1. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Contributor Contributor

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    Authors in a bubble & Character development

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Alan Aspie, Aug 3, 2018.

    Writer should know his/her characters.

    We should know real humans, with real motivations, real fears, real situations, real environment.... to know the characters - if possible.

    Wanna write about love? Have you loved the same way?

    Wanna write about addicts? How many addicts you know well?

    Wanna write about killers? Do you know anyone who has killed a human being? How many that kind of persons do you know?

    Wanna write about depressed, autistic, lonely, looser or... How much time you have spent listening to depressed or autistic or...

    We are talking about character development technics. The best technic is to know humans that are totally different than us, live in totally different situations and think & feel totally different way. And I don't mean "to know" like some identity politics bs, but to really know.

    Are we building a bubble of words and technics around us so that we don't need to be in touch with the real world and real humans? Do we meet characters instead of people? Do we live in the wrong side of parody horizon?

    Theme and characters are interlocked. Storyline and plot rise from characters. Dialog is a representation of characters....

    We can't get our hearts to our characters if we build and keep barriers & pecking orders between us and real world real peoples. And if we don't, our characters will be cardboards coloured by numbers.

    So... How to do character development?

    1. Do some serious self reflection. Focus on what's not there in your inner & social life.

    2. Get what you didn't find.

    3. Check did you get it?

    Long after that are technics and other stuff.
     
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  2. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Of course, our personal experiences and interactions are going to shape us and in turn shape the kind of characters we create, but I think you're taking it a bit far with your rules or tips and such on character development. I'm writing a murder mystery. I've never killed anyone. I don't know any killers. And I really don't think it's much of a problem. It doesn't mean my characters are lacking.

    Sure, a recovering addict probably could write a character who is an addict with different insight and might do a better job. But what if I'm a better writer and I've watched a lot of the TV show Intervention? Maybe I can nail this, too. I don't really see why I couldn't. And I don't think my best research option would be to find real-life addicts. I'm not looking to make new friends. I'm writing fiction. And that is pretty limitless.

    I think the craft of writing is a far more important thing to focus on than doing any sort of interviews or other ways you see as possible to get to know different types of real people. Knowing a real-life killer isn't going to make someone's murder mystery better than mine. I don't want to know murderers, and I really don't think I have to. In fact, I will go as far to say I bet most murder mystery writers don't know real-life killers. And the stories aren't suffering as a result.

    There is nothing about writing that says you have to go meet people or get to know certain types of people. No interviews and the likes are required for writing fiction. And I don't know how you're going about finding all these strangers who are letting you in to their lives so you can learn things about them for the characters in your fiction. I just really don't think it happens all that often. And if that's what you think you need to do to develop a character, well, good luck. But it really isn't necessary or even the best approach, in my opinion. And there is absolutely no indication your approach will produce better characters. What's on the page is always going to outweigh what's happening down the street.

    Sure, it's great if we can draw on our own experiences and the types of people we've known over the years. All that stuff shapes us as a person and how we view the world. And, in general, it's great to expose ourselves to new things and diversity, though, I still don't want to make any murderer friends. But we are writing fiction. Even realistic fiction isn't real. I would say reading more fiction and exposing ourselves to good writers with good techniques and character development could be far more useful than searching for real people to base characters off of. Characters can resemble people we know, but they don't have to. And we surely don't need to dig deep into what makes someone in real life tick to create any kind of character you want.
     
  3. BlitzGirl

    BlitzGirl Senior Member

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    Yeah, I'd never be able to write any of the stories I've worked on if I only wrote about things I've experienced and people I've personally known. That would be extremely shallow and boring for me. I write to escape the modern world I live in. I write sci-fi and fantasy. I am a woman but have male characters. I'm asexual, but not all of my characters feel the same way I do about that. It's a thing called "empathy". I don't need to have lived something to try to understand how others would feel in different situations.
     
  4. 123456789

    123456789 Contributor Contributor

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    I see a lot of threads here that are accuracy motivated--they want to know they're making things "realistic." Unless you're writing non-fiction, I think there are other things more important than realism. This is not to say I don't appreciate realism--maybe one point of the work is to inspire the reader about the medical field, so you're going to want to know about hospitals. But, maybe, one of the doctors is going through a rough divorce. If the point of the novel is about doctors, and not about divorce, no, I don't think you have to go through a divorce, ask people about divorces, or do any sort of research. It's just a thing that happens in your novel to create drama to make the other thing (in this case the medical field) more interesting to the reader.
     
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  5. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Contributor Contributor

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    1. Talking with peoples similar as your characters might open motivations, fears, agendas, histories, personality types...

    2. I was not talking about making friends but about field research and practical studying of subjects also when subject is human being.

