1. Hannibal Alexander
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    Hannibal Alexander Senior Member

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    I need some help! Deciding on a Character.

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Hannibal Alexander, Apr 30, 2013.

    *sigh
    it's going to be hard to put this question into words, so bear with me please.

    i guess first i should say that i always took to heart something that my mom told me about John Grisham, that you are supposed to write what you know.

    i've tried that, but since my life has been mostly uneventful it always goes nowhere. i try to stay in tune with my thoughts and emotions and put that on paper, and i think i'm pretty good at that. but what good is all that if you don't have an interesting and creative plot to go with it.

    i feel more excitement when i'm writing about people who are so far from me and my life. for instance years ago i started writing about the rise of a pop star/actress from her early days starting out her career up until she's winning oscars and grammys and things. also, my "out with arcadius" story is one i like imagining and plotting out and it's about a singer and his life after he came out.

    but since i don't know about that kind of lifestyle, only what i see, i always doubt proceeding because of the fact that it's "not what i know".

    so... i had this idea with "out with arcadius". to parallel the lives of this celebrated singer and a guy very similar to me. mundane job, insecure, lonely, aspiring writer. my idea was the "mundane" guy is writing a novel/screenplay about the "singer". and on the parallel the "singer" (who has transitioned into screenwriting and directing) gets this idea to write about a "mundane" person. the complicated thing is that the "singer"... um, nevermind i won't get into all those details because this post is long enough as it is.

    MY QUESTION IS should i just totally scrap the "mundane" character and focus on the "singer". aside from not having a real plot for the "mundane", i keep bumming myself out writing about him. but i do get more excitement when i'm writing about the "singer".

    so what do you think? should i just throw that Grisham quote out the window??? or is it important to write what i know... which is, basically boring day to day lives of the middle to lower class.
     
  2. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    I would say write what you like (or what you would like to read), not what you know. We can't give you any real advice because you haven't given us any real info to base it on. Only one who can decide on this is you.
     
  3. Hannibal Alexander
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    Hannibal Alexander Senior Member

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    i thought i gave lots of info (too much)
    but what kind of info can i provide to you all to get some advice on this?
     
  4. suddenly BANSHEES
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    suddenly BANSHEES Contributing Member

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    It sounds like you're taking the "write what you know" guideline a bit too literally. You're not limited to just drawing from your own experiences - otherwise, 90% of literature out there would just be about regular folks working 9-to-5 jobs and deciding what to eat for dinner. Like Xatron said, write the kind of story you'd like to read. Do research if you really don't know how something works.

    Personally, it sounds like having a "mundane" character and a "star" character could potentially be interesting, depending on how their dynamic is handled. What is the purpose of them writing about each other?
     
  5. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    First of all we can't understand the least bit of your characters unless we see them take part in your story. To you that character can symbolize a mundane life, reminding you of your own (as you described it, no offense) life and therefore he might seem boring. However he could be an integral part of the story without which it can't progress nicely.
    From deductions and speculations based on what you gave us, my five cents would say you keep both characters in your story. The contrast they create is really interesting and probably the main conflict of your plot.
     
  6. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    Like SB says, if everyone wrote what they knew, it would be a pretty boring book store. I'm writing SF&F although I have never met a vampire, a werewolf, a Faerie and I have never time travelled. I have however met a leprechaun. Write what makes you happy - research research research and wing a bit!


    By the way, if it's a case where you enjoy writing about your mundane character, but think he doesn't fit or is just too boring, maybe you can make him the singer's agent or accountant or a staker fan who sits in the front row of all his gigs with a laser pen or takes pictures with his Kodak Brownie and prints them out at home for the shrine in his cellar after stealing candles from the gothic church by the graveyard...
     
  7. Hannibal Alexander
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    Hannibal Alexander Senior Member

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    i want it to be like they are the same person.
    that the "mundane" life is one he's stuck with because he didn't take the risk that the "singer" took early on in his life to become great.
    so in that respect, i kind of want to the reader to wonder which character is the "real thing".
    like the mundane guy is imagining the singer, and it gives him some happiness living through him... and by the time you get to the singer he gets this idea to write about the mundane guy, like he got a vision of him in a dream.
    so it'll go back and forth between their lives... but you never know which one is real or if either of them are.

    how does that sound? i probably didn't word that correctly.
     
  8. Hannibal Alexander
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    Hannibal Alexander Senior Member

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    well i get really depressed when i'm writing about him.

    i wanted THAT to be the contrast. that his character and the tone of the story when he's involved is very depressing, down, etc
    whereas the other character is happy, having fun, very secure in himself.
     
  9. suddenly BANSHEES
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    suddenly BANSHEES Contributing Member

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    I think it could be interesting if the reader wasn't sure which one was real. But it sounds like the "mundane" character is a bit of an issue - it's believable for someone with a depressing or boring life to write about an exciting celebrity character, but why would the celebrity bother writing about a totally average person?

    It sounds like you should flesh out the "boring" person a bit. Just because he isn't rich and famous doesn't mean he has to be a totally average joe. What are the interesting things about him? Maybe he can be going through some kind of interesting experience that differs from what the celebrity is going through.

