1. keysersoze

    keysersoze Active Member

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    Characters struggling to co-exist on the page

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by keysersoze, Dec 31, 2019.

    I am writing a play with the two main characters hailing from two very different worlds. The man is the head of marketing in a consultancy services and the woman is a nightclub/bar dancer. Ever since the man (let us call him K) committed the crime of insider trading a few months back, he has had troubles with his conscience. The woman (let us call her L) has insidious intent towards him. She knows he is troubled and cannot share his secret with anyone. She doesn't know his secret yet. She only knows that he is suffering pangs of conscience. She believes if she can push him off the ledge, she can have him. Complicating the plot is the unknown blackmailer who says he/she has evidence proving the crime and leading his career and job in jeopardy.

    The problem I am facing is this - when I write dialogue from the man's perspective, the woman character comes out flat. If I write dialogue from the woman's perspective, the man vanishes into empty words. It is hard to bring them together at once in the same scene. I am struggling with bringing them together at once on the page/stage. The first scene constitutes them discussing potential blackmailers and her making advances, him retreating back (femme fatale stuff), her acting vulnerable, drawing him in, until eventually the construct falling apart and K deciding to surrender and confess his crime to the law.

    I have worked some on the back stories of the characters. I can share that if required. What am I missing here? Why am I not able to bring them together at once?
     
  2. GrJs

    GrJs Active Member

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    I think your issue may be that they have no reason to know each other and have nothing in common. There's no way for them to relate to each other. There's nothing that connects them.
     
  3. Steve Rivers

    Steve Rivers Senior Member

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    I agree with GrJs. A good way would be to give him a hobby or a collection, or just a passion for something that she can see in his apartment/house that she can latch onto. She doesn't have to even like it so much herself if she is as manipulative and devious as you make out. Hell, you could even have her run off and google it to try and learn as much as possible to then go back and worm her way into him liking her more. What's more, you could make whatever hobby/passion it is something ironic to his or her situation, or something foreshadowing. It could just be something as simple as a collection of antique Russian nesting dolls. "Oh look, each one inside the other is something different!" showing that people (like the dolls) have different layers, as an example :)
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2020
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  4. EFMingo

    EFMingo A Nefarious Flamingo Staff Contributor

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    You are really going to have to think as two characters at once here. Use their backstory and character's normal attitudes to guide how their reactions to each other in conversation work out. The dancer is going to be agreeable, but distant unless there is an outside reason that she should do anything other than platitudes. Her job is in seduction, and making people feel comfortable an interested. Play into that. If they meet at that club, and she dances for him, she will be highly interested in him in observational status only, but mentally, she just wants the cash. Same works in reverse for him. Say he's at that club. He's obviously there for some escapism. He wants the girl to make him feel comfortable, and maybe that leads him to be more open. All I'm saying is that you need to think of why they are where they are, and let the environment naturally play into the conversation. Character's intent is at the utmost importance too. Nobody does something without reason. Play with the intent to steer the dialogue.
     
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  5. keysersoze

    keysersoze Active Member

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    I was thinking about his interest in criminal psychology that his father discouraged at one point. I was thinking that there can be something common here between them as she has been with hardened criminals and gangsters. But this is not even close to a symbol the way you suggest. Coming to think about it, I would really love to have something symbolic working here. The premise of the play is 'destruction leads to vitality'. I am thinking of a knife. It would also foreshadow murder that the protagonist will commit towards the end. But how can a knife be a common interest? What do they do with the knife? Eat fruit? What fruit? Anything else? At the climax the protagonist would kill someone. So, knife can be a foreshadow of that. Is that too direct, or not?

    Their relationship is a customer-service provider kind of a sexual relationship. It happens under pretenses of gift giving and shopping splurges.

    I love the idea of a symbol here.
     
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  6. keysersoze

    keysersoze Active Member

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    T
    The intent is becoming too direct for me. The logical sequence of the first scene goes as this -

    He is whining about his situation (someone is blackmailing him) - leads to - her not taking him seriously (which is a ploy from her as she knows he needs attention) and mocking his concerns delicately - leads to - him bursting out, demeaning her and asking her to leave - leads to - her asking who it might be blackmailing her - he recounts people at office, his rivals - she asks what about family - he demeans her again for asking this question and boasts a little about middle class values - she withdraws for a while, then brings in personal examples of how parents can be the meanest thing that can happen to someone (she was sold to a sex trafficker by her parents, which does happen in this country) - he responds with dignity that upholding family values is the bed rock of life, without that everything is lost - she laughs at this, mocks it with a subtlety which is brutal - this destroys something inside him, he decides to confess his crimes - she tells him not to - He calls her filth and scum. The scene ends.

