1. Sig Studios
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    Sig Studios Member

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    Information density and layering a character

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Sig Studios, Aug 29, 2016.

    I am a thorough and detailed person. I think things through and like things I do to make sense.

    This is why recently I was inspired by a video I watched talking about layering many subliminal details in a scene to make it more meaningful or symbolic.

    I'm going a little crazy with it right now. What's my character's sprit animal? How can I show that subtly? Am I being pretentious by putting so much underlying meaning?

    So I'd like to ask, how many small details do you think is too much? Also how can you tell when you make your "subtle detail" into something that screams "ASK ME WHAT IT MEANS!"

    I'm lucky that I'm limited natually due to my setting or else I'd probably go really crazy.
     
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  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think if you've gotten to the "spirit animal" level you may have gone a bit too far.

    It's important, I think, to distinguish between things you know about your characters and things you tell your readers about your characters. I have, in the past, given Myers-Briggs personality tests to some of my characters and used the write-ups to inform my characterization. But I would never dream of actually saying, oh, Bob is an INTJ.

    Richness can come as much from what isn't said as from what is.
     
  3. Sig Studios
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    Sig Studios Member

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    Lol yeah. The reason I'm getting into more visual things is because I'm actually writing a graphic novel. So instead of describing the scene, there has to actually be images =_=

    I've actually done the Myers-Briggs personality test too. (not for this graphic novel though) And I totally agree with the whole "show through what they do"... I'm not entirely sure how to do that though. For one of your characters how would you show this person was introverted for instance?
     
  4. big soft moose
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    big soft moose Active Member

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    If you've got someone introverted you'd show them being shy and not interacting well with others "bob sat morosely in the corner of the bar, silently watching jeans party ebb and flow around him , he felt as though he was seperated from these happy people by a layer of one way glass , always watching and longing but never quite able to touch or join in"
     
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  5. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    To answer the bolded question you need a little imagination. If you're not an introverted person, put yourself in your character's shoes. Sometimes it helps me to close my eyes and visualize the scene. Being an introvert isn't necessarily a quality that needs to be shown in one scene. It's not static. People are introverted to various degrees. Some may feel more or less introverted depending on their company.

    I'd challenge you to stretch your mind a bit. Don't let us tell you how to show an introvert. Do some research and see what you come up with.

    I don't mean for this to be snarky, by the way. This is just a way to help you develop your minds eye. No better way than practice.
     
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  6. Sig Studios
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    Sig Studios Member

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    So I won't lie, I was kind of confused by your statement at first but when you said this, I immediately understood some things I could do. As you said I don't need to show it in one scene, having scenes that are affected by this character's shyness or maybe even opinions this person holds obviously be a result of their disposition is also good charcter layering. Thank you, I will do my homework and hopefully improve!
     
  7. Sig Studios
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    Sig Studios Member

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    ... Thats so cool how you did that. In writing terms I was immediately able to feel like he didn't feel like he belonged! My writing is a bit too on the nose to properly emulate this probably, but it's great to see this good example. Thank you for replying!
     
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  8. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've actually found that my characters who start with clear MyersBriggs types end up better developed than characters that I try to free-form.

    Specifically:
    1. Instead of one character being Brave, one character being Greedy, one character being Intelligent, each character is compared and contrasted across the same scales for similarities and differences: the lead POV protagonist in my new UrbanFantasy is ESFP, his best friend is ESFJ, their boss/friend is ISTJ, and a rival that they run into early on is INTJ. The rival stands out in the story as the only one of the four of them to go on about grand philosophical ideas, the other three all tend to be a lot more practical and down to earth, but the rival is also incredibly similar to the ringleader of the three in terms of being so cold and calculating (in counterpoint to the POV and his best friend being more outgoing and sensitive in their dealings with everybody around them). Likewise, the POV also stands out as being more flexible and spontaneous in the moment than the others: his friend, boss, and rival are all intelligent enough to react in a crisis, but they don't like to, they want everything to go smoothly according to a structured plan whereas the POV tends to just go with the flow.
    2. I, an INTP, can compare myself to the characters in the same way: the rival is my closest match, we both tend to keep to ourselves unless we have a captive audience for lecturing on our philosophical musings (with the exception of her being more structured and my being more spontaneous), whereas the POV and his best friend are two of my furthest opposites (with the exception of the POV being as spontaneous as I am).
    3. Most importantly: I harbor no illusions that MyersBriggs covers everything about a character. It's like a stethoscope: there's a lot of information that it doesn't cover, but that doesn't mean that we should ignore the information that it does. I could add a second system on top of MyersBriggs, and that would add even more information (my favorite is Dungeons/Dragons Alignment
      I'm a Chaotic Neutral INTP, the three protagonists are Lawful Evil ESFP, Neutral Evil ISTJ, and Chaotic Evil ESFJ, while the rival is a Chaotic Evil INTJ, making her an even closer match for me and my POV protagonist even further
      ), but somebody else could further add yet another system of their choosing on top of those two...
     
  9. Spencer1990
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    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

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    What about my post confused you? I'd be happy to elaborate.
     
  10. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Or, in a slightly less introverts-are-pyschotic-losers vein, how about...

