1. shambles
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    shambles Member

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    I need opinions on my Main Character

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by shambles, Feb 23, 2016.

    So, my story takes place in a mill town and splitting the town in half is a river. On the north side is the middle class, majority white, average American school district. On the south side of the river, where the mill actually is, is the impoverished area, mostly minority races, with a low budget school that just recently shut down.

    (Originally, my story was going to be about her neighbor, Gunnar, who escapes poverty through music, but I wanted the story to have more of a feel similar to Maggie: A Girl of the Streets.)

    My main character is named Talyn Carson and she lives on the south side in a trailer park, nicknamed "Zero City". She is half Native American and half white and she lives with her Native American mother, name not yet decided, while her white father left before she can remember. Her mother is an alcoholic who turned to alcohol in order to cope with sexual assault she suffered while living on a reservation with her family as a teenager. Talyn is tasked with caring for her mother during times when she can't even stand on her own.

    She is independent, but feels alone, despite having a close knit group of friends. Her best friend Marci is a half white, half Mexican child of a previously illegal immigrant mother. Marci's cousin Felix, fully Mexican, lives with her along with his family who were originally migrant workers. Their friends Candy and DJ are African American and have lived in the community their entire lives. Gunnar is Talyn's estranged neighbor who she used to be frineds with, but they drifted apart due to his mother's diagnosis of cancer. After his mother dies, he seeks Talyn out again and the friendship rekindles.

    Talyn is plagued by thoughts of inadequacy due to being mixed race. She doesn't seem to fit in anywhere when she begins at her new school since most of the other students are white and she has no classes with anybody from the south side of the river. She scored higher than most on a placement test which put her in upper level classes, above most of her peers.

    I don't have a lot on who Talyn really is, but I was wondering if anybody had any input or advice that would help me make her more realistic and dynamic. Thank you in advance and I apologize for rambling!
     
  2. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
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    Duchess-Yukine-Suoh Girl #21 Contributor

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    Well,we need a basic personality for her. More than just who her friends are, or what her circumstances are.

    What does she like to do for fun? You say she's smart. Does she like to read? Go to the library? Do science experiments? Does she tutor younger kids? What does she do with her friends? Even knowing something like this determines her personality.

    What parts of her personality are important to the plot?
     
  3. shambles
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    shambles Member

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    She likes to read, although books are rather hard to come by. She goes to the library across the river in order to get books, but she feels uncomfortable going there so she prefers owning books.

    She feels obligated to take care of her friends and family and she doesn't want to leave them behind.

    She wants to make a better life for herself, but she has an internal conflict going on about it. On one hand, she wants to get out of that place and go on to college because she knows that if she doesn't get out soon, she never will. One the other hand, she doesn't want to leave every body behind because she feels like she should stay to help them.

    She thinks that if s he tries to better her life she is being selfish.
     
  4. ddavidv
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    ddavidv Contributing Member

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    After a lot of background detail I think you finally got to what makes your character tick. I would focus on and build from this.
     
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  5. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Some quibbles:

    - You say that books are hard to come by. But every school that I've heard of has a library, and in fact the library was a great place to hide if you were unpopular. So I don't think that books should be an issue.

    - It feels unlikely that only ONE kid in the entire south side of town would be smart enough for advanced classses. That whole side of town will now be going to the north-side school.
     
  6. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    What kind of person in terms of manner is she? Is he assertive? Or nervous? Is she practical? Or more spontaneous/creative? That kind of stuff.
     
  7. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    This. Don't try too hard to 'plan' her character beforehand with boxes you'll need to tick. Go with what you've got and start writing and let her develop.

    The most obvious route to take is to imagine you are 'her' and write what you would do, confronted with her situation. However, it's also fun to imagine somebody who would do the opposite from you. Making characters come to life is more fun for me than any other aspect of writing fiction.

    Yours sounds like an excellent story idea, by the way. It could have social, romantic and even political undertones.
     
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  8. shambles
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    shambles Member

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    My thinking behind her being the only one in advanced classes is because the old school on the south side didn't do a very good job teaching. I know from experience that some schools are better than others and if you transfer mid year, the curriculums can be vastly different. Freshmen year I went from a school in Vermont to one in Maine and this happened to me.
     
  9. shambles
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    shambles Member

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    Thanks :) I hope it turns out well and if not, I'll just try again and edit it
     
  10. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    But an entire school's worth of kids has only ONE kid who's smart enough to be in the advanced classes? This is a small town, so it's not as if those classes would require genius-level intelligence coached to a high level of accomplishment--they're not going to have a full class's worth of geniuses from the middle-class side of town either. And it's not as if it's going to be easy to decide, "Eh, they're from the wrong side of town, so they must be stupid," with a world full of standardized tests.

