1. indy5live
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    indy5live Active Member

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    Reason a character stands out

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by indy5live, Dec 21, 2013.

    What makes a character stand out in terms of: Why them and not someone else? What makes them so special that they're the only one capable of fulfilling the key role? Why will they succeeded where others have failed? Is it motivation? It is background? Is it experience? Is it all three?

    Harry Potter had the lightning bolt on his forehead, connecting him directly to the enemy.Luke Skywalker was the offspring of Darth Vader, arguably the greatest Jeti to live.
    Froto Baggins was selfless, capable of carrying the rings burden without becoming possessed by it.
    Prophecy spoke of the kids in Narnia, they just had to learn and accept their roles.
    Neo was just a badass, capable of moving and manipulating the Matrix in ways no one else had before.Robert Langdon was a genius in history, culture, brotherhoods, religion, symbols, etc. [This is more of a discussion than actually needing help developing a character, but it will be a good resource for other writers seeking ideas of ways to set their character a part from the masses.]
     
  2. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    That's just a physical identifier, but not what made him stand out. You'll need to look more to personality.

    Again, not what made him stand out. Look to how he developed over the course of the story. From where he began to where he ended up and how he interacted with others.

    And it's spelled Jedi.

    Frodo and you're close. He was slowly getting possessed by it over the course of the story, but where others would succumb immediately, his innocence stayed off the inevitability for a longer time, allowing him a greater span of time to work with.

    Often, what makes a character stand out is not so much the surface we see outside, but the stuff inside as it manifests outwardly through their interactions with others.
     
  3. cazann34
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    cazann34 Active Member

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    The writer has made them special by putting them into this fictional situation because they have what it takes to succeed or better still (for the reader) they don't. And they have to muddle through, making mistakes along the way creating pace and tension which drives the story forward.

    I think what you are driving at is how the writer twists the characters past (tying all the loose ends) full circle to explain why they were the best person to save the world, defeat the bad guy(s) or find the truth. Many writers start at the end and work backwards to the beginning, sometimes they foreshadow some of the plot (giving the reader hints to what is about to happen) but more often than not the writer has no idea what attributes the hero has that will help him save the world or defeat the bad guys. They work it out as they write. The subconscious is a wonderful tool for the writer. The right side of the brain will work out the twists before the left side of the brain has told the arm to raise the coffee cup to the mouth.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    For that matter, what makes Sam Gamgee stand out? And stand out he does. It's not just because he's a bucolic comic relief. Sometimes he is that. It's not just his single-minded devotion to his friend.

    It's his well-rounded, multifaceted, character that at the same time feels genuine, almost familiar. Contrast him with Merry and Pippin, whom you can scarcely tell apart.
     
  5. DrWhozit
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    DrWhozit Banned

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    Why does the local Kroger store always turn all the lights off when they see me coming?:confused:
     
  6. Love to Write
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    Love to Write I'm a lover of writing. What else is to be said? Contributor

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    A character stands out when they are unique and different from the characters around them.
    They are loved the most when people can relate to them.
    They are remembered mainly because of the way they handled the difficult situations put in their paths or how they relate to the characters around them.
    For me, it's a combination of all these things that causes that particular character to be the one that stands out/is the main character.
     
  7. DrWhozit
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    DrWhozit Banned

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    Heroes are as heroes do. One persons villain is another person's hero. If we wrote historical fiction about Abbey Hoffman it wouldn't be very effective to merely have him pay $50 and pick up the garbage. He would have to be seen as the one who leaps from above to foil the beating of the Rodney Kings in life.
     
  8. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    Concerning Harry Potter:

    Actually, had someone else (Neville Longbottom) been the Chosen One, it's possible that the series would have ended completely differently (and, obviously, wouldn't have been the same story and very possibly ticked off a lot of people, or wouldn't have been as popular). The key to Harry being victorious over Voldemort was in regards to selfless-ness and love for his friends and family - not his powers, scar, or connection to Voldemort - that won out in the end.

    Concerning Frodo Baggins:

    He actually would not have been successful were it not for his friend, Mr. Samwise Gamgee. He, himself, is actually not overly exceptional beyond your own description of him. I think that's what made his character believable. He couldn't slay the orcs and find his way to Mt. Doom, all while retaining his unyielding resistance to the ring, by himself. Instead, he needed two men, three hobbits, and elf, a dwarf and a wizard to help him, as well as Gollum, and, in the end, he still caved to the ring's power.

    (You're all welcome to note the similarities between Harry and Frodo, as many have done - and, I believe, rightly so - in the past.)

    A lot of characters, however, are not the one person who can do it (as in Harry Potter), but the one person who will do it (as in Frodo Baggins). As Shakespeare said, "Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them." Such as it is with MCs. Look at Eragon, for example: farmboy who found an egg. Did it come to him on purpose, because he was meant to find it? Or could the egg have chosen a number of people, and he was simply the one it came across? The series could be all a matter of chance, couldn't it?
     
  9. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Sometimes a character stands out because he doesn't appear to be the most likely to succeed. The best example I can think of is Keith Stewart, Nevil Shute's shy, quiet, unimposing hero in Trustee From the Toolroom. No matter what else might have made him unlikely to pursue a quest to the other side of the world, there was one overriding factor - his sense of duty as trustee to his suddenly-orphaned young niece.

