1. Aether
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    Aether Member

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    Want real characters? Follow my step-by-step guide!

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Aether, Oct 23, 2007.

    Well, the key to creating a believable character is to think a lot about them, jot down a history of them, think of what their personality is like and give them reactions to different situations. You also have to spend a lot of time on your characters like a year, that's how long I've spent.

    History
    Go to the beginning, the chicken and the egg.
    Has there been any traumatic or major events that has happened to make them how they are?
    What are their family like? (How you are raised is the main contribution to a person's development)
    Have they succumbed to any kind of peer pressure in their vital years?
    Where were they raised?
    Were they raised in a poor environment or a rich upbringing? (A rich person is always a lot crueler and materialistic than a poorer person)

    Personality
    Think of yourself as a basis.
    What do you like?
    What do you hate?
    What are your moods like? (Are you always angry or happy?)
    Do you have any quirks? (Unexpected skills or interests make humans, human)

    Those are the two vital catagories that make us, us. We are not human if we are all the same.
     
  2. Scavenger
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    Scavenger Senior Member

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    First of all, that first quoted bit is an outrageous statement, and not true in the slightest. You find cruelty and materialism in all classes of life, and you find selflessness and charity in all classes as well.

    Secondly, if you base all your characters off yourself, you're going to have a long list of the same people who might have different eye color.

    I agree that a general basis for outline a character is a great idea, I use them all the time. That said, you need a much longer questionnaire before you can create a dynamic character. The one I use is about 150 questions long.

    I find the best way to develop a character is to create a lot of "what if" questions, and then answer them. You really get the chance to flesh out your ideas that way.

    Cheers.
     
  3. Funny Bunny
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    Funny Bunny Contributing Member

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    Hi Aether, it is great that you are getting your "writer's philosophy" together. All writers need to really find out what works for them. You have a lot of good points here. I too, wonder why you said rich folks are cruel. It's not always the case. Princess Diana was rich. I am and have always been poor. Us poor folks can be pretty cruel. Desperation makes us do wild and crazy things at times. Rich or poor matters little. But your best points are about things like trauma and peer pressure.
     
  4. Frost
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    Frost Contributing Member

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    Are you blind? While not all rich folk are cruel, most of us, bar very very few are extremely materialistic. It's simply naive to believe otherwise.
     
  5. RomanticRose
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    RomanticRose Active Member

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    Mine runs 12 pages before I start answering pages. I can get up to 100 pages of character work on a main POV character.
     
  6. Heather Louise
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    Heather Louise Contributing Member Contributor

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    hey, Aether. thanks for sharing this with us, it could really help someone who always struggles with making their charector different. although i do mine differently myself, i say if it works for you, use it. again, thanks for sharing though, it made an interesting read. :)
    Heather
     
  7. Charisma
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    Charisma Transposon Contributor

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    ...I feel so odd right now. I've never used a questionnaire for my characters. I just create an image of them in my mind, and I work on. Anyways, you can't say:
    Quite wrong, in my opinion.

    Nevertheless, if this helps you, kudos to you.
     
  8. RomanticRose
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    RomanticRose Active Member

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    No need to feel odd. Not everyone's process is the same.
     
  9. Funny Bunny
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    Funny Bunny Contributing Member

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    I don't think good characterization is a matter of filling out a questionnaire. Consider that a character needs contradictions, and that throws questionnaires out the door.
     
  10. Heather Louise
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    Heather Louise Contributing Member Contributor

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    i have never used a questionarrie either Anthrax, i find for myself i end up making my people too,, unlifelike. i just tend to picture them and then if they are main charector, talk to them :p
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I don't go for questionnaires either. I feel that they are too restrictive. In order to design a questionnaire, you have to begin with an initial plan as to what is important about the character.

    I get to know a character as he or she develops. I'll start with whatever characteristics I feel are important to the story I am telling. As I add characteristics, I keep track of them in order to maintain consistency. At the same time though, the character becomes more distinct for me; I get to know the character's way of thinking, how he or she moves, and I form a mental picture.

    I don't always write everything that is part of my mental picture, though, because the reader can form a different mental picture. I want that to happen. If a woman in a story is stunningly beautiful, and I begin detailing her beauty, that unnecessarily opens me up to describing someone who isn't the reader's "type".

    I learn a lot more about characters by how they respond in various situations than I ever could from any questionnaire I could devise.

    Just my perspective on it - your mileage may vary.
     
  12. Charisma
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    Charisma Transposon Contributor

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    Well said Cogito. My characters evolve with the story and by the end of it they are there for me. I especially enjoy not knowing what kind of character he/she comes out to be because as I discover him/her, I enjoy the experience and take time to mock or praise the character. Nevertheless, people have their own ways of doing it and it rather worried me when people on this board commented on their questionnaires. I've used a questionnaire once, but for a character which I wasn't going to use anyways, so it didn't exactly help :p It was more of a test.
     
  13. Heather Louise
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    Heather Louise Contributing Member Contributor

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    yea, i used a questionaiire once in school. but yea, i prefer developing them as i go along. although, i always tend to do that with my stories, i never know where they are gunna end up, i just write :p
     
  14. Karpi
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    Karpi Member

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    my characters are designed by word association
    i take a varied group of personality traits, assign them, then in their introduction, i extremify this trait.
    Then i take a back seat to character development and mold the storyline around what each individual would do.
     
