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  1. ChrisGallagher
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    ChrisGallagher Member

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    What do you think of this guy?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by ChrisGallagher, May 2, 2010.

    I'm currently working on a thriller.
    After a lot of contemplation, I thought up a brilliant protagonist, who would feature in the series I have planned.
    Tell me what you think of him.

    NAME Jack Barker
    AGE 34
    DOB 23/8/1975
    MILITARY RANK Air Flight Commander Jack Barker
    PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES 6” 3. Black hair. Blue eyes. Physical condition outstanding, coming from experience with Special Air Service and Royal Navy.
    SKILLS First Grade marksman. High-quality weapons officer. Excellent hand-to-hand combat. Class 3 Pilot Licence (CIVILIAN and MILITARY).
    EDUCATION First Class Honours degree for Information Technology. First Class Honours degree for Current Affairs Technology. Proficient in French, Spanish, German, and Italian. Basic Russian known.
    OCCUPATION(S) Royal Navy 800 Naval Air Squadron (BAE Harrier GR7/9)(1993-2002). 22 Special Air Service Regiment Sabre Squadron Troop One (2002-2006). Department of Foreign Operations (2006-present)

    Any extra ideas. Is this guy too cliché?
    This is just a character outline, I would flesh him out much more in the novel.
     
  2. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    This looks to me like many skills. Two honors degrees, five languages, expertise in weapons and hand to hand combat, and flying expertise, seems like too much to learn by age 34 even for a professional student who never has to actually do anything with his skills.

    Sure, you can make him the World's Greatest Genius Soldier, but characters like that are pretty boring. I would make him good at one thing, competent at one or two others, drop the rest of his genius qualifications, and drop him into a situation where he has to struggle to succeed.

    And all of that is about skills, which are really not the main thing. To know what I think of him, I'd need to know something about his personality.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    That's not a guy, that's a personnel record. The only way to know about the character is to see him in action.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto that!
     
  5. Norm
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    Norm Contributing Member

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    Also, don't name him Jack. I can't even count the number of action or horror stories where the protagonist is a young man, fit, and named Jack haha.
     
  6. tcol4417
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    tcol4417 Member

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    I'm not seeing any kind of character outline, just the first few bits of a facebook page.

    The whole idea of making a character is that you introduce them as a person through the story itself - laying them out like this just makes them look like one more random stranger sending me a friend request, which always gets the same response:

    Ignored.
     
  7. Humour Whiffet
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    Humour Whiffet Banned

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    Ditto what cog says. Also, if he's been in the military since 18, how has he had time to fit in two degrees? In the U.K., if you go to uni at 18, your degree usually lasts three years. So when did he fit in the six years of study?
     
  8. ap Oweyn
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    ap Oweyn Member

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    I was thinking the same thing. I mean, this character sounds over the top. But it also sounds like 007. Who IS over the top. But within context, it works. Without the context, it's impossible to say.
     
  9. Afterburner
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    Afterburner Active Member

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    Jack Barker is just a couple letters away from Jack Bauer.
     
  10. Aeschylus
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    Aeschylus Contributing Member

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    It's not a character. Like Cogito said, it's really nothing more than a dossier file. It says nothing about his personality, his morals, his flaws, etc. That's what makes the character. You have some of the character's texture, but it's his essence you need to know. He'll be much more interesting if he's flawed or morally unsound, or something to that effect.
     
  11. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Also sorta hard to understand why he has those degrees and excellent in those fields. Is it because he is part of some special force like group or what?

    I have no problem with characters like that. As long as there is a purpose and reason behind it. If its there just to make the character look good, then it sorta puts me off.
     
  12. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Let me tell you about a guy I know. He went to the Air Force Academy at 18, made a career in AF, then retired (on reserve) at the ripe old age of forty. But he was a smart guy, brilliant actually (I'm no slouch in the intellectual department but he makes me feel like an idiot!), and financially savvy. Never a big spender, by the time he bowed out of the service, he was quite a wealthy fellow. Of course it didn't hurt that he started with a little family $$ to back him up. Even in today's economy, he is sufficiently well-situated that his money makes its own money and he merely lives off of his money's "hard work". Counting various dialects of Arabic and African languages, David speaks twelve languages, including the now pedestrian Russian, French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese, as well as a bit of Greek. Even now, fifteen years after his pseudo-retirement, he is still as fit and rock solid as the day he retired and doesn't look to have aged any since then - still turning heads of women half his age.

