1. Alixander Fey
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    Alixander Fey Member

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    So, my character is not real.

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Alixander Fey, Jan 23, 2008.

    I am attempting to write a novel. Big surprise! Anywho, my character is not real... I don't think. I need some sort of human weakness to give him, one that will not ruin his other traits... what are your favorite ways of making a character real?
     
  2. Sophronia
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    Sophronia Member

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    Giving them a unique personality, detail, a background history (it doesn't have to be huge and give away everything; you could make it quite mysterious if you wanted), likes and dislikes, a certain way they speak (accents, slurs, etc.), weaknesses, strengths, and much more would probably be the way to go.

    Seeing as I don't know who or how this character is, I'm afraid I couldn't quite give you any suggestions on a weakness '^^ You could also check out some of the character ref sheets they have in this forum.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Real people are not totally consistent.and predictable. They have moods, they get tired or hungry or excited, and their behavior shifts accordingly
     
  4. B-Gas
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    B-Gas Contributing Member

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    Make sure they have a quirk that doesn't seem to fit with the rest of their character. That's one of the best ways of making people 'real'. For example, the Hulk- an unreal character, to say the least- loved baked beans. Equally, or perhaps more so, the Martian Manhunter- a totally inhuman creature- discovered a fascination with Oreo sandwich cookies. Try something like this. It's not a weakness, but it helps to bring depth to a character.

    If you're really struggling, give him one of the Seven Deadlies. They're always good, and they can take many forms. Wrath is usually the easiest one.
     
  5. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Characters have goals, aspriations, fears, desires, habits and mannerisms. What drives them, what annoys them, what turns them on or off. What has life's experience taught them...what have they failed to learn from experiences. Who do they respect and why? Who do they loath and why? Who would they like to know or spend time with? Any fond memories, dreaded moments? Pets, keepsakes, favorite haunts, enemies, friends, etc.

    Do you have to have every one of these items identified and figured out in detail? No, just some suggestions, a couple of which might help breathe life into an otherwise cardboard character.

    Hope it helps.

    Terry
     
  6. Daniel
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    Daniel I'm sure you've heard the rumors. Founder Staff Contributor

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    Making a character "real" is something I find difficult, but it can be done. As others have suggested, try hiving him a weakness, personality, ambitions, etc.
     
  7. HeinleinFan
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    HeinleinFan Banned

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    Another way to make a character real is to have them change. I don't know whether you'll be focusing on your character for long enough to be able to use this, but it works.

    For example, let's say you have a shy character. Perhaps he is shy because his parents were ambassadors and so he was raised in a culture where the morals or customs are different, and then he's uprooted when his parents go back home. Suddenly he no longer fits in, his clothing preferences and jewelry preferences and hairstyle must change, he uses body language that no one gets, and he might be good at language or maths but suddenly has to learn a whole new aspect of history in school. He isn't going to fit in right away, and he'll have some advantages and some disadvantages compared to his classmates. He'll have to change a little, and you can show him adapting to his new culture (or adapting badly, which is a whole other can of worms).

    Or he could go back to his home country as an adult, in which he's doubly out of place. Imagine trying to impress your fellow employees in an environment where everyone else thinks you weird, eccentric or irritating.

    Interesting - I had this happen once in conversation. I patted a guy on the shoulder because that's harmless where I'm from. The reaction was impressive, to say the least - he jumped back about a foot. Now I know not to do such things, or to be more careful about it, and he's learned that I'm not as formal as he is. We're now good friends.
     
  8. Stinger
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    Stinger Senior Member

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    Wether your characters are real or not will matter due to novel. But I say there's no way to make characters real. Such things that are mumbled about reality of characters are all gibberish. There are countless people who have no "dark side". Most people have flat characters. And few really change in their life. The only way to make a character real is to let it live. Reader must feel your character has stomach, intestine and genitals. It must have independence from you as writer.
     
  9. Sir Ender
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    Sir Ender Senior Member

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    I don't think a character has to have a weakness to be real, but should experience emotions and difficulties in life just like humans do. Your character can't be some sort of amazing super hero robot, it has to have depth.
     
