1. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    Trying make characters better and more 3D, plz help

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by DeathandGrim, Dec 31, 2012.

    I'm working on a series called Ruin that's themed around human psyche

    I want my characters to be as 3D as possible, so that when the many events that occur within the plot lines do happen, readers will have somewhat of a connection to the characters, rather than just shrugging it off

    There are four main protagonists in, four different parts of the series, the way each one lives and act represents some part of humanity and society:

    Nicholas Blade (Age 31) - Primary protagonist, the symbol of depression. He lives life with a black cloud overhead. His life was destroyed by a plane crash and he never was able to pick up the pieces again. His ultimate goal is to find a way to reverse the severe damage he’s done to himself over the years of being a criminal.

    D’Angelo Peers (Age 36) - Secondary protagonist, the symbol of greed. He lives his life with a restlessness and is always hungry for more. He lives by a set code of honor and loyalty. His ultimate goal is to be a known name around the world by anyway he can: legal or not.
    His plot line deals with self-gratification and power hunger.

    Bobby Ricks (Age 16) - Tertiary protagonist, the symbol of ambition. His life is all about his ambition to strive toward greatness. His over-ambition eventually gets him wrapped up with the criminal underworld and he begins to go through the same motions as Nicholas. His goal is to be the best fighter in the world.
    His plot line deals with growing up, hardship, personal loss, and personal struggle.

    Vincent Wells (Age 24) - Quartary protagonist, the symbol of friendship. Vincent is a Reaver who has already discovered his abilities and is well acquainted with them. His storyline deals with a different world other than Nick’s world as he and his childhood friend Lanelle Johnson have to deal with Reaver’s (Humans with demonic influenced powers) in Jersey. He eventually crosses paths with Nick along this plot and the two become unlikely partners.
    His plot lines deal with maintaining the image of a hero and balancing that with his personal life and friendships.

    Can someone please give me some critique on these characters, plz tell me any suggestions you have. Also ask me questions too because the information I've given is paraphrased and there is more.
     
  2. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi DeathandGrim, welcome to the forums

    I see 3D as a visual thing - I would say for a written work, give characters more depth.

    You have described each character with a list of basic details - you have not given any real insight to the character; this is were show don't tell comes in to play.

    What is each character feeling? What makes them tick? You need to get inside their heads and 'walk a mile (or two, three, four...) in their shoes' what do they think/feel? You don't have to describe everything about them, but you the author need to know these things to be able to show a well rounded character.

    Hope this is of help, Trilby
     
  3. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, you haven't really told us a lot about the characters, even though it seems like you have. You've given us a general bio, but I think what you're asking us is how to make them seem like real, genuine people. That can't be conveyed through the simple descriptions you've given us here, just like we can't really get to know you when you give us a brief description of yourself. One way to make your characters more real is to put a little bit of yourself in each of them. Give each of them one of your pet peeves. Give them some habits and gestures. Think about what they like to do and maybe even go through some of those character sheet exercises to try to answer questions like their favorite foods, and what car they'd drive, etc. (Although be careful -- don't get too overly involved in this and don't feel that anything you answer is etched in stone. Just try it as a way to think about them.)

    But the very best way to develop your characters is to spend time with them. The best way to do that is to write some scenes with them, even if they aren't scenes that ultimately end up in your book. Put two of the characters together at a lunch table and see what they discuss. Have one of them come home from work and see what he does -- how does he arrive home? (Car? bus? walking? bicycle? subway? spaceship?) What time is it? Where does he live? Is he happy to be home? Relieved? Dreading being home? Exhausted? Why? What happens when he gets in the door? Who else is at home? if no one, why -- does he live alone or do other people live there? Was he expecting to return to someone at home? Is he happy to see him/her? Does he eat dinner soon after arriving home? Did someone make that dinner for him? Did he cook it himself? Did he have leftovers? Is there no food in the house except a box of mac and cheese? Or Ice cream? Or beer? Does he interact with anyone that evening -- either in person, over the phone, via computer, text message, letters? If he doesn't interact with anyone, why not?

