1. erin_elizabeth882
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    erin_elizabeth882 New Member

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    starting out

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by erin_elizabeth882, Jan 31, 2009.

    I'm a new, young writer here and I just need some advice! I have a pretty good idea for a plot line, but I can't start until I have six believable characters. I have no idea how to even start!

    thanks
    erin
     
  2. Rumpole40k
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    Rumpole40k Banned

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    Okay ... why six characters?
     
  3. Trevor
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    Trevor Member

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    I find it effective to start with six separate chapters, each a short story within the universe of your novel, each of these having the MC being one of the six characters. Make sure that these are not background summaries but rather a story that will summarize the characters traits, behaviors and tendencies.
     
  4. laciemn
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    laciemn Senior Member

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    Yes, focus on coming up with one character at a time. Start out with a little story about their childhood or current life, then you can expand on that.
     
  5. Penny Dreadful
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    Penny Dreadful Senior Member

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    Do a little interview/bio of them.

    exp.
    Name:
    Age:
    Height:
    other generic appearance questions:

    Likes:
    Dislikes:
    Religion, place of birth, opinion on same-sex marriage, ect...

    I tend to have characters before plot, but I still use this occasionally. Sometimes, it just gets your mind working.

    I also find drawing my characters useful. Drawing gets your mind working creatively and, if you're halfway decent at sketching, you'll get a nice visual of who you're working with. I tend to add odd little details to my doodles, which also gets me thinking (Where did he get that scar? What does that tattoo stand for? What happened to her eye?)
     
  6. antius777
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    antius777 Member

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    Penny Dreadful gave awesome advice.

    One the best books I've ever read on the topic of Writing was "The Riven Codex" by David Eddings. He discussed how important it was to fully flesh out everything in your little universe before writing a single sentence. Definitely work out all of the personality issues first, even down to such small details that they may not even make it into the tale. It will allow you to better understand your characters.

    If you can't draw out the characters, I recommend casting them in your head from celebrities as if you were producing a film version of your book. Sometimes this can work wonders, allowing you to even conjure up such details as freckles and style of movement. Personally, I have sketchbooks FULL of my characters...
     
  7. Helo
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    Helo New Member

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    Make all of the characters speak amongst themselves in your head. Start a big conversation where everybody is throwing opinions around. If their personalities do not take shape from that alone, then give them one stereotypical title (i.e. "The Smart Girl", or "The Popular Boy") to work with, so that they at least have some vague direction / set of values to use in this mock conversation. From their vague titles, they will eventually flesh out into multidimensional characters (i.e. "The Smart Girl with an addiction to pep pills and a scholarship to Harvard who loves The Popular Boy who has a sensitive side and only wants to write Emo love poetry for The Slutty Teacher who is banging around behind her husband's back with The etc., etc.,)

    I don't think characters are developed by stating to yourself how they look, or what their past experience are; it's how they think and react that's important, and when you are in the planning stages there is no better or quicker way of developing the thoughts of a character than to make them talk in a situation with other characters.

    If you have trouble keeping them all straight in your head, perhaps try writing a script about them that only includes dialogue.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I don't agree with this. Although some writers may find it useful to plan out every detail in advance, other times it just becomes an excuse to procrastinate. "I can't start the story yet, I haven't decided why The main character's housecleaner's sister is afraid of long haired cats."

    When you meet a new person for the first time, do you have to know his or her entire life story before you can work together? No. You build up an understanding of that person over a period of days, months, or even years, through what you observe of him or her in daily activities. At the beginning, you have no idea what behavior would be inconsistent, but over time you get an increasingly finer sense of that.

    The same is true of character development, except that as the author, you get to decide how the character will react in the current scene. Each decision you make shapes that character a little more.

    I prefer that approach, because it doesn't lock you in the way too much pre-planning does. Your character grows dynamically intead of being a pre-programmed android.
     
  9. dthomas
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    dthomas Member

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    When I have trouble developing characters, sometimes I will find an old magazine and just rip out a picture of a distinct looking person. Then make up a back-story for them and really try to figure out how they would act, talk, etc. You can get a more solid foundation for characters if you can visualize them in your head.
    And you might consider starting out with less characters so you don't spread your effort so thin.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i still want to know why the op thinks she has to have any set number of characters... but i fear she's been scared off by the replies, since it's been a week and nothing from her since...
     
