1. TerraIncognita
    Offline

    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

    Joined:
    May 28, 2010
    Messages:
    1,339
    Likes Received:
    40
    Location:
    Texas

    Your biggest challenge with characters?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by TerraIncognita, Jul 28, 2010.

    I'm curious what everyone's biggest challenge(s) are with writing a character.

    In the past mine was I would tend to make my male characters very distant or angry acting. Probably because all the men in my life up to a certain point were that way. In recent years it's gotten easier to write characters that aren't angry and distant unless I want them to be. Especially having spent so much time around Zack I'm seeing the saying "still waters run deep" is very true when it comes to male emotions.

    Currently my biggest struggle is not making my male characters too good. There's a long story behind why that is that involves my family.. another day. haha

    So share what's your biggest struggle, past or current, with characters?
     
  2. w176
    Offline

    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2010
    Messages:
    1,067
    Likes Received:
    49
    Location:
    Luleå, Sweden
    They tend to get an edge to dark and destructive for some people. Which is fine but i must be aware of how I use and don't use.

    And that I shouldn't write to demanding to the reader. I love hiding things between the lines, lies and intrigues within intrigues. Keep motives unspoken and let the readers realise themself what is going on inside the characters head. Is all right if you are just aiming for the readers that love reading books that way and is good at it, but is also something I need to be aware of.
     
  3. TerraIncognita
    Offline

    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

    Joined:
    May 28, 2010
    Messages:
    1,339
    Likes Received:
    40
    Location:
    Texas
    Thanks for sharing. :) Sounds very interesting. I like the idea of reading something where things are between the lines.
     
  4. Lightblinded
    Offline

    Lightblinded New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2010
    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Luleå, Sweden
    I have convinced myself that I can't write characters well and that they all turn out as clichés, stereotypes or two dimensional cardboard cut-outs.

    And I, in contrast to TerraIncognita, had and still struggling with how to write convincing female characters. It's been a block that really have kept my female characters two dimensional.
     
  5. Unit7
    Offline

    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2009
    Messages:
    1,151
    Likes Received:
    59
    I suppose my biggest challenge is making them unique. As for the whole male female thing... I just treat them more or less the same because if I don't I feel I will just write something with all the worst stereotypes. Well actually I can't really explain it.

    But I have a hard problem with making them unique. Well I think I do. I sometimes feel I might be rewriting the same characters in different plots.

    Then there is naming. How many Samantha's do I really need? Don't even get me started on John or in particular John Blackwood. Of course there is Jason. Who is either an artist who moved to a small town near mountains or he is Jason Young aka Nemesis who is a gifted teen when it comes to all things computers. Who in one scenario actually teams up with a version of John Blackwood... which turned out to be similar to that of Die Hard 4.

    So.

    I guess making my characters unique: well not sure if this is an actual problem, but I stress over it

    Character Naming: I love these names but... I need to get more!

    Character Placement: I don't know where they belong. I got the idea and concept of them. I just don't know where they actually fit.

    Hmm.

    Yeah.
     
  6. King Hawk
    Offline

    King Hawk Member

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2010
    Messages:
    16
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Salt Lake City, UT
    The biggest issue I have with writing characters is making them as complex as they ought to be. The personality consistencies and inconsistencies found in a real person are somewhat difficult for me to create on paper.
     
  7. w176
    Offline

    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2010
    Messages:
    1,067
    Likes Received:
    49
    Location:
    Luleå, Sweden
    I just love playing around with things like doing a strict third person story with little insight into the characters though and just show their action. Having an angry character hide their anger, giving the reader very few clues that the character is angry having to grasp it from context. Or let something important happen off-screen and letting the reader put a guess what happened from the consequences. Or letting body language be ambiguous.
     
  8. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,728
    Likes Received:
    4,826
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    I'm a guy, and not only that, I'm a gay guy. This means that I actually find myself spending very little time in real life with females. So I feel that I don't know them well enough to write about them convincingly. My characters tend to be guys who are in stereotypical guy-type situations (traditional male-dominated jobs) doing guy-type things with other guys. Even if I have women in a scene, I find that most of the dialogue is spoken by the guys, until I forget to write about the women and they kind of disappear.

    Only once have I created what I think is a convincing female character who has a significant role in one of my stories. She's in my only novel, and is the mother of one of the secondary characters.

    I know this is a problem for me, but there doesn't seem to be an easy way out. Maybe I'm just destined to write about guys.
     
  9. TerraIncognita
    Offline

    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

    Joined:
    May 28, 2010
    Messages:
    1,339
    Likes Received:
    40
    Location:
    Texas
    Yeah my issue was similar to that. The only men I'd been around all fit into one category so it stifled my characters because that was my idea of what a man was for so long.

