1. alvin123
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    alvin123 Senior Member

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    Why do i have the feeling my characters in my books need to be more realistic...

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by alvin123, Feb 25, 2008.

    I would appriciete some suggestions on making my characters seem like they are not from disney, in other words more real.... Maybe i Should be the only one who should figure that out, but suggestions, tips, advice, etc helps; that's what this thread is for
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Most of the threads in the Character Development forum relate to your question, so I'd suggest perusing the various threads. You'll find there are nearly as many opinions on that as there are members who entered the discussions. But you will have no shortage of ideas!

    One suggestion I have is to become a peoplewatcher. Pay attention to how they react to various situations, how they talk, what makes them blush or get angry or laugh. There are plenty of real people to observe.

    Focus on strangers, rather than people you already know and have preconceived ideas about. Pay attention to how what you observe affects your assumptions about what they are really like.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    equally important to peoplewatching [perhaps ahead a tad], in order to be able to write realistic characters, is to constantly read/study the best work of the best writers ever [doesn't always = the most popular], to see how they do it...
     
  4. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Alvin123,

    What was said above...watching people, reading works and paying attention to how successful writers did it...and sometimes putting truth, or real ambition, or real fears, real dark sides, to the characters...but by doing the first two things, you'll probably manage what I suggested.

    Also, not every character has to have great depth of meaning. Sometimes the type of character or how they are used to advance the plot is important.

    This is a little off on a tangent, but may be helpful. An article I wrote on types of characters: Seven Common Character Types

    The last thing I guess I could add, is the method of characterization you use. Don't tell the reader how they should feel or think about a character when possible, let the reader discover and interpret for themselves. This can be accomplished by thoughts, actions, what the character says, how they respond to situations, even what other characters say or how they act or respond to the first character--in other words, using indirect characterization vs. direct characterization. If a reader comes to know the character through experiences rather than being told, the character is much more real, I think.

    Okay, I've thought about this aspect too, and have written an article on it as well: Direct vs. Indirect Characterization ;)

    Hope this helps, since I agree that 'real' characters are important to most stories writers want to tell.

    Terry
     
  5. alvin123
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    alvin123 Senior Member

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    Thanks for the ideas... people watching.... I know that doesn't mean stalking, lol,
     
  6. LinRobinson
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    LinRobinson Banned

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    It also, contrary to common belief, doesn't mean noting sitings of people in a little book and carrying binoculars around.

    I see VERY little suggested in books or web on character development that is not a crock. Making long lists and questionaires and such: a waste of time.

    Think about how painters and photographers get started: pictures of family members and neighbors. If you can do something recognizable, or a shot that people say, Wow, you caught the inner Kevin there, then you know you're learning.

    So MANY newbie writers make the mistake of starting out with characters who are Mafiosi or CIA agents or fashion models or something, then wonder why their portraits of people they've never been around are flat.
    Hell, I've known all those types and would worry about flat creations in a book.

    Most writers borrow from the people around them. That way they get a portrait that hangs together. The guy is always stopping conversations to kill bugs like Uncle Harry and always has the dashboard torn out of his car like your sister's loser boyfriend.

    And they talk like those people, use expressions the use. The pattern of speech...what as known as "ear" is part of characters too, and can mold them.

    The flaws in good people, the good streak in buttheads, this is the way real people are.

    If your famiy is boring, start hanging out in bars and paying attention. Write about the jerks you skateboard with.

    You don't know your characters by listing their favorite colors, you know them because they are a lot like real people.
     
  7. milove
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    milove Member

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    Writing about real people (basing characters completely off others) adds up to boring books most of the time. People don't want to think about the real world when they read a book, even if it's based in our time period. (I got that from the self help book on writing fiction!;)) Just don't make your characters overly happy if you don't want a Disney-like feel.
     
  8. (Mark)
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    (Mark) Contributing Member

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    What...? What fiction-writing book was that? I think that the best characters are realistic and easy to relate to. The very best writers create vivid portraits of characters that are easy for us to imagine.

    I disagree with people not wanting to think about the real world when they read. Good books show us our world in a new light, or give us new things to think about. Books that take us to entirely different worlds or worlds that are made up are usually never as good. I can think of a couple of exceptions, but not very many.
     
  9. LinRobinson
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    LinRobinson Banned

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    Only for boring writers who are boring people, I would say. Amost all writers base characters to some extent on real people they've met or know.

    Even bizarro serial killers in several books I know of are based on real people. Truth is weirder than fiction. Use it.
     
  10. LinRobinson
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    LinRobinson Banned

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    One of the major problems with that kind of book.

    Think about what you are saying. You are taking the advice of a guy who wrote a book on writing (presumably by the typical non-selling writer) to cook up people out of the clear blue sky with no input from your own life experience.
    And you think that will make it non-boring. Think about it a little bit.
     
  11. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    To add on to what LinRobinson said,

    If you're going to get a book on writing--be sure of the qualifications of the author! What novels have they sold (if an author)? What publishing houses employed them as edited (if an editor)? I guess an agent could write one, but that would right off make me suspicious of the contents--the best make their living representing authors more often than editing and writing. Of course for example, there are former editors who have been in the field for a number of years that become agents.

    With this in mind, for authors and editors especially, just because they can do it, doesn't mean they can effectively teach or explain it. Yes, sometimes all-star professional athletes become excellent coaches...but can every major league batter who averaged over .300 (batting average) during his career be a competent batting coach? Actually, how many can?

    Now, I am sure one can use the arguement that hey, some of the best coaches never played the game themselves. True, and I guess that could translate to teaching writers how to write fiction. I guess in that case, maybe the blurbs on the book may be a guide...better be from some major editors at major publishing houses, or testimonials from authors who owe success to that writer and his expertise/advice.

    Yes, there are some good writing books out there...but there are plenty of worthless ones. And remember, no how-to-write book has the magic key to writing a best seller. If they did, once the key was out, everyone would be using it. What works for one author/writer doesn't necessarily translate to success or an effective method for another.

    And like many above, I question the contents/advice of the how-to-write book mentioned by milove. If in the context of writing a novel about 'a day in the life of an average joe', I could see some merit to the statement that it could end up being boring, but in the context of this discussion, I believe it is more than a bit off the target.

    Terry
     
  12. Cheeno
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    Cheeno Contributing Member

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    In my work, when I'm developing a situation and have a problem with character interaction, I often take the character/s aside and begin a completely new 'thread', or workshop, where I focus on a deeper exploration of why my character acts and reacts to specific circumstances pertinent to his or her life. I find if my character is involved in a 'pressurised' situation, often where they may have to dig a little deeper to deal with a problem, it helps in discovering where their traits/personality comes from. You know...what shaped them? If they're 'damaged', why? How? I find that no matter how central or peripheral, they still need a 'known' history to enable that multi-dimentionalism so necessary for good characterisation. We're all shaped by our experiences. Fictionalised characters are no exception. It's what makes their journey so unique. Hope this helps.
     
  13. Lucario
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    Lucario New Member

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    The only way to make your characters real is make them behave more naturally. don't force them to be what you want them to be.
     
  14. deadsoul
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    deadsoul New Member

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    TO make them real, you have to know them very well. A lot of books suggest to meet your characters in person. You know, after you know how they look like, have some kind of a talk with them. Ask them every single question that pops up in your head and write the answers down. Even if you asked them things irrelevant to the novel plot, it would definitely help you to reflect a real character.
     

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