    The scene that follows this one is where the father-son relationship goes through a mighty storm.

    My problem is that I am not able to flesh this out properly. All this is too logical right now. I think the backstory might be lacking some. But once I start writing the backstories of the two characters, it just becomes a plethora of non-sense details. Later, when needed, the details are hard to find in all the material that I have already written.

    The premise of the play is "destruction leads to vitality". Will that have something to do with character development - characterization and character revelation?
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2020
  7. The Multiverse

    The Multiverse Member

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    Sounds to me like your story is just like a car without the drive belt. You need a mechanic that meshes them all in together. If he's guilty of inside trading and she's essentually a stripper, why not have him be her stockbroker? He may in fact be having terrible luck in investing and hears some less scrupulous brokers talking about inside information. He could then take her money and invest it as such. That would give them reason to coexist as well as should lead the convorsations and event a bit better.

    I'd like to say this isn't mean't to be taken as is. It's just my own musings and is meant to do nothing more than fuel thought and imagination. I hope this helps.
     
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  8. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm wondering if you've been concentrating too hard on building a plot, but you're just creating characters to fill the plot.

    Sometimes that's not the right way to build a story. Especially if you are having difficulty bringing these characters to life.

    If they do actually 'live' like real people in your head, you won't have a problem figuring out how they talk. However, if you just need them to say certain things to move the plot in the right direction, they may not work for you.

    My suggestion is simple.

    Model the two characters (or more) off people you actually know. And no, they don't have to be a consultant marketer and a nightclub dancer. They could even be your mom and dad. Or a friend of yours and a teacher you've known well. Anybody, really. And they don't even have to be the same sex as your characters.

    What you're looking for here is 'personality.' If you can't conjure them from thin air, borrow them from people you know.

    If your mom was a nightclub dancer and your dad was a consultant marketer, how would they speak to each other? Play with this idea. I've found it works really well for me.
     
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  9. Richach

    Richach Contributor Contributor

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    For me, it is time to build and develop your characters. The backstory is important to you but not the reader. This is all about the chemical reaction between the two characters. P.O.V is a key consideration here so that the reader feels immersed. For the second character, you will have to make to with dialogue and reaction etc.

    I don't see any reason why this should not work as you have everything set up very well. Try looking at it from another perspective. You the author feel that one or the other character appears flat. Is that how it appears to the reader? Might they not see that as a mysterious or intriguing reaction. Also if you play the long game you may let the 'flat' characters view on the exchange be revealed later, maybe from their p.o.v in another chapter.
     
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  10. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Senior Member

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    Let me ask this - where are they having this conversation?
     
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  11. keysersoze

    keysersoze Active Member

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    She is not a stripper. Stripping as a profession is not a practice in this country. Even bar dancers were banned for a while. Interestingly prostitution is legal; pimping is not. Also, bar dancers happen to know a lot about blue collar criminals because they are their frequent customers. K starts the same way with L. He goes to this shady bar and spends some money (from the trading) on her. What he spends is small for him and is much for her. He is sexually repressed (which is a significant aspect of scene two). She is unrestrained in her contempt for people in the city and he finds this refreshing. She goes on and on telling a myriad stories (some true, some made up) and he finds her enchanting. He starts dating her. He is conflicted about her dancing for other men. She wants him to marry her which is impossible for him because of how completely his father controls his life (which will come up in the second scene). The third scene would be face to face with the blackmailer.

    In the first scene he also needs to figure out the blackmailer. This is the drive belt you were talking about. He works in this management consultancy company. This company is hired to consult another company. K finds out that this company would be sold to a bigger corporation in next six months. He tracks the communications inside the other company, because he has access. He then tips the tipper (his personal friend) to trade in stocks of the company getting acquired. They make millions of rupees (42 mil. to be precise). He doesn't know where to spend it. He invests some. Purchases a house for the family with some and is still left with a lot. Father won't let him spend personally. And thus he reaches the shady bar. At his office, there are team leaders for finance department, IT dept., HR. And there is the boss, the CEO of the company. The company is a start-up so the staff size is small.