    Why don't you go back to the one you said was convincing? Study her and see what it was about her that made her so real. Also like I said to LightBlinded while I believe there are things that are inherent to each gender at the end of the day we're all human. So while there are differences there's commonality as well.

    That sounds like my kind of book! :) I love books that make me think and open my mind to new things.


    Uniqueness is an interesting thing. I have to be careful that my characters don't all fall into one category or another. That's something I also had a lot of issues with initially. The more you write the easier it gets to let them take on their own personalities which is very exciting and interesting. :-D

    Naming, go to baby name websites. That's where I get names from. Haha

    Placement, well only you can really know where to put them since it's your story. I'd write down the character ideas and if they don't fit there then use them elsewhere.

    Just keep writing. :) That's how you will get better. Do you have any women in your life that you are close to? If so that may give you some insight. I would say men and women while extremely different are also very similar in some ways. We're all human.

    That's an interesting thing to do once you get the hang of it. I find that if you figure out a couple major life events the character has experienced that helps to begin to give them shape. For me it really comes out on it's own as I write. I don't know how to explain it they just take on a life of their own.
     
  10. JTheGreat
    Offline

    JTheGreat Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2010
    Messages:
    381
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Everywhere and Nowhere
    I have trouble making my characters deep enough, or sometimes, making them too sympathetic. My protagonists aren't aww-inducing enough, and my antagonists aren't bad enough. Plus, I have a habit of subconsciously making characters too much like characters in anime I watch.

    My biggest problem right now, is that I have a very tactical character in my story, but I myself am not the best at well-thought strategy, so I have no narrative evidence (except for the fact she never loses at chess) to back it up *Sigh*.
     
  11. TerraIncognita
    Offline

    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

    Joined:
    May 28, 2010
    Messages:
    1,339
    Likes Received:
    40
    Location:
    Texas
    Keep tweaking them until you get them how you want. :)

    Well, when you think of someone who is very good at strategy what do you think of? What makes you think someone is very good with tactical things? Think about things like that when you write her.
     
  12. Lightblinded
    Offline

    Lightblinded New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2010
    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Luleå, Sweden
    I'd say go with smoke and mirrors. Define what you think a strategical person should be able to do or realise, do some research on these specific points (depending on what kind of strategy and tactics we're talking about of course) and then show in minute detail how strategically brilliant this person is. After a few detail jobs like that, you can get away with rather broad and undefined strokes in other cases.

    Also, when it comes to strategy, as a writer, you have an incredible advantage in that you control the story and everything within it. You know what is going to happen, you control the events, the characters, the setting, etc. You can design circumstances so that this character seem like the reincarnation of Sun Tzu.

    And if all else fail, you can always revise until you are happy.
     
  13. thinking
    Offline

    thinking Member

    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2009
    Messages:
    33
    Likes Received:
    0
    Oh boy.

    Honestly, my biggest problem in writing characters is keeping them from becoming another version of myself. Maybe it's because I often write in first person, but main characters of mine eventually start to think and talk like myself.

    Maybe it's not the worst thing in the world. Since we all create characters from our imaginations, I suppose they ALL have to be extensions of ourselves. I have to remind myself to step back sometimes.

    Also, I have some more specific character-writing problems. I have difficulty writing male characters above the age of thirty, and I have difficulty writing female characters UNDER the age of thirty. I have no idea why.
     
  14. KP Williams
    Offline

    KP Williams Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2007
    Messages:
    608
    Likes Received:
    11
    Location:
    My place
    Honestly, characters and dialogue are the two things I think I'm best at. I've been writing for going on seven years, and not once have I had any real stumbles thanks to a character. The closest call came in the form of my current POV character; took me forever to figure out what I should name him.

    The only other thing I can think of is that I sometimes make my characters talk too much. I just love doing dialogue so much that it's hard to resist sometimes. It's not the worst problem to have, and I've got it under control (mostly), but I still have to check myself frequently.

    If we're talking about our biggest challenges in making quality characters, then I'd say it was a pretty big challenge back when I first started. Being a newbie and all, I had no idea what it took to make a character likable. As such, they were all pretty terrible. But I think that can be said for everyone. No offense, guys. :p
     
  15. TerraIncognita
    Offline

    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

    Joined:
    May 28, 2010
    Messages:
    1,339
    Likes Received:
    40
    Location:
    Texas
    Dialogue used to get weird with me now it flows naturally. :) Then again I've been writing seriously for about nine years. Before then I was always making up stories in my head to pass the time if I was bored. So at that time quality wasn't really a concern since it was for my own entertainment. haha

    I like to try to find my weaknesses when it comes to writing because then I know where I need to work on it. If I am aware of a weakness then I am more apt to work on it and make it better.
     
