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  1. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    My protagonists all sound alike.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Link the Writer, Apr 3, 2011.

    After taking a break from Amos' mysteries to write my Sci-Fi, I realized with horror that Captain Helen Chert sounds just like Amos! Sure her situation is different from Amos' obviously, but they sound exactly the same in the basic core of their personalities.

    Its even worse if I try to write it in first person, because then I write using Amos' voice instead of Helen's.

    What should I do?
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    They will always sound a little alike - after all you have written them. Do you cast them at all ? I find it helps when I have a real life person I can stalk round youtube listening to them act, sing and dance.
     
  3. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Well, I give them their own roles, if that's what you mean. They're not all French detectives. XD
     
  4. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    No for example:

    Angus is a very young Michael Ball
    Beatrice a very young Honeysuckle Weeks to look at singing is Lena Meyer-Landrut
    The Abbot is an older Michael Ball
    Uncle Tom is Paul O'Grady
    Socrates is John Barrowman
    Russ is one of John Barrowman's dogs Captain Jack.
    Nate is a cross between David Tennant and Josh Groban
    Gus is yet to be cast
    Iris is Michael Ball as Edna lol
    Joe Cream is David Tennant
    Tim Black is Lee Mead
     
  5. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    And all my heroes are Alain Delon. They have his hair, eyes and mannerisms, but they don't always have his accent!
     
  6. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    Elgaisma has already stated one of the best solutions. I cast all my main characters and it helps me to keep them very much separate. Before I started doing this (around April 2009) all of my characters seemed as if they were just the same person with a new name and face.
     
  7. Louis Farizee
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    Louis Farizee Member

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    Figure out who would play them in the movie, and why. Give them a unique hobby. Come up with both a treasured memory and a traumatic memory from their childhoods. Come up with a soundtrack. Write a scene (for your own use only, this is an exercise) with your MC on a blind date, applying for a small business loan, and giving a toast at a best friend's wedding. Play the 30 questions game in the Word Games section. Write a letter to your MC about your day, and have your MC write one back, describing his or her day. Take a scene with one MC and rewrite it with your other MC being transported suddenly into the scene and having to keep up. Review a movie, book, or song in the voice of your MC.

    If all else fails, ask yourself, is the MC a Mary Sue?

    Remember, your character knows him or herself better than you do. Let them talk to you.
     
  8. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe what is lacking is a more developed character description? Do you usually do an analysis to each character and their background, personality, upbringing, education etc? That is a good way of getting to know them better and have a more individual and unique character.
     
  9. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm quite fussy about who I cast and it means I do have a very small cast to choose from lol

    I look at actors/actresses who can play almost any role, real blank canvas actors ones that also sing and dance, and have a good presence on TV interviews. One advantage of being in the UK is the national radio stations that also gives ideas for speech - BBC Radio 2 and 4 are my favourite you can get them on the website.
     
  10. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's usually what I do. Aside from the times I find myself reusing actors ( :rolleyes: ), this actually works pretty well for me and keeps them pretty different.
     
  11. katica
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    katica Senior Member

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    I agree with these posts, except what defines a character is not your descriptions of them, but the way they react to various situations.

    Ask yourself what your characters background is, what their weakness is (this is VERY important), their beliefs (like what morals they follow), what makes them unique, etc.

    Also, make up characters that are very different than you and do things that make you smack yourself in the forehead. Not someone you hate, but someone that you think is a bit foolish. That way they have faults and aren't exactly like your ideal person. (Usually when we get stuck making the same character over and over again its because they are our ideal or the type of person we feel like we can relate to the most.) Or cast your friends and loved ones as characters.

    Also, and most importantly, make a character that's their exact opposite in a book. Give them a foil. If you want a character's personality traits to become more pronounced, then having a character who constantly challenges those traits is a good way to go. It puts a bigger focus on them.
     
  12. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    Haha, I reuse them constantly! Usually at a different point in their career. A year or two makes more of a difference than I originally though it would: people change constantly.
     
  13. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    i think the problem with "casting" the characters with actors/celebs (this is what was suggested, or did I misunderstand something here?) is that to me it seems like that is only about looks/from a superficial aspect and what WE know about them, not who they really are. What do we know about them after all, besides from what they LET us know? we dont know how they would react in each given situation. Not even if you cast them with a role they've been playing in a movie.
     
  14. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Try and push yourself to use different voices. I tend to fall back on chatty characters who have my sense of humour, so I made an effort in a recent novel to have a character who was reluctant to talk, and when he did it was in nervous babbles. I contrasted that with a character who talked a lot, but rather than being silly and making jokes, was very vicious with his humour. Knowing these 2 traits really helped me focus my mind on how to write them.

    It's really just a matter of holding a clear trait in your head at all times. Writing my main character post memory-loss I just focussed on that as her motivation every line she came out with, while before I'd always filtered it through "bratty" :p
     
  15. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    It doesn't give me the whole character - what it does give is body language, speech patterns, body shape, movement, how they laugh. You don't need an indepth knowledge of a celebrity to get that information. It rounds out the character. It is what gives just the little things that make Socrates, Angus and Nate different from each other.

    That is why I always suggest using ones that have a varied career and a large youtube presence. I choose exceptional actors and singers. What it gives is an idea of how they move, the quirks in their body and face shape etc The things that frame the dialogue.

