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  1. pamedria

    pamedria Member

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    Character Profiling techniques /blogpost

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by pamedria, Dec 3, 2016.

    https://tijennicolebutler.wordpress.com/2016/11/29/character-profiling-tips/

    In this blog, I have listed some tips about developing your characters. To summarise, I highlight the importance of back stories, consistency, how much detail to add and not to add (and how to go about it), and basing characters on real-life people you know. Give it a look and let me know what you think. I hope it can help. Also if you have any tips of your own please let me know as I can add them to the list.
     
  2. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    While more of a specialized view on character creation, I feel characters can be allegories for themes and concepts. Also, bad manners (acting on one's desire despite social repercussions) is something else I feel people should consider when character crafting.
     
  3. pamedria

    pamedria Member

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    OJB, that's interesting. So you use some characters as representations? Do you have an example, or have I misunderstood?
     
  4. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    No, that is completely correct. I use my Main character as a representation of a philosophical concept. Her job, mannerism, sexuality, drive, perception of the reality, and story goal are based on this concept. This does two things, allow me to explore theme more richly, and avoid character cliches .
     
  5. pamedria

    pamedria Member

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    Wow, that's a great take on characters. I've not known anyone to take the approach so deeply before. Thanks!
     
  6. pamedria

    pamedria Member

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    What kind of philosophical concepts do you use?
     
  7. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    Go read my Journal, I have the whole character creation process (including the current philosophical concept I am using) written down, with details and side notes. Some of the notes and thoughts are a bit advance, but seeing how you are experienced writer I am sure you will be able to follow it. As for concepts themselves, they are limitless so I can churn out characters all year if I really wanted to.
     
  8. pamedria

    pamedria Member

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    Definitely will. I shall let you know what I think of it when I get a chance to read it. For now, good night.
     
  9. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I've read your blog, @pamedria , and you have made some really good points. I especially like your emphasis on not creating stereotypes (such as all rich people are snobs.) I also agree totally with making your characters (or at least the important ones) as human as possible, which means they may very well do things that surprise you. As an author, you need to stay on top of this 'surprise' factor, and make sure if the surprise is way out of character that you're willing to go back and change the parts of the story that need tweaking to accomodate the surprise.

    I think where I deviate from your method (and there is nothing wrong with your method, and it works well for lots of people) is that I never make up written character profiles—or lists. I let my characters develop along with my story, and never force characteristics on them.

    I feel that arbitrarily assigning traits, quirks and foibles to characters, such as 'their favorite food,' when food is not an important aspect of the story, can be detrimental. You can get so focused on coming up with new and unusual things the characters might or might not do in special circumstances outwith the story, that the character becomes artificial—and may actually never get written. There is also the temptation (although you warn against it, very wisely) to trot out these cool characteristics throughout the story, which can make the character into a caricature. Think Hercule Poirot and his fastidious food habits and little waxy moustache. It can become slightly silly, especially if your story is meant to be serious.

    I'd say push the characters a little bit. Pushing is what makes you learn about them. Instead of having them react in a stereotypical way to events and people, maybe play around with the unexpected instead. A character finds a dead body underneath her lilac bush, which has been there a while. Scream scream, horror, run, phone police, etc. OR ...something altogether different. Maybe the character pretends they haven't seen it, because she doesn't want the ensuing hassle for whatever reason. Or the character wants to figure out the mystery herself—why here, why MY lilac bush? Or the character reacts calmly, phones the police to report the situation, and maybe her lack of emotion triggers suspicion in the police.

    In all of these cases, you will explore why the character has reacted to this event the way they did. And that will open all sorts of doors to their personality, and will bring them to life as human beings.

    In any of those situations, you, the author, don't need to know beforehand whether your character loves coffee and hates tea, or has red hair or black hair, or bakes homemade bread in her spare time. These things might figure in to the story, but probably won't. It's how your character reacts to that situation that will drive your story. I think it's more valuable to play 'what if' with your character's personality, rather than make up arbitrary lists of traits. But again, if a list helps you get a focus on your character, nothing wrong with that—as long as you don't get bogged down by the list itself, or feel you need to stick to it, no matter what.

    I've read so many offerings from people who trot out their character's traits, preferences and looks in the first couple of paragraphs of their story. And I've also seen countless numbers of posts here on this forum, from people who have created extensive character lists and plot points, etc ...but can't seem to get started actually writing. List-making can seem like preparatory writing, but actually can end up being a distraction from writing, rather than a help.
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2016
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  10. Denegroth

    Denegroth Banned

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    attractive site, not much about characters, I did see links to your work :supercool:
     
  11. pamedria

    pamedria Member

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    Jannert - Great post, I couldn't agree more! Perhaps I should edit the opening paragraph to the post, as I very much do the same. By character profiling, I merely mean I keep a document with their listed names - and what I've already decided about them. The beginning is always brief, but as my story goes on, ad they develop naturally, I suggest noting all the developments within that documents. So, any reference to their appearance, past...anything. The reason I keep this profiling is consistency. I was at a point in my story where I had to go back and read points about one of my characters, because I had completely forgotten what age and appearance I gave him. It's so easy to do with secondary characters. Especially if your novel has several characters, like mine. The other points were all about how to develop with during the journey, rather than the start point. Their favourite food, I would say, may not be a part of the story, but it's just what I like to do to relate to my characters, to make them as real to me as possible.
    Love what you said about pushing characters, it also makes for thrilling reads! I also love weaving hints in stories, which not every reader will pick up. Like little gems. For example, I had mentioned how one of my characters does not name his horses as they're disposable to me. Later, talking to his guards, they go to tell their names and he refuses. To some, it's just a random piece of dialogue, but others should pick it up. I love reading pieces that do that. Gives the reader a bit of working out to do about personalities, motives, plot... never spoon feed!

    @Denegorth, thank you, yes the link is only one of two posts about characters at the moment. The 'creative writing' section has only been up a week or so. Other posts in there area bout finding the time to write, and a couple pieces of creative writing. A lot more to come!
     
    jannert likes this.
  12. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Ah, I fully get it now. Basically what you're doing is what I do as well, only I call mine a Timeline. This is not an outline, made prior to writing. It contains the chronology of events and occurrences—years, dates, days and times— as I write them or think them up. That way I don't lose track of what I've done, and can cross-check if something new is going to be impossible or will conflict with what has gone before.

    Characters and their personalities can come into it as well—although I do tend to keep personalities more in my head. However, things like birth dates, locations, when a character or a character's family did a certain thing, how long it takes to get from point A to point B on horseback ...these are the kinds of things you can get hopelessly muddled if you make them up on the hoof, and don't write them down.

    And names of minor characters. I forgot one of them and changed his name partway through. It wasn't until I gave it to my first beta reader, that the mistake got caught. :bigoops:

    Because I write 'historical' fiction, I also include outside events that happened at the same time as my story, so I don't get ahead of myself there, either. And unless a story takes place in a vacuum, it's important to be aware of these things so I don't make huge mistakes. I pay attention to when a certain device was invented, and when it came into general use. Or who was President at the time. Or when a war started or ended. Or when a piece of legislation was passed into law, etc. I include all these kinds of things in my timeline, along with what my characters are doing and what my characters are like.
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2016

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