1. NeeNee
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    NeeNee Member

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    Need some character ideas

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by NeeNee, Aug 24, 2016.

    I started in my novel writing class yesterday. Since the goal is to write a "shitty first draft" (that is what the syllabus says), and plus since is my first time ever attempting something like this I am going to take my ghost story idea and use that as the bare bones structure of my novel. I already have the story arc laid out (hero's journey) and now I need a little help with some supporting character ideas.

    My protagonist is a 24 yr old girl who's been hired for the summer by a cemetery association to catalog, organize, and put all of their old files on the computer. The cemetery is over 100 years old and is huge ( it is almost 1.5 miles from one end to the other end). The building where all of the files are kept are in the house where the caretaker once lived.

    My antagonist is going to be a giant snarling beast that blocks her path whenever she tries to go to a certain area of the cemetery.

    My underlying concept is that what she sees in the light of day is how people want themselves to be seen, or how they feel about themselves. The snarling beast at the end will be revealed to be a soldier who feels that because of things he did during the war that he sees himself as an evil snarling beast and doesn't deserve to be seen any other way.

    I need some suggestions for some supporting characters that she will meet. At the end of the story she will discover that everyone she's been in contact with at the cemetery are all ghosts (most will be harmless).

    I need some ideas of characters she can meet in the cemetery and maybe some very subtle clues that they are residents and not guests before she actually discovers this for herself. I don't want it blatantly obvious.
     
  2. SethLoki
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    SethLoki Unemployed Autodidact Contributor

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    This rings bells with me; did you moot this idea a while back?

    Could your antagonist have a couple of 'hench-beasts'* that are a bit fleeter of foot and can whizz about the cemetery's periphery more nimbly blocking some of the MC's oblique attempts at escape? Could you have a some of the cemetery's younger occupants latch on to your MC and see her as a mother figure as they've lost their own parents? Could she meet someone who in dialogue reveals secrets that had been taken to the grave but now revealed... ?

    Fertile ground your cemetery for story (and sub-story) telling; I think it's a really good idea.

    *Deceased Pvts. to the Staff Sgt. who share the place after all dying together < small side-story there too
     
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  3. NeeNee
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    NeeNee Member

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    Thank you Seth, I appreciate the support. Yes the one that I wrote out the story arc for will be the base for the novel. Since it's not going to be a short story I need to add more sub stories etc. I hadn't thought of the antagonist having something like helpers but that might work. I will have to play with that idea as I go along.

    I want her to see people in the light as they present themselves to be, like in the light we see Donald Trump, in the shadows he would appear as the devil to her. I need some ideas for characters that would appear one way to her by light and another way to her in shadows.
     
  4. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    If I was taking a course that asked me to write a shitty anything, I would demand my money back. But that's just me. I know this shitty advice to write shitty first drafts seems to be popular. Personally, I think it's bad advice. All that aside, I would like to say that if you are basing your novel on a short story you wrote, sometimes it's better to continue the story rather than try to fatten it up. Think about what would happen next. You are talking about writing a whole novel. That's a longer story in more ways than one. Trying to come up with subplots and more characters that may or may not be needed in the story seems like it could sure add pages, but if it's just for the sake of having the story be long enough to be called a novel, I don't think you are likely to be happy with the results.
     
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  5. NeeNee
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    NeeNee Member

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    Actually I haven't written it, all I did was develop the idea and write out a heros journey story arc for it, I haven't actually done more than that with it. The idea of the course is to learn how to keep pushing ourselves to write out the entire novel rather than get hung up on trying to restart the first two or three chapters over and over again. The process is to write out a very rough first draft and then come back after we've done it complete start to finish and start editing it in places. Once the editing is done and we think we've got a pretty decent story the next step is to take it to beta readers and then most likely another round of editing and then literary agents etc. The story itself isn't shitty, but in the large scheme of things the rough first draft should look pretty shitty to the final product if all goes according to plan.
     
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  6. ToBeInspired
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    ToBeInspired Contributing Member

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    Aging woman with children wanting to be seen as glam beauty queen.
    Mid-level executive wanting to be seen as powerful leader figure.
    Evangelist wanting to be seen as an object of worship.

    Honestly, I feel the story would be a lot better if (disregard shitty assignment) if there was more contrast between how thy would like to be seem, how they normally are, and how they actually are inside.

