1. Keitsumah

    Keitsumah The Dream-Walker Contributor

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    Character Introduction

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Keitsumah, Jan 24, 2018.

    Character introduction has always been something I struggled with mildly -and that almighty first page in a story is probably one of the biggest stressors for me. So, if you choose to read the snippet from the quote box below, I have a couple questions.

    1) Does this make you want to read further?
    2) Is this character relatable at all? Or if they are not is there intrigue towards making a connection?
    3) Does this character feel unnecessarily harsh and disrespectful toward the dead given the situation?

    My intent with this is to give light to a character who obviously has had to deal with some extremely traumatic stuff on a daily basis to make her brush off a body (a gory one at that) so casually. However, I also don't want her to come off as completely cold and unfeeling, which might turn a potential reader away. Does this snippet pull off all these things? What may I want to look out for in the future as I continue to write her story, since this character starts out as a tough baddass that gets cracked later on?
     
  2. TheRealStegblob

    TheRealStegblob Kill All Mages Contributor

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    Your character comes across as a bit methodical in the situation, but it's easy to get the feeling that she's become desensitized to such a sight and has seen it many times before. One thing I'd consider doing is restructuring your first line. It could be more clear that the 'bastards' in question are the ones that (I'm assuming, at least) caused the destruction inside of the tent/structure. Maybe something like;

    This way you establish something bad happened (a ruined hut, a dead guy) and then you bring up someone to blame it on, 'those bastards'. It's not a big deal, but I think it makes the language a little more clear and I think that reading the carnage first makes you want to know who did it more. You're immediately introduced to a ruined hut and a dead body inside, then you find out that the MC has fallen behind 'the bastards' that perpetrated the crime yet again.

    She's not exactly 'kind' to the corpse, but she isn't disrespectful, either. Promising to put his axe to good use is a nice way of making her seem more like a good-at-heart survivalist rather than a cold-hearted grave robber who sees a body with an axe and goes, "Hey, free axe!". You may want to include a short line of her closing the corpse's eyes or saying a silent prayer over the body quick, if you really want to ensure no one takes her actions as being disrespectful or harsh. Just a quick gesture she gives to a dead man, nothing that makes her look too kind, but also not too harsh either.
     
  3. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Perhaps oddly, it's her assessment of the axe ("shitty thing") that seems most disrespectful. Stealing from the dead in an extreme situation can be understood; sneering at their possessions seems like an unnecessary added touch of disrespect.

    (As a side note, "the young woman" distracts me quite a bit when it's not coming from another viewpoint character, so that I try to find a way to lose it. We know that she's female from "she", and she's doing things that require strength, so we can be reasonably sure that she's not a little girl and not an old lady. At that point, I think that the phrase is more distracting than it's worth. If it feels urgent to get "young" there, you could compare her age to the middle-aged man. ("Old enough to be her grandfather", say.))
     
  4. Lemie

    Lemie Contributor Contributor

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    I'm a gamer - I'm more concerned with people who don't loot.

    I don't feel like there is anything off with her methodical ways. As I see it this is just another corpse she run across, and there is a sort of normality to it. She might not enjoy rooting through this dead mans belonging, but you do what you have to do. I don't view her as harsh, and I unless she knew the man personally, I feel like she wouldn't waste more time by the body.

    Is this how people would/should react in real life? I have no clue - but it's the way I like my characters. Disrespecting axes and all.
     
  5. DeeDee

    DeeDee Contributor Contributor

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    1)yes, it was reasonably well executed.Character sighing is sort of a red flag(it's one of the most overused expressions with new writers). And I'd prefer to know more about the "everything" that she "pulled out" as the scene is not fully fleshed out at the moment.
    2)sure. A bit lean, but perhaps the scene demands it. There wasn't anything obviously "off" with it.
    3)I can't judge what's "unnecessary" since I'm not familiar with the setting or the character. The way she "works" makes it seem like it's a routine for a scavernger person living in harsh times, and as such it's alright.
     
  6. TheRealStegblob

    TheRealStegblob Kill All Mages Contributor

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    I could agree with this. "Shitty thing", to me, almost sounds a little unfitting in general. Nothing wrong with pointing out that it's a low-quality axe (as it helps us assume the man was some sort of poor guy with only basic essentials to live by), but maybe change the language a bit? That's just me, though.

