1. Little Miss Edi
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    Little Miss Edi Contributing Member

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    The great time scale conundrum

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Little Miss Edi, Oct 8, 2008.

    Here's a question that has genuinely be causing me all manner of grief recently, any help or suggestions are greatly appreciated.

    So, you've got a novel underway and there's all manner of hell, tragedy and mayhem planned for it a little later on but, you've got to put the time into the characters so that your reader is going it give a damn when something bad happens and makes it all go wrong.

    How much time do you need to dedicate to the minor, every-day events and goings ons before you roughly get a feel for them? And is there a way to avoid the "oh fancy meeting you here in this completely boring landscape so that we can talk and become friends slowly and painfully" slog that is character development.

    Sorry if this makes no sense at all. Lunch has made my head spin.
    I've a series of events planned so classic 'team building' sorts of occurences and I know that bad times will naturally cause people to band together. But I want the relationship building bit over and done with as quick as possible and with the most effective results. I know I'm asking the world :D

    So I put it too you, how much time to you need to dedicate to relationship building both internally with the characters and externally with your reader?
     
  2. Rebrella
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    Rebrella New Member

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    You know, I think you should start with the action right away. There was a screenwriter, I forgot his name, but he said that the scene should start "At the last possible moment."

    What are you achieving by writing about things as they normally are? If it's to get to know the characters well, they say you get to know the most about people in times of hardship, so just start with the hardship. If it's to get to know the setting before it changes well, start at the place where the setting is changing, but people haven't quite noticed it yet. The characters will still believe the world is like it always was, and that will be revealed in narration, but the reader will see that's not true.

    At the very least, have something go awry before the first ten pages. If I read a book and in the first chapter everything was fine and hunky dory, I'd probably put the book back and never touch it again.

    Just my two cents.
     
  3. Little Miss Edi
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    Little Miss Edi Contributing Member

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    And a fair two cents it was too.

    I've made sure that there's lots of clues and bits and pieces to build tension in the first few pages. There are two groups of characters those that know something is going wrong and those that don't so there is an element of dramatic irony. But I really wanted the juxstoposition (I've probably spelt that wrong) between when it's good and when it's bad. You know what they say, you wouldn't know sadness if you'd never been happy.
     
  4. Scattercat
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    Scattercat Active Member

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    There really isn't a good "rule" for this, other than using your common sense and making sure you're not just "filling space." Some stories jump right into high-octane action; others have a long, meandering storyline that mostly involves chitchat and socializing for long spaces. (Jane Austen, anyone?)
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The best way to build character relationships is in crisis. Yeah, you know the characters have known one another for years, but put them into a crisis situation, and they may suddenly have to not only deal with the crisis, but how each of them reacts to the crisis and each other.

    Put the already-shown character in crisis, and have the new character join at that time. Or put the new character in crisis and have the existing character called in to help.

    If you have boring day to day scenes, throw a wrench into the works to make them less boring. Or cut the scenes completely.
     
  6. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    Well, my characters tend to meet and interact most in weird, adventurous, scary, or otherwise interesting situations so there doesn't have to be a big sloggy dull part. That's not to say that there NEVER are times when my characters are wandering in a dull landscape where they need to talk and socialize, but that's not the majority of the time they spend getting to know each other. More on that below.

    Relationship building, IMO, is the most interesting and fun part of the whole story! Why want it all over with as quickly as possible?

    I think the issue here is that relationship building is not something that you first do when the characters meet, get it over with, and then move on to the "interesting stuff." The best relationship building--the best way to get the reader to really care about these people--is done WHILE the plot is going strong and other interesting stuff is happening. You really don't need to get it all out of the way in some boring landscape, then skip to the interesting/action-filled parts. Let the relationships build WHILE the action is going on! Yes, it'll take the reader a little time to really get to care about these characters, but that would happen anyway, and it just seems to work a lot more easily when you mix the two together--the relationship building AND the action--it makes the story interesting on two levels, plotwise and characterwise. The two things shouldn't be separated if you want the reader to care about both. We often learn the most interesting things about characters and how they interact while they're reacting to the exciting situations in the plot.