    Example: Mid-level executive is manipulative and conniving. Does anything to get up the ladder. Thinks higher of himself than the actual truth. Actual ability is potential is lower than perceived resulting in no real advancement in position. Want to be seen = imposing leader CEO type. Reality = slightly pudgy, glasses, balding. (I'll give him good posture). Soul = snake. Talks to her and then lunges at her, but bites it's own tail instead.
     
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  7. NeeNee
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    NeeNee Member

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    I think that is most likely what I will do with a few key supporting characters, contrasting their thoughts of what they think they are versus the reality of what they actually are. I know lots of people in my real life I could draw examples from even - a co worker who thinks she is one of the company's best agents that in reality does a very mediocre job or my son's best friend who thinks she is a "ten" and all men she meets either want to sleep with her or want to rape her. The idea that a man doesn't find her at all attractive boggles her mind. (She is okay looking but not the bombshell she seems to think she is).
     
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  8. hawls
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    hawls Active Member

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    Daylight = How they want to be seen/How they feel about themselves.
    Nightfall = How they actually are.

    Then does your soldier appear as the beast during the day? Because if he sees himself as a monster then he would be a beast during the day.

    Also, a "Donald Trump"esque person appearing as the devil to your MC; it's rather subjective (technically). Would the magic of the cemetery pass that kind of moral judgement? Or is it that the magic of the cemetery manifests the way your MC sees people. That also presumes that your MC has interacted with these ghosts and has come to that kind of conclusion.

    I'm not entirely comfortable with the concept that the cemetery exposes the ghosts for what they "actually are" at any given hour of the day. I don't like the idea that we have a fundamental and fixed nature.

    Perhaps the formula could be:

    Daylight = The person they want to be
    Nightfall = The person they feared becoming

    Reversing this could be interesting too. If the cemetery was a more hostile, scarier place during the day but rather serene and beautiful at night, that would be a nice take on the setting. Presumably, she has to try and get work done during the day anyway. Also, if the residents of the cemetery make the place so unappealing during the day it would go a long way to explaining why no one likes to visit it anymore, and the residents get more and more resentful, and then your MC could discover that the "older" residents started to behave this way to justify why no one visited their graves anymore, why their loved ones "forgot" about them and moved on. And then because it kept the loved ones of new residents away too, the new residents also became resentful.

    Sometimes you get news reports of people who have vandalized graves. What if it was the residents themselves vandalizing their own graves. Your MC could confront this gang of teenagers supposedly vandalizing graves during the day. But then by night they are actually a group of old people, who stand there looking at these vandalized graves in disgust and pity. That could be a nice little B-plot. Or C-plot.
     
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  9. Sack-a-Doo!
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  10. NeeNee
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    Yes actually the soldier would be a beast during the day. He is going to mainly occupy one section of the cemetery, he won't be roaming the entire place. The majority of ghosts will be harmless to my MC and until we get to the climax of the book she won't know they are actually ghosts, to her they are just regular people although some will have some quirky habits.

    My original thought was that the shadows would show their true appearances - like cute little girls in daylight might be terribly disfigured from the disease or fire or whatever that caused their death when they are in the shadows. Their true personality hasn't changed although their appearance has.

    I am trying to work out an underlying sub story that has the message or theme that real beauty, true beauty is something that you can't tell just by looking at someone's outward appearance, it starts within a person and radiates outward. Same idea with ugliness, no matter how good looking someone or something is on the outside doesn't mean it will be beautiful on the inside. (Ever cut into a beautiful red apple only to find it totally brown on the inside? Kind of that concept.)
     
  11. SethLoki
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    SethLoki Unemployed Autodidact Contributor

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    I've written about this; not much of it has seen the light of day but my angle was that of the graves themselves. Some are overset with more than the de facto gravestone; ornate tombs slapped over the burial site. Their reason for being there I've deduced is mostly vanity; the dead person's post-life whimsy or the kin being ostentatious with their spending—being like 'king of the hill' albeit a graveyard at the top of the street. Only the smallest percentage of such an endeavour I feel is an outpouring of love.

    Anyway, the parallel to be drawn is that outside where things are all geometric, polished marble and gold incised letters. Inside the core is very rotten indeed.
     
