1. getlostwithme
    Offline

    getlostwithme Member

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2016
    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    5

    Physical vs. Personality

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by getlostwithme, Aug 29, 2016.

    In my own opinion I am good at describing a character physically, their appearance, in a very detailed and visual way. But when it comes to rheir personality I draw a blank. I have a hard time developing a character's emotional state and and feelings as well. Any advice?
     
    Sig Studios and Terathorn like this.
  2. Simpson17866
    Offline

    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2013
    Messages:
    1,754
    Likes Received:
    1,296
    Welcome to the site!

    The most important thing to do when you're stuck: trial and error ;) Just pick something at random, and if you don't like it, then pay attention to what specifically you don't like about it so that you can narrow down what you probably would or wouldn't like to try instead.

    I actually have a go-to list of elements that I experiment with trying-and-erring specifically, but that I talk about them a lot here. Would you like me to PM you so everyone else doesn't have to read the same thing all over again?
     
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2016
  3. ddavidv
    Offline

    ddavidv Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2013
    Messages:
    355
    Likes Received:
    240
    Location:
    Pennsylvania, USA
    We've discussed physical appearance descriptions on here before. The overview is excessive details don't matter and can actually turn off a reader if overdone.

    What makes a character is their personality. To be a fiction writer you have to study people. Watch what they do, not just what they say.
    As for feelings/emotions ask yourself how would YOU feel or react in a given circumstance? If you are a nice person but your character is a bad person try to imagine they feel the opposite of what you do. Picture someone you know and try to imagine how they would react. Human nature is often predictable. A story throws them into circumstances they are often not ready to handle. Their personality decides HOW they handle the circumstance.
     
    Oscar Leigh and Spencer1990 like this.
  4. izzybot
    Offline

    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2015
    Messages:
    867
    Likes Received:
    957
    Location:
    SC, USA
    Usually when it comes to any aspect of character development, I find the best place to look for help or inspiration is to study real people first, and other well-written characters second. Take someone close to you, someone you know well, and as an exercise try to describe their personality. Maybe they're quick to anger, or maybe they're remarkably level-headed. Maybe they're studious and hardworking, or maybe they're a lazy slacker. Pick out a few traits that sum them up pretty well - the ones that really jump out to you once you're looking. How would you simplify a character this way? What traits do they have that are really necessary and prevalent in the story?

    As an example, Harry Potter is a bit hotheaded, brave, stubborn, independent, and doesn't bend to authority figures well. Plenty of things in those books wouldn't've happened (or wouldn't have happened the way they did) if he didn't have those traits. He mouths off to people like Snape and Umbridge, he acts rashly but with good intentions, he tends to do what he wants / thinks is right regardless of rules or sense. A strong, active character helps to drive along the plot because of their personality traits, so what traits do your characters need?

    Negative personality traits matter too. Sometimes they're the same as the 'positive' ones - Harry's righteous indignation can get him in trouble and come out as anger that hurts people - but as often as not people will just have flaws that make their lives harder. These can drive the plot too. Notice them in real people, and take notes about how you can work such flaws into characters.

    Once you have a personality at least sort of figured out (these things take time to develop), it becomes easier to figure out emotional states. I think figuring out your character's backstory matter for this a lot, too, because past experiences can influence peoples' reactions to certain things in a big way. Drawing off of real people at first helps because you can measure their reactions to things - if you've taken traits from a friend, ask that friend how they'd feel about an event, or see how it effected them when something similar happened. History comes in, usually, when a reaction is surprising or seems 'out of character' - eg, I had a friend who was pretty fearless, but because of a traumatic experience she'd had as a kid, was terrified of guns.

    Also, I don't know if this is what you meant, but just to cover bases I wanted to say that you don't really want to actually describe characters' personalities that much. It the kind of thing you want to show rather than tell. Otherwise you might end up with a character who doesn't actually have much of a personality, or who in action has a personality that opposes the one you've stated.
     
    Lyrical, Oscar Leigh and Spencer1990 like this.
  5. Spencer1990
    Offline

    Spencer1990 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2016
    Messages:
    935
    Likes Received:
    1,065


    Some people hate books about writing and this isn't one that most people would sit down and read from cover to cover. But if you're having a problem with your character's personality (A hugely important aspect of the craft) then I highly recommend the linked book. It's packed full of inspirational material to get ideas for characters and possible reactions to various stimuli.

    It's not a be all end all guide to developing dynamic characters. I'm recommending it as a tool to help you learn how to develop fully realized fictional characters--ones that readers could relate to.
     
  6. Terathorn
    Offline

    Terathorn Member

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2016
    Messages:
    35
    Likes Received:
    48

    Welcome!

    I just wanted to offer my assistance if needed, I have a 5 page character sheet i designed to help keep a characters psychological profile handy.

    Aside from that, I must agree with the other posters. Watch people, head to your local mall and have a seat. Bring a notebook!

    Take notes on how people interact with each other. Is there anything special or significant?

    Humans are by far the most interesting species. We all interact in different ways.