    When I was in school, admittedly in the stone ages (the seventies and eighties) my academic achievement level had little to do with what I was actually taught by a human being; I read the written material, I understood the written material, I daydreamed through the teacher re-explaining the written material. In the late years of high school, the AP History teachers were interesting, so I listened, but I didn't actually need them. The first reacher that I actually needed was in calculus in the senior year of high school. And I'm not a genius, I'm just fairly-smart and with a learning style that prefers learning from written material. I would guess that there are at least a few kids in your south-side-of-town that are as smart as me.

    So if I were reading your book, I would have trouble believing that only one kid was able to overcome the problem of an inferior school sufficiently to join the classes of kinda-smart kids at another school. I might start uncomfortably wondering if that was supposed to be a message about nonwhites. And I would likely move on to another book.

    I don't think that it is a message about nonwhites, but I do think that you're giving schools more credit, and students less credit, for achievement, than they deserve. I'm not saying that a kid who doesn't achieve with bad conditions is failing to do his job, but I am saying that I think that more than one kid will have the brains AND an appropriate learning style to be able to get to that kinda-smart class.

    So if it's absolutely essential to the plot that your character be the only kid from her side of town in her classes, I think that there should be more plot around that. For example, maybe it's actually a private school and there was one and only one scholarship--that would mean that "only rich kids are there" is a given, not a hard-to-explain phenomenon.
     
  11. shambles
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    shambles Member

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    What about if I had a few kids from the south side in advanced classes, but she only has like one class with a few others and all her other classes it's just her?

    I'm trying to figure it out so that she stands out in her classes cause that's like a huge part of the storyline. That she isn't with her friends and doesn't fit in where she is
     
  12. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    But that doesn't mean she has to be solely there. She can just be minority, that's still isolating. Especially when the other people in your minority group aren't necessarily people you know or like. And also, you didn't answer my question. Could you please tell me more about her personality?
     
  13. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    I don't see why there couldn't be plenty of kids from the south side in her AP classes, but they're just kids she doesn't know or doesn't get along with. It doesn't need to be dwelt on or made an issue of - just a line to the effect of "there were other south side students in her classes, but they weren't people whose social circle she'd been in before, and they didn't seem inclined to include her now".

    It could actually help to fuel her feeling of isolation even more if she can't even relate to the other south side kids she has classes with. Consider that there are probably tons of subgroups within the north and south sides themselves before the schools were integrated, and through bad luck Talyn just got separated from her subgroup.

    As for making her more dynamic/realistic, I'd say just start writing her, see who she is and how she behaves, what comes naturally. That's the best way I know to write realistic characters. Early efforts may be shaky, but you'll get a sense of her through practice - you seem to already know who she is - and more wrinkles in her personality will appear to flesh her out.
     
  14. shambles
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    shambles Member

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    Um, I answered some about her in one of the above comments, but i don't really have anything else to add to her yet. I don't even really know her myself very well
     
  15. shambles
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    shambles Member

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    Okay :) Thank you! I'll try that. I was sort of basing some of this on my life and my experiences in school. On most days, I'm the minority kid in my upper level classes and the only one from my town. This year, there is only one other girl from my town who is in one of my classes. So where I live, this scenario is perfectly common. That's what I was basing it on originally, but i can always change it to be more realistic.
     
  16. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Okay, so my feedback on hwo to improve your character would be to give her more. If we're going off taste, I would do a lot more. I like complex characters. Not that I stuff them with everything, but there are a lot of areas for traits to fill and a lot of ways I think it's realistic they should come out. Like, if you're character is in a bar at any point, think what drink they would like. I design on the basis that, the bigger the character's role, the more you should be able to say about them. Some of my main characters I've had for a while I can answer questions on that aren't featured in the things there in. It helps to have more to them than you show, if nothing else because you might want to use that information later.
     
  17. Samuel Lighton
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    Maybe you could use her now split upbringing as a tool (talking about school life vs home life).

    Perhaps she experiences disassociation with the 'upper class' folk from being on the other side of the river, views they have striking her as wrong, maybe she even has a very public outburst against one of them for what they've done or said. e.g. some of the kids threw stones at one of her friends house's, breaking windows which they can't afford to replace, and nearly hitting their newly born baby. I'd flip out in that situation at them.

    Maybe worse, she experiences a distance between her friends on the poor side of the river, alienation from them, which could combine with her distance from the other school kids. Maybe one of them, a loner, becomes her friend over there?

    My, I do like the darker forms of story telling.


    Also, on the point of a kid getting put into a better school - when I was in school I was part of the 'special' class in primary school before someone sat down and actually took a look at my ability, so it's not impossible.
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2016
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  18. BadCrow
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    Now, it might be a weird question but in which time does this story take place?
     
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  19. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    When indeed? You raise a good point,is there a historical context?
     
  20. karldots92
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    karldots92 Active Member

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    I think you have a great starting point. Different writers work different ways but for me it's enough to have a basic idea of that character and then let them develop through the writing. If your character is too planned out before hand it can lead to action that seems contrived to fit a characters personality rather than letting the personality develop as a result of the actions. In real life our personalities develop as we experience life - we start as a basic template and develop from there. Characters in stories I think should be the same.
     

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