  10. Ari Mar
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    Ari Mar Member

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    You know what's cool?

    Make your character have something that they regret. Something bad.
    On of my characters, for instance, hallucinates at one point in the story, and sees his father, who has been dead for thirty-three years (and was abusive and an alchoholic in life) staring at him on the street. He then nearly beats the person to death before he realizes that it is a stranger, and a girl on top of that.
    Regrets are very human, and useful when developing characters.
     
  11. (Mark)
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    (Mark) Contributing Member

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    When you want to make a character seem real, I find the best thing to do is to write a part of yourself, or someone you know, into that character. I know that I have plenty of strange quirks and eccentricities, as does everyone else I've ever met that I've spent any time thinking about.

    Another way is to present them dealing with a stock character that gives a greater insight into why they're satisfied or disillusioned with something. Chances are if you paint a character feeling a certain way about a constant reality, plenty of people are going to be able to relate to that.
     
  12. Azmacna
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    Azmacna Member

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    wow that's an all encompassing question. just to get you going and make the character interesting for you, take a stereotype and give him a conflicting trait. for instance a skinhead who plays on swings or a vicar that throws stones at the stained glass window. during the writing of the story stop to ask yourself why?

    in the case of the skinhead, it could be that his youth was stolen by an overpowering parent who was violent towards him. and that although his exterior life has been fashioned by his deeds, his mental landscape is still yearning for the freedom of naivety. these traits will then lead you to write particular sections to demonstrate this, thus giving your story and character depth and real flesh.

    in the case of the priest, it could be that his wife has died and this has made him question God. when he throws stones at the window he may well feel guilt and so there is a constant battle within in him between guilt, love and God. but what form does that guilt take? is it guilt because even though he serves God he could not save his wife, or is it guilt because he lacks resolve in restraining his hand.

    as you write the story, you will be amazed how the character evolves. and don't worry about whether your character does things that are out of character, just change him or her in the next rewrite
     
  13. Azmacna
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    Azmacna Member

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    wow that's an all encompassing question. just to get you going and make the character interesting for you, take a stereotype and give him a conflicting trait. for instance a skinhead who plays on swings or a vicar that throws stones at the stained glass window. during the writing of the story stop to ask yourself why?

    in the case of the skinhead, it could be that his youth was stolen by an overpowering parent who was violent towards him. and that although his exterior life has been fashioned by his deeds, his mental landscape is still yearning for the freedom of naivety. these traits will then lead you to write particular sections to demonstrate this, thus giving your story and character depth and real flesh.

    in the case of the priest, it could be that his wife has died and this has made him question God. when he throws stones at the window he may well feel guilt and so there is a constant battle within in him between guilt, love and God. but what form does that guilt take? is it guilt because even though he serves God he could not save his wife, or is it guilt because he lacks resolve in restraining his hand.

    as you write the story, you will be amazed how the character evolves. and don't worry about whether your character does things that are out of character, just change him or her in the next rewrite
     
  14. Calypso
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    Calypso Member

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    To make a character more real, I think that the character needs to be as human as you can make it.

    A character should feel passion, remorse, true emotions that really stand out in a human being. The character should also act with intentions in mind that strive him to do what he does.

    If you just take a look at the people around you, you'll find so many traits that you could easily put into your character and it'll make them feel more real, more easy to relate to. Just try doing that, maybe not for the character you're specifically asking help for, but if you create a new character in a new story just for the fun of it and try putting in humanesque traits you're not used to, you'll find the character feels real.
     
  15. The Majicou
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    The Majicou Member

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    Something that might help is if you make a "character sheet" and write down a bunch of relevant questions that you can then answer from the character's point of view. Even if you don't write every detail about their life into the book, YOU can still have a clearer picture of the character and therefore will probably have a better idea how you want to portray him/her in the story.
     