  16. BlueWolf
    Offline

    BlueWolf Banned

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2010
    Messages:
    168
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    Germany
    For me, making them completely different as best I could, and also making them 'sound' different, too.
    Oh, and trying to make the bad guys of the story, despicable, but at the same time, sort of likeable.
     
  17. Elgaisma
    Offline

    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2010
    Messages:
    5,337
    Likes Received:
    92
    I agree with making them sound different being a challenge. I also found making them be what I want lol I have characters that are totally different in personality to the way I wanted to write them. They do things I don't like etc
     
  18. Zieki
    Offline

    Zieki Member

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2008
    Messages:
    86
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    USA
    I struggle with making my characters different as well. If I have a protagonist with a group of three close friends, all of them seem to be.... well, the same. They talk the same, and do similar things, which could be why they're friends, I guess, but then I struggle to show that they are, in fact, different people.

    I also have trouble with keeping character's consistent. I know, I know, characters, like people, change. But, in some of my stories I'll write something and then go back and be like, "Huh, he would never do something like that." Just things that are completely against his character...
     
  19. LeFay
    Offline

    LeFay New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2010
    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Bear Cage.
    This is funny, because I had a similar problem a while back. I would make all my female characters good and innocent (for the most part) and the males mean, angry or antagonists. I got over this once I solved my own personal problems, and I'm finding more of a balance. I think, now, too that I can make 'good' and 'evil' traits for my characters more realistic and less cut and dry, having a better understanding of what makes people act the way they do.

    I also used to have problems with making my characters different from each other but still mesh the way I wanted them to.

    I learned to make the desires of my characters more hidden, and let those desires effect the way that they act. This REALLY helped me, gave them a lot of depth.

    I think now my biggest challenge is avoiding making my characters exactly like people whom I've met or are otherwise in my life. I find it kind of creepy if they are too similar - although using pieces of people's personalities to shape my characters does seem to make them more realistic. So really, I have to find that balance again. :)
     
  20. constant scribbler
    Offline

    constant scribbler Member

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2010
    Messages:
    22
    Likes Received:
    0
    Characters are the easiest part of my stories. They are rarely based off of anyone and take on a life of thier own. All of them are unique and I find myself wanting to give each one their own book. I do have to watch to make sure that the bad guys also have good traits and that cute guy next door has some faults. I write some war stories and I find myself too attached to my characters to kill them off or I know I am going to kill the character so I don't develop them as well as I should.
     
  21. johnjames
    Offline

    johnjames Member

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2010
    Messages:
    32
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Australia
    My biggest issue is trying to avoid making the characters into myself.
    Too often my lead is a drunken, depressed, violent, introverted, over-clever, womaniser with a gambling problem, loose ethics, a tendency to overlook other's claims to ownership of this or that, and has a twisted and understated sense of humour.
    All too often these characters then descend into a self-destructive spiral of apparently contradicting and alternating self-loathing and narcissism that mirrors my own life.

    But the characters are nowhere near as charming as I, so they just seem dull and whiny by comparison.
    I have developed several tricks to keep my mind away from, as I term it in my calmer moments, personalised adulative hatred.

    Anybody else have difficulty making their leads not become a reflection of themselves?
     
  22. TerraIncognita
    Offline

    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

    Joined:
    May 28, 2010
    Messages:
    1,339
    Likes Received:
    40
    Location:
    Texas
    I completely get the whole making things "too cut and dry" issue. I used to struggle with that a LOT. Now that I've been around more people who have made mistakes I see the other side of things. That everyone has issues and not many things are really black and white after all.

    Also agree about determining what it is they desire. In reality that is what shapes most of our actions. Our end goal.

    In the past yes. Like when I first started writing. I was pretty isolated in my teen years because I was shy and had some health issues that made it difficult for me to really bond with others. Mostly out of my own self consciousness. I digress.

    Basically it boiled down to all I had ever really experienced in any depth (at the time) were my own and my family members' behaviors and reactions to things. And it was a lot easier to just base things off what I was already familiar with. Once I quit be so very self conscious of how people percieved my health issues I got out and experienced a lot more beyond myself and my family. So that's made it easier to really see what makes different people tick.

    Sometimes I still toss a little bit of myself into a character. They never become a reflection of me but chances are the feelings I write about are feelings I've felt at one point or another. I've learned that there are only so many emotions to be experienced and so many different things that can cause them.
     

Share This Page