    3. It's not "this or that". You can have/do both. Knowing real humans helps using craft skills. Craft skills help getting to know different peoples.

    4. Getting out of the bubble gives broader view & more options.

    5. Hmmm... Many good characters are based on the knowledge that is based on real humans.

    6. This or that? Why not both? Is there something wrong in studying your subject also when your subject is a character?


    It is possible that I can't understand "I don't want to know that type of peoples" -attitude, because social barriers in Finland are very low and our history & culture are different. It is not big deal here.

    If you wanna know about life, motivation and history of soccer mama, you talk with five soccer mamas. If you wanna know about life of a killer, you talk with someone who has killed. If you wanna know about life with drugs, you talk with addicts... No big deal.

    Can't understand why to avoid it? Hiaasen did it. Doyle did it. King did it. Scott Adams did it. Herriot did it. Malala did it...
     
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  6. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Can't understand the point of really doing that. Tracking down a killer is not something I ever plan to do nor is having a conversation with one. And I have a feeling my story isn't going to suffer for it. Time spent reading good literature is probably more beneficial to a writer than anything you're suggesting. That's just my take on it.
     
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  7. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    Is "King"... Stephen King? He... tracked down a murderous supernatural clown before writing It? He spoke to real life vampires before writing 'Salem's Lot?

    Damn. My respect for that man's dedication grows every day.
     
  8. BlitzGirl

    BlitzGirl Senior Member

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    I do understand the idea of making sure you research what you're going to write about. But not everything can be researched easily, or you may never be able to talk to people who match the type of person you are writing about. It goes without saying that we should have some sort of knowledge of our subject in order to write effectively, but there can be limits to that. Just my two cents, based on the replies so far.
     
  9. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I agree. Research is good. Imagination is good. Empathy is good.
     
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  10. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    This is a variation on “write what you know,” which is bollocks. Research is good. Being able to extrapolate or expand reasonably on that research is even better. If this advice supports those ideas, I agree with it. To the extent this kind of advice is prescriptive and makes people think they can’t write a character without having gone through these steps, I think it does more harm than good.
     
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  11. SolZephyr

    SolZephyr Member Supporter

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    Agreed. If people only wrote about what they themselves have experienced and what people they've talked to have experienced, then most works of fiction wouldn't even exist. The fact of the matter is that a lot of interesting scenarios just don't happen (or don't happen often) in real life.

    When was the last time there was a child on the throne executing people willy nilly? How many people can say they've gone through a zombie apocalypse?

    People don't need to have direct (or even indirect) experience with these things to imagine what the experiences would be like, and taking that back to the original post: you don't need to talk to a murderer in person to understand the motivations of a killer, or what it feels like to actually kill someone.

    Besides, if you really wanted an interview with one, there are plenty of them documented that you can find with a little searching online.
     
  12. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Contributor Contributor

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    Field work calls for some effort, that's true.

    But it is not huge effort - or even big effort to talk with peoples that are totally different. You do it by listening and paying attention.

    A human being is like raw material of a character.

    A book/article about human being, a youtube clip, a movie, a... They are interpratations, representations, statements.

    Raw material, raw data gives something that processed does not.

    Books require effort. Some percentage of needed effort is somewhere the keyboard is not.
     
  13. Lemie

    Lemie Contributor Contributor

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    Research is all well and good - but it seems that people sometimes forget that what most of us work with is this thing called Fiction.

    There is nothing wrong with wanting things to be realistic but fiction is usually some sort of escapism. You don't need to get it right - you need to make it interesting or fun or whatever you're promising your readers to get out of it. I think blindly trying to stick to realism will just make for dull books.

    I'd advice people not to search out murderers to interview them, even if it's in a safe setting. People killing other people are usually not the most stable people and your book will probably be just as good without putting you in any harms way.

    I'm not saying that talking to a certain person who'd help you with your research is bad. Talking with a police or privet detective before writing your crime novel could probably give you a few tips that might give you an edge in your writing! Or talk with someone with depression if that's the theme of your book (no listening to sad music. You won't learn one single thing about depression by listening to sad music). But if you don't have these people at hand you'll probably find enough material in other ways to write what you want.
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2018
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  14. Nariac

    Nariac Contributor Contributor

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    This.

    Books can be realistic, to an extent - but only, I would suggest, enough to make them believable. They don't need to be real.

    We can get our dose of real in the real world. A book's first duty is to entertain and take us out of the world, not cling to it so much that is basically is the real world. As Lemie says, that risks making it dull.
     
