1. ObsidianVale
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    ObsidianVale Member

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    Separation

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by ObsidianVale, Dec 6, 2009.

    so i've been haveing this problem for a while now. I have a main character for my story but i am having trouble seeing her as her own person. mostly i see her as another version of me. when she has a decision i have a hard time separating what i would do and what she would do. does anyone else have this problem? if so then how did you solve it?
     
  2. JeffS65
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    JeffS65 Contributing Member

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    Is this a problem you need to solve? I mean, writing, in many way, should be a reflection of how we see things. If the character is in ways like you, why is it a problem that the decisions being made would be like decisions.

    If you were writing someone a little more antithetical to you, i would still think drawing from people you know as for decision making would be a smart way to go. Using your observations in creating character activities probably would give your characters a certain level of realism.
     
  3. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Basically, there are three main schools of thought among both writers and critics when it comes to characters. There are those who see characters as only existing in the language that describes them; in other words, that characters are strictly formal tools of the writer in the same way that sentences are tools of the writer. They serve a very particular purpose and are totally controlled and restrained by the language that evokes them.

    The second school of thought says that characters are completely autonomous, distinct from the author in voice, characterisation and discursive associations. In this way, the character extends beyond the words that evoke it and may be said to have 'personalities' that the reader may be encouraged to extrapolate beyond the text.

    The final school contends that all characters are autonomous, but rather than being distinct from the author are reflections, subversions or facsimiles of the author's self, and that this is not only a possibility but an inevitability in the creation of characters.

    So, obviously, there is no strict right or wrong way to create your characters, and many authors would argue that seeing your characters as extensions of yourself is not a problem at all. Obviously it will take some psychological and emotional maturity on your part to distinguish between the psychologies of you and the characters you create, but the similarities between the two are only problematic if you let them be.

    Ultimately, I think it is important to remember that regardless of which school of thought you subscribe to, your characters are only ever words on a page; if you have a problem with any of your character's personalities, refer to your text and look for ways to change the way you evoke that character and shape the way readers animate them.
     
  4. hszmv
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    hszmv Member

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    What I like to do to avoid this, is ignore the "Write What You Know". Find one or two beliefs that you have that might not be detrimental to the story, and give your MC an opposing view. I.E. If you are a dog person, make her a cat person. Now, here's where it gets tricky: Don't make her cat loving a negative trait, even though, as a dog lover, you have a negative cat lover stereotype in your head. Instead, research cat loving and everything. Sell her as a cat lover to cat lovers, rather than a dog hater to dog lovers.
     
  5. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    The problem with that approach is that when you start applying the principle to more significant aspects of the character (religion, politcal leaning, sexuality, aspirations, etc) you risk creating an inconsistent psychology. With minor details like cats/dogs, keeping your personality in general but changing a couple of opinions is fine, but if you compare the way a man/woman/liberal/conservative/Christian/Atheist think, feel and behave, you'll obviously find many significant differences, and if you try to write your character as "Me but Christian" or "Me but gay" or something like that, then creating a convincing and consistent personality and psychology is virtually impossible. So while your idea works on a small, dare I say superficial level, it doesn't really help creating significant points of difference between the author and her characters.
     
  6. hszmv
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    hszmv Member

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    And that's where we choose to disagree. I try to have a few things that I like about my characters, but I don't want them to all share the same religion as me, or gender, or sexuality. That would make it boring. Part of the fun, for me at least, is going in and actually writing a character who can be a good example of the belief, despite the fact that I'm not of that belief. And the fun of that is actually learning about the beliefs that I want to write. I don't want them to be a stereotype of the culture. I want them to be a good (or evil, if they are the villain) person who happens to to think differently than I do.
     
  7. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    But then you're doing something different than writing a character based on yourself, which is completely unrelated to what I was talking about in my post, and what the OP was talking about. Of course it s good to create characters with beliefs and psychologies different to your own, but if you do that to any significant degree, then they are no longer really based on you, they are distinct from the author. The OP, and my post, refers to writing a character that is a derivative of the author's self.
     
  8. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    I subscribe to "method writing" of characters. I have to feel their feelings and think their thoughts for them to come alive, and so atleast for a short period of time, I put on their personality and see the world from their side.

    Of course, I couldn't possibly switch back and forth between them constantly while writing a section of dialogue, so I tend to go back over my text, once in a character's POV and look through what that particular character says and does. Then, on another day when I feel closer to one of the other characters, I go through that one, checking up, making sure they're true to themselves.

    I don't really think my characters are all aspects of my true self... Of course, I made them up so to some degree they'd represent me, but they're too different otherwise. Or maybe I'm just a really unstable personality who somehow subscribes to, and yet denies, all world views at once. Would explain why I don't vote in politics.
     
  9. Never Master
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    In short, there is no easy way to create distance writer and character if that is the way your character pulls her/himself out of you. And, going along with what arron is saying, this isn't always a horrible thing to have happen either. There is nothing better to base the fundamentals of a character on then the real thing. Aren't you a real thing?

    Instead of creating separation, I would strive to avoid paying too much attention to tiny details (For example, the previous comment about making the character like whatever you don't like) and let the character fit into the story as naturally as you can make it feel. And if this doesn't make you comfortable, start researching your character to give a bit of depth and perhaps even some separation.

    Pick a detail (a tattoo, a favorite pair of shoes, a particular hand motion, it doesn't matter as long as it gets you thinking) and create a history for that item that your character that would explain a certain trait, skill or behavior. Maybe there was a Grandmother that made the character feel welcome as a child and now the character has respect and love for the elderly.

    It seems to me that creating a relatively deep history for your chara is the best way to get yourself a comfortable distance away. After all, history is the mold from which we are all fashioned yes?

    Of course, be wary of creating TOO much depth lest you begin to drown in it. I've discovered that is possible to weigh a character with enough details to keep them from growing. You don't want to be still learning the basics of your character half-way into the story! Stick to what strengthens the development and try to keep from creating unnecessary back stories.

    Good luck!
     

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