    A more recent example is Martha in Rachel Simon's The Story of Beautiful Girl, a widow living alone on a small Pennsylvania farm whose life is transformed when two runaways from a state institution leave a newborn baby in her care. Never having had a child and living alone, she is singularly unprepared to meet this challenge, but in living up to her promise, given at the moment the baby's mother was apprehended, she completely turns her own life around.
     
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2013
  10. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Taking a slightly different tack, I would say the easiest way to make any character stand out for a reader is to make sure the reader is living inside the character's head during the story.

    It truly doesn't matter what the character does, or whether he/she is a hero, villain or everyman/woman. It's how strongly the reader identifies with this character that can make the difference between forgettable and unforgettable.

    There are, of course, exceptions. Characters whose heads we never enter, who still stand out. (Steerforth, in David Copperfield is a good example. But—would he have stood out so well, if we hadn't had David's very close assessment of him? In other words, we were in David's head very strongly, whenever we saw Steerforth. And David was not always a 'reliable' narrator when it came to his friend, either. We saw Steerforth through David's eyes, and Steerforth became more than his actions would have warranted otherwise.)

    One of my favourite 'strong' characters is the lovely Travis Coates in the 'children's' classic Old Yeller. (There's a book I wish I'd written myself.) Travis doesn't do anything earth-shattering on a world stage, but I can still hear his 'voice' in my head when I think about the book, and his coming-of-age story was incredibly convincing. I still re-read it on occasion, and am struck by how spare the story is, and yet how much we know about Travis and his family by the end. It's a mistake to see that story as a 'dog' story, incidentally - it's definitely a coming-of-age story, grounded in realism. And one of the best ever written.
     
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  11. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    layers. Multi-layered characters who don't just follow a set pattern and path.

    Those are the ones you tend to gravitate toward in stories
     
  12. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    This. It's true because, unless I'm greatly mistaken, we are all different when you dig a bit deeper, even the somewhat dense quarterback, the dizzy cheerleader blonde, or the broody gawth. You just have to dig up the things that make the character an individual instead of a stereotype.

    As far as heroes / heroines go, one thing that I always appreciate is that s/he is not The Chosen One. Of course I love some stories where the MC is tjust that and the only person who has the power to stop the universe from exploding or whatever, but if given the choice, I'd rather read about your ordinary joe / jane (more easily relatable since I'm one) tossed into extraordinary circumstances that force them to become extraordinary, but without a grand revelation that they were destined to become extraodrinary from the get-go anyway by some divine providence.
     
  13. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    You said a character stands out, as against protagonist. There are several things that makes any character memorable.

    • They have their own tics that get them noticed. This one may stop and think before speaking, another may smoke when nervous. One may retreat from confrontion and another is "in your face."

    • They each have a unique way of speaking, words they favor, and filler words, like "well..." etc.

    • What they do/say matters a great deal to the plot, setting, or personality.

    • They aren't plain vanilla. The trick is to turn the volume up on your characters a bit but not to go to eleven.

    • Supporting characters they have a different agenda or understanding of the situation from the protagonist, even when they support that character. And they never, never, never intuitively know what the protagonist needs when s/he walks into the room, simply because the plot says they're to help. In fact, their "misunderstanding" of what the protagonist hopes to accomplish as a short term goal gives a reason to list the options and let the reader know why s/he chose the one they're going to pursue. They also don't turn off and wait their cue when the protagonist is in the room but not addressing them.

    In short:

    “A character, to be acceptable as more than a chess piece, has to be ignorant of the future, unsure about the past, and not at all sure of what he is supposed to be doing.” -Anthony Burgess
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I would disagree with Mr. Burgess to some degree. A character can clearly see his or her past, future, and what needs to be done, and still be memorable. Consider Paul Muad'dib of Dune. He clearly saw his destiny and origins, to the dismay of the Bene Gesserit and others. He knew he had to act to mitigate the damage of his destiny, while at the same time knowing his destiny could not be materially altered.

    However, it remains good general advice. Don't make your characters omniscient unless you know damn well what you are doing, and even, suspect you are arrogant and have bitten off too much.

    Confidence is important, as long as you don't drown in the quagmire of your own ego.
     
  15. Baz the WarriorDreamer
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    Baz the WarriorDreamer Member

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    I think it's the writers job to show, not tell, why your main character is your main character and not a supporting character or a background character. It would be so easy to have your main character be overtly different to everyone else, in a sense that you could immediately point them out as different. But it doesn't always work like that. You have to be able to build all kinds of different and distinguishable characters and you need to show, time and time again why you are focusing on your main character, why they're your protagonist and it's normally best when it's because they have some extraordinary character strength, or very unique journey or story. I think it's a little boring to just say they looked different compared to everyone else.
     
  16. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    Put those characters through horrible scenarios and what is the common theme or lesson? Believe in yourself and never give up.
     
  17. Inkwell1
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    Inkwell1 Active Member

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    Perhaps write a magical prologue, in which the main character receives a gift from a magician or is almost killed by a bandit, and that is why they have deep scarlet hair or a metal finger.

    Things like that.
     

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