    Since it sounds like the "mundane" person is writing about the celebrity as a form of wish-fulfillment, maybe the star can be writing about the average person for the same reason. Maybe there's something going on in the mundane person's life that the star wishes he could experience. Some kind of drama that the star wouldn't go through due to his status - like if the mundane person is having financial issues and needs to do something drastic to fix them, or if he's getting into a new relationship or something like that.
     
  10. Hannibal Alexander
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    Hannibal Alexander Senior Member

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    suddenly, you are awesome! thanks for the feedback.
    you've given me lots to think about, specifically the WHY the celeb is writing about the regular guy.


    i will say this, my celebrity -- Arcadius -- has had a rapid fire career for about 8 years at the start of the novel. he decides to take a break and live life and meet people. i think one of the possibilities of him being fascinated with the life of this regular dude is him somewhat wanting to be regular. but... that's boring lol!!! so i'm gonna start there and figure it out.

    and i also need to figure out what's going to happen with my regular guy. i want them each to have their own plot lines but still be connected.

    anyway, again thank you!!! very helpful... i really appreciate it.
     
  11. suddenly BANSHEES
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    suddenly BANSHEES Contributing Member

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    I'm really glad that helps!

    This is a really good place to start - it's totally understandable that living such an extravagant lifestyle can get tiring after a while, so Arcadius could start off with little fantasies like "what if I could just go out in sweats and a tee and order a cheeseburger and not have people staring and following me around with cameras." And then it could morph into something bigger. :)
     
  12. Baz the WarriorDreamer
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    Baz the WarriorDreamer Member

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    Perhaps you could do a parallel story or something where the mundane person is writing a book about the singer and the singer is writing a song about the mundane person to show they are kind of inter-linked. Perhaps they have a cosmic relationship of some kind that only comes about through their work? As in, these people only come alive when they are writing/ singing about each other. Just to add, singers often sing about normal every-day people. To me, the more interesting singers have songs about other peoples stories besides talking about their own. Perhaps the singer is stuck in a business he/ she never wanted. Trapped in superstardom and lacks freedom. Neither situation are 'perfect' though. Its an idea.
     
  13. iolair
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    iolair Active Member

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    While you should write what you know, it doesn't have to be what you know NOW. Research, research. If your story involves celebrities, read a few biographies, interviews and gossip magazines - see what they get up to.
     
  14. foiler
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    foiler Member

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    Here's my opinion... and it's just an opinion of someone who reads and writes a lot; I'm no pro, but I have a clear understanding of what works for me.

    First and foremost, you should write what compels you to write. It must be something that you love to read, and (if you're planning on selling it) it must be something that you know lots of other people like to read. Pick a genre or two, and stick with them. For example, if you love reading horror, than stick with it. If there is another genre that you can mix in together, that's great. I have a friend who has mixed the horror and western genres. All he reads is Stephen King and Louis L'Amour. He's always excited to sit down and read, and he's doubly excited to sit down and write.

    If you can find two or more genres that haven't been mixed too often, you might be on to something fun and unique. That might be good from a marketing standpoint, but that is secondary. First, you have to love reading it.

    I think the people who say, "write what you know", do that because it worked for them. That's fine. But if "what you know" isn't getting you excited to write, than that particular advice doesn't work for you. And that brings us to a rule of thumb about advice: Everyone has advice on what worked for them. You have to pick what works for you.

    And what does "work for you" mean? Well, when it comes to writing, it means you have to feel excited about reading it and writing it - because you have to read everyday, and write everyday.

    Okay, I'll get off my soap box now, and let's talk about what you're writing now...

    Personally, I never like to use "boredom" as a motivator. After all, boredom is, well, boring.

    Instead, consider this... try to come up with some psychological flaw that leads to immoral behavior. In the case of the character you're writing here, perhaps Arcadius was passed around from relative to relative as a child, so he has this psychological scar that no one loves him. Now that he's rich and successful, he suspects that people flock to him simply because of his fame and money. As a result, he treats everyone close to him with disdain. He behaves like a jerk, but that's because he doesn't believe anyone would love him without his fame and fortune. Arcadius may be telling everyone that he'd like to see what it's like to be "ordinary", but psychologically, he DESPERATELY NEEDS to see what life would be like if he were "ordinary". Like this, you've set the stage for your lead character to undergo a deep, profound change in his life.

    Doesn't that sound a little more interesting than avoiding boredom? :)
     
  15. blackstar21595
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    blackstar21595 Contributing Member

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    ANY plot can be good. If there is something Raymond Carver taught me, is that any story can be interesting. It just depends how you write it. Carver made a story about a boy fishing, and I wanted to read that story to the end to see if the boy catches it or not.
     
  16. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Yes. Write what you know, is about the fact that when you know something you can just write without having to think about every little detail. You understand that thing so you can incorporate it into whatever story you are writing. So when your story veers into an area where you are lacking in knowledge, go learn about it. You don't have to become a expert on the subject, just find out what you need to continue your story.
     

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