1. drifter265
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    drifter265 Banned

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    On explaining and introducing characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by drifter265, Mar 2, 2013.

    I know there is the saying, "show don't tell," but I've been writing my story and I've been in a pattern with introducing new characters. I'll introduce someone for the first time, or am bringing them back in, and I'll go on a narrative about a story in their past about them that helps explain their character. Like, for example, instead of saying he was nice, I'll write a paragraph or two or three about how he went an hour out of his way to get a loaf of bread for his grandmother. It's not part of the plot or even what's going on with the story at that moment but is just to explain character. I'll do this often with all the characters and I'm wondering if it's just too much of a detachment for the reader from the current events to read it. I think it's important though because now when Geoffrey is doing something, he's not just a blank page but now a person you know who didn't cry when his mom died and that he liked to cut chicken's heads off. See? I wrote that even though it's not relevant to the current plot or events but is just the past to explain his personality and character and that he's kind of psychopathic. But I go a page and a half on it.

    I'm thinking of watching a film or a tv show and I know that they don't go into these kind of things and so, I'm wondering, is it just a quality that only writers can have to go this deep into a person? Television and film don't show these parts of the books and so I'm wondering if it is even necessary. I'm definitely going to be mentioning his chicken thing and his mother thing by another character later in the book but I don't want to wait till then to reveal it. I think it explains a lot about him.

    I guess I'm just really new to writing and want to know the "do's" and "don'ts."
     
  2. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    Keep writing, reading and contributing to the forum, and you'll know more and more about writing. Is there even any concrete do's and don'ts of writing? I don't think so.

    I think if it's not relevant to the current events, do not explain their back story or what makes them who they are today. That kind of ruins the suspense of wanting to find out more about a character, you know? You can make them interesting without spilling the back story details immediately by showing who they are through their actions. Besides, how are you going to get your reader to care about the back story if you won't allow the character to grow on them first? Just my opinion.

    Hope this helped~
     
  3. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Why the flashback? why not have the present scene explain the character.

    You don't have to explain everything about a character's personality during the scene - that's what keeps people
    reading. If a son doesn't cry at his mom's funeral than the reader will go why isn't that guy crying, is he cold or
    repressed - and keep reading to find out. Then as the author you can
    start to dribble out information. If your characters off - give subtle clues. It's like Norman Bates
    in Psycho - we know there is something off about him but should we just start the book saying -
    Norman Bates kept his mother's corpse in the basement and would often wake up wearing her dresses.
    Actually that's not too bad but if you went on to describe why he did this - what's left for the
    book?

    Give info - memories, background when it suits a scene.
     
  4. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh does this ever sound like a bad idea. Beyond bad. Don't do it. And never tell us a character is "nice" either. At some point you'll be able to show us. Do it when it's relevant and makes sense.
     
  5. drifter265
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    drifter265 Banned

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    No no no no. His psychopathic tendencies and that he doesn't cry and liked to cut chicken's heads off is important because he turns VERY bad later and I want to slowly bring it in with these things and not just have it happen all at once. Like, I'll say, Tom walked in. Then they do something. Then I'll go off a little about a backstory of Tom doing something strange (like his psychopathic tendencies) because he turns into a villain later. So it is definitely relevant. I think I'm just overthinking this and I know it's right.
     
  6. drifter265
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    drifter265 Banned

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    Okay, I just figured it out. Let's say I were a script writer. Would these kind of "short back-stories" be something a script writer would find one of the difficulties when transitioning to novels?
     
  7. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Why can't you show us Tom doing, thinking, or saying something odd or off while he and your other character are doing whatever they're doing? You can bring up the backstory at a different time. It doesn't have to be when he's first introduced. You've probably met someone strange. Did you know how strange they were when you first met them. Or did it take a little while for you to realize just how strange they were?
     
  8. drifter265
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    drifter265 Banned

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    Ah, okay, I like this. I will do it when I finish the first draft though and am coming back to it.
     
  9. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Ever see the movie Rope? it's an old Hitchcock movie. In it two young men have strangled their friend for kicks, stuffed him in a trunk
    which they turn into a buffet for a party they throw the same night. All the guests are the dead young man's friends and family. At one part
    in the movie we learn that one of the killers used to strangle chickens on a family farm - something he gets very upset about. The background
    information is worked seamlessly into the moment. You have to find a scene that will allow you to work in background
    information.
     

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