    He gets a kick out of giving money away and does so, surreptitiously, around the globe, wherever there is a problem he feels could be alleviated or mitigated by throwing money at it. We always know when he's out playing philanthropist. His wife, Teddy, shows up at parties alone. And he doesn't just throw money. He throws himself into his passions as well.

    He loves corny jokes, always seems on the verge of laughter, which he claims is the best exercise for the heart, but he's not ashamed to cry, either. (He is regularly teased about being a 'wishy-washy sentimentalist' but he doesn't care.) He is incredibly in touch with his psychological core. He has a firm grasp on priorities and what is important in life. "If it breathes," he says, "it takes precedence over 'things'."

    Says his favorite sound in the whole world is the sound of a child's laughter. To look at him, playing baseball or ice skating with his two kids or taking his wife out to lunch at ARBY'S (He loves their turkey sub and a Jamocha shake!), you'd never suspect he could buy and sell any one of us. To him, money is a tool. His philosophy is, "If you don't use it, it's worthless." Another of his favorite sayings is, "Money is like manure. You need to spread it around for it to do any good." For him, it is not a goal but a means to one's goals. ("Easy for you to say", we tell him.) But no one would ever begrudge him his wealth because he is so blue collar, down-to-earth. Like Will Rogers, I don't believe he has ever met a man he didn't like - or, if really unlikeable, at least feel some kindness and compassion for. Though I must confess, I have seen him angry enough to beat someone to death with his bare hands.

    Dave is a real, live, warm-blooded human being who likes to kick back with his buds and a few long necks in his basement watching football or hockey. (He's not a big fan of baseball or basketball except the 'sandlot' variety as a participant. And he can knock a ball out of the park like Maguire or Sosa - without the 'roids!) He has feelings and dreams and hopes. He's 98.6. He bleeds. He breathes.

    He is someone who inspires hope and joy in those around him. I could run a grocery list personal profile of him but, without showing you his character, his personality, his wants and needs ... without giving you a peek into his soul, I could never make you see what we, his friends, see.

    Your personal profile is just that. Nothing more. People, however, are ever so much more than that. They (personal profiles) are two-dimensional and a person presented in such a manner can be nothing more than that as well. Two dimensional. Being in the military, having multiple degrees, speaking multiple languages … all of those things are merely labels, pointers directing you to the inner sanctum, if you will, of the person you are trying to create. But no one can really feel the essence of the person through those things and, therefore, cannot begin to get a feeling for that person.. THAT is what will give us an idea of who Jack Barker is. THAT is what you want to show your reader. And that is what we would need to get any real impression of what we think of him.
     
  13. Laura Mae.
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    Laura Mae. Member

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    He sounds a little too perfect for 'just a guy'. If you think about it, your average soldier isn't going to have Honours Degrees, fluency in five languages and have been in the SAS. Let's be realistic here, I think you need to work out which things about this character you like the most, maybe the special forces experience, and cut the rest of the education stuff out because if he's going to be a Commander of something he's either going to have been in the military for a very long time, or be some kind of war hero. Also, having two honours degrees is going to mean he's spent a lot of time at university, something close to six odd years. So think about it, he's 34, went to uni at, say, 18. Graduates at 24. Ten years later he's already been in the SAS, Navy, learnt five languages and is an Air Flight Commander. Something sort of a miracle, I think.

    Please don't take this as outright nasty criticism, because it's not, just think about how your character will fit into the world around him. Depending on how your story goes, take the military route or the academic route. Or at least make his rank more suitable to ten years combat experience, to make him more real and less perfect. Also, you could flesh him out by adding some kind of emotional scars or the like from his time in the military, you know?

    :)
     
  14. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Laura Mae, just because I love a good debate, (btw, I do really like your argument), I would like to point out either or both degrees could conceivably been attained while in the service. Well, okay, probably just one as, finishing university prior to enlisting, he could enter as an officer Therefor, it's entirely possible he could have entered service at 20 or 21. On my side of the water, a military man is eligible for full retirement benefits after 14 or 15 years so it is exceedingly possible that the guy in the profile could have accomplished what is listed.

    Of course, my question is still WHY? Why did he do this stuff? What makes Jackie run? What's he running to? What's he running from? What keeps him running? That's the meat that makes the stew.
     
