1. mynameissarahgrace
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    mynameissarahgrace Member

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    Is there such thing as a character who's too unique?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by mynameissarahgrace, Nov 26, 2008.

    Is there such thing as a character who's too unique?
    Do you ever read a book and think that a character is just too different to be believable/realistic?
     
  2. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    Occasionally I have, but it's surprisingly rare. Characters will seem out of place depending on the world they're in and how you put it together.

    Case in point:
    In one of the Rama books, Arthur C Clarke has a character who is (and you'll have to forgive a little inaccuracy here, since I'm doing this from memory) a gold medallist athlete who is the love interest of the Prince of England and was also the first woman in space. Every main character in his books is an amazingly high achiever because that's the kind of people he writes about, but that came across as a bit too much.

    On the other hand, Gabriel Garcia Marquez (in One Hundred Years of Solitude) has a character whose defining trait is that he is constantly followed by a cloud of yellow butterflies, which is far more odd but fits in better because the whole damn world in that book is made of incest and insanity.

    (slightly off topic, but both of those are worth reading if you haven't already done so)

    So the short answer is yes, but it's far more to do with the environment they are placed in than the character themselves.
     
  3. Acglaphotis
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    You should check out the Mary Sue phenomena, it's not exactly what you're describing but close and it's an entertaining read.
     
  4. Nilfiry
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    Nilfiry Contributing Member

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    No. Realistically, there will always be people like that.
     
  5. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    It's not so much "too unique" as "too quirky." Once in a great while a character comes along and you just get this overwhelming feeling that the creator tried a little TOO hard to make them interesting, by overloading them with weird little personality twists. They're too "gimmicky."

    I'm afraid I can't give examples since it's just something that you know when you see it.
     
  6. Rumpole40k
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    Rumpole40k Banned

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    In my opinion, characters which are "too unique" must be balanced by very ordinary characters. Dr. Manhattan form Watchmen immediately comes to mind.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Is the problem that a character is too unique, or is the character not written realistically?
     
  8. Emerald
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    Emerald Contributing Member

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    Aww man, that site sucked me in like a vortex, burning away like three hours of my time just reading about random crap...
     
  9. mynameissarahgrace
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    mynameissarahgrace Member

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    Haha, me too. But thanks, Acglaphotis.
     
  10. mynameissarahgrace
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    mynameissarahgrace Member

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    Both, I guess? My character is definitely human and has a human, realistic personality. But it just seems like she has too many unusual hobbies, traits, etc. She plays the harp, has a mom that lives in the mountains, is constantly wearing a beret, and has waist-length copper-colored ringlets. I have not ever met anyone that has any of these traits, except copper-colored hair. I know it depends on how I write it to make it realistic, but I'm still not sure if I can.
     
  11. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I have never come across a too unique character, but I have come across stupid characters, or unique characters that were not enjoyable do to how they were written.
     
  12. El902
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    El902 Member

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    Honestly, on first glance, I want to read what you're writing. I don't think any of these traits are uncommon, or what you're worried about, are uncommon because one person has them all. Personally, I have a sister who is my mother (my mother adopted me at birth) but neither of them know that I know (birth certificates don't lie) I managed a restaurant at sixteen, and I own more pajamas than regular clothes. More than that I've lived in every state in the southern region, I've had more near-death-experiences than your average person, and I've dyed my hair over thirty times. It all sounds unusual but it is all indeed true.

    I think that if you just think of your character as a person, then you'll be able to write about her without hesitation. When compiling unusual traits into one character you might want to be careful, so as to not end up with a character who's too weird to be plausible, but we all have a bazillion different things that make us who we are. So do our characters.

    More on topic though, I've never really read a character who was too unique. I have indeed come upon situations that were a bit out of reality, but the characters were always plausible.

    El
     
  13. JaM1221
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    JaM1221 Member

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    I don't think a character can be too unique. There's always people that are different. But some books, movies, ect. have overdone characters that are unique in the same way. How many movies have you seen that have a geeky girl in high school who nobody knows the name of? I've seen dozens. There's a lot of different ways for a character to be different.
    Also, if you have a character that's WAY too unique that the person is actually weird, some people might not read the book because the characters just...weird. ALWAYS when you are writing a character, have at least one trait that is like all other people. The reader has to relate to the character. Have a bond with them. Realistically, all people are not perfect, are fearful, and have doubts. All character should be like this. Don't make your character too weird that the reader can not relate too them.
     
  14. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    The best thing to do when you feel you have too much of something is ask yourself "why." Why does your chacracter have all these traits? Some people seem to think character development means tacking on as many traits, quirks, and details as possible, but these things are meaningless if they don't lend depth to the character. Ask yourself what motivates this character; why she does the things she does or why she looks the way she does. If you can't come up with an answer (or have to bend your established reality to find an answer), then the unnecessary traits can be done away with.