    When you really get to know your characters, their interactions with each other will really start to flow and that will make you know them even more, which makes them more real. When your characters are spending time together, that's when you find out that one of them drinks nothing but Diet Coke and it has to be flat because she can't stand the bubbles, so there are always capless bottles around her house to release the fizz. That's when you find out about the long-standing disagreement over whether Wonder Woman would choose to be with Superman or Batman. And it's when you find out that two of the characters met in tenth grade, when one of them covered for the other who had snuck out to get lunch at Burger King, and his car broke down on the way back, and they had to make up some story to get out of trouble, and now the one guy always buys BK for the other. Those sorts of things, and obviously appropriate to the time and place of your story.

    Doing this is actually a lot of fun. No time spent on this is wasted -- the more you know your characters, the better off you'll be. You can never know them too well.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The way to make characters multidimensional is to show them from different angles. If you see the antagonist of the piece only as a scheming murderer, that is how readers will see her. If you also show her grieving over memories of her dead baby, you are seeing her from a different angle. Likewise if you see her appreciating the perfection of a tiny, symmetrical wildflower.

    View every character as a peson. Relate the character to other people you have known. What do you know of them that is not obvious to everyone else?

    Don't overdo it. Don't paint a picture of your character with grease crayons, just touch it up with a blush of pastel color here and there.
     
  5. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    thanks for the tips everyone

    I'll describe them a bit more in depth

    Nicholas Blade's character is the result of PTSD and feelings of extreme depression and misunderstanding.

    Here's Nicholas' full Bio (Wall of Text Inc)

    381996_4352161965488_1535450445_n.jpg

    History

    Nicholas was born to a Christian mother, Leona Blade, and father, Eric Blade. Leona Blade was a part time monster hunter and part time teacher while Eric Blade was a chef. Leona’s life as a hunter came full circle when she’s attacked by a demon during her stay in the hospital, causing her to inhale miasma at one point during the attack, the Miasma went on to affect and convert Nicholas.

    At 6 months Nicholas was baptized by Reaver Hunter Father Vance, during the baptism Father Vance made an attempt on Nicholas’ life sensing the demon in him, by attempting to drown to baby. But he was stopped violently by Leona which led to her expulsion from the church.

    When Nick was 4, his father grew gravely ill and passed away. He can barely remember much about him. At this time Leona is forced to work to work 2 jobs to keep Nicholas and herself afloat. During this period she could no longer hunt monsters, in fear of endangering Nicholas.

    By the time Nicholas had become 20 he was a highly successful student in college and had received high marks. He had plans of becoming a math teacher and was on his way to his degree. He was on great terms with his mother and had fully accepted his father’s death and had moved on.

    Around summer time, Nicholas’ family decided to fly down to the south in Florida for a vacation. During the trip the plane engine explodes causing the plane to fall apart in mid air and fall into a death dive. Nicholas has no choice but to flee the plane under his mother’s orders, leaving Nicholas as the last living member of his whole family as he barely escapes with a parachute. He watched in horror as the plane crackled and crumbled in the wind. The accident had left him devastated and had thrown him into a downward spiral of depression and misery that leads to him dropping out of school and becoming a criminal.

    He began small, starting in drug running and dealing, a role he said would “keep the lights on“ in his now empty house. From there he escalated to mugging and being a bodyguard where he had gotten a feel for guns and knife play.

    By age 25, Nicholas had become a full on mercenary for hire with his name becoming a hot topic around the criminal underworld. He had killed more than 300 people and run over 1000 contracts at this point. Seeing the coldest and lowest rungs of society and the greatest spoils of the underworld, however he never partook in any of it. Possibly stemming from his former morality, Nicholas never believed in “Showering himself in the gold stained by someone else’s blood” and only took enough money to live off of.