  15. Lankin
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    Lankin Member

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    I would employ him.
    I see your point, @wordsmith, it is just a list of qualifications, it is not a character.
    If it is going to be a Thriller, as you say, the hero must face a challenge.
    What might that be? What could be challenging for him?
    Is it just him against heavily armed forces, global conspiracy sort of thing?
    Or is he forced to hide his abilities, like a secret agent?

    I would like to hear more!
     
  16. Eternity
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    Agreed with Norm on this one. PLEASE don't call your character (who sounds more like an action figure) Jack. Or Barker. It's just so common.

    I think he sounds like he's accomplished a lot in his short life - maybe too much? He doesn't sound very realistic. However, don't cut too much out, since all the different attributes and skills could be brought in in very ingenious, unexpected ways, just to be a bit less cliche.

    Describe his personality to us, let us get to know him. I don't know the person down the street just because she's wearing a uniform, got a name tag on and is holding a sign listing her degrees and skills. What's "Jack" like, is he depressed? Is he married, single, father, in a relationship, running away from a relationship, a joker at heart or a murderer? A big softie that hides behind his brawn, or a soldier that's lost all emotion to war? WHO is he?

    I love that he's got 5 languages, though. Definitely keep that in. I actually really love all of the accomplishments, degrees, honours, etc etc. He needs them! Maybe.... just make him 10-15 years older? Maybe that could be another twist to your story. He's off on this mission to do whatever it is you have him doing, but he struggles because of his age.

    And really love Word Smith's post. Hung off every word. What a guy. I want to get to know him! Do this for Jack and I'll be back to check it out!
     
  17. tcol4417
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    tcol4417 Member

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    Side note - don't introduce him with these qualifications. It's tacky and two-dimensional.

    Everyone knows that Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne are geniuses, but you're not given a resume at the beginning of every comic/episode/movie, it's revealed over the course of the experience and usually worked in using humour.

    Example:

    Terrorist: [Russian] Even if you could understand what I'm saying, I wouldn't tell you anything!
    Batman: ...[Russian] I can... and you will.

    Pepper: I thought you said you weren't making any more weapons.
    Tony: This isn't a weapon, it's a flight stabiliser. It's perfectly safe.
    *BOOM*
    Tony: I wasn't expecting that.

    Don't have him running around with his degrees hanging out of his fly, because then he'll just look like a rooster (hahahaha sorry). The whole idea of character development is... well, character development. People don't want you to hand them a cardboard cutout of a cake with just your word that it's delicious, they want to know what's in it, how it's made - everything basically.

    "He is someone who inspires hope and joy" - is he now? I've just got your word for that. I've never met the guy, never seen him in action, never experienced him as a person - you're still describing a stranger to me, no matter what you do. unless - UNLESS - you write the character in his native environment: A story. It's good to see that you've got a solid image in your head of what you want him to be (or become, assuming that he evolves as a person which I hope you've considered), but the next step is to build a narrative and build it now. Anything else is just loading more salt onto the entree.

    If you consider a character "complete" in anything less than 20,000 words then you're basically expecting people to tear out a picture in a recipe book and eat it.
     
  18. Anonym
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    Anonym Contributing Member

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    Sounds interesting, though a bit superhuman, yeah. Plausible I suppose.

    More than anything I personally like seeing ultra-skilled characters put through situations that test their skills and make them the underdog, which can be difficult to do with characters who are experts at whatever challenge is thrown at them. Your guy doesn't quite sound like that (which would be a real cliche), but just make sure to him seem fallable and weak in some areas, I guess.
    Perhaps he has to diffuse an IED er somethin and he only has very basic explosives training or somethin to that effect, making useless his immense array of skills and demonstrating his humaness. We obviously have no idea what your series is about, but I think the principle goes for most protagonists -- especially seemingly superhuman ones.
    Meh, yeah, sounds interesting.
     
  19. RobT
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    RobT Active Member

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    You have his DOB as 1975 and his service running from 1993 which would make him 18 when he joined the Royal Navy 800 Naval Air Squadron and it's unlikely there's many 18 year old Harrier pilots in the Royal Navy Air Squadron . Usually when you join the forces there would be a period of training before you join a regiment and I'd imagine with a pilot that'd be a good few years.

    Is "Air Flight Commander" a valid rank for UK forces?
     
  20. Norm
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    Norm Contributing Member

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    Well, I think i forgot to mention one thing:

    It's perfectly okay to make your protagonist crazy talented if his obstacles are even more crazy difficult.
     