    PS: A quick read of that Mary Sue article would help greatly.
     
  15. mynameissarahgrace
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    mynameissarahgrace Member

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    Yeah, there are definitely reasons for all of the traits. All of them (except for her hair, which she has no control over, obviously) are linked to her personality and her past. I think the reasons themselves are believable...but explaining the reasons in the story have been hard, and I don't know if it makes sense how I'm describing it.

    Oh, and thanks to everyone who's answered so far :]
     
  16. BillyxRansom
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    The more unique a character is, the better. Less room for boredom. But if a character is, as some have said, too quirky, or they have a billion different things going on in their life, or things unrelated but all of which they've achieved, it might be a bit much.
     
  17. Asuran
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    I may be completely wrong but from your summary of your character, I imagine a young girl whose mother left her at a young age to persue art. The only mementos she has of her mother are her beautiful hair and her mother's beret. She spends her afternoon playing mournful songs on the harp because of the pain of a missing part of her life.

    As stated, it is all about the why. If you can convince readers that there is a reason for it all, it is believeable.
     
  18. Solus
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    I almost never feel that a fictional character is too unique, but that the author is pushing that uniqueness on the reader too hard, or getting into awkward and unlikely situations in trying to explain it.

    As long as people within the story react realistically to these quirks and characteristics, I don't think it's a problem. I actually like it when authors, when speaking from/very close to the unique character's POV, treat the quirks in a mundane or unsensational way.

    I also think it can be a good way to tacitly show other characters' traits by exploring their reactions to this unique person. It can say a lot about their personality, culture, open-mindedness, closed-mindedness, etc.
     
  19. madhoca
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    I can't remember where I read it, but it was warning against the 'No way!' factor.
    I mean, unusual characteristics and life experiences are acceptable if the writer has presented them so they are believable--you too, could find out your husband was supporting the child from his bigamous marriage because his 'wife' was killed by her sister in a fight. (As happened to me). You just have to work out how a person might get into this situation.
     
  20. mynameissarahgrace
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    mynameissarahgrace Member

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    That basically answered my whole question. Thanks :)
     
  21. perfectionist
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    I think this is an absolutely vital aspect of the way "unusual" characters are presented.

    As a positive case in point, in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon (An excellent book - Read it) the MC is an severely autistic teenager. Narration of the book is executed through the first person voice.

    As a result, the reader is forced to accept from the beginning the MC's unique and occasionally bizarre interpretations of and reactions to mundane real-world situations. The author skilfully presents all the quirks of behaviour and thought-processes of the main character as rational and commonplace, including the MC's introspection into his abnormal world view.

    As for your own concerns and the Mary-Sue phenomenon, be aware that if you probe deeply, most people you stop on the street will have a collection of unusual quirks in their past and their personality. The character you described does not seem to be outlandish in any way... just unique. I imagine she may have tailored herself to her current image as part of a desire to appear individual... an ironically common desire, methinks.
     
  22. mynameissarahgrace
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    mynameissarahgrace Member

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    I started The Curious Cause of Dog in Night-Time awhile ago, never got to finish it before it was due back to a library across the state. :\ It did have an amazing narrator's perspective & voice, though.
     
  23. ap Oweyn
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    ap Oweyn Member

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    I guess my gut reaction to your character summary is this: What are you worried about? People have all sorts of odd preferences for clothing. People who only wear black. People who wear a duster long coat in all weather. People who wear sunglasses indoors. Etc. Nothing particularly remarkable about someone who always wears a beret.

    And obviously, people play harps. Not as common as the acoustic guitar, perhaps. But a perfectly legitimate choice of musical expression.

    So why wouldn't either of the perfectly feasible individuals described above also have copper ringlets? What does a "normal" harpist look like? What do they wear?

    See what I'm getting at?


    Stuart
     
  24. perfectionist
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    Quite so.
    In fact, this brings up the companion to the original question: "Is there such a thing as a character who is too generic?"

    My answer is that unless the author is using a sterotype or bland character for effect as part of a social commentary then yes, a character could be too dull for the reader to care. To interesting is rarely a problem, except in extreme cases such as the ones NigeTheHat mentioned, and even then the authors in question were darned geniuses.
     
  25. Honorius
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    i dont know of a character who is too realitstic.
    But i know lots that are too unique

    They come from these wretched things called soap operas...

    The third cousin's 76 times removed roommate of the newly pregnant teenager's ex-ex-boyfriend who died 4 times but reappeared mysteriously 7 times alter ego is actually a lesbian who slept with the teenagers mom and then switched to the other ego and slept with the dad.

    Way too unique. Period.
     

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