    A year later he meets a man by the name of James Sullivan, who offers him an invitation to high ranking mercenary group by the name of the Black Cloud Society, to which Nicholas accepted only on the grounds that it would provide a stable income.

    From the Black Cloud Society Nicholas had gotten to take his skills abroad and do contracts with high ranking officials very often, he had been across the world at some points and had gained a new appreciation of it. He had done this often enough to allow to briefly enjoy his own life, meeting a woman by the name of Veronica Small, to whom he had a 2 year relationship and a daughter named Anna. However, Veronica had decided to end the relationship shortly after Anna was born when she began to see that Nicholas’ life had become far too dangerous for the family life she wanted to have. She admitted to him that their attraction was due to a “phase” in her life where she desired a dangerous man, but she had then craved to simply settle down, mature, and start a normal life, a life in which Nicholas was simply not accustomed to living. This leads Nicholas to seriously question his own humanity and start to feel the full weight of his decisions he had made, especially leaving his new born daughter.

    At age 29, Nicholas had finally gotten the rights to see his daughter in public areas only on weekends much to his dismay, he is often berated by Veronica to give up the mercenary life and stay with her and Anna, to which Nicholas often refuses. He had realized that the life he had chosen had no true way out, and thus he had given up hope of trying to find it.

    By Age 31, at the start of the series, Nicholas’ name had faded away from the mouths of the underworld as he had been consistently conflicted with his criminal life and genuine attempts to become “normal” even getting a job as a bodyguard for an old family friend Christopher Hughes. At this point Veronica had chosen to give up on convincing him to stay with her and Anna, to which he harbors anger and resentment toward himself for becoming the monster that he had become. Veronica still doesn’t know that she is the only person to truly break Nicholas’ cold exterior to find what little traces of humanity he has left.

    Nicholas currently lives his day to day life with barely any life in him, to the point where Christopher Hughes asks him “why doesn’t he just end it? The pain, the suffering, you‘d be a lot better off.” To which he replies “I wasn’t given life to kill myself. There’s a reason we’re all alive, and some find it and some just die trying”

    Personality Bio

    Nicholas has generally a lax attitude, often showing no reaction to even extreme situations, he also has a sarcastic and dark sense of humor and slight tendency to mock friends at brief moments. He shown to smile when around his daughter, out of belief that he should be a role model for her. It’s very rare to see Nicholas act happy at any other moment. Often he is seen to be rather bored with any situation, eyes constantly half closed and voice showing little emotion. On occasion when Nicholas shows feelings of great anger or hatred he often is unable to control himself and will do things that defy human logic and even the laws of physics.

    Inside of his hardened exterior even though Nicholas had become Jaded over his 11 years of depression and sorrow, he is shown to be a good willed individual. Showing many instances of nobility, chivalry, honor, morality, and even love. Going out of his way at one point to save Amira Blue from killing herself and convincing her to live on, after he foils her attempt at killing his current contractor John D. Wiley. He doesn’t believe in killing anyone he isn’t contracted to kill and even then he decides if they really “deserve to die” or not.

    Since the death of his family, Nicholas is an avid smoker, previously describing it as a “disgusting habit” to his uncle he turned to it out of his depression. His other hobbies include: reading mystery stories and enjoying fettuccine alfredo whenever he can. He often visits a cafe on 22nd street, which he believes is simply OCD because the food at least "doesn't kill [him]", but this is also often where he conducts business with anyone he needs to, as well as meeting new people.

    Powers and Abilities

    (He doesn't attain his Reaver abilities until it's revealed to him later on in series that he even has them)

    Nicholas Blade was born a Reaver so he naturally has higher than human levels of strength and stamina as well as faster regeneration, sometimes being shown to heal from grievous wounds within hours.

    He has the ability to manipulate flame fields; while not burning an object itself but rather creates a plasma barrier around it that is ignited causing many previous objects to become “flammable“. He can manipulate this ability to emit pure fire at targets as well.