    Bob listened with half his attention. Friends in common. It always started with that. Then gossip, then judgements, then speculation that would bleed into outright lies. Just another night out with the gang. He sipped his beer and edged toward the hallway. Karen was at the party, somewhere, and if he could find her maybe they could talk about something that was actually interesting. Something that meant something. And then maybe they'd find an empty bedroom and be alone. Together.
     
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  11. Sig Studios
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    Sig Studios Member

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    I was initially confused because you said you visualize the scene sometimes to help you think what it'd be like in your character's shoes.

    I thought, "well my reactions would be significantly different to my main character. We're pretty different personality wise." So I was questioning whether this method would be effective for me? Or how I could make it that way.

    Is thinking about what you would do not the point?
     
  12. Sig Studios
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    Sig Studios Member

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    Oooh this is cool too. I get very different feels from your character and the other person's. Even without saying the personality shined right through. Though I would guess that charcter personality would definitely affect what kind of introvert they are. This is very useful!
     
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  13. big soft moose
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    big soft moose Active Member

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    You say that like being a Psychotic loser is a bad thing ... :D
     
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  14. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are three other letters in the test, after all...
     
  15. Sig Studios
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    I actually have a very similar way of organizing my own characters. Though I don't use the Myer-Briggs test at least for the charcters I've had so far, most of them when you boil it down are quite similar. Just like you can find someone who's similar to you and you can still like or dislike them, most of these charcters have had sort of similar childhoods but under different circumstance.

    I think it's interesting that you used the Myer-Briggs test though to create this similar character dynamic. It nevercrossed my mind.
     
  16. Sig Studios
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    Sig Studios Member

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    That's true. Maybe I'm just easily impressed.
     
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  17. Spencer1990
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    Yeah I meant it in the "imagine what your main character would do" kind of way. Sorry I wasn't clear on that.
     
  18. Simpson17866
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    Remember number 3 ;) MyersBriggs isn't the only system you can use for comparing and contrasting: any pairs of adjectives can do the same thing (brave-cowardly, greedy-charitable, clever-straightforward, sensible-goofy...). You say that you have a lot of traits where Characters X, Y, and Z are all very similar, and I'm going to take your word for that, but could there be any trait for which X and Y are similar to each other but not Z, another where X and Z are similar to each other but not Y, and a third where Y and Z are similar to each other but not X?

    For example, let me color-code a post from another thread such that Harry is the odd one out for something Ron and Hermione have in common, Ron is the odd one out, and Hermione is the odd one out:
    Harry was obviously the main character, and the author did still tend to focus on the times where one of his friends was on the same page as him while the other wasn't, but there was still a noticeable area where the two friends had more in common with each other than they did with him.
     
  19. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    @Sig Studios - There's another way, that's less scientific that the 'test' folks are talking about on this thread (which obviously works for some.) I think Spencer here is on the right track. Think about people you actually know. Who would you consider introverted? How do they behave? I'm sure they don't go around with a sign on them saying "I Am An Introvert." So what do they do/don't do that makes you pretty sure they are introverted to a certain degree?

    You can then put these traits into your character. In fact, it's fun to base your characters on people you actually know. Obviously you need to disguise them, but sometimes that's as easy as a radical change in their age ...the introvert you know is actually an old man, but you want him to be a teenager in your story. Or you can flip genders. The introvert you know is a girlfriend of yours, but you want this introvert to be a guy in your story.

    Using this approach can make your characters more personal and more nuanced than simply thinking up characteristics and sticking them on, the way you'd do if you were playing a role-playing game.
     
  20. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    @big soft moose , I think you're writing an introvert from the perspective of an extrovert...

    Bob sat in the corner of the bar, watching Jean's party ebb and flow around him. Watching the false laughter, watching the fake camaraderie, watching the acts they all felt they had to put on. He shook his head and took another pull of his beer. God, it must be such hard work being an extrovert!

    ETA: And then I saw that @BayView had beaten me to it...

    ETA2: You're not allowed to mention the Spirit Animal, it doesn't like it!
     
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  21. Sig Studios
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    Sig Studios Member

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    Really? I actually quite liked @bigsoftmoose 's depiction. Perhaps I'm a more extreme case than I thougjt but these thoughts and feeling have gone through my head as well.

    However I think when I read yours that your character seems to be over compensating for something. (That's a trait I perscribe to anyone but for introverts on particular, your paragraph really fit) Then there's also the obvious age difference thay comes between yours and his charcter. Moose's Bob seems to be older and a bit regretful that he's like this while your Bob seems younger and a bit bitter that he can't be like everyone else so he treats himself like he's above them.

    They're actually both pretty good depictions to me.
     
  22. Sig Studios
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    Sig Studios Member

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    Oh, that's a good idea. It'd be much easier for me to expand upon people that already exist and make them a character. They say if you have the resources, use it.... Would you recommend I tell this friend that I'm using them for the personality?
     
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  23. Sig Studios
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    Sig Studios Member

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    Ahhh okay! That should be fun. For a while I did roleplaying and acting so it's strangely easier for me to analyze characteristics and act them out. Thiz would help me a lot. Thanks!
     
  24. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's funny - I'd have put it in the reverse - Moose's Bob young and still thinking there was only one acceptable way to behave and he needed to be social, Shadowfax's Bob older and more confident, realizing that the social conventions are inherently meaningless...
     
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  25. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    You beat me to the punch again, @BayView !

    It may be significant that @Sig Studios is 19?
     

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