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  12. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I almost didn't read this thread all the way through, because I'm not generally a fan of 'supernatural' stories, and this sounded like it might be a bit of a ho-hum. However, as I read more, I got quite intrigued. I think you've not only got the bare bones of a very interesting story, but you will be doing a lot more with it than just trying to scare people. In fact, it sounds more intriguing than scary, and I like that.

    Here's what I would do. In fact I might try it myself, just for fun. I love visiting old graveyards. I don't find them scary at all. I love walking around and looking at the stones and thinking about who is buried underneath them. Who the families are (most of them ARE families.) Reading the inscriptions if they're still legible, and thinking about what they say (or don't say.) Looking at the ages of the people, and realising that some died very young, and some lived to a ripe old age. These stones would have been erected by people who knew and probably loved the folks buried there. However, there might also have been lots of mixed feelings as well. And the little stones that are unmarked with anything other than a name, or not even that? Lots of stories there ...including the fact that these people might have died alone, or far from home, or they weren't regarded well by their surviving friends and relatives, or they didn't have much money, or they had no money at all but somebody thought enough of them to put a marker on their grave.

    I'd definitely recommend that you spend some time in a graveyard, if you haven't already. Go there with a notebook and pen and scribble down your thoughts.

    And good luck with your story! It sounds really worthwhile.
     
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  13. NeeNee
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    Thank you Jannert, yes I am trying to stay away from the typical, predictable ghost story, I am wanting some deeper meaning to it than just scare you kind of thing. I spent many hours and many days over the years at the cemetery that has inspired my story. I don't live in that area anymore though - that cemetery is in Ohio and I am now in Tennessee. Like you I love reading the headstones and thinking about the age of the person, and so forth. There's a section in this cemetery called "The Children's Garden", most of the stones in that section are of children who died during the major flu epidemic in I believe 1927 (been awhile so I don't remember the exact year but they are all the same year). The really sad ones are when you realize that one family lost all of their children on the same day.
     
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  14. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    A lot of stories in graveyards, for sure. The sad thing is, so many spend time and money carving elaborate headstones, but a couple of hundred years down the road, these inscriptions will be more or less unreadable. Everything passes eventually.
     
  15. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    You've certainly hit on a truth in some instances. I remember one of my favourite graveyards to 'haunt' was the one in Marquette, Michigan, back when I lived there. The town had a heyday at the end of the 19th and the early 20th century, due to iron mining which made a lot of people very rich (and resulted in some FANTASTIC old homes and municipal buildings that are still standing today.) The graveyard certainly showed this rich/poor divide as well. Several family mausoleums dominated the parklike graveyard (it is like a park, with a pond, swans, you name it) and some headstones were elaborate sculptures. I did get the feeling there was a bit of one-upsmanship going on.

    Of course any Victorian-era graveyard will have a lot of over-the-top headstoning, because the Victorian era was like that. Individuality was encouraged, so all the headstones aren't the same. And there was a certain Victorian-era fondness for death and all its trappings as well.

    Here's a photo I took last year of my favourite headstone in the Alloway Kirk yard, in Scotland. This is the place where Robert Burns set his Tam O'Shanter poem, and this gravestone would have been there at the time of the setting. Amazing place. They've had the sense to keep it more or less untouched, and it's extremely atmospheric, even though it's surrounded by 'town' now.
    headstone.png
     
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2016
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  16. SethLoki
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    SethLoki Unemployed Autodidact Contributor

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    There's some beauty in that there decay; is the orange a type of lichen? I'd like it to be rust but I think I've got that on my mind because you mentioned the iron miners. What gets me is when an epitaph has worn away—when the words have gone. With that goes the identity of the occupant and the only remaining message then is that the person has been forgotten.

    I've chanced on a couple of graves of people of note; Sir Matt Busby (a man who I met in life), he's buried in the same cemetery as my mother and Samuel Plimsoll is next door but one from my friend's father. Both plots quite humble really. I'd swap the experience for yours with Robbie Burns. I'm not spiritual but there'd certainly be a placebo effect going on; I'd be more inspired roughing something out in the moleskin in the after-presence of someone like that.
     
  17. Scot
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    True story.

    I had a three year old niece (now 16) who went with her mum every month to lay flowers on granny's grave. When leaving the cemetery she would always turn and wave.
    After a few visits my sister-in law asked my niece who she was waving to.

    "Oh, just the people over there next to the trees."

    "What people?"

    "Them" Pointing and waving.

    The cemetery was deserted.
     

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