    I think "young woman" is perfectly fine. For all we know or could assume, maybe she isn't a young woman. She could be a grizzled, aged survivalist or even a younger child. Given that the world is immediately introduced as an incredibly harsh one (a man is killed, his hut destroyed, it's so cold that his blood freezes, the MC loots his belongings to get by, etc) it's okay to established the MC's age. It's kind of important for us to be told, because when we know her age we know how long she's survived in such a world.
     
  7. Keitsumah

    Keitsumah The Dream-Walker Contributor

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    After taking these responses into account I've rewritten it a little. How does this feel? (I kept the young woman bit for several reasons; mostly because people somehow kept confusing the character for something else, be it a guy, an old woman, etc. The reader will later find out why being a young woman is both so shocking and dangerous in this setting, so that's its own plot device.)

    * * *

    Carefully brushing aside the ruined tent-flap, Lyrrh quietly muttered an oath.

    Snow crunched under her boots as the young woman stooped inside what remained of the mostly collapsed structure. Avoiding the body of a middle-aged man that lay to one side in a puddle of black, frozen blood, she fumbled around in what few belongings she saw scattered across the floor. Not that there was much left to pick from now that the Shifters had been through here. She was always one step behind the bastards.

    A few soiled pelts, a broken stone dagger, a leather chord with a charm on one end...she picked out what may be of use to her later and shoved it into her own bag. With humanity close to extinction, even trading for needed materials was next to impossible. You had to make do with what you could find.

    A plume of steam escaped her lips as she huffed and swung her bag back over her shoulder. Only then did she glance at the corpse. He'd died with his hand still clutched around an axe; cold eyes glaring eternally out the tent-flap. Barely more than a small hatchet meant to cut away a tree's bark for firewood, she was surprised to see that instead of stone, this one was made of metal. The Shifters must not have noticed the precious material after he'd covered it in their blood.

    "I'll put it to good use, friend." she muttered, prying it free with a small crack and looping it into her belt. It was the best she could do to repay what little bravery was left in this world.
     
  8. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    But her age can be established in other ways. My issue is that the piece seems to be from her point of view, and she's not going to think, "I, a young woman, am entering a tent." Her youngness and womanness just isn't going to be in her thoughts in this moment, or at least the scene doesn't establish why it is, and therefore it's a POV break.
     
  9. TheRealStegblob

    TheRealStegblob Kill All Mages Contributor

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    This is is a lot better. Sets the world up nicely, tells us that survival is rough and makes the MC look like a resourceful scavenger instead of a someone without morals who casually loots a dead man. I'd edit it further for language and some sentence structure, but that's just me nitpicking (if I'd say you should absolutely do anything, it might be to split 'Avoiding the body of a middle-aged man that lay to one side in a puddle of black, frozen blood, she fumbled around in what few belongings she saw scattered across the floor' into two sentences and add an 'of' behind 'out' in 'cold eyes glaring eternally out the tent-flap'.)

    I suppose on this, we disagree. I think the language is fine, as the narrative only describes her as being a young woman. Her youth is a fairly important aspect of the situation, because it's telling us that even though this person is a "young woman", they're still so desensitized to the routine of looting a ruined shack that it's methodical for them; even ignoring (and then looting) an actual dead body. It tells you a lot about not just the MC, but the world itself.
     
  10. DeeDee

    DeeDee Contributor Contributor

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    This one gives a good idea about the noble nature of the character, but he rest has gone bit downhill.

    Bits and bobs:

    "... Lyrrh quietly muttered an oath.

    Snow crunched under her boots as the young woman stooped inside ...."
    - nope. This sounds to me like there are two people ther, one is Lyrrh/"her" and the other one is "the young woman".

    You're trying to put too much into one sentence.

    "Avoiding the body of a middle-aged man that lay..."
    - nope again. This one sounds like there are several bodies lying about in there but she's avoiding this particular one (of the middle-aged man, while the rest are okay to skip over).

    "...shoved it into her own bag."
    - since no other person's bag was mentioned, you don't need "own", "her bag" is enough.
    - is "chord" some other word for "cord" I haven't heard of?

