1. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    Writing Someone With Different Skills?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Killer300, Apr 5, 2013.

    What I mean here is, for example, writing someone that's good at math while you're awful at it, or someone whose incredibly charismatic when you aren't exactly the most social person ever.

    In the case of something like charisma especially, I don't think the writer could just abstract away usage of the skill, as something like that would come up often in interactions with other characters, if not always come up(although perhaps not overtly).

    I ask this because it's a situation I've run into, especially with charisma, and was wondering if there was any advice that could be given on the matter here.
     
  2. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    Only advice would be for you to study people who are skilled the way your character is.
     
  3. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    True, true.
     
  4. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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  5. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    Ah, thanks! This actually does help get into the head of people heavily involved with a skill like that.
     
  6. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    First-hand experience is always the best, but if gaining that is not possible and you have to rely on second-hand information, do a ton of research. Regardless, even if it takes you well out of your comfort zone, I'd still advocate first-hand experience whenever it's possible.
     
  7. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    What if you imagined yourself as charismatic? Like in middle school, if I was going to ask out a girl to the dance the next day, I'd spend hours before I went to bed running through scenarios and making sure I always had a charming response. (Of course, it never worked because I got so nervous)
     
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  8. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    If you don't have a skill you can't imagine accurately what it would be like to have it.
     
  9. SwampDog
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    SwampDog Contributing Member

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    I don't know that charisma is a skill, but it's certainly allied to character and personality traits. As suggested, tons of research and study those in the public eye who are often described as charismatic. Study their traits and the reasons why they are so considered.

    As for things like maths, apart from the obvious knowledge of the subject, an expert in their field makes the application of their knowledge and skill look easy. So rather than figuring out (excuse pun) how to improve or demonstrate your skill in maths, show how one proficient in maths goes about their business. What makes it look easy? You have to research that part.

    Hope that helps.
     
  10. lettuce head
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    lettuce head Active Member

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    Watch the video of those you want to describe. Transcribe it and dismantle it. Work backwards or reverse engineer it. You only have to suspend reality in the mind of the reader. You don't have to be a master of charisma. In other words, fake it. That's what people who have charisma actually do anyway. The charismatic realize how people give them a certain amount of unearned trust. They, in turn, use that unearned trust to their advantage. The more they trust this process the better they get at it.

    You have the advantage here because your reader wants to believe you. They are suspending belief just for you(or giving you unearned trust) to provide a window of creativity.

    When a reader gets past your first ten pages with a strong craving to read more, you are the one with charisma. Use it.

    Now, as for asking a girl out for an actual date, well, if she finds my fumbling around like a fool endearing, then sure. I got it.
     
  11. lettuce head
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    lettuce head Active Member

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    Then I guess creative writing is a useless pursuit. We don't have to be rocket scientists and be technical about every aspect of it. We aren't writing training manuals. We are pretending our way through a story. We are faking it. Sure, we want as much realism as we can muster, but the reader is more than capable of being entertained enough to not become concerned if we, ourselves, are not actually skilled in the trade they are reading about. Our skill is moving the story along in a believable way that captures their attention and imagination.
     
  12. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    Ah, thanks!

    Charisma is the one that's so difficult here, because I really feel like one can't abstract its usage, where as Math, one can... well, fake it much more easily.
     
  13. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    The OP wasn't asking about a completely fictional situation, he was asking about describing existing people and situations realistically and accurately. You can make stuff up if you want, but if you are going for realism you want to research it accurately.
     
  14. AVCortez
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    AVCortez Active Member

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    Being charismatic and being a rocket scientist are two very different things. One is a trade one is a trait. I agree with X, if you're a socially retarded introvert, you can't properly write about what it's like to rule the school as a charismatic lady killer.
     
  15. lettuce head
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    lettuce head Active Member

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    Sure, they are different. The point I'm making is that we are making things up, we are pretending, imagining and creative problem solving. It is creative writing and we are trying to reach an audience who wants to be taken for a ride. They want to be taken from their day to day reality into another world. They want to be the one who buys into your story in order to drift away from the one they now live. They want to be bamboozled, tricked, conned, fooled, jived, faked and flat out bullshitted. They are the waiting sucker who wants to believe you. I think that is an important point to consider because as writers sometimes it is important to take ourselves off the hook. We cannot be all things to the point of realism in certain cases and there are ways to get around that. We should not be afraid to use the reader as filler for your story. Sometimes it is better to leave them to fill in the blanks.

    I'd much rather see a writer make some kind of move toward their story idea rather than waiting to get it perfectly real and not making a play at all. Just my humble opinion. With the idea of charisma I suggested reverse engineering a character from a film and use the parts you find to build a character of your own. Google quotes of people you think are charismatic. And trust the idea that you already have a reader who wants to believe you.

