1. Topaztock
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    Topaztock Member

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    "In Life I believe..." Character Exercise

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Topaztock, Apr 8, 2016.

    I'm just going to share this tip for developing characters that I've been using.

    In his book 'Directing the Documentary', Michael Rabiger asks filmmakers to take the time and write a bit starting with the sentence 'What I believe'. The best way to do this is set your timer for ten, fifteen minutes and just type as much as you can. It's quite cool, cos then you end up with a sort of manifesto that's all yours.

    So when it comes to developing characters, it can be eye-opening to do this for them. You can do it in the third person (I tend to do this if the story they feature in is third person) and you end up with 500 words and hopefully a deeper understanding of their outlook and beliefs.

    One thing I'd recommend is not doing one for yourself right before you do one for your character because there might be too much overlap.

    Hope someone finds this useful!
     
  2. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    It's an interesting approach certainly. But beliefs are a weird thing.

    Think about most of the things that we'd say we believe rather than that we feel or know. We believe in political things; free speech and liberty and such. We believe in gods and human nature and luck. We don't believe that two plus two is four nor do we really believe that being kissed is enjoyable. We know facts; we feel emotions. We believe in ephemeral things.

    The relevant part here is that unlike asking 'What does this character feel?' or even 'What things does this character know?' asking instead 'What does this character believe?' is going to throw up a bunch of things that are just utterly irrelevant to the story you are telling. John Rambo probably believes in strong national defense and liberal gun laws but that makes no difference to him massacring people in the jungle. He may believe that you can always park nearer than you think but that's not something that you can ever really usefully work into his story.

    What I'm saying is here is to be careful. If you insist on writing character bibles this way then don't go overboard filling them up. Your characters need to serve your story, not the other way around. Here's the problem; just by writing this stuff in your bible it makes you want to use it. Of course it does. You've spent so much time working out every tiny detail and of course you want that to actually be useful, or even just to show people how much work you put in. It's understandable. But so much of everything in character bibles is just superfluous. Your characters are almost always going to be reacting to things in the moment in more visceral and less calculated terms.

    Part of the process of writing should be developing these beliefs as they come up; embracing the unknown about the character and slowly organically growing their set of beliefs while you are there in the character with them. It's only be writing them that you get the feeling for what the character actually cares about not just what they believe. Often times what we care about isn't obvious and will only come to the surface in extremis. The moment when my seemingly uncaring, misanthropic character yells "Why aren't we helping these people?" at her boss is an important character moment because it's out of the blue; it's the sign of someone else inside her buried under a lot of hardship. She really does care a lot, especially about people who remind her of herself, but for a long time no-one cared about her and she only survived by burying it. I only got to that point by letting her exist as an unknown until I got there.
     
  3. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd say that asking what a characters knows/feels and what a character believes would be more powerful than one or the other ;)
     
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  4. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Oscar: "In life, I believe that we are all entitled to the same basic human rights. And I feel empathy for those who rights are taken away because of arbitrary discrimination or greed."
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2016
  5. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    I think it is a good idea if you can work with it. I tried something similar once or twice but for me it didn't work. Came up with good stuff in writing but the moment I sat down seriously to write my story more often than not my characters took off in a completely different direction and these notes were not useful anymore. For me nothing else but writing seriously suffices ;)
     
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  6. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    My notes and writing follow the same thinking process so that's not a problem for me.
     

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