    "trading for needed materials"
    - I don't get this. Do you mean "trade"? And "essentials"? "Trading" is a specific process, like "trading her loot for food", while "trade" is an established activity (stolen goods trade etc).

    "...hand still clutched around an axe; cold eyes glaring... "
    - I think it's a comma instead of a semicolon
    - I'm also puzzled how his eyes could be glaring out of the tent-flap. I've imagined him laying on his back, because that's the generi man-lying-on-floor pose, so eyes would be looking up, while the flap would be to the side.

    "Barely more than a small hatchet ..., she was surprised..."
    - this means she was a small hatchet... Too much into one sentence again. And watch out those complex structures, they are getting as tangled as a plate of spaghetti
    - if there was so much blood on the axe to hide it's material, then it should be more blood visible in the scene

    "...prying it free with a small crack.."
    - erm, did she use a crack to pry it free?..
    - and how does one "loop" an axe into a belt? "loop" is a circular thing closed end-to-end, "hook" on the other hand is open on one end, very much like the head of an axe.

    Is it necessary to include the information about her young age right in this scene? You don't have to describe a character in full the very moment they appear. There can be something else metioned later that would point towards her young age. It could be the way they behave or speak, or the way they think about stuff that would show the reader it's a young person. It could also be remarked by somebody else in dialogue.
     
  11. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    @DeeDee has a very good point that it sounds like Lyrrh is WITH a young woman--like there are two people.

    OK, so the goal is to establish (1) female, (2) adult, and (3) young.

    Female is easy to get in almost instantly:

    Lyrrh quietly muttered an oath as she carefully brushed the ruined tent-flap aside.

    There are a variety of ways to get in the rest.

    Lyrrh quietly muttered an oath as she carefully brushed the ruined tent-flap aside. Concern about appropriate language for young ladies was one of the first things she'd abandoned when her new life began.

    or

    Snow crunched under her boots as she stooped inside what remained of the mostly collapsed structure. She froze for a moment, then scolded herself. She wasn't a child any longer; it was time to get to the matter at hand.

    or

    ...she picked out what might be of use to her later and shoved it into her backpack...no, his backpack. She'd almost missed it. She picked up the big leather-trimmed bag from the corner of the tent and transferred the contents of her flimsy souvenir of high school. Past time to leave that life behind.
     
  12. TheRealStegblob

    TheRealStegblob Kill All Mages Contributor

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    I disagree with this. It was very clear to me that there is only one person. We see Lyrrh and it's implied she's by herself (or at least it's implied there is no one else), so when we're told 'the young woman stooped down etc', we know it must be referring to Lyrrh.

    I disagree with this, too. "Middle-aged man" is just a description of the body, it's not something that's implying she's avoiding it specifically, as if there are more bodies. It's very clear that there's a singular body.

    "Chord" is the spelling used for 'Musical Chord', but yes, Ketisumah used the wrong 'cord'.

    How much more blood do you want than an entire pool of it, eh?

    I gathered that the axe cracked from the snow/frost from the ground/the man's hand. This could be made a little clearer, but I don't think it's outright confusing.

    In this scenario, I'd argue that it is an important piece of information. As I've said before, her age is important given that she's in such an extreme survival situation/world. The tone of the scene, and your impression of who the character is, might be changed drastically if they're an older person or a younger one. Of course, you could say "have it be revealed they're younger later on in the narrative", but eh, I think that's splitting hairs. Revealing the age immediately is fine, if you ask me.
     
  13. Dragon Turtle

    Dragon Turtle Deadlier Jerry

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    I'd totally read further. No, the character's not relatable exactly, but she's interesting, and just this little bit raised a lot of questions for me. I don't think you have anything to worry about.

    I guess I'm in the minority but I actually like your first version better. I think it's specifically this line from the revised one that I don't like: "With humanity close to extinction, even trading for needed materials was next to impossible. You had to make do with what you could find." Seems a bit much for the first page. I doubt this character actually goes around thinking that to herself on a regular basis. I'd much rather be left wondering for a few more pages why she's acting the way she is.
     