  15. Scavenger
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    Scavenger Senior Member

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    Oh I'm not saying rich people aren't materialistic. I'm saying that everyone is materialistic (bar a very very few), and it's naive to only categorize rich people as having those characteristics.

    And actually, I would label middle and lower class people as being, in some ways, more materialistic than the upper class.

    It's interesting about questionnaires. I don't use them when I first begin to formulate a character, but as I develop them more, I start using them just as a good base. I usually find about three or four different ones and combine them until I feel like I've got a fairly comprehensive cover. This way, I can make sure I've developed a full character, because just keeping a loose organization of traits I find tends to mess me up and I'll skip over important aspects of their personality, etc.
     
  16. Aether
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    Aether Member

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    Woah

    Woah, this is really... well a lot of people commenting. I never said to use the questionaire exclusively. And yeah, I guess now that I think about it everyone nowadays are materialistic, I was thinking more for my story when I put that up. I always find that creating a general questionaire about my characters and then adding onto them helps me significantly. You need to know what kind of people they are, and the questionaire is more of a reference to me. You forget a lot of things when you write, so you need to go back and look it up, it's a bit of a library. And my characters evolve with the story as well, I'm always thinking about my characters.

    And Cogito, if you design the characters to fit the story too much. They become unrealistic, you have to make things about them that you never would've guessed, like some really wierd little kid who seems to screw everything up could actually be really good at what she does or like to just sit and think. People are complex.
     
  17. Heather Louise
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    Heather Louise Contributing Member Contributor

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    well if it works for you Aether then go for it. i tihnk what people need to do is find a way of developing their charectors that they are comfeteable with. and yea, i tend to find myself creating charectors and forgetting their names and stuff,, i should make a list with a short bio of the them all as each new one gets made so i can remember everything.
     
  18. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Aether, I don't design a plot in advance. I generally have a few ideas about the direction the story will take, and that often requires certain traits in the characters to create the initial conflicts. Form there, however, I design what I need to of the characters to give them enough form for me to begin placing them into the story. From there, their development drives the plot more than the other way around. The plot influences the character development as well, but only in combination with the existing nature of the character.

    Ther is a natural interaction between characters and plot, and both need to bend accordingly in order to be realistic. I believe primarily in a character-driven storyline, though, and that does mean the character has to have an initial trajectory that is consistent with where I want the story to go, like a billiard ball has to be in a particular area of the table to make a shot that has a general plan (7 ball in the corner). The ball need not be on a precise spot on the felt, but if it's at the other end of the table, your choices for your next play are drastically altered.
     
  19. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I think it all depends on what works for you.

    I mean, I just sit down and a Charitor comes out.
    How beliveable he or she is entirly depends on how much i'm willing to write.
     
  20. mooeypoo
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    mooeypoo New Member

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    I knew I have this reference somewhere, check this out:
    Rhetoric and Composition/Logical Fallacies - Wikibooks, collection of open-content textbooks

    as a responsible writer (and as a creative writer, I would say), you should avoid fallacies. The claim you posted is False Analogies.

    First, because it makes a generalization. Even if it *is* true to a lot of the "rich folk" (which I disagree, personally) it still is a generalization. I find generalizations in a character works *against* the character; makes it very unrealistic.. also, generalizations tend to create characters that are not unique. The audience and readers know of this generalization, and so the character ends up appearing shallow.

    Second, you should remember that generalizations like these depend on where you are raised yourself. I was *not* raised in America, and the entire "Capitalism" idiology was less of an issue for me; I don't make that connection at *all* with rich and cruelty, and I can guarantee that if you ask other people from different parts of the world, the term "rich" gives different meanings, depending on the economical state of the country or the general education, etc.

    You should probably avoid these for that reason too, otherwise people (like me) who read a story with a message of "of course he's cruel, he's rich!" would really put the book down - or miss your point.. try to avoid generalizations in general and logical fallacies in particular, no matter how much you believe in them.

    ~moo
     
  21. Aether
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    Aether Member

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    'Sigh'

    Yeah, I know. If you read what I said later on you would've seen that I already agreed with the others. I have never made a generalised character.
     
  22. BotSmash
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    BotSmash New Member

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    You can't be stereotypical and assume rich people are crueler than poor, that's just not right.
     
  23. Anthony James Barnett
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    Anthony James Barnett Contributing Member

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    I find that by cutting out pictures from magazine etc, of people who seems to fit the characters I'm developing, is of great help. It makes me focus on the characters as real people, BEFORE I start asking pertinent questions. It also means that I can constantly refer to the pictures so I don't forget what they look like.

    I then build up as complete a background as I can, including houses, maps, likes/dislikes, musical taste, phobias, schools, absolutely everything I can think of.

    Because I'm male, I have little knowledge of womens fashions, so in order to be accurate, I use adverts to give me types of fabrics, names of styles, combinations that go well together, colours etc. I also use articles on homes and d├ęcor to give me ideas... So as you can se, all in all, I'd be lost without magazines to guide me.

    Anthony (Profile of an Author)
     
  24. ANT (Bar YOSEF)
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    ANT (Bar YOSEF) Contributing Member

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    Im basin mine, JUDAH, on Zachary QUINTO out of Heroes!!!
     

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