    As usual, just my 3 cents :)

    ~Tera
     
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2016
    Oscar Leigh likes this.
  7. Oscar Leigh
    Offline

    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2016
    Messages:
    4,425
    Likes Received:
    1,982
    Location:
    Australia
    Also so it's relevant everyone has a bad side and a stuff can be connected with even if it's not something you'd consider a trait of yours. I can really connect with fastidiousness since I have a fastidious element but I'm also chaotic and in some ways I am messy. That's an easy example but it works for a lot of things.
     
    Terathorn likes this.
  8. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,907
    Likes Received:
    10,096
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    My advice is to think about what they are facing and dealing with in the story. That's the vehicle for giving us what you're talking about. If you just give me a description of their personality in the same way that you give me a description of their appearance and the outfit they have on that day, that's really kind of meaningless. You have more than one outfit in your closet. You've had more than one hair style. You've been small when you were young. Right? All these things can and do change and aren't set it stone like in a cartoon. In a cartoon, the Scooby-Doo gang wears the exact same clothing every single day for their whole lives and they never ever age. That's not how life really is, right?

    Think of your character's personality like that. The character can't be a Scooby-Doo gang member. The character has to change. You can have a basic idea of the person, and that idea will probably be tied into the story you want to write.

    Let me ask you two question before I ramble on:

    1) Are you a pantser, a planner, or a plantser?
    2) Do you have an idea of the story you want to write? Do you have an idea of the reason for writing this story? They thing you want to say with it?
     
    Lyrical, Terathorn and Oscar Leigh like this.
  9. deadrats
    Online

    deadrats Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2016
    Messages:
    641
    Likes Received:
    293
    I don't think you describe a character's personality as much as you need to draw it out throughout the whole story. A descriptive paragraph about a character's appearance can work. A paragraph about their personality, maybe not so much. It can take time to get a feel for someone's personality in real life, but we usually have a sense of who someone is or who we think they are pretty quickly. Assuming you have made it past page two in your story, your character probably already has somewhat of a personality. I don't like to separate character from story. I create characters in the context of the story I am telling. They only exist in the world I created for them. We as writers make decisions. Your character can have any personality you want. And maybe that's where you are struggling. But, really, it's all up to you. And try not to overthink it. When you are writing a story, it's usually the story of one of your characters. I don't even see how you could write a story with characters lacking in the personality department. If you can think of character and story as one, you will probably be on the right track. This is not an issue of "physical vs. personality." They are not competing with each other. Description can always be added, taken out and changed. A character's personality is more a part of the story. I say let it come out in the story. Like I said, it's probably already there.
     
    Oscar Leigh and Simpson17866 like this.
  10. Sig Studios
    Offline

    Sig Studios Member

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2016
    Messages:
    21
    Likes Received:
    6
    I understand your struggle completely! Only it's kind of backwards. I have problems putting a face onto my personalities. Sometimes I have a good image but it doesn't fit the narrative of the story or their personality. What I tend to do is think what would a person who had these traits look like? Or rather what do certain personality traits have to do with facial features. I like gaining inspiration from facial readings as well.

    So to translate to your problem if you had super cute girl who wears flower dresses and sun hats and in general likes to be cute. To add an interesting personality to her, maybe give her something contradictory to her appearance. Maybe she's really ugly or maybe she talks badly behind people's back but doesn't want to face the repercussions of her bad habits, so she dresses in an innocent way to take suspicions off her. Perhaps she really is super cute but she actually dislikes the style she has and wants to be more laid back but her modeling job won't let her drop her image.

    Another thing you could do is use visual cues to infer on what your character might do in their spare time and then speculate why they do this thing. A boy with greasy, dark hair, light brown eyebrows, acne, and bags under their eyes with glasses. The greasy hair and acne can come from not taking the best care of yourself. Light brown eyebrows and dark hair indicate a dye job. Maybe he's trying to improve on his appearance and thought dark hair would suit him better or is emulating someone he saw on tv. Glasses may come from straining his eyes from countless days spent alone in his room, staring at a computer.

    Ok I'm done rambling now, but I hope I helped! It's just some things that I try doing.
     
  11. big soft moose
    Online

    big soft moose Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2016
    Messages:
    1,455
    Likes Received:
    1,039
    IMO personality is another of those show don't tell things - if you show your character going on a stupid and ill planned sprre of destruction while drunk and then getting bailed out of the drunk tank by his mother (again) the reader will conclude that hes self destructive with problems in his life , without you saying so
     
  12. Oscar Leigh
    Offline

    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2016
    Messages:
    4,425
    Likes Received:
    1,982
    Location:
    Australia
    Yes, usually personality is conveyed through action, mannerisms and dialogue. The character tells it themselves.
     
  13. vermissage
    Offline

    vermissage Member

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2016
    Messages:
    23
    Likes Received:
    12
    Speech tics and mannerisms, the clothes the character wears, and likes and dislikes about almost anything (food for example), are very easy ways to convey personality.
     
    Oscar Leigh likes this.

Share This Page