  21. SilverWolf0101
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    SilverWolf0101 Active Member

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    Personally when I first read your character outline I felt like I was looking at a character out of some Hollywood movie. Then I thought to myself, "This character seems a little to perfect, even for a book".

    I'd like to see how you "flesh" him out in the story, maybe not a complete chapter but a quick piece where he is dealing with something. Something where we can see what he's really like. After all like Cogito, and many others told me, in a thread about character profiles, you don't see the profile in the story, you see the character. So in their true fashion, show me the character, not his rap sheet.
     
  22. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oooh! Missed that '75 DOB! Yeah. That really turns him into Mr. Impossible, even if he were a frickin' genius. Although, if someone that high up the I.Q ladder was silly enough to want to go into the service, he probably would be on a fast track of sorts. I doubt seriously if HRH would want to put a national brain trust in the line of fire.
     
  23. nickbedford
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    nickbedford Member

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    Something that was revealed to me on this very forum is that it's much better to use actions and dialogue in the plot to describe your character, just as Cog and others have said.

    For example with the protagonist in my sci-fi story, over the course of the first few chapters I've written so far you find out he's a Lieutenant Commander, his surname is Quin, he's obviously okay with a rifle ("Mag-Rifle" in this case), he has a sense of authority and leadership and that he is also a bit of a thinker.

    But all of this is described through the actions he takes and the dialogue he speaks and the only "skill" explicitly told is his military rank. The rest is about who he is as a person, not a military asset.

    In fact, I'm not really sure yet exactly who he is as a person because I've only defined some more military based areas of his personality and have yet to explore other areas.

    Reveal who your character is, not how good he is at algebra.
     
  24. Makoto
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    Makoto New Member

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    It sounds a bit too cliche. What are his flaws? I think he should only be fluent in, at most, 3 languages, and most of his skills should be around average (for military personnel), with a few that are above average, that make him stand out. You should choose the above average skills carefully: they should be traits that are unique, but critical to him succeeding in the story.
     
  25. ChrisGallagher
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    ChrisGallagher Member

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    What do you think of this guy? (changed)

    A while ago I wrote a profile on a protagonist that I created, and according to many, he was unrealistic, and dull. I've now created a much fuller bio on him, and I'd love to here your comments on him.


    Robert Carter, was born in 1972 on the outskirts of the English city of Plymouth. He attended a local Primary School for two years, before he and his family moved to the centre of London. There he attended a major independent school, at which he continued through into high school. His academic achievements were mainly in practical subjects, whilst barely scratching the surface of mathematics.
    Considered by many to be a popular, interesting individual, Carter made many good friends in his early life.

    After leaving High School, he was signed at London Metropolitan University, at which he studied International Relations, and Information Technology. Alongside these core studies, he worked on his language skills, with which in a short time he managed to learn fluently. Within his several years at university, he managed to fully learn French, German, and Spanish. He also developed some basic Russian skills. He received a First Class Honours degree for International Relations, whilst achieving an above average grade for Information Technology. He was considered by his mentors and teachers to be a prospective politician, who would possibly go far in his field. However, Carter is a modest man, and, not wanting to boast about himself, he joined the Royal Navy Pilot’s course.

    After only a short time, he achieved Pilot Licence, allowing him to join the Royal Navy’s 800 Naval Air Squadron as a pilot. He flew the Harrier aircraft for many years, before achieving the rank of Commander. After being positioned as Air Flight commander of 800 for two years, he moved on to join the Royal Marines’ Training Course. Here, the Special Forces personnel discovered his uncanny ability of marksmanship, and hand-to-hand combat, whilst his terrible hand-eye-co-ordination let him down on many fronts. Instead of fully joining the Marines, he became a part of the Special Boat Service M Squadron, responsible for carrying out specialist boarding operations, and working with the SAS. A strong and tall man, he made a good career from this, working on several anti-terrorist operations.

    In 2006, whilst acting as a commander in his squadron, he was given a request to join the Secret Intelligence Service as a specialist operative. He agreed, and left the SBS to become a reserve trooper, whilst fully joining the SIS’ Directorate of Special Operations.

    Considered by many to be a stubborn man, he has often preferred everything to go his way, whilst playing only on orders from higher ranks. However, he is a funny man to be around, yet a bit of a perfectionist. His personal life has been unstable, hardly ever having a long relationship.

    He is unmarried, works for DoSO, and lives in Victoria District, London
     

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