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  15. Kingwood Kid

    Kingwood Kid Member

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    We can interview whomever we like, I suppose, but the most interesting people to write about probably won't be very helpful. A lot of them will outright lie or at least withhold information. Besides, if we can't see what it is that makes us unlike them, they probably can't explain how they are different from us.
     
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  16. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Contributor Contributor

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    "It is better to get good amount of good raw material first and then process it" does not mean "raw material rules processing out".

    Exactly!

    And when you find out how, when, why and to whom they lie or withhold you get a very good glimpse to they motivational base. It's just a glimpse, but much, much more than nothing.

    Excuses, automatic defences, denial, supressed emotional reactions...of similar real peoples tell you something that takes you deep to your characters inner world.

    You can find subject of the subject from literature & internet. But if you wanna have a glimpse to dynamics & structure that makes that subject you must have some kind of touch to the reality where those things and peoples are.

    Deeper understanding does not exclude craft skills. It opens the full potential of them.
     
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  17. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I wouldn't normally speculate, but @Alan Aspie has been very forthright about his diagnosis, so... I wonder if this is partly an Asperger's thing?

    As I understand Asperger's, the syndrome often includes difficulties with non-verbal communication and differences in traditional social interactions, including the experience of emotional reciprocity. So possibly direct research would be more useful for some on the spectrum than it is for someone neurotypical?

    So this could be another example of there being no right or wrong way to write (as usual!). For those who find research, including direct interviews, useful? Great! Go do research and direct interviews. For those who think their imagination is a better first resource, augmented by research if needed? Carry on!

    The proof will be in the pudding, really. If you're able to achieve your writing goals, you're doing things "right". If you aren't? Keep experimenting and see what else might work.
     
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  18. Zerotonin

    Zerotonin Serotonin machine broke

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    47. 48 if you count Jeff, but he's just crazy.
     
  19. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    There is merit in your approach, I reckon, although I think the killer thing is a bit extreme. Of course you don't need to know murderers to write a murder mystery. There are other ways to 'get into' the mind of a killer. And there are lots of written and online resources out there to help you. After all, you can only interview so many killers, and they won't all be alike anyway, or be motivated by the same things. Sooner or later, you'll need to step into the void and start creating your own killer—based on research AND your imagination.

    Interviewing soccer moms? That's a good opportunity to learn what real soccer moms go through. Maybe insight into what motivates their children to play soccer, etc, might also come in very handy. So you're right. Why not interview a few?

    It's all called research.

    There are lots of ways to do research, including interviewing your soccer moms. But you can also read interviews with soccer moms, think about what YOU would feel like if your child played soccer, etc. It would help to know the rules of soccer, and it might even help to have played it yourself. However, there are all different levels of soccer—from kids kicking a ball around in the playground to professional big-league teams—so even having played it yourself at some level won't be enough in many cases.

    One of the good things about interview-based researchs is that the personal angle might give you ideas which you wouldn't have had otherwise. I'd say yeah, go for it, if you've got the opportunity to speak to the kinds of people you plan to include in your story. But I also maintain that personal interviews or interactions aren't necessary to crafting a good story.

    Research can take many forms. The success of your story depends on how convincingly you tell the story...which may or may not be based on total realism or personal experience. Research helps, but it's not the be-all and end-all of good storytelling. You just have to convince your reader that it COULD happen, even if it never actually does!
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2018
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  20. GB reader

    GB reader Senior Member

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    Research is allways good, but.

    The ones you really need to know are your readers.
    Then you should study how you tell a story.

    You are not a photographer, you are a painter.
     
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  21. T_L_K

    T_L_K Senior Member

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    Thank you.

    :oops:
     
  22. S A Lee

    S A Lee Contributor Contributor

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    I have to agree with the consensus here, I severely doubt the author of the Dexter series killed anyone or knew a serial killer, but the series has a compelling first person narrative from the view of someone who is compelled to kill.

    At the moment I'm reading Past Mortems, a memoir from a mortician (someone who has assisted in post mortems but does not diagnose the dead) and aside from being brilliantly written and compelling, it is good to see the point of view of those who work in mortuaries, as well as explaining key terminology useful particularly to differentiate between British reality and American crime drama. I think some of the aforementioned terminology and processes would be useful in my own writing.
     
  23. Iain Sparrow

    Iain Sparrow Banned Contributor

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    Real empathy isn't something you experience at arm's length.
    What you're talking about is a convenient empathy, the kind where you never get your hands dirty.
     
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  24. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    Is it possible you're confusing "empathy" with something else, like, maybe, "charity"?

    Empathy, as I understand it, is an ability to understand and share feelings; hands don't come into it, either figuratively or literally.
     
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  25. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Convenient empathy? Come on. Empathy is a good thing, and it doesn't really matter how dirty your hands are.
     

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