1. louismonette
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    louismonette Member

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    Talk about your character research experience

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by louismonette, Apr 9, 2011.

    Now, if you have read some of my post, might notice i am starting out exploring the wonderful world of writing stories. I am curious of what you had to do to really nail head on to get a good and fully multy dimmensional character.
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    For me the best way is by writing the story - and keep writing it. However a few other things help.

    1) 'Casting' main characters with an actor this gives me body language, ideas for description, voice inntonation etc.

    2) Scrapbook containing picture of the actors, clothes my character might wear, house they may live in. Any pets etc Town they live in. (The setting is something I find crucial in helping build my character).

    3) Using them to keep blogs, talking to them, spending time with them. Writing short stories with them.

    4) Word box - containing words they use and I don't,

    5) Theme tune associated with the character - preferrably one sung by the actor I have cast them as - once I have the main characters sorted the rest fall into place interacting with them.

    6) They are always a little flat to begin with characters like good friends take time to get to know. Your character will evolve and change throughout the story. I always find starting with new ones a bit like being at a party where you don't know anyone else and they don't know anyone. Over a draft they will get to know you, you them and they get to know each other.
     
  3. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Write them. :p There is no magic process or questionairre to fill in. You can sit and draw tarot cards for them, paint pretty pictures of them, or draw up a fact sheet of their favourite colours, names of old pets, etc, as long as you like, but only when you start writing a character in the situation of the story will you start drawing them together - and presenting them to the world. Sometimes it takes a couple of drafts - the first outings of many of my characters were quite surface level with only hints of their inner turmoil, but I wrote out the events that happened to them, and re-drafted once I knew the story, and spent the time fleshing them out. The only thing the reader will see is what happens to the character on the page - not the diagrams and interviews etc you wrote before, and sometimes that can play tricks on you anyway, making you forget to include something because you've already deeply explored their woes elsewhere, so it feels assumed to you that the character carries that with them, or you will spend too long obsessing on the details you worked out earlier, and not let the circumstances of the story dictate how the character will develop and in what directions.

    A story should be all about the growth of the characters, and that is where they become interesting.
     
  4. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think Melzaar has it right: write them! Although I tend to leave characters to form in my head from anywhere between a few days to several months before I even start outlining/researching for a story never mind actually writing. Once you start writing a character (s)he will change completely.

    I think taking the time to get to know your character gradually rather than trying to force the progress through character interviews will result in a more realistic character. People seem to try and little too hard when it comes to making characters and it shows when you read these stories. For example, something that tends to throw people is when it comes to trying to make their characters imperfect/giving them a flaw. I didn't need to stop and think of a flaw for the protagonist of my series: it was obvious from the beginning he was too naïve and too dependant on other people (despite being in his mid-to-late twenties) yet it was only while daydreaming in college that I realised he has a mental illness. The only research I did was to find out more about this so it would be portrayed subtly and correctly through books one and two so it makes more sense to the reader when it's properly revealed in book three.

    I agree with Elgaisma about casting characters. I cast all of my important characters on actors, musicians, sports professionals and people I meet while out and about. One character I cast on a man working in a scary tourist attraction in London last summer because he had the perfect mannerisms and voice for a character I had been struggling with.
     
  5. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    I begin with the plot of the story. The character growth happens as the plot demands. Sometimes I can come up with good answers on who the character is without writing out their full backstory.
     
  6. tcol4417
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    tcol4417 Member

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    All of my characters start out with a single detail and are fleshed out either as the story progresses or I consider how they would handle themselves in a given situation (theoretical development).

    There's a thread in the game section "What would your MC do?" which serves the dual purpose of reinforcing existing character traits and prompting you to develop new ones.

    Typically you won't start out with a fully developed character because the only way to describe one is over the course of an entire story. I'm perfectly happy building the foundations out of some stock standard stuff and then molding it as needs be as the story continues.
     
  7. dnsralg
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    dnsralg Senior Member

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    Agreed!

    I find it helpful to have the same kind of relationship with your characters as your narrator. After all, your narrator is the one conveying the story to your audience. It will seem forced if, for example, your narrator tries to explain how the antagonist is dark and evil. If the protagonist is your favorite character or you find him damn sexy, that will break through to your audience, intentionally or not.

    I think considering your character's vocabulary, versus your own, is so important. I've read pieces where a character uses a word that just doesn't feel right and it always seems to stick out. It's also one of the big things I point out when I critique someone's work.

    Consider your a bit of an extension of you, since you are behind every aspect of their lives. I think every single character of mine is a different version of me. I take an idiosyncrasy of mine to keep my characters realistic; they say write what you know. You can even use yourself or someone you're close to for inspiration! Remember, you should know your characters in a way no one else, whether character or audience, can ever know them.
     
  8. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    oh my main characters are all sexy - even the ugly one :) They are not always my type but i find it much easier to write romance when the characters fancy each other and I find them attractive. I am trying really hard yet again to keep two of my characters out of the sack.
     
