1. archerfenris
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    archerfenris Active Member

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    Knowing when your character is "finished"

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by archerfenris, Jun 22, 2013.

    There have been a number of threads on how deep one must go when making a character. The general answer, basically, was that you can never go too deep. However, on other threads I've also read that you can hold on to an idea for too long. What's the happy balance? I just finished the first chapter of my first book and looking back I'm worried my main character isn't deep enough. True, the novel is plot based, but the characters are absolutely vital for me. I felt like I knew alot about her but I've started to worry I don't know enough. I'm also nervous because I'm soon to start the second chapter, where the MC will meet a cheeky band of mercenaries whose characters, I feel, will be the extra spice to the plot in my book.

    How do you know your character is complete? How do you know that you have enough to begin writing and letting the character, from that point on, develop themself through your writing?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Your character is never complete, nor should she be when you start writing.

    There are writing situations for static characters, ones that don't change over the course of the story. They are the exception. Most characters should evolve as the story progresses (dynamic characters).

    With each story or novel, the character can expand along another dimension.
     
  3. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's very much about your personal process. I don't plan characters _at all_ before I start writing; the character is developed as part of the writing process. Other people might write six hundred pages of excruciating detail, down to each personal possession that the character owns. Most people are somewhere in between. I obviously prefer my method; I feel that character sheets or any other pre-determination of a character's personality is likely to make that character less realistic. But you have to choose your method.
     
  4. Aprella
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    Aprella Senior Member

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    I am still searching for a method that fits me to get to know my characters. Honestly, I don't want to know everything unless it's important for the plot. I want a brief background so i know who they are, where they came from and where they are hoping to go. To do this, I write a monologue wherein the character talks about his life and what he found important in it. I have a very complicated character who had a traumatic experience and is going to go through quite some painful events during the story. I want to know him better than the other characters so I know how he will deal with those things. But I still want room for him to evolve and for him to surprise me. I draw lines, but I am necessarily going to stay in them.
    Ask yourself by everything your character does, why he does it. Your characters have to be good friends. You have to know them well, but you don't have to know every detail. My friends still surprise me from time to time and that's what makes them interesting. How you get to know your characters/friends is entirely up to you. Have fun with it since you, as a writer, have a brilliant excuse to have imaginary friends.
     
  5. prettyprettyprettygood
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    prettyprettyprettygood Active Member

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    I agree with ChickenFreak, it's a personal decision to make.

    For me characters tend to pop into my head pretty well-formed anyway, so I just have a bit of a think about a few general aspects of their personality and then I crack on. I don't write down anything, no bios or interviews. I kind of like my characters to be slightly fuzzy around the edges, then as I write things become clearer, and often change altogether - I fear that if I spent a load of time working out a character at the start I'd be reluctant to alter them later, which is for me a lot of fun (I love it when someone I thought was a goody two-shoes turns out to be a bit devious, for example :p)

    But some people like to have every detail worked out in advance, and who am I to say that's a bad thing? Just find whats comfortable for you, which might take a bit of trial and error. Good luck!
     
  6. New Konoiche
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    New Konoiche Member

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    I am definitely of the "you can never know too much about your character" school of thought. Characters should be like real human beings with detailed lives outside of what the plot dictates. Readers (or viewers, or whoever your primary audience is) may only spend a small amount of time with them, but, like real people, they had lives before the plot began and will continue on after the story is over. Also, human beings are so complex that they never really completely "finish" developing. I've heard people say that they learn something new about themselves every single day.
     
  7. Abigail
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    Abigail Member

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    See, I'm not too sure I agree with this. I think knowing your characters well and creating as much detail about them as possible makes them seem more realistic. You can add more spice to your writing every now and then with bits of information about them thay may or may not be exactly important to the story/plot, but that just gives them more depth. I always find myself impressed with authors when I see that they've put a lot of effort into creating everything, including characters. Like as if you asked them about their characters, they would know way more about them than what is revealed in the book. I feel knowing as much as you can gives you more power, rather than having just a fuzzy idea of what is. That's just my opinion, I hope it makes sense.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I am definitely a proponent of minimalism in pre-planning, However, even if you are a meticulous pre-planner, I'd recommend only developing your character only to the extent your novel requires, especially if you have any thought of revisiting that character in other stories.

    If you are a pre-planner, you will have to plan not only your character at the very beginning of your novel, but also its evolution throughout the course of the story.
     
  9. archerfenris
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    archerfenris Active Member

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    Well I have a unique situation with this. I am definantely a pre-planner. I like my outlines, bio-sheets, etc. I'm a neat freak and my home is usually very clean. I like to be organized. However, the problem with pre-planning too much on this MC is she changes, ALOT. From the end of the first chapter she can never go back to who she was. She's in a completely differrent world with different rules, and not to mention she's in a completely new body. My original plan was to develop her enough to know who she is for the first chapter. After that, I see how her experiences shape who she was, into who she becomes.

    It may just be jitters from the fact that I'm finally writing the stories I've thought up in my head since I was a kid, but I'm nervous about the depth of my characters. I certainly want it to be a strong point. I'm just not sure I had enough about her to begin writing. Not to mention the new characters will show up by the end of chapter 2, who I want to be the flavor of the book.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    And therein lies my greatest objection to extensive pre-planning. Only when you are at the level of detail of actually writing the story will you be able to see all the nuances. Inevitably, you will make changes that will invalidate mush of your plans for subsequent scenes.

    I'd rather envision a few critical milestones, and the barest foundations of each character, and let the details flow organically as I write.
     
  11. archerfenris
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    archerfenris Active Member

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    Indeed it seems you're correct. I'm running into issues I didn't anticipate during my planning. However, if I am to follow this "organic" type of character realization, then it seems my character will be most developed by the end of the book, but shows only a bare foundation at the beginning. How do you correct this? Go back after you've finished through the editing process? Or another way?
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If you feel the character is thin at the beginning, you can fine tune it during revision. But it's really okay for the character is a stranger to the readr at the start of the novel.

    How well do you know a friend you have only recently met?

    I fundamentally disagree with a widely recommended strategy to define a lot of back story a priori. It's a formulaic approach I feel over-constrains characters. Compise back story only as it becomes relevant to the current story.
     
  13. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd say that that's very likely, yes. Also, it may well be that the "beginning" when you start writing isn't the beginning at all by the time you're done. Now, I have yet to finish writing a novel, but I think that it's very, very likely that for a 100K word novel, I'm likely to write 300K or more words. I do a _lot_ of exploration and rearranging and throwing away when I write, and I don't think that that's ever going to change. This means that for my process, odds are that those first couple of chapters are not going to be the first words that I wrote about the characters.
     
  14. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    This is essentially what I was going to say. I know everything about my characters that can have an affect on how they behave or handle certain situations and that's enough.
     
  15. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    This is essentially what I was going to say. I know everything about my characters that can have an affect on how they behave or handle certain situations and that's enough.
     

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