1. Magnatolia
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    Magnatolia Active Member

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    Is this good character development?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Magnatolia, Jan 14, 2014.

    Hey guys,

    I'm very new to writing, so all advice is greatly appreciated.

    At the moment I'm practicing the art of writing paragraphs that show the character quite well.

    My first attempt was to create a female stripper, and I'd like to know firstly how you picture her.

    'Candace stepped into the darkened room and waited until her eyes adjusted to the light. She ran her fingers along the wall. The paintwork had peeled and faded from a lifetime of neglect.'

    'Candace returned the embrace, forcing a smile. Her right cheek twitched from being pulled into an unnatural position.'

    'Smoke clouds that had once sent her into coughing fits, now felt reassuring in an odd sense.'

    Thanks guys!
     
  2. Mats Rafoss
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    Mats Rafoss Member

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    Physically I'm completely unable to picture her at all, because you give no hints or descriptions for me to go by, well very little at least.
    Mentally I'd say she's probably a girl who's seen her fair share of "darkness," she's probably not too young and she's probably adapted
    to this life that she once despised, and probably still do, but now she's used to it. I really don't know, because you don't give me enough
    to know.

    I'd say the trick is to sneak the information into the subtexts, such as "Candace stepped into the darkened room, in the darkness she was
    like a ghost, her skin akin to such gloom." - If she's dark-skinned, for instance.

    Or.

    "Candace stepped into the darkened room, in the darkness she was like a ghost,
    her pale silhouette painting a picture of disparity within the frame of the door." - If she's lighter-skinned.
    - This could work the other way around, too, if the room she arrived from was lit.

    Obviously I don't want to infer that you should use these exact lines, they're just examples to show my point :)
    - And probably not great examples at that.
     
  3. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, first off 'character development' usually refers to how characters change throughout the course of a story, rather than what I think you're referring to here, which is characterisation: how the reader sees the character and their personality. Related, not the same.

    Semantics aside, here's what I get from these lines:

    She's tactile. I imagine this to be somewhere she's familiar with, probably somewhere she used to come when it was better maintained, but there's nothing in the text that implies that.

    She doesn't smile much, but she isn't a particularly spiky character. She returned the embrace though she probably didn't want to rather than create any kind of social awkwardness.

    She's spent a lot of time around smokers. Probably at work rather than with friends, because it's an odd reassurance, not an expected one.

    You'll get more accurate responses if you don't tell people she's a female stripper before giving them the text. That bit of extra information is going to colour their perceptions.

    As an example, I mentioned in the first quote that I imagined the building being somewhere she used to go when it was better maintained. Because you'd said she was a female stripper, I was imagining it as a bar she used to perform at, now closed down. If you'd said she was a female detective, I'd be imagining a crime scene, and that brush on the wall could mean something entirely different.
     
  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Tell me a lot about the setting. Nothing at all about Candace.

    Okay, "forcing a smile" is a start - the embrace was unwanted. But for the life of me, I can't imagine a position that would cause her cheek to twitch. More important than that, if you are trying to convey how she feels at being forced into an unnatural position as part of an unwanted embrace, tell us. By giving us the twitching cheek, what you're really doing is telling us what we would see if we were there. But you show character by making us feel a little of what she feels, putting us in her shoes.

    As @NigeTheHat mentioned, that's not an expected reaction, so it would have to be explained. It has the potential to be an effective device, because it could be used to reveal part of her past (presumably how far she has fallen). I would use greater description of what smoke used to do to her (""had left her gasping for air" or some such) and then show her completely unaffected. Let the reader connect the dots.

    You might want to start by making notes to yourself as to what her character really is at the beginning of the story how it will change by the end
     
  5. Magnatolia
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    Magnatolia Active Member

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    Thanks everyone. Obviously characterization is something I need to work on. I did give her some physical description later on when her boss was watching her from his office. The idea in my head is she's only been there for a month and hasn't really adjusted, apart from the fact that the smoke now no longer affects her.

    Decribing the character physically in the first paragraph is a no no right? I did add some visual descriptions about 2 paragraphs down. I only picked out the bits in paragraph one to see how people felt about my choice of actions and how the scene was pictured by her.

    @Mats Rafoss thanks, I like the idea of using subtext. Rather than simply telling what she looks like.

    @NigeTheHat yeah she isn't spiky just wants to do her job and get out. Thanks for the advice and I can see how that description could something else entirely.

    @EdFromNY I was picturing that scene where when you force a smile too long the muscles around the mouth twitch. Thanks I'll add some more description to it.
     
  6. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not necessarily. It's just that that information is probably not the most interesting, intriguing thing you've got, and that's what you need in the opening paragraphs to draw in the reader. If you're explaining how streams of blood are running down her long locks of midnight black dyed hair, then that might be an interesting opening. But if you're just trying to get information to us about what she physically looks like, then the opening is probably not the right place for it. (And many stories don't give a specific physical description, but leave a lot the reader's imagination.)
     
  7. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I think you may be focusing too much on physical minutiae. You might start by making sure you know what kind of person she is - what is she like at the beginning of the story, and how she changes over the course of the story. Write it down and don't include any physical descriptions at all. Your story then becomes getting her from Point A to Point B (but don't be surprised if new ideas occur to you as you write and she ends up at Point C instead :D).
     

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