  16. zerobytes
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    zerobytes Contributing Member

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    Majicou has a good suggestion there. The more details YOU know about the character the easier it will be to make them "real" on the page. The common suggestion here has been to write from experience and base on reality. That is also a good route. If you are trying to make the character "real" to the reader than the best way to do it is through the character's interactions with his/her environment. Likes, dislikes, pet peeves, the way he/she treats people in different stations and stages of life. Depending on the viewpoint of the story you can throw in the character's thoughts. By showing him/her debating issues or making choices it takes them from being a 2 dimensional I-act-the-way-my-character-is-supposed-to-act character to an intelligent "real" character that can think and act for itself without the writer's (albeit capable) hand. Finally, give the character an objective. What do they want? What are they trying to accomplish? How do they get there? All this stuff will flesh out the character in your mind and on the page. Best of luck and I can't wait to read the story,

    zb
     
  17. Heimdall
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    Heimdall New Member

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    I would advise making your character stubborn, refusing to own up to his mistakes, and to have hubris.
     
  18. eclecticism7
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    eclecticism7 New Member

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    One thing that seems to make the character feel more real to me is trying to make them unreal. Kinda like with the skinhead and vicar deal, but different. Stick a blind baby in the streets and let drug-dealers raise her. Wouldn't happen, would it? Of course not. But think what kind of a person she would become. Much different from anyone you or I know, that's for sure. Pick something that sounds stupid--the stupider the better--then develop the character as if that stupid thing were perfectly normal and base those unrealistic developments in reality. If that doesn't make sense, just ignore the whole thing--I'm raving mad.
     
  19. Vayda
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    Vayda Senior Member

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    What makes a character real? All the things you don't wanna think about.

    Real people get hungry, stop what they're doing and eat. Real people would rather go home and sleep than save the world. Real people really need to take a bath every couple days. Real people have their whole day messed up if they can't brush their teeth in the morning. Real people are creatures of habit. They can't eat too much cheese before a date or they get gassy. They really like watching Rachel Ray. Their grandmothers send them annoying chain emails. They wonder whether they'll get good luck, an african princess's fortune, or bill gates's money if they send them to ten friends fast enough. Real people argue with mechanics about how often they need an oil change. Real people don't put their cell phone down at a check out counter. Real people can't touch-type. Real people play Guitar Hero in their spare time, even if they're 45.

    Real people don't need a quirk or a flaw. They need some layers, some selfishness, a daily routine.... Think of what you do every day, how many times you eat, go to the bathroom, pick your nose...if your characters are real people, they do all that too.
     
  20. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    These are not only the things you don't want to think about, usually readers don't want to read about it either. However, there are times for it. If the character is uncomfortable for a date or an interview because of a gas buildup he or she dares not vent, it adds a small plot element (obstacles have a 1:1 relationship to plots). Likewise, if a character is strugglling with a cold or flu, it's one more thing that must be overcome to meet a goal.

    Don't include the minutiae of the daily routine unless there is something unusual about it - the obsessive-cimpulsuve character carefully squeezing the tootpaste tube from the bottom and lining up the tube perfectly parallel to the edge of the sink, counting the strokes as he brushes his teeth, etc.
     
  21. Emerald
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    Emerald Contributing Member

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    'Real'? Are you crazy? You're getting advice over the internet about reality?

    Find your own truths and put them into your characters. And your plot, and your setting, and everything else. That's what writing is. Nobody wants to experience something fake or second-hand, or manufactured.
     
  22. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    You really are supposed to figure this out for yourself. Otherwise it becomes other people's novels. Then you might as well credit everyone on this board, or the website itself, for writing this thing.

    Just my opinion.
     
  23. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Asking for general advice on how to make characters more real is not the same as asking for specific advice on one character. As long as the discussion sticks to strategies and techniques, I don't think the question is out of line.
     
  24. Alex_Hartman
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    Alex_Hartman Contributing Member

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    Yeah, seriously.

    Almost every thread ends up with a "well, you should figure it out yourself." Doesn't that defeat the purpose of WF?
     
  25. Emerald
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    Emerald Contributing Member

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    Who defines the purpose of WF? It's just a meeting place.

    Maybe the purpose is to teach writers to trust themselves...
     

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