  11. SonnehLee
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    SonnehLee Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with Cogito. I've found out some much more interesting things about my characters by letting them fester (and chat...a lot) in my brain while I write than I have trying to think up things about them.
     
  12. antius777
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    antius777 Member

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    Hmmmm... this may all work for a simple short story. I know I've allowed them to develop in a more "organic" manner in the past, to let the story tell itself, but this just can NOT be the case with a novel or ongoing series.

    If you plan on devoting your time to something with 300 pages or 80,000 words, you absolutely have to detail everything out. Otherwise you'll run into inconsistencies, pacing issues and skewed characters. Better to outline and plot for a week than spend a month editing later.

    If a writer uses this as an excuse to procrastinate, than there's a larger issue at hand...
     
  13. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Even with something 80k words long, it is not necessary to plot it out completely. You need to have a solid idea of where the story is going and who the characters are, but do not need it planned out beat for beat. In one of my stories, I simply could not figure out a good way for the characters to get into the underground city safely, even when they were only a few miles away. They had to cross a river to get there. Earlier, I had made a vague reference to venomous animals, but not thinking that she actually would get bitten, just to make the place seem more dangerous. As the characters were crossing the river, while I was on that very page, I deciding that while she was refilling her water bottle, she would stick her hand in and get bitten by a venomous water snake and falls unconscious. That provided me with a way she could get into the city safely, some interesting foreshadowing I hadn't thought of, and a more interesting answer to a mystery from the beginning of the story. None of this would have happened if I had plotted out a way for her to get into the city under her own power. The second draft will likely not be quite 80k words, but could be if I was a more detailed narrator and included some scenes I decided were not needed.
     
  14. onedaysoon
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    onedaysoon New Member

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    dreaming

    i have spent considerable time developing my world and the history of the peope that inhabit it. such that it is always in my mind and i find that last thing at night, as i am drifting off to sleep, certain situtio will form in my mind. i am still wake so i play with it. usually it involves combat etc. from this i begin my character. example. the other night i was laying in bed and i began thinking of a band of robbers confronting an old man on a highway. i turned my attention to the old man and began to work with him. i changed him so that he was a master of illusion and was infact a young and very capable man who was actually looking to kill the very band of robbers facing him. in my mind i gave him all the physical attributes and even began to develop personalty traits. when i was satisfied with my progress, i quickly jumped out of bed ( i didnt actually jump, my wife would have been really upset if i woke her, i sort of quielty slinked in a hurried fashion) and entered the details of the combat etc onto my laptop. when i awoke the next morining, i reread the stuff i ha written and BAM! The character came back to me. thats how i do it, maybe it will work for you. good luck ;)
     
  15. delhi
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    delhi Member

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    I don't think you have to plan every detail of a novel when you're about to write it. Of course, it should be fairly well thought, in order to avoid some "deus ex machina" and such.
    What I wrote last took me about three months in the "final sample", I'd say. I had been trying to write it for about twenty months, and every time I tried to write the story from a different point of view (different characters, I even switched between narration and script). I started writing, describing the characters, I reached the 50th page and stopped. I couldn't go any further. It rested until I came up with a different point of view. Some characters stood still, others became more important (or less), their personalities developed, more scenarios and characters came up. Some of them eventually disappeared, others became MCs. How? I told the same story over and over without ever finishing it, always from a different point of view. When I finally wrote it and was satisfied, I travelled on holidays for ten days, and I came back with more ideas. Ideas that had to be written, they were too "true" to be left in my head. The story almost doubled. It took me twenty months of thought, two and a half months for writing, checking, printing hundreds of pages.

    Now, in this particular case, why six characters? Do they have to represent stereotypes, races, or something like that? Do they all meet each other? Is the time and place of the meeting important? From the meeting itself you can see what each character thinks of the rest at that time, what made them think that (from their own personal history and the others' actions), how they react, what reactions they show, and why, always why why why. An amazing book about that is Orson Scott Card's on characters and points of view.
     

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