1. Celestey
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    Celestey New Member

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    Letting a Character Form Itself?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Celestey, Mar 27, 2013.

    Hello! I've always heard authors say to let a character go and they will discover themselves but I don't understand what that means. When I write, I never have a template of how I want my character to be. I kind of just write down whatever comes into my head so would that be the same thing as "letting a character go"? What do you think?
     
  2. Suffering-is-Beauty
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    Suffering-is-Beauty Member

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    Letting a character go just means that you allow your character to develop as you go. you shouldn't let your character become someone completely different than what you wanted, but you also shouldn't try to limit the character by trying to stay strict to your original thought. basically what you do when you let whatever come out is the same as letting the character go.
     
  3. northernadams
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    northernadams Member

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    I actually use this method. When I first write story, my characters are flat constructs because I don't know them yet. Not to sound flaky, but as I write and as these people show up in my scenes, they become three-dimensional. It's like meeting people on the internet. First, they're just names on a screen or in a messenger window, and you have a few things in common but they're not yet people to you. As you go along, even without seeing them and often not having even seen a picture of them, they become fully fleshed out individuals just like the people you see day to day in real life. I don't know if it's me or them, but after a while, the characters start leading, and it's almost to where I can hear them speaking. I know what I want/need them to say in a particular scene, but how they say it seems to be entirely up to them.

    I've tried doing character sheets, and they just looked like really bad personals ads. "I enjoy biking, horseback riding, walking along the beach at sunset, blah, blah, blah, I'm the one for you."
     
  4. Suffering-is-Beauty
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    Suffering-is-Beauty Member

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    I agree with you northernadams. to me a good character is one that develops without my input as strange as that sounds. I just introduce events and let the character react in their own way. Kind of like writing a scene and then saying 'wow I would not have done that myself, but makes sense for so and so'
     
  5. Shannonpeel
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    Shannonpeel Member

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    What you are doing is letting them go, however be careful that you keep them within their own personality. For example if your character is an innocent girl and you suddenly have her talking smack it wouldn't feel right. For example I have one character who is a bad man type of character so he swears a lot, treats women with disrespect, and sees the world as a hostile place so is very confrontational. The other character is a man who is his foil so he doesn't swear a lot, he does swear but not a lot, he protects women, and he sees the world as relatively good with some dangers. How they talk to others and what they see in their settings will be very different. I let them tell me their story and develop as individuals but keep in mind how would this person react in this situation, what details of the environment are important to this person.
     
  6. rhduke
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    rhduke Contributing Member Reviewer

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    I like to develop a character as I write and adjust traits to make him/her interesting in the context of the story. I do run into some trouble with this method, which is why I do some character planning before hand. It's always good to know where the main path is so you can find it again if you go astray.
     
  7. lettuce head
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    lettuce head Active Member

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    Yep, you got it.
     
  8. squishytheduck
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    squishytheduck Senior Member

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    For consistency, go back from time to time and 'sit with' your characters, or 'talk to' them, as if they are people you know. This is probably more for the editing phase though.
     
  9. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    What a curious, thought-provoking question. It never occurred to me to "let my characters go". I know who they are from the outset. I could sit down to dinner across a table from them and have an engaging conversation. (They don't, btw, always agree with me socially or politically so I daresay those conversations would be interesting and I would learn a great deal about myself.)
    What I do learn, however, are new nuances to these characters. I discover how they react to new situations, which, in turn, leads to discoveries about things in their life experiences which cause them to react the way they do. These things are the 'letting them go' factor in the creation of a character just as much as you learn and discover new things about real live 3D warm-blooded people. It's that, "I never knew that about you!" moment that comes along from time-to-time in relationships. It doesn't change who the person (or character) is, just your awareness of them.
     
  10. alexa_
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    alexa_ Banned

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    It seems to me that rather frequently, some authors love to apply such a style of writing when if a character is bad or good at the very beginning of a story he won't change. He or she will stay of the same nature.
     
  11. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Regardless of how you plan your story or sketch out your characters, as you write your story, new ideas will occur to you. It may be a complication of the original conflict, or an aspect of a character that subtly changes them, or even the way the course of events in the story changes the character.

    Some refer to this idea as "letting the characters go" (or, as I sometimes like to say, subplots are what my characters do while I am trying to get them to do what I want them to do), as if the characters had minds and wills of their own (and it does sometimes seem that way) but it is really just part of the creative process. Recognizing these changes and working them into your story may make for more editing, but you'll have a better story to show for it.
     
  12. Alan Stange
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    Alan Stange New Member

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    I find my characters also start leading and they become multidimensional. They advocate for themselves and demand my sympathy. They do not want to be "spear carriers" as one author described them. I often find they do not want to say the words I need them to say. When I do put necessary words in their mouths their personal authenticity is threatened. I do not usually write backgrounds, but they evolve in my mind. One of my weaknesses is the succumbing to the temptation to write exposition on their lives.
     
  13. Alan Stange
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    Alan Stange New Member

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    The problem with that rigid approach is that people are dynamic. Life is transformative. I have tried, but almost always failed to carry a character through a story without change.
     
  14. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    I was about to say that same thing, Alan. People in general change as they grow. Every experience changes us in some way - how we look at life, how we make decisions, what becomes important to us, how we interact with others. It is inevitable that the world around us changes us. None of us is the same person we were when we were two or five or ten years old. If we are true to our characters, they, too, inherently must change from the beginning to the end of the story.
     

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