    Take two people and stick them together, for example. You can have them chatter a bit and get to know each other while sitting on the subway, OR, you can have that subway crash and have injured people screaming for help and these two characters get to know each other while trying to rescue them. Which situation is more interesting, and probably more enlightening, regarding how these characters interact with each other?

    Don't know how much sense I made, but that's my take on it.
     
  7. Synoran
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    Synoran Member

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    For those of you who know a little bit about Improvisation Acting, you know what platform is. If not, platform is basically why you're here, what you're doing, and why you're doing it. For those improv actors, you know it is generally the same with writing: you must develop these early on, and should be a set for the rest of the book's main conflict and objective. This may seem a little odd to compare, but to me it makes sense. Meh... I rarely make sense.

    Anyway, there are boring ways and interesting ways to set platform, like others have said. As a writer, you want it to be both interesting, and make logical sense.
    Some ways I keep in mind to keep character platform interesting are

    Add some sort of conflict between the characters! How boring is it to have two characters meet each other and automatically love each other, especially in a typical setting with nothing notable going on around them? Right. You'd be bored to tears. A character shouldn't walk up to another and automatically make an impression that should last the rest of the story. Remember, general first impressions are almost always flat out wrong, or at least off the mark of the actual character of the person.

    Don't be afraid to be a bit sadistic; Sure, a park bench with no special setting or character elemnts and two characters talking is harmless, safe, and doesn't do much in the realm of platform or plot devleopment. A group of three are on a plane and only two survive? Sure, not very happy, but it makes things a lot more interesting! I'm not sure about otheres, but I find small talk tedious and difficult to write. A park bench doesn't give them much to muse over other than... the two of them meeting in a park. Wheras example B, they definatly have something to talk about that builds relationships a lot quicker, and adds excitement. And if you want them to meet at a park, add an element that could be used to break or make their bonds. I'm not telling anyone not to choose a certain setting! Elements, elements, elements!

    Write for the reader; You may love love love a paragraph you wrote that is sort of boring... you may find it cool but most probably the reader won't. Keep it, but not in the story.

    As for logical...
    Question: Does this situation make any sense at all?
    Always ask that. Does it fit with the story? Did the characters bring this on themselves, or by chance? If the former, why? Does *that* make sense? Does it fit in with the plot? If yes to all of those, and its interesting, give it a passing grade!

    Platform should be easy, not tedious. Not nessisaryly quick, it might take a chain of events for characters to make a stable bond with one another, which can easily be broken. Each event should be fun to write, though! If it isn't fun, why bother?

    That probably made zero sense. Blarg. Just my two cents.
     
  8. Little Miss Edi
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    Little Miss Edi Contributing Member

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    Thanks Everyone for your comments. They're all quite encouraging :p

    I've got character conflicts, aversions and quirks which is helping it come along. (Yeah, I've only been staring at the damn thing all night!) I'm trying to mix up the 'scenes' a little more (I promise I'm not ruling out a little sadism ;) ). My 'mini mentor' said very similar things and hopefully the contrast between those in the know and those distinctly out of it will help build a little tension.

    I was also thinking, as you've all said, that perhaps the crisis is the best way to get moving, perhaps this relationship building bit should be for my own benefit and not the readers (we'll see when the red pen comes out).

    So far there are quite a few mysteries, unexplained conflicts and general grrr. I'm juggling characters all new to one another and new to the environment so I do think the character building is important but like you said it's the manner in doing it that needs some tweaking. So, yeah... I guess I've gotta suck it up and get on with it.

    I do realise as I read this back that I might well be being naughty and using you lovely people as a sounding board... apologies. But your imput was and is gratefully received!
     

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