1. Fizzedine
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    Fizzedine Member

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    planning your character

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Fizzedine, Jun 9, 2014.

    Hey guys

    just a quick question. What do you do to plan your characters?
    For example do you create a fact file on the character or do you write a back story per say?
    What works best for you?

    thanks guys
     
  2. Motley
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    Motley Active Member

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    I used to fill out character sheets, but quickly determined this was too cumbersome and a waste of time for me. I usually just throw them into the mix and see how they act. Most of the time, they reveal something new about themselves halfway through the story that requires some rewriting, but that's fine with me.
     
  3. pirate1802
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    pirate1802 Member

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    I write a paragraph on him/her (writing name, age etc coldly seems ...cold to me) and draw a picture. That's how I have a rough estimate of my character's bio and looks. But that's just that the beginning stuff. How they'll develop depends on how sober I am while writing the story. :p
     
  4. Fizzedine
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    Fizzedine Member

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    haha thanks guys :)
     
  5. Renee J
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    Renee J Contributing Member

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    I usually mull them over in my head, thinking of their past and present. Then, I throw them in the story and have them react to stuff. The character grows from there.
     
  6. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Characters usually just pop into my head, more or less fully formed. Often, just to get a better handle on them, I'll write little scenes involving them. These scenes won't (usually) be in the final story; they're just there as character exercises - I just trot the characters out into their world and let them prance around a bit, displaying themselves like show horses. Then I know who they are.

    I avoid character sheets. I suppose if I had a lot of time, and I really wanted to waste it doing something that is of no use whatsoever, I'd fill out character sheets. Then I'd have a stack of character sheets, but I still wouldn't have any actual characters.

    Characters don't live on character sheets, but they do live in scenes and stories. I think it's better to develop them in scenes and stories - that's their natural environment.
     
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  7. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I start with just the barest outline of an idea of what I need my character to be for the situation in which I am placing him. Sometimes I have a more specific notion than others, but they always evolve in the telling of the story.
     
  8. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Brief fact file with notes of specific events or characteristics if required.
     
  9. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    This.

    I don't keep my characters in a vacuum. Whenever I come up with a character, there's some level of integration with the plot involved as well, even if it's very basic. The characters grow from the plot--I can't imagine trying to create a character based on arbitrary attributes and characteristics. The needs of the story and the character will mold each other into what fits best.
     
  10. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm the opposite. My characters don't - can't - grow from the plot. Rather, the plot grows from the characters. That's how real life works. You are who you are, then something happens to you that sets you onto a plot - you change jobs, fall in love, have a child, drive your car off a bridge, get lost while on a camping trip, undergo a religious conversion, win a lottery, suffer a stroke, join the navy, enter the Olympics as a pole-vaulter, or whatever. Your character determines how you will act in each of these situations, and each situation will grow your character.

    The idea of having a plot in mind, then tailoring a character to perform the actions required by the plot, seems to me like simply building a puppet and pulling its strings. I don't get that at all. But maybe that's just me. :)
     
  11. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't know if I stated my position clearly enough. The characters are not dependent on the plot--they grow as the story takes shape. What I don't do is create a character for a character's sake, a character who is just a whole bunch of attributes but has nothing to do.

    The characters are never be-all, end-all when I come up with them. They'll have a general starting point and a general ending point (which isn't set in stone). But the story will get them from A to B. They create the story, but the story can't help but influence them as well. Does that make sense?
     
  12. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I think of characters and plot like two bodies of mass in space, each exerting force upon the other. I start out with a basic idea for my character, and a basic story line, and then each evolves in response to the other.
     
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  13. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, that! That's what I was going for.
     
  14. Adenosine Triphosphate
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    Adenosine Triphosphate Old Scratch Contributor

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    Moderately detailed fact files.
     
  15. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It kind of makes sense. Of course, the events of the story affect the character - if they didn't, the story isn't very important to the character, is it? The character has to go through an arc if the story is to be satisfying.

    I don't understand the sentence in red above; it seems to contradict itself. If the characters grow as the story takes shape, then they are dependent on the plot, are they not?

