1. Zombie_Chinchilla
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    Zombie_Chinchilla Member

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    My Technique for Making Characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Zombie_Chinchilla, Sep 10, 2010.

    Hello, everyone. I'm a new member here, who has had ideas for novels forever, but hasn't really buckled down to write them. So, I joined here to try to motivate myself more.

    Anyways. I have a certain technique for creating characters' personalities, and I'd like to have your opinion on it. Whether it's effective, whether I should stop immediately, etc.

    Basically, I have a very basic idea on their personalities (i.e. acidic, bubbly and kind, etc.). Then, I go to a Zodiac website on the net and look for a Zodiac that describes the character that I'm thinking of. Then, I write down more specific details about the character, like their attitudes, thoughts, etc.

    So, what do you think? Effective, or stupid? :rolleyes:
     
  2. Peerie Pict
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    Peerie Pict Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi Zombie, welcome!

    Your method for creating characters sounds original! But if it makes the characters come to life for you then who is to say it's stupid? I guess the real test would be to read your work and see how well you write them. The proof is in the pudding as they say!
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I mistrust any formulaic approach. Characters are not a set of attributes. Characters are a mass of contradictions and moods. They are shaped by the sum total of the experiences the writer places them in, and how they react to those situations.

    Observe real people in real situations. Pay particular attention to when people you thought you knew take you completely by surprise.
     
  4. Naiyn
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    Naiyn Contributing Member

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    I find that the more I try to define the character's attributes before thrusting them into the actual writing, the more generic and bland they become. I suppose it's because I start forcing them to be what I think they should be, rather than let the be who they are.
     
  5. cryssfox
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    cryssfox Member

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    I go to a Zodiac website on the net and look for a Zodiac that describes the character that I'm thinking of.

    You have got to be kidding me. I do the same thing.

    Well, mine's a little more complicated. I'm an astrologer so I design an entire natal chart for each of my main characters. (I used to do this when I was an actress for the characters I played as well.) I find that it's a great pre-writing exercise and helps you think of questions you might not have normally. If you do the whole natal chart, you have a lot of details to work with and you get a good feel for a character. I also like to do relationship charts between main characters and use this to help feed the way they interact.

    For me, the best thing about this is that you feel out a character in depth and then just put all that information aside. When you know them well, like you can from a detailed chart, they come more naturally out of the pen.

    =)
     
  6. white
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    white Banned

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    If it works for you, cool.

    I prefer to start with a basic idea and let my characters grow. Sometimes I don't know where they are taking me, but that is part of the fun.
     
  7. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I create characters by writing scenes involving them. I think most writers let the characters grow in the writing. Where I differ from most, I think, is that I write scenes that I do not intend to include in the finished work. Just test scenes, character-development scenes.

    I enjoy doing this, and it also has the advantage of helping me build up all the backstory for the characters and their world. The disadvantage is that it isn't efficient - I wind up writing a whole bunch of stuff that isn't part of any story and that I never intend for people to see.
     
  8. Taylee91
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    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

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    I agree with Cog, sorry. All human beings are complex individuals. We can't completely define a character in one particular way because all the other ways they can be defined in are just as important. How a person acts with his friends could be completely different than the way he acts with his mother. And the way he acts depends on his respect towards those people.

    Try creating a back story for your characters if you can. This will open up doors for your character creating.

    T
     
  9. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    If it works great - I often use meditation after dressing and working out who my character is I breath them in tell myself I am a 6ft gay man with curly black hair, olive skin and brown eyes who can conduct universal elements. Just hoping it works as well as it did for the 6ft10 blonde haired blue eyed teen lol
     
  10. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    Referring a zodiac site seems like a great idea, but as an extension of what some had said, human are complex being, so don't limit yourself to what a particular zodiac sign says for your char. You can choose personality traits from all the zodiac signs and make a unique set of traits for your char. I think that will be the right way of using the zodiac site for char creation.
     
  11. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Eh, astrologoy often comes up with pretty contradictory results if you consult more than one source - or sometimes even within the same source! Lovely thing about it being such an imprecise science. If it's a way to get you thinking about the character, then there's nothing stopping it being just as effective as roleplaying them any other way, from answering questionaires, meditating on them, or writing around them...

    I usually come up with a pretty basic idea of a character and just jump in and write them, in the story. Once I have a better idea of who they are I go back and edit to make sure the early stuff is consistent with their later character... Eh, maybe a lot more work on the actual story especially if the plot is impacted by my edits, but I'd rather just be writing the story than faffing around. :p
     
  12. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    "All ways are good, except for the bad ones." - Swedish saying

    If it works for you and helps you, well then it is a good way to make characters for you as an individual.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i have to ditto cog's post on this... using any formula in the writing of fiction will usually result in 'formulaic fiction'... but if that's what you want to write, so be it... bob ludlum told me himself that he considered his bestsellers to be 'pancake fiction'...
     
