates her rebellious nature, as she is very easy to work with because of her great communication skills and leadership ability. She has a growing friendship with Kara, as she looks up to the Captain as a role model.

    On duty, Jenny is like a mother to her twin reactors, talking to them and patting them appreciatively after hyperspace jumps or hard runs. She believes them to be her babies, as most engineers do. Richard labels her as eccentric and a little nutty, but leaves her to her devices because she is the best of the young generation of engineers.

    Off duty, Jenny is usually sitting at a table in the rec area, mulling over the latest tech journals, the latest copy of Physics Today, or playing chess with Richard, with whom she is holding a perfect 50/50 win/loss percentage.

    Bouncy and different describe Jenny.

    ----------

    From this basic biography, you can extrapolate the character quirks (for example, Jenny's chess playing skill might mean she is also a good strategist in a pinch, or her life of low gravity might make her skilled with extravehicular repair work due to the comfort zone) into characteristics.

    And from there, the character flows naturally. I hope this helped you in your journey of character creation :)
     
  19. MarlzBob
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    MarlzBob Member

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    I still think it's a good idea, just as a starting point. The one I posted as an example has actually changed his character so much, but only because he revealed more of himself to me.
     

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