    Although he likes her, he is not interested in marrying her. She is annoyed with his blackmail situation. She doesn't understand how information stealing can lead to money. Her interest is in somehow seducing him so he commits to her. His relationship with his father is fragile. She needs to find that out and then hit it in subtle way that would shake his identity, his self-perception.

    I need to execute this. But I am so baffled about how to do this.

    Comment and help are much appreciated.
     
  12. keysersoze

    keysersoze Active Member

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    I think fantasy is a significant part of a person's imagination. I don't mean fantasy as a genre but as a human experience. I have never held a corporate job for a significant amount of time. My experiences in the corporate world were stints that lasted only a few months. I felt the atmosphere was very toxic. At some level I also want to recreate the anguish of it for an imagined character who does not have any other way left (because of his father's dominance over his life). The father's dominance is a prevalent cultural condition in this country.

    My mother is a very morally constricted person. She would be thoroughly disgusted with the idea of entering a dance bar unless she goes there as a moral reformer to teach them dancers lessons of appropriate behaviour for women. There are a few women I know who might make a good bar dancer. But how do I select which one. They would all make a very different kind of a stripper and ultimately they would still not be the kind of flambouyant and boisterous character as I have in my mind. As for a consultant, yeah my father can do that. But so can many other people. Even I would have done a decent job.

    When I think of a professional, I think their financial aspirations. Whether a bar dancer or a consultant or whatever. But then how do I connect those with their food, clothing, accessories, travel, social life, life in the family, life among friends etc etc? I have been having a very hard time feeling that all these other aspects of life connect together to form a unique individual.
     
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  13. keysersoze

    keysersoze Active Member

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    He has gotten her a small flat in an apartment someplace in the city. She coaxed him into doing this for her. Since he has been itching to behave extravagantly with the money he has earned, he finds it an interesting way to spend the illegal money he recently earned.

    The flat itself is disheveled. She is not a very organized person. Earlier she lived in a dorm with five other women and kept everything disheveled in her locked cupboard. Now the mess of her cupboard lives and breathes all over the tiny apartment. He is annoyed by it but as a repressed person he doesn't say much. The flat has a bed, a table, two chairs, a small dressing place with a big mirror and dark lights because she likes it that way. A tiny attached kitchen maybe (doesn't seem required right now).

    The narrative is going to be a play, so the setting is kind of crucial. Thanks for the question. What do you have to add to this?
     
  14. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Well, of course I wasn't referencing your real mom and dad! I have no idea what they might be like. What I was doing was posing the idea that you can pick a person you know ...any person at all ...and put their personality into your character.

    The whole point of doing this is not to find a person who exactly fits your character's personality, but actually the opposite. I'm talking about constructing your character's personality on the basis of somebody you know.

    In this quote, you've left out the ONE thing you probably need to know, in order to make your characters seem real ...to you and your readers. That's personality.
    Realise that all professionals don't have the same personality. Even the ones who do the same job. Are all lawyers alike? All doctors? (I worked for a group of five doctors, and I can assure you they all had different personalities—and they didn't all talk the same, or laugh at the same things, or deal with patients the same way.) All bar dancers won't have the same personality either. Even if they eat the same food, wear the same clothes, even belong to the same family. They will all have different personalities. And ANY personality ...yes, even your mom ...could be a bar dancer, if circumstances forced her to. That's why I'm suggesting you pick a person you know to base your character on.

    You said you're having trouble coming up with a way to envision dialogue, etc. That's the best way I know to quickly bridge that gap. Pretend this person you know is saying the dialogue. Pay attention to the kinds of word choices they make ...their tone of voice, their sense of humour (if they have one.) Are they people of few words? Do they tend to gab? Do they look you in the eye when they speak? Are they happy doing the job they do? Do they like the kind of person you are, or are they just tolerating you, or are they sarcastic towards you, or openly hostile towards you? Do they make you feel looked-after/cared for/noticed? Do they tease you, or do they take everything you say seriously? Do they tend to make light of their troubles, or are they always wallowing in angst?

    This can all help you conjure up the dialogue you want. And if the person they are speaking TO has an entirely different personality (pick another person you know—or even yourself) you will quickly see the differences between them.

    Try it just for fun.
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2020

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