1. sophia_esteed
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    sophia_esteed Senior Member

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    Would these traits work...?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by sophia_esteed, Feb 27, 2008.

    I'd like to discuss the traits for some characters I'm gonna use for my novel.

    Amy

    Full Name: Mireille Hawk (Amy)
    Age: 17
    Main traits: quiet, kind, reserved.
    Commentary: I've always imagined Amy as a quiet, kind and reserved girl, somewhat naive (meaning the kind of naivety that is of a child), but hiding unexpected inner strenght, braveness, courage and the ability to take quick and critical decisions when necessary. She strongly believes in her ideals, but she's ready to compromise if needed to.
    Amy is also the bookworm-type, a very clever girl whose outstanding performance at school and her habit of reading books and cut herself off the rest of the world makes for her very difficult to make friends.

    Dennis

    Full Name: Dennis Deckard
    Age: 17
    Main traits: brave, strong, resolved.
    Commentary: for ace-pilot Dennis, I've always thought of a character which is strong and brave, and quick to take his decisions even in critical moments - possessing the qualities of a true leader. But I've always thought of him as a kind and caring person, too, ready to lend a hand when a friend's in need.
    Someone who possesses charm and is trusted by everyone.

    Rebecca

    Full Name: Rebecca Deckard
    Age: 17
    Main traits: a tomboy; cheerful, positive.
    Commentary: for Dennis' twin-sister Rebecca, I had no doubt I would make her a tomboy and someone who would usually screw up a lot, but with a cheerful and optimist character, who would never lose heart and make up for her own mistakes with a smile. The kind of girl who would have no probs making friends thanks to her frankness and directeness.

    Alex (character in-progress)

    Full name: Alex Owen
    Age: 24 (?)
    Main traits: cold-hearted, strong, resolved.
    Commentary: this is actually a character from another novel I tried to write sometime ago - a spy-story. Now I'm thinking of using her in this novel, too.
    Being an assassin, especially created through genetic engineering and raised by the military only to carry out her duty, she's received mental training to suppress her own emotions - not to feel anything. Thus she's very distant and cold-hearted. She's clever. She's strong, both mentally and physically.
    She's resolved, in that she would never hesitate to take a decision.
    She's almost like a cyborg: more like a machine than a human being.
    I think of her as a highly-dynamic character.

    Elise

    Full Name: Elise Robinson ( -?- not sure about the surname)
    Age: 25
    Main traits: bright, curious, reckless.
    Commentary: for this open-minded, daring reporter, I've always thought of a highly-dynamic, bright, reckless girl in her mid-twenties. Someone who is not afraid either of death or bias, and would not hesitate to stick her nose into any kind of situation if there is the possibility to dig up the dirt and make some sensational scoop. She believes strongly in her ideals, and would never compromise.

    This pretty much sums up the main cast.
    I'd like to know your opinions on these characters: would they work?
    Or are they too much clichè?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It depends on how strongly you hold onto the adjectives. Real people may live up to your adjectives 80-90% of the time, but the other 10-20% is what makes them interesting (in fact, I think 80-90% is probably a bit high for most people).

    Take an attribute like bravery. Someone who has never walked away from a fight might be considered brave, until you see how insecure he is around someone who knows how to "push his buttons". If that person is a deputy commander, he may act like a complete klutz around that person, and resent and fear him. Or he might have an irrational fear about anything slimy.

    People put on different persona, different hats if you will, in different situations. Instead of labelling characters from the start, why not begin with the barest possible preconceptions? Treat the character as someone you just met for the first time in a store. Then as the character encounters situations and reacts to them, you gain a better feeling as to what that character is like. Soon, you'll put that character in a situation, and when you think of a possible reaction, you will realize that Dennis just wouldn't react that way.

    I think if you try that with one or two characters, you'll discover that they seem more realistic than the predefined characters by the end of your story.

    Because when you ask about cliche, you will immediately find yourself talking about characters who fit some prescribed adjectives.
     
  3. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    I like this metaphor :p.

    I agree with Cog. I start with a bare concept (Sometimes I go into more detail than I should and I end up wasting lots of time reconciling ideas together with pre-established concepts). Start vague and work your way up. As you progress through the story little ideas will come to you that fit the characters and make them feel more real in their environment.
     
  4. writiki
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    writiki Member

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    I think you've done a good thing by writing out a list of characters and their traits. I agree with Cogito that the characters should stray from those traits at important times, however.
     
  5. (Mark)
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    (Mark) Contributing Member

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    I don't think you should box yourself in with character profiles. There's nothing wrong with knowing who your characters are, but to describe them so simply is only going to stem your flow as a writer.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    how you write about them is more important in the long run, than what 'traits' you hand out... the characters you described, to be 'real' to the readers, should change in some way/s, as the story progresses, not just remain those cardboard cutouts you designed them to be... if they don't, they'll be nothing more than paper dolls that readers won't be able to relate to...

    for instance, that girl you claim 'would never compromise' could be a rigid pain in the rear to all she deals with, or you could place her in a situation where she's forced to compromise on something, and learn something about life in the process...

    and whether these people 'come to life' in your story/book or not will depend, in the end, on how well you can write, not on how well you designed them...

    love and hugs, maia
     
  7. sophia_esteed
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    sophia_esteed Senior Member

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    Thanks for all your replies!
    I'd like for my character to be round, so all of your suggestions are so helpful to me!
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    do you mean 'plump' [grassocio], or 'well-rounded'? ;-)
     
  9. Jadestar
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    Jadestar New Member

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    I like how you started with a simple description for each of your characters. To me it seems that by starting with that simple description you are planting a seed for how these characters are going to blossom and grow later on.

    Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird uses what she calls an "emotional" acre. Everyone gets an acre to themselves and "as long as they do not hurt anyone they can do whatever they want with their acre". They can alphabetize their veggies or have ancient trees on their land; or it can be an acre where there is a vicious dog chained to the fence, overgrown grass and weeds, a car engine hanging from a tree, etc. (If you get a chance I strongly suggest picking up Bird by Bird ~ I am constantly referring to this amazing book!)

    Start with that acre and build on it. How your character's "keep their acre" describes how they act, their petty emotional responses, who they are.

    When you go visit a relative or friend, you really learn a lot about them and their lifestyles, just by how they live. What sorts of clothes would they wear (clothing is a way human's express themselves, use this to your character's advantage), would they hang art in their home, what sorts of items would they carry in their purses and pockets? You wouldn't have a six year old pack a .45 and a cop run around with a .22 handgun.

    These little things may seem petty and useless right now, but they play huge factors when it comes to writing stories.
     
  10. Klee
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    Klee Contributing Member

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    I agree with Conolly that you shouldn't box yourself in profiles. Maybe some basic stuff yes, it's okay, if it helps you then go for it, we can't really stop you. But I'd like to point out that people act different with other people. A person might be really nice to his friends or a group of people, but to someone else he/she might be really nasty, or to his/her family he/she might act different than with friends. Try to think about that too.
     
  11. sophia_esteed
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    sophia_esteed Senior Member

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    Yeah, that's true.
    But usually when I'm writing the way the characters act would come to me naturally, and it often happens one or more characters stray from the traits I gave them when I was first thinking of them. But sometimes they stray so much they end up to act incoherently from how they've acted just a couple of chapters ago...
    That's why I usually write down some basic traits to use as guidelines for how the characters will act and interact with each other, so I won't make them act like complete idiots... ;-)
     

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