    My point is that I can't start with a plot, then design characters programmed to act it out. As I said, characters (and settings) come to me, mostly unbidden - I can't help that. I just find myself thinking about them. I put them into situations, and they determine the plot. I mean, I determine the plot, because I came up with the characters and the situation (I'm not suggesting anything magical is going on here, with my characters deciding what they want to do independent of me), but I can't start with a plot. I always have characters, settings, and situations before I have plots.

    For me, plot comes out of characters, not the other way around.
     
  16. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ah, gotcha. What I meant by the sentence in red is that I don't create the initial characters because of the plot--they don't exist to fill a specific role (though static side characters do). I create the plot and the characters together, at the same time. So I don't create a plot to suit the characters, nor characters to suit a plot. When I create a character, it's more like this:

    How about a girl whose mother died giving birth to her, who feels so guilty for living she's driven to self-harm, and who now has a strained relationship with her single father?

    To me, that's character and plot together. I have a vague semblance of plot--her reconnecting with her father and learning to forgive herself for being alive--as well as the star character. Now she'll influence the way the story goes, and the story will influence just how she gets to the endpoint I have in mind.

    ETA: And that girl has a name and some personality traits, too.
     
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  17. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    My characters have a place whence they come and a place whither they are going. So does my story or progression of events. They go together like the two sides of a DNA helix. I know where I want my story to start and I know where I want it to end. I know where I want my characters to start and where I want them to end as well. It's a matter of writing rungs on the ladder that keep the two connected. For me.

    [​IMG]
     
  18. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    I write down the very basics. approx. height, build, full name (first, middle, last) age, DOB, family (mother/father/brother/sister) eye colour, hair colour and then I put them into situations to see how they react then I ask why they reacted that way which gives me any back-story.

    For my fiction, I actually drew out a full family tree for both main characters complete with DOB's and full names for extended family too. I still refer back to it from time to time.
     
  19. kburns421
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    kburns421 Member

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    I keep reading about the importance of a character's biggest strengths, fears, flaws, needs, etc. and all these rules pertaining to them. Do any of you determine these ahead of time as part of the basic planning, or are these the things that manifest as you're writing?
     
  20. Ethroptur
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    Ethroptur New Member

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    I usually plan out my characters very early on. I write down their fears, flaws, redeeming qualities, ideology and philosophy for future reference. Their backstory is usually the first thing I learn about them and how that influences the plot. I also like to know their Myer-Briggs Personality Type.
     
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  21. prettyprettyprettygood
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    prettyprettyprettygood Active Member

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    I'm not entirely sure how I come up with characters. I guess they just pop into my head, vaguely at first and after I start writing they just become clearer. I do have an idea of a very basic character arc before I start - like I want to write about the redemption of a ne'er-do-well or a snob learning to be less shallow or whatever. I could never be arsed to do character sheets or interviews.
     
  22. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    Depends on the story and the character. Since I come up with the main character and the plot together, I usually have the main facets of the lead actor in mind from the beginning. But for the important side characters, I may devise traits/fears/strengths/weaknesses as they're needed. I tend to look ahead a couple of scenes and get a feel for the next few steps I'm going to take, so if I see a hole where motivations don't make sense or personalities don't allow for what needs to happen, I'll see what makes more sense to edit--character or plot. I've come up with some of my best character quirks this way, and some of my best originally unintended scenes.

    It always just depends.
     
  23. Chesster
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    Chesster Member

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    I think its good to have at least a history of the character before you start, so at least they have come from somewhere and you know where that somewhere is. It doesn't have to be weighty and cumbersome, just a real brief timeline of main events.
    I'd like to say that, if you are writing a heavy dialogue story, then it may well be a good idea to write a mock interview. 10 questions or so, about every day stuff, nothing too complicated that your character answers in their voice using their language so that you can really hear who your character is in your head. From the off you will instantly nail the dialogue because your character will speak to you.
     
  24. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    Mine are always there. They just come to me and announce themselves.
     
  25. Venom.
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    Venom. Member

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    When it comes to planning characters, I'm not what you'd call excessive, but not minimalist either. I'll write out their history, from birth right up to the story, and from that I'll determine their personality, and their values. I like to get a feel for these characters. I'll figure out their importance to the story, and their core values as characters. I'll then focus directly on plot, with a much more guided view.

    This allows me to play around with characters and see them do things that can surprise me, but all the while keeping to a story and design which allows me to keep track of them, and removing the need to re-write large portions to suit a character's new attitude.
     

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