  14. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Funky like your grandpa's drawers.... Staff Contributor

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    Agree about the "young woman" being a POV violation. That's something only an independent observer would notice. I'd add this one too:

    This is clearly telegraphed to the reader. I'd be kind of like of me thinking, "With the cost of living on the rise, I had to go to work," if I were to write a scene about myself climbing into my car. If it isn't out of the ordinary in the character's context--not ours as a reader--it's not noteworthy.
     
  15. Keitsumah

    Keitsumah The Dream-Walker Contributor

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    Perhaps I should explain just why I state young woman specifically. This story started out as a first person narrative ages ago, and the character kept getting mistaken for an older man so many times I had to change it to third person. Even then it did not hit home that she was somewhere in her late teen/early twenties, so I decided to go for a rather blunt tactic.

    As for any different tactics to say young woman without saying it directly; she's cold. Its been a very long time since she has acted like a child, and while that's a good idea, given her background that will be poked at later on in the chapter it will show she is very much locked up emotionally so it would actually break character for her to even react to begin with unless it was of someone she knew. Part of this particular character's development will be going through her emotional walls cracking later on thanks to the second MC who is an antihero. Not that she's your typical protagonist either to be honest.

    TLDR: Long story short yeah I see why its a bad idea to break POV to say that but this is such an old issue I need to figure out a very good way to say it without doing so; otherwise its a necessary evil. >.>

    I'll remove the bit about the trade; that can be shown moreso than told later on when she comes across one of the more populated human camps. (oh boy thats gonna be lovely...) As for the rest I've clarified a bit of it, and spelled cord correctly.

    Here is an image of the character in question by the way:

    [​IMG]
     
  16. Dragon Turtle

    Dragon Turtle Deadlier Jerry

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    Now I'm wondering why you find it so crucial that the reader know her gender and age range immediately. Who cares if people mistake her for being older for a while? It's pretty normal to not know a character's approximate age until a ways into a book. You make a guess and then sometimes you adjust it when you get new information.
     
  17. Keitsumah

    Keitsumah The Dream-Walker Contributor

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    Sometimes the change is incredibly radical and disjoints you from the story. I had such happen to me one time when reading about a character in prison. I thought they were an older man (much like how my character kept getting mistaken for one) but suddenly "hey its a young woman!" and then everything about how they think and act shifted to the point I had to go back and re-read the entire thing, which annoyed me so much I had to drop it.
     
  18. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Well, but, again, you can get "she" in there instantly.

    So the remaining issues are adulthood and youth.
     
  19. Keitsumah

    Keitsumah The Dream-Walker Contributor

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    Hmm...I'll trade it out. Perhaps I can have another character that gets introduced later belittle her a bit and point out she's younger.
     
  20. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    If the issue is anything that suggests emotional vulnerability, you could go with the purely physical. Has she just reached her full height, for example? Or....well, I can't instantly come up with an "or"...

    I'm not saying that it's the end of the world to leave it there as a placeholder for something to tidy up later, but I did definitely stumble over it pretty hard.
     
  21. TheRealStegblob

    TheRealStegblob Kill All Mages Contributor

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    I dunno, for what it's worth, I don't consider "young woman" to be very POV breaking. Maybe I just don't understand some rule of POV (I sure hope that's not the case, though) but it doesn't read weird to me. Especially because I feel that knowing she's young adds to the scene. It's a situation you wouldn't normally consider a younger person to act so calmly in, so it lets you know she's either different or that the world is especially harsh, which are both things that work with the scenario that's happening.
     
  22. Keitsumah

    Keitsumah The Dream-Walker Contributor

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    Both good points. I guess I could set it aside and just read it over again. There are more contexts than just 'she' and 'her' when in third person if used properly from what i have been exposed to in writing. Taking an example from the other MC, I get as varied as he, him, the prince, etc. so long as it makes sense in the given situation. Its especially useful if there are multiple characters of the same gender that you know about in a given scene, which will be needed given the story is pretty much split right down the middle with up to 5-7 side female characters along with the main female character, and just as many male characters alongside the main male character (not all at the same time but you get the idea).

    And in case your mentally asking why the heck is there such a huge gender gap, its because of the world Ive built. One race is male exclusive and parasitic, which drives the entire problem in the story, and the bulk of the female characters were the result of some very powerful magic that backfired. I like taking a lot of extremely isolated and specific concepts and slowly meshing them together as the plot goes on.
     

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