1. kronikler
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    kronikler New Member

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    Think of the opposite

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by kronikler, May 24, 2010.

    Whenever I create a character, I list their negative points first. For example:

    Amanda is self-centred, pessimistic, distrusting, over-emotional and reckless.

    Then, I reason those points and make someone likeable:

    Amanda never really had many friends, so her neuroses turned in on herself and she became a little too involved in how she feels and how she fits into the world. Nothing good ever seemed to come her way, so now Amanda doesn't bother looking forward to anything and can't imagine good things happening. So many people have let Amanda down that she doesn't trust anyone, she doesn't want to be hurt again. Amanda tries to bottle everything up inside and when something tips her over the edge she bursts in a downpour of emotion. Not having people to care makes Amanda a risk taker. She wants to feel something so she does things most people avoid for a thrill.

    This is someone who wants to find people to care about and who will care about her. She is searching for something.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I don't much care for an adjective approach to character, any more than I like to try to sum up a person that way. Labelmania can blind you to the unexpected ways real people act - the mean old curmudgeon next door who actually likes the family three doors down, and anonymously sent a video game their sick child was wishing for.

    Setting aside the curmudgeon label makes you focus on the whole character.

    I define characters more on actions than attributes.
     
  3. erik martin
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    erik martin Contributing Member

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    I wonder if a gender difference is at work here, female more focused on the attributes, male oriented on actions? Could be, though one example of each hardly supports the argument. Either method sounds good if it serves your purpose.
     
  4. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Let us start with the initial notion that Amanda is not a real person. She is a collection of syntactic structures making use of words to describe the concept of a person.

    She is not flesh and blood and thus she is not subject to concern from the portions of my brain evolved to care about the group of humans in my immediate vicinity which evolved for the purpose of improving the chances of my own personal self preservation.

    So. What does that mean, all that scientific gobbledygook?

    It means that Amanda has to be part of a story for me to give a hoot about her. And she does not have to be likable for me to give a hoot about her. Not at all. Often the least likable characters are the most interesting.

    You say Amanda is in search of something? I say, then so are you.

    Right now you are like a talent agent. You have an actor (Amanda) for whom you are trying to find a script.

    This is the state of 99.9% of Hollywood. Actors looking for a script.

    I say you need to refocus. You need a script. That is what you should be looking for and you should steel yourself to the idea that Amanda may not be the actor for the script.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Absolutely not. If anything, the stereotype male perspective is to deconstruct and classify, whereas the holistic view would be more stereotypically femals.

    In truth, I also reject the male-think and female-think myth. I observe individuals for behaviors, and I create characters who represent themselves rather than a gender mold.
     
  6. rainy
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    rainy Senior Member

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    I agree with Cog and I'm female. Erik might have been referring to the notion that women like to "categorize" ie, put everything into baskets. So, while I agree women are generally better with a holistic approach, it depends on which direction you want to look at it. However, I doubt gender applies here as much as a creative method.

    I like my chars to develop based on their history, present and expectations. If you focus on the adjective method, you should remember to develop realistic facets to their personality. I prefer to let them develop organically.

    Humans are exceedingly complex creatures. We may have core attributes, but each relationship is built on a history which in turn influences other relationships. It's difficult to say a char hates everyone because everyone has let her down. In a way, each let down is its own history of failure which continues to add facets to the char.

    Let's take a reverse approach. Our love for individuals is not a blanket either. This is one reason why writers, especially childless, have difficulty writing realistic parental relationships because we expect we love our children without missing a beat. And hopefully we do, but children are also people which irk you and which you may dislike certain attributes.

    More approachable, we don't love our S/O entirely, either. We accept them for who they are and we love the parts that we can appreciate, respect or relate to, but let's be real.

    And that's the whole point, trying to be real. Even the most self centered, hateful person has a dog. Or a best friend. Or something. Humans have an amazing will to live. And a nearly amazing will to connect with something, even other humans on some level.

    A guy I know is the epitome of the grouch next door. Holed up, the world is going to end any day now, people are the spawn of the underworld. The insanity is endless. He hates strangers. They don't come into the house, they don't even make it past the front lawn. True story here. Alright, but a boy in his late teens moves in next door and this man gives him computers, books, and over time the kid comes to visit etc. To this day, he and the kid, now grown, are great friends. Truth be told, the guy had no functional relationship with his own sons and actually feels he was betrayed by them. See how this works in reverse? He was the guy that hated everyone, but once we start to examine his history with each failed relationship, a new facet developed.

    If you use an adjective method, let each history behind the adjective take shape into something individual and meaningful.
     
  7. SilverWolf0101
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    SilverWolf0101 Active Member

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    I used to list some of my characters main points, in fact it wasn't that long ago that I did this. But after some deep thinking, and a discussion on this website about it, I came to realize that I don't need to list anything. Even if I did the character seems to develop with this story, therefore you can't list they're qualities and expect it to remain true.

    When you look at it in real life, we may go into a situation one way, but when we come out, are we really truly the same person as when we went in? Though we sometimes don't realize it, even the slightest little detail changes about us. Rainy brings up a good example of this. So I'm not going to bother with giving yet another example to prove the same point several times over.

    As for negative traits of a character, I have a basic idea of what I want for my character, but sometimes I let the story do the work of bringing about they're negative attributes. In example, I'll use one of my own characters. In the story she's a faithful body guard and student, she has plenty of friends and seems to have life made out for her. However, even though she has all this, she has a nasty temper, a bad habit of solving everything with violence, she cuses in many languages, and she gives everyone around her the cold shoulder. Not to mention she won't have a thing to do with her family. There really isn't no apparent reason for her to act the way she does, or to have such negative traits. It's just something that worked well with the plot. Sure I could have worked it another way, but these just worked out better than what I had originally planned.

    Anyways, don't try listing things and expecting them to work out the way you listed. Things change, and if you allow the flow of the story to mold your characters, you may find you have a more believable character and story than what you would have otherwise.
     
  8. rainy
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    rainy Senior Member

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    Silverwolf's comment adds an important point: the traits should somehow weave into the story, either pushing it forward or solidifying it.

    It might seem a little odd, but if char creation is an issue (speaking in general to anyone), try taking a 101 class in psychology at a local community college. Good ones are very introspective, and by seeing how your life help shaped you, it's easier to imagine how life has shaped others.
     

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