    As well as his supernatural power, Nicholas is highly skilled in the art of Bushido and Kendo having trained in Japan for 3 years. He is highly affiliated with many types of guns due to his mercenary and bodyguard work, showing a preference for handguns.

    Nicholas is fairly educated, having a completed high school education and very strong math skills. He's able to speak English, Spanish, Indian, Japanese, and Russian fluently as well as speaking a dead demonic language later on in the series.

    From 11 years of contract work Nicholas has an acute survival instinct, he's able to sense when things are going to go awry by noticing simple hints around him. Often he doesn't want to use it as he believes "these are things others shouldn't have to have pointed out them"
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I don't put much stock in bios/dossiers. They vary from harmless to unnecessarily constraining. I prefer to let my characters begin a tabula rasa, as a blank slate. They grow and take shape through the story or stories in which they participate. I get to know characters as I get to know my friends - through my interactions with them. I don't generate background checks to learn their life histories, I just get to know them day to day.

    And so, that is how I get to know characters. As I write, I make decisions based on the needs of the story, and upon what I have already learned about my character from the sum of the story I have written around the character. Nor do I treat my characters gently. I put them in bad situations, and allow them to make bad choices. They don't have to shine. They don't even have to survive. They just need to make realistic choices.
     
  7. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Cog is right. You've really just given us more of the same. That's all well and good (although you might find as your story progresses, that you might need to change some of that history.)

    You're telling us the basics -- like someone describing their friend to you, or seeing someone on a dating profile. You know basic things about them, but you probably wouldn't make a major commitment to them without actually meeting them first. You asked about making the characters more realistic -- that means you need to know their personalities and thought processes. Those things will be influenced by (or influenced) those events that happened to them.

    What you need to know are his thoughts and feelings about all of this. This is kind of related to the whole 'show versus tell' idea. This is akin to telling us the info. You need to work out how these things show themselves through his thoughts and feelings. The stuff about when he was 20 is not really relevant, at least insofar as you have phrased it. Somehow have it come out why he planned to become a math teacher. Is he a math whiz? Does he love kids? Why would he prefer to become a teacher instead of, say, an engineer? Or a math professor? Or an actuary? What is it about his personality that teaching appealed to him - and how is that relevant to your story later on?

    Again, I think spending time with your characters will reveal more about them to you as "real people" than creating their general life history will. Just for fun, why not open up a new word document (or whatever you use to write) and write a scene from when that character was 20 and was set up on a date. He's in a restaurant with a girl. What happens? What does he tell her about himself? What does she say that makes him reveal more? Does the date go so horribly that he never wants to date again? Is he uncomfortable? Or is he surprisingly at ease? Or is he excited about the date and it goes as well as he ever could have hoped? Does this girl become a character in your story? Maybe it turns out he's gay. Or maybe that's when he first has sex. Anything might happen. You say he has a great relationship with his mother. Does she know about the date? Would she ask him about it afterward? Would he tell her? Just write it out and see what happens, without any thought as to how this would at all relate to the rest of your story. Think about your character only. After you're done you can delete the whole thing. But see if, after doing that, you have any more insight into his personality.

    Also, when you think of your friends, do you think,"That's my buddy, Mark. His mom died when he was 10, and he then majored in business in college. He likes to work on cars." Or do you think, "Yeah, Mark. He's the one who got me beer for that party I threw when I was just shy of 21 and lost my fake ID. He's the one who cleaned up my vomit that time I was so drunk at that party I mistook the couch for a toilet. He's who I'd call if I was in real trouble."
     
  8. TimHarris
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    TimHarris Senior Member

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    I agree. Start with nothing, and slowly progress from there. When you meet a person in real life, you know nothing about them. First you might learn their name, then you slowly discover their personality through dialogue and experiences you have together. You form an image of the person through observing all their little personality quirks, humor, opinions and actions.

    Giving the reader a bio like the one you posted will just make their head explode with information, and they will make up their own version of the person that might be totally different from what you imagined them to be.
     
