1. BFGuru
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    BFGuru Active Member

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    What they do is fine. Motivations...struggle

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by BFGuru, Jul 3, 2014.

    I am really struggling with creating depth to my characters. I have an outline in my head (loose outline) of points they need to get to. I'm fine creating scenes, but my characters feel flat. It may be simply because most are so young at the beginning of the story and they develop their quirks as they age, but even children have depth, and I'm just not sure how to take two school buddies separated by the military and turn them into lovers.

    I'm not sure how to take a good girl who adores her mother and turn her against said mother even though it must be done for the sake of the story.

    It is the internal dialogue I need to develop. The why behind the actions. How do we do this effectively? And seamlessly? How do we age characters and have them grow over time? Questions, questions, questions.
     
  2. BFGuru
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    BFGuru Active Member

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    Adding, and I don't really have any "evil" antagonists. Just horrifically flawed humans that make stupid mistakes for the sake of (insert whatever here).

    O.k. I do have one or two bad guys but they aren't really mains.
     
  3. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am no expert and not even a true writer, however I still have advice to give on your girl changing her attitude about her mother. Do you really have to develop that theme? That is a type of thing that happens very often in everyday life, I would think a few incidents of conflict to show that the typical teenage rebellion years are causing a rift would be enough. Have the daughter ask for something at a time when the mother just cannot provide it; any number of reasons, financial, ailing parents, problems at work, etc. A couple of normal conflict events would be enough to suggest the change in attitude with no real reason necessary IMO.
     
  4. BFGuru
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    BFGuru Active Member

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    She finds out her mother is not her mother, so it's a very definitive rift, but to suddenly go from adoring daughter to ... I don't know... in my mind she remains conflicted, but becomes very cold. We are talking a girl that listened to everything this woman said, defended her even when they claimed she was not her mother and now...well...without giving too much detail...it has to be done for the sake of the plot.

    I just don't know how to get it across in depth wise. What is the difference between a flat character and deep character anyway? What makes me love one novelist and hate another based off of characters alone? Questions, questions, questions.
     
  5. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Much of how our characters develop and change as we grow are the result of what happens to us and our environment. The "internal dialog" will come when the character is presented with situations that significantly affect the character's life. Friendships, fights, changes in occupation, education, love, loss etc.
     
  6. thearchitect
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    thearchitect Member

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    Well you could show small instances with the child and the mother, ie the child's initial internal struggle when she finds out her mother has been lying about her identity, slowly growing apart from her, irritably replying to her or refusing to talk altogether.

    For the buddies separated by military, they could meet up by chance and have a mutual physical attraction or perhaps one decides to contact the other to have a reunion, or maybe they meetup at a school reunion?
     
  7. SuperVenom
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    SuperVenom Contributing Member

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    Symbolism. She notes things in her surroundings, say her mums brotch but now she sees it different. Part or a world she no longer belongs. ...its part of the deception then snowball other things until there is enuff for her to question her existence with this woman. slowly turing her against the pretence that she is her mother and soon dotting becomes complient that becomes resentment.
     
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  8. Renee J
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    Renee J Contributing Member

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    Characters are developed by the decisions they make. You could show her reacting to her mother before she finds out her mother is not her mother and then reacting to her mother after she finds out. Does the drift happen suddenly or is it a slow separation?
     
  9. BFGuru
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    BFGuru Active Member

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    It's a pretty forced separation. She will only see her behind bars from that point on.
     
  10. SuperVenom
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    SuperVenom Contributing Member

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    Im afraid there is countless situations that can cause such rifts, such as one being behind bars. I think a bit more info on the background and future of the characters would be be needed to really allow us to see where the difficultly lies.
     
  11. ToeKneeBlack
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    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

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    The daughter might fall in with the wrong crowd, or do something which the mother disapproves of.
     
  12. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Is this the typical "You didn't tell me I was adopted!" or something more sinister like, "You mean to tell me you stole me from my real mother when I was a newborn?!"

    I have little patience with the former. It doesn't strike me as grounds for a reasonable, well-behaved girl to suddenly hate the woman she's thought of as her mother all her life. Deciding not to disclose something is not lying, and one's adoptive mother is one's mother, even without common DNA.

    Even her being stolen by the woman wouldn't automatically cause a rift, I don't believe. Habit is habit, after all.

    Seems like you'd have to make it more complicated. Like she discovers the adoption was done in an underhanded way, causing serious hurt to someone the girl has cause to care about. Or if she was stolen have her find out her birth mother was murdered to get her. Or that the putative mother had more sinister motives for taking her than "I just had to have a baby to love."

    Or make the rift about something that's going on "now." Like the mother for years has been strict on the principle that something or other is absolutely wrong, and then the girl finds out the mother is involved in it herself (maybe after the girl has been severely punished for some minor misstep). Or let her find out that her mother is involved in some criminal racket and has been for years, and has been using her to work it out, like using her as a drug courier without her knowledge. And then when she finds out this isn't the woman who bore her, her anger will make sense. As in "You were just using me! All these years I was only your tool!"

    But having her cut off relations merely because she finds out she's adopted? No, no, no. Though if she was raised so poorly as to have that reaction, I guess both she and her adoptive mother deserve the fallout.
     