    I am currently listening to John Barrowman for example he is singing Rain on my Parade and at this precise moment has his arms linked with a couple of girls and is kicking :) This has been followed by David Tennant dancing to These Boots Are Made for Walking with David Morrisey. The very fact I am able to cast Michael Ball as a seventeen year old boy, an eight-hundred-year-old gay abbot and a middle aged woman is an indication of his ability :) OK now it has moved on to John Barrowman singing Man I Feel like a Woman lol
     
  16. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Point I forgot to mention: Context does the rest of the work. Maybe the characters are the same on the inside, but the things they deal with, where they are, etc, means they just think about different stuff. Even their navel gazing will by necessity be about different things.

    It's when you write similar characters in the same location over and over that you have a problem with a rut. The fact your imagination has provided you with several locations and varying plots mean no one's going to go out of their way to compare your characters.
     
  17. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh, Ok, I get it, we were talking about different things. You about gestures and other visible traits while I was speaking about the way they react to different situations, how they behave with other people, how they think and reason, which says something about who they ARE. I think finding out those things is another way of making a unique character, someone who appears to be a real person and in that case casting them I guess would be off less importance.
     
  18. coolie96
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    coolie96 Member

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    every character will sound alike. And you will think of them as having part of yourself because you put yourself in your characters, so even if there are only a few similar traits, the rest seems to be the same. to the reader, the drive of the character is different, therefore he/she is different. Also, like the others have said, body language, dialogue, and unique habits make a character stand out. Another way would be to include a short back story leading to how the characters became the people they are. When you realize where they came from, they should all seem different.
     
  19. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    yes and no - part of it forms their reactions, how they speak how they dress.

    For example when Socrates grins, flounces, hugs someone, is naturally demonstrative, his reaction to snot, his ability to laugh at himself, his ability to throw a hissy fit, his white teeth, his great behind, the little boy giggle, how he feels about his looks and general vanity - have all come from 'casting' him - they are not all John Barrowman some of them are characters he plays. He has a turn of phrase or two that came from the actor I cast.

    As I write all of these things form part of how I show his emotion, and his interactions with other charatcers. They lead onto the deeper thoughts and the way dialogue is conducted.

    Basically I am 'casting' an actor to 'play' my character not to be themselves.
     
  20. cybrxkhan
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    cybrxkhan Contributing Member

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    One thing you can think about is the deeper motivations and personal issues of the characters. While they may superficially be alike, perhaps by playing around with the reasons for such behaviors or attitudes, you can make rather different characters.

    A lot of my protagonists are the same, too, but I give each of them different reasons for being what they are, and thus come off with different characters at the end of the day. For instance, one of my protagonists from my fantasy-esque/light steampunk project, Prince Daius, is very similar to another protagonist from a slice-of-life high school story, Constantine - they're both generally calm/stoic and snarky/quick-witted, and generally do not reveal their emotions, but they are ultimately very warm and caring to their closest friends. The reasons behind these two's similar personalities, however, are very different.

    Daius has been forced to assume leadership positions from a very young age, and because of the political climate he is in, he had to shape himself up to became a decent statesman despite his young age, so he has to not easily show his emotions. He also puts it upon himself to act as a father figure to a number of his friends who are either orphans or have parents who neglect them one way or another, so it's important for him to appear level-headed and dignified for their sake, too.

    Constantine, on the other hand, deals with different issues (and arguably those not as serious as Daius). He is actually distrustful of people in general, even those he loves, due to a bad history with his parents who are generally strict and uncompromising. This is why he appears emotionless on the outside, because he is afraid of doing something 'wrong' that will give people the wrong impression. Because of his distrusting and sensitive personality, this is why he grows very attached to those he can trust, namely his closest friends.

    Thus, hopefully, as my examples show, it's possible to have similar characters who are still ultimately very different because of their motivations and their past history, as well as how they interact with the plot.

    I guess you can also think about comparing famous historical figures, for instance; as an example, Hitler and Stalin may be similar to each other on a superficial level, but if you investigate them more deeply, you'll find that they have their subtle differences, different motivations behind what they do, and different personal (and national) histories that made them who they were.

    Hope that helps.
     
  21. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Many writers, including some famous ones, suffer from this, so don't feel too bad. Many of Larry Niven's human characters are not particularly distinguishable, despite the brilliant characterizations to be found among his aliens.

    The best way I know to create unique, interesting characters is through peoplewatching. Pay close attention to speech patterns and mannerisms. Develop a personal database of character elements. I don't mean a computer database, I mean an internal "library" of characters and character components.
     
  22. erik martin
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    erik martin Contributing Member

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    Just about every one of Robert Heinlein's protagonists sounded alike and were basically perfect supermen (or women as the case may be) and he is considered to be one of the giants of his genre.
     
  23. aimi_aiko
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    aimi_aiko Contributing Member

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    IMO, it is definitely due to your style. A lot of my characters relate because of my style of writing. There isn't much you can do.
     
  24. The Soul Man
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    The Soul Man Member

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    Make sure that you establish the character out of back story and personality, not the other way around. Use the character to explore a variety of personalities, instead of just a plot point. Have their background and personality be the central root of the character. remember that personalities in real life are incredibly dynamic and complicated, often conflicting. If you can build a personality that reflects this, you can probably build multiple examples.

    if you want more dynamic between your characters look closely at real life examples and at fiction
     

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