  9. domenic.p
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    domenic.p Banned

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    Moved
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who divide people into categories, and the empty set.

    Note that everyone will define the category buckets differently. It's an arbitrary partitioning.
     
  11. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Random comments:

    - I think that creating your characters to have some specific symbolism - friendship, depression, etc. - is extremely risky. Ideally, characters develop a life of their own. What happens if Nicholas suddenly starts developing as a character that struggles but manages to experience joy in everything? Will you, for plot symbolism reasons, squash that and flatten him out just as he's expanding to be a real character?

    Do you _need_ that symbolism, or do you feel that a work of fiction for some reason requires symbolism? I'd suggest that you abandon the symbolism and just let your characters be what they are.

    - The specific events of your characters' lives only matter in terms of their emotional reaction to those events, but I'm not getting any of that emotion. I'm going to ask a bunch of questions; I'm not suggesting that you answer them, I'm suggesting that these are the things that matter in understandig your character.

    - How did Nicholas feel about this father's death? How did he feel about having no father when his friends did? For that matter, did he have friends? Who were his friends? Did he find a father substitute of some sort - a teacher, a neighbor? Was the father substitute a good person or did they have a bad influence on him?

    - Was Nicholas aware that his mother gave up her calling of monster hunting because of him? Did she resent this, or resent him for it? Did he feel that she did?

    - How did Nicholas feel about his mother working so hard? Did he get to see her much? Did he miss her? Did he resent her absence? Did he feel guilt about that resentment? Were they poor in spite of her working so hard? Did he long for expensive things? Did he have trouble with the kids in school, as the "poor kid"? Who took care of him while his mother was gone? Was it one babysitter, or a series? Were they good people? Did he grow attached to them? Does he miss them?

    - Why did Nicholas want to be a math teacher? Did he love the idea of teaching, or was it a practical decision, based on the idea that he had the talent and skills and could probably get into an appropriate college on scholarship? Speaking of which, how did he and his mother pay for college? Was he working hard, job and classes, under constant fear of losing a scholarship due to a bad grade? Or was his mother now working a third job, perhaps resenting every time Nicholas slacked off?

    - Where did Nicholas's hard-working family get enough money to fly down to Florida? Was this a big, exciting, new expenditure, a first opportunity to explore the world? Does that affect his response to the tragic way that it ended - is he now afraid of chasing joy and further horizons, because of being "punished" for this effort to do so?

    - Why did the plane engine explode? Who was at fault? Was there a lawsuit? Does Nicholas hold someone responsible?

    (By the way, planes don't normally have parachutes for passengers; I think that you need a different death scenario here.)

    - What drove Nicholas to start killig people? "Depression" isn't enough of a reason to become a mass murderer; IMO, you need a great deal more.

    And what I see as a very large issue in the facts of Nicholas's life: You say that he killed 300 people between age 20 and 25. 300 people in five years is roughly one person every five and a half days. That doesn't strike me as realistic. Neither does the idea that he's refusing to take full profits for his criminal acts - he's killing _six people a month_, but still claiming a position of moral superiority?

    This strikes me as a person who is fundamentally and irretrievably insane. Even if I accept the "deserves to die" theory, is he really reseraching the heart and soul of his targets, and then killing them, in less than week? If he refuses to kill some of them, then he has even less time.

    He can still be a monster if he kills two or three "deserves to die" people in a year. Making him a one-man terrorist force, killing people so fast that he barely has time to make the plane flight to the next kill, strikes me as excessive.
     
  12. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    Yea I think that's my problem, I do tend over elaborate. It just stems from a fear of thinking someone would get confused so I tend to give too much detail.

    >.<

    So yea I think I should cut back in the detail, while the Bio was simply for references to his past (so I don't start changing things mid series like Deadpool's real name)

    I've become so obsessed with describing every little detail that I always felt that I'm just overdoing it, forgetting that its the reader's job to visualize, not mine. It was always in the back of my head.
     

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