    With a skill, if it is too far outside your imagination to make real enough to your liking, a writer can concentrate on the character's work ethic, pay, hours, union problems, layoffs, asshole boss, or anything else surrounding just about any job. That is real for your reader. That can carry the story very well and make the emotional connection with your reader even if the skill of your character is one where you can't make it as real as you'd like. There can be creative ways around these things.
     
  16. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    If you are writing about a savant mathematician, you can't describe him using "work ethic, pay, hours, union problems, layoffs, asshole boss, or anything else surrounding just about any job". It is called misdirection and it is ok for party tricks and illusionists, but in a book any slightly advanced reader would be disappointed. It is like you are telling your reader "it is too tedious to describe an actually great mathematician so i will write about an average person and just tell you his character instead of showing you". If you can't be bothered to describe what you want to describe accurately, then you shouldn't describe it at all.
    Charisma can take innumerable different forms, while a highly skilled neurosurgeon is infinitely more limited. And those kinds of things more than in the description become obvious in the bulk of the character's interactions with others.
    And if a socially challenged introvert knew what exactly makes a charismatic person be charismatic, he wouldn't be socially challenged.
     
  17. lettuce head
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    lettuce head Active Member

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    Fiction is misdirection. It is make believe. It is illusion trying to act as if it is real. You can show character in many ways. I'm just saying it isn't necessarily required to know the inner workings of the mathematical equations of cold fusion to convince a reader who already wants to be convinced.

    That is a real life reality. But what about imagination and creativity? Are you saying there is no hope for a writer who lacks charisma to ever write about a characher who does?
     
  18. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    "If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing.
    - Ernest Hemingway
     
  19. lettuce head
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    lettuce head Active Member

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    Nee, of course it is better to know your subject or character. The more you know about it the better. But what is a writer to do if they are not an expert on a matter that would make their character shine? If it is a quality they, themselves, do not posses or relate to, how should they proceed? Should they scrap it, give up writing, try something else? I suggest there are remedies and encourage a writer to play with it. They might surprise themselves if they try to tackle it from different angles.
     
  20. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    You do the research and don't try to step across the line of what you know vs what you don't know. You do not need to become an expert on every subject that your story happens to come across. But you do need to know where your knowledge ends. Never make anything up that someone somewhere actually knows: because they will sure as hell call you on it.
     
  21. lettuce head
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    lettuce head Active Member

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    So, know what you are writing about or don't write it?
     
  22. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    Let's be clear. Mathematics is a subject, mathematic reasoning is a skill, rocket science is a profession, and charisma is an attribute. The thing with skills is that you don't really have them until you learn them. The thing with subjects is that they are bodies of knowledge that require sets of skills to learn. The thing with professions is that they require advanced study of subjects and practical experience to perform. But the thing with attributes is that, while some people may have more of a particular attribute, we all have them to some degree.

    We are all somewhat intelligent, we are all somewhat wise, and we are all somewhat charismatic. Should we still study people who are particularly adept at an attribute? Absolutely. But it's not the same as rocket science.
     
  23. AVCortez
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    AVCortez Active Member

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    Well it's really not... If that were the case Authors wouldn't spend years researching the topics they write about. They'd just google it, use the first blog post about it, then make the rest up. You massively underestimate even the average reader. If they read something it and it doesn't ring true, they will put the book down.

    Fiction is hard-work, not a parlour trick.
     
  24. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Or research the heck out of it.

    Nee and AV are right. Yes, readers want to believe in the story, but a good way to lose them is to throw in something they know is false or simply not correct. Not only is it distracting and takes them out of the story, but it blows your credibility on everything else. Alternatively, even if the reader does not know about some subject matter, if you don't know about it either, you risk misinforming them, or giving them a false impression about something. In some cases, this isn't going to make a huge practical difference in the world. But in other cases, it can affect how someone views other people or make them think they know something that they don't, and later on make that person more susceptible to misinformation. So, there's a danger and a downside, even if you can get away with it with some or even many readers.

    I'm a tough critic, but for me, as soon as I'm reading a novel and I say, "What? That's not how that works!" or "That would never happen that way!" or "That's just not right!" I'm done. You've lost me, and I might finish that story, and be bothered by the inaccuracies, and seethe my way through the rest of it and then bitch to my book club or on amazon about how awful the book was, because the author didn't know what he was talking about. But I won't read another book you wrote.

    Fiction can teach real things, even if the plot-line/story itself is not true.
     
  25. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    A great magician studies the art of misdirection for years, even decades, just as we writers study our craft. I think what lettuce is getting at is that we can write about being a rocket scientist without actually becoming a rocket scientist. But you learn enough to make your readers believe that this character is a real rocket scientist. When they believe this, then they forget that there is the man behind the curtain (i.e. you).

    This works for all genres. For example, in Fantasy you are often creating an entirely new world that has thousands of years of history, and you want your reader to feel that sense of historical depth. However, you shouldn't actually write out 1000's of years of history. Just enough so that you can make the reader feel like you've created an entirely new reality. That is misdirection, and I think what lettuce is referring to.
     

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