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  14. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I always begin my story ideas with the plot/storyline, then make characters to fit that plot, not the other way around. So my MCs have personalities that suit their role in the story. :)
     
  15. SashaMerideth
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    SashaMerideth Contributing Member

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    I'm trying to come up with more characters, and this whole Zodiac thing sounds kinda cool, but there doesn't seem to be enough variety.
     
  16. polarboy
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    polarboy Member

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    For more options, you could try looking at the Enneagram or any number of psychology books that present personality archetypes.

    I agree with some concerns others expressed that turning to Sun signs (or other prepackaged personality portraits) leads to reductionistic/canned characters, though.

    So instead of trying to assign a Zodiac sign to a character, I'd be more inclined to turn to these resources for ideas of personality types I haven't already considered or tend to overlook.
     
  17. Anonym
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    Anonym Contributing Member

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    I loathe astrology, personally. But whatever works for you.
     
  18. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    I don't like the idea of using astrology because it limits the character. If they have to fit into a particular box then they have no room to grow or change. Think of your character as spaghetti not waffles. You want them to be abstract and free to change as the story goes on. You don't want their personality to be traits that all fit into neat little boxes. People are too complex for that. Therefore if you want your characters to be like real people don't box them in.

    What I do that has been what's worked best out of all the methods I've tried is this: I write 4 or 5 good attributes then 4 or 5 bad attributes that character has. Then I write down one major life event they've had that may affect how they behave in a given situation. This leaves a lot of space for the character to adapt their own personality as you write. It's been really amazing and exciting to me to really see my characters come to life. Best of luck. :)
     
  19. Taylee91
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    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

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    I concurr. I always seem to go off on a frenzy when first starting off on a new idea. I just get so caught up in it, that I momentarily forget about characters. Which are so important :D
     
  20. Jones6192
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    Jones6192 Member

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    This is probably a really bad strategy, but I usually start with cliche characters, and then, as I write, let them surprise me by growing into their own thing. Sometimes I try to create a character that breaks all the rules, only for them to become stereotypes as I go along. It's a hard balance.
     
  21. Egil1Eye
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    Egil1Eye Member

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    I have to admit, when it comes to creating characters, I tend to cheat.

    I use to role-play, so there are times that I get out my old rp manuals and I will role up a character, just the skeleton. Then I begin the fleshing out process, taking into account what my stories are about and sculping my character's personality to suit what it is he is needed to do.

    Then I set up a lineage and background that will add quirks, fears, and somewhat opposing personality traits to them. I must admit though, it can be difficult holding the character together at times, especially when they enter into a situation that has the tendency to pull them in several directions at once, but this is all part of developing my characters over the entire length of the story, or stories, instead of them remaining cookie-cutter throughout.
     
  22. Jones6192
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    Jones6192 Member

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    Another thing I do is I write out a Wiki-style article about each main character. A biography, a list of their skills and abilities, a psychological profile, physical description, personal posessions, etc.
     
  23. Agent Vatani
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    Agent Vatani Active Member

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    Here one of my ways.

    Name:
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    Persoanlity:
    Bio:
    Others:
    Likes:
    Dislikes:
    Fears:
    Dreams:
    Height:
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  24. JTheGreat
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    JTheGreat Contributing Member

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    Usually characters just come to me fleshed out to some extent. When I'm stuck I browse through TvTropes and find tropes that would fit well with my character and work from there. Sometimes snippets of dialogue pop into my mind that seem like something the character should and would say, so I develop their personality from it. I usually get appearances from the way their names are (a girl named Branwen would be earthy and brunette-ish, etc.). If the list of supposed tropes builds up I imagine a TvTropes-style article on the character, tropey commentary and all.

    As you can see, my character-building process is rather erratic.
     
  25. Dante Dases
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    Dante Dases Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's good to have something on some of these down if they matter to the plot. We know Janine is a young woman, middling height, athletically built (it's because of the heptathlon she competes in on a semi-pro basis), that she hopes to go pro someday soon and that a win at the regional championships next month will give her the impetus, but what about her reaction when she loses? Does she go into a shell, lose form for a period, give it up altogether?

    That's where we need to know the characters, and you don't get that off a sheet. Limit them to things like age and appearance, not the character's personality and mentality.
     

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