  9. KillianRussell
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    KillianRussell Contributing Member

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    Although in so far as looks, hopes, dreams, inner turmoil, mannerism, personality my main character arrived in my mind fully developed. However she was a violinist, a prodigy (I had no knowledge in that arena ) In order to get a feel for her passion interacted and conflicted to the world around her.I had to suffer thru weeks of lurking on forums dedicated to the instrument. After I got an idea what the process for a student to win an admisson audition at a conservatory the caliber of a Juilliard. I was able to create some of the supplemental cast as it related to classical music.

    Once I understood how huge the dividends were doing research (I spotted an area where I could create a couple characters to heighten the dramatic tension) I surfed forums related to the occupation and/or interests of any character with a significant role.

    Suffice to say if I write an auto mechanic, I will study enough shop talk forums
    that in my dialogue I will not call a fuel injector a thing-a-ma-jig.

    The writing prompts I stumble into are well worth the invested time.

    The reason I could never write parallel/artifical universe is I find researching our real world infinitely more fascinating than fantasy
     
  10. cybrxkhan
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    cybrxkhan Contributing Member

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    All of Elgaisma's suggestions are very good, and will help you brainstorm ideas about your characters much more easily. Other things to consider:

    1. Some authors have based characters off of people they know, or have used parts of the personalities of people they know in making their characters. I do this all the time, taking little bits and pieces from my friends in making my characters. You probably don't need to - and don't want to - take your best friend and put him, exact personality and all save a minor name change, into the story, but taking parts from people you know could (if, like all other techniques, used wisely), help create richer characters, or at least help lay a good foundation for them.

    2. Think about your characters' motivation, and their past, even if it's not important to the story. This will significantly help, in my opinion, give the characters much more depth to their actions. Now your character Bob isn't just a loud guy who likes partying: he's a lonely single who wants to be around people to stave off his feelings of loneliness, or he's a spoiled brat who wants to show off all his awesomeness to everyone, or he's actually a very shy person who wants to hide parts of himself from people because he doesn't trust them. Three different people, all with the same outside appearance due to their motivations.

    3. Visualize your characters; daydream about them. I find that this helps me sort of let them act natural and act out, and see them actually do stuff, instead of only just writing down some notes about them. Plus, for me, it's a great pleasure, seeing them move around and be people; it's a great way to daydream and not waste time.

    Hope that helps.
     
  11. Ophiucha
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    Ophiucha Member

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    I think my characters are defined by everything they must be for the story. Some people take that wrong, that they exist only as the plot dictates, but the story encompasses a lot. I come up with the story I want to tell and the character's core develops with it. My WIP, at its base, is a story of a new king heading west to remove the evil of his kingdom, only to find that the evil may be a bit closer to home. So we have a 'king'. That's the base. I need for him to fall for the head of the 'original evil', as it were, so he must be gay. I need for him to want something from the Amarant (the 'new evil'), so I made him a cook - the Amarant are meant to be quite delectable, and their ink (they are squids) makes for a good pasta. I needed him to be more of an observer than a reactor, so I made him a mute. He needed someone to speak for him, so I gave him a friend from university who could read minds. Bit of a spiderweb effect once you decide on a few more characters, interlinking everyone's past and present and ensuring that nobody seems disconnected, or less entwined in the weaving of the story than any of the others.
     
  12. DeNile
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    DeNile Senior Member

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    I write short stories about my characters. About their pasts and their futures. About things that don't happen within the story. It doesn't matter when they take place, or even if you decide later that it didn't actually happen, what matters is that plot doesn't dictate what happens. This is your character telling you what their life is all about. I find it gives a level of insight that I can't attain in the main story itself.
     
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  13. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    I usually figure out the personality then work out the history to match the personality.

    I do make a character sheet telling needed information, sometimes I made it before hand, some I write down as it comes up(for reference.)

    I like the character development interviews also.
    Although I think maybe there should be genre interview.
    Questions more related to fantasy or sci-fi for that genre.
    The general questionaire will work, but will have some modifications.
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i never need to do anything more than root around in my mental data bank...
     
  15. AJSmith
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    AJSmith Senior Member

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    These are all such great ideas! :)
     
  16. Coreen Hipae
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    Coreen Hipae Member

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    Myself, I use a combo of things.
    First off I come up with my story basis and figure out which characters I will need to partake in the story. This doesn't usually include the minor interaction characters that will be present for a few pages at most, but characters that will be throughout the entire story.
    Then I begin to imagine the characters looks and ages.
    Then comes a split for me, I either begin to work on their names or their personalities. To me both influence each other, the name helps me figure out who the person is, and who the person is helps me come up with a name.

    The personalities and mannerisms of the characters I truly visualize. I look at scenes of my stories almost as movies in my mind. I can see what is going on, so I can see how they will act, what their body language will be, how they will stand, what they will say.

    Everyone has their own way of doing things, for me this is what works.
     

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