  13. Nilfiry
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    Nilfiry Contributing Member

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    Just wing it, and then rewrite as many times as it takes for you to get it to your liking. It is ridiculous to try and create a formula for how people grow and change. People can have drastic changes over time because of a horrific event or simply because they sat under the clouds and thought things over. Two people growing up in the exact same environment can have polar opposite outcomes and views on life simply because of a single moment of realization or lack thereof, and depending on their mental state, habits, and distractions at the time certain things are revealed to them, people can have extremely different reactions.

    Your best bet is to define the characteristics of the daughter until you would know exactly how she would react to every situation given her current mind set and the surroundings and situations leading up to the point where she finds out.
     
  14. PensiveQuill
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    PensiveQuill Contributing Member

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    I think what you are struggling with is the natural paradox within people. We all know people aren't inherently good or inherently bad so we seek to represent them as normal with an equal measure of both. But fiction does a clever manipulation, it slightly distorts character traits to make the reader feel a bias one way or the other about a character. Overwhelming sympathy with the protagonist and a dislike for the antagonist. It seems to me that your mother figure isn't slotting into the role of antagonist in that your readers and you have sympathy with her which is why it's hard to manipulate a dislike for her later on in the story.

    What you could do is create an exaggeration of her, not a characature, but just a subltle exaggeration that is plausibly rebelled against later. So she is the perfect mom in the beginning, the daughter adores her and wants to be just like her. But there is always a dark side to perfection. What if this facade of perfection actually hides a competitive drive, a need to win, a need for others to adore her beyond what reasonable people expect. There is an edge to her now, a darkside that can play out in tiny amounts in the beginning of the story to make the readers develop a dislike for her as time goes on. Not a huge rage but things like little snide remarks made to her daughter that embarrass and humiliate her in important moments. Little betrayals like reading or stealing a diary that transgress a boundary. Little chips to your protagonists self esteem that are the source of building resentment and later a plausible reason for rebellion once the truth finally emerges that this woman is not even her mother.

    A really good example of this is the short film Coraline, based on a story written by Neil Gaiman. Here we have the child annoyed with the regular disciplining but loving mother escape to a fantasy reality where the mother is overwhelmingly sweetness and light, adoring the child and giving her everything she wants. The child enjoys this until it slowly becomes a massive nightmare resulting in the child being trapped and having her identity removed from her at the hands of psychopathic mother. The character arc for both the protagonist and antagonist is really interesting there.
     
  15. BFGuru
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    BFGuru Active Member

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    Now to read Coraline to the kids....
     
  16. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    (Italics mine.)

    @BFGuru, this line from your original post jumped out at me tonight and I was tempted to say, "Well then, your story will tell you how this happens."

    But I'm the one who posted a question awhile back asking for input on why a young woman would find it difficult to say "I love you," because I needed my MC in that state for the sake of the story. And my story to that point wasn't answering that question.

    But it can help us do it. The thing to do is examine your characters as you've drawn them to date and consider what situations they might get into and what things they might do that might result in the rift you describe.

    Now, when I first replied to this thread your statement that the girl finds out the woman is not her mother had my mental wheels going around in a very curious way. I mean, what if the girl's father and mother were in a nasty divorce and the mom got sole custody but the dad had visitation, and what if out of sheer spite on one of those visitation days the father ran off with his toddler daughter to a distant state or country and moved in with his girlfriend and what if he never brought the child back or let his ex know where she was and what if he dies or runs off and the girl is left with the girlfriend whom she's always known as "Mom" and what if for whatever motives the ex-girlfriend never restores the child to the ex-wife and if that's not bad enough, what if the girl has some talent she would need to develop young and the real mother's family has money that could have paid for her training, while the fake mother was poor, and what if, due to that, the girl misses what should have been her calling in life or at least is set back seriously in it . . .

    Or it could be as simple as the adoptive mother objecting to the boy the girl is madly in love with. :love:

    Anyway, let the characters' growth emerge from who they already are.

    As for the two buddies, there are all sorts of ways of turning two people into lovers. I'm having fun with that in my work in revision. Start with getting them back in proximity, in person or via mail or social media. Then use what they have in common to take it from there.
     
  17. BFGuru
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    BFGuru Active Member

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    It's closer to the first scenereo. More of a feeling of unpreparedness. Not wanting the task at hand. Rather, would prefer to stay clueless and poor. Life was much easier then.

    Time of story, no e-mail and character can't read...yet. But I'm working on the buddies (in two separate stories). First story, not thinking they will end up lovers, even though she wishes. It's going to cause some major issues. Second story...well...I think I have some of it worked out. I just added more characters though, so let's see who falls for who first.
     
  18. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm thinking something mundane. Yes, she found out she was adopted, felt conflicted, more towards the biological mother (why did she give me up, who is she, where is she etc) then towards the woman who, for all intents and purposes, was such a good mother to her that the girl adored her. But what if she found out her 'mother' was having a long-standing affair? Even worse, what if the girl saw her 'mother' kissing another man, so she caught her in the act. Maybe the girl was skiving classes, in town all alone and angsty (over finding out she was adopted) and she caught her mother on a rendezvous with some guy? That would turn a child cold towards a parent in an instant, while leaving room for explanations and reconciliation. Really play up that sudden disgust and disappointment at a parent, who isn't even her damned parent, being being a liar and a hypocrite. All this is assuming there is an adoptive dad, of course.
     
  19. BFGuru
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    BFGuru Active Member

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    Mom is now arrested. She does not even know it yet LOL.
     

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