1. Prudence Jones

    Prudence Jones Member

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    Characters too one-dimensional? Advise.

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Prudence Jones, Feb 18, 2018.

    Hi! So, I've been trying to work out some main characters for a story, but currently I'm not sure if they are sufficiently fleshed out – if they are as interesting and relatable as they need to be. To this end, I'm going to post some character descriptions below and update them with as many details as come to mind. Please feel free to make suggestions as general or specific as you want! (I will even accept suggestion for favorite food, color, etc. –anything that might help fill in the little holes in their personalities.)

    A little background on the world they live in: In this world, humans are the only mammal, but all humans have the ears of a mammal from our world instead of human ears. All spaces in the ecosystem occupied by mammals in our world are filled by insects, birds, reptiles, or other non-mammals, which all have distinct names – the names for the animals from our world refer to people with that type of ear. For instance, a "pig" is a person with pig ears, but a "chan-chan" is a medium-large reptile roughly equivalent to our pigs. Discrimination by skin color it nonexistant, as is discrimination based on sexual orientation, but ear-based stereotypes and discrimination are as prevalent as racism is to us.

    CHARACTERS:

    Stella is a 23-year-old blonde golden retriever with brown eyes who has just joined the police force at the beginning of the story. Enthusiastic, energetic, and positive, she's fairly sheltered and naive, having been on the receiving end of mostly positive stereotypes her whole life. She lives in a small apartment with her girlfriend Nicole and enjoys jogging.

    Nicole is a 22-year-old brunette black lab with brown eyes who is training to be a nurse. She's kind and caring and loves running on the beach and stargazing, or sometimes even stargazing on the beach. Nicole cares very deeply about Stella and would be heartbroken if Stella betrayed her.

    Katrina is a 22-year-old black housecat with black hair yellow-green eyes. She's very mysterious and will not reveal what she does for a living, but she does seem to know an awful lot about when break-ins and gang riots are going to happen... She has no criminal record, though. She lives in a one-room apartment in the ghetto, though she doesn't appear to spend much time there. She will not wear tight pants and always wears gloves. She likes watching the rain, hates being out in the rain, and her favorite food is chashu bao. (Chashu is to chan-chan as pork is to pig, bao is a Chinese-style steamed bun – one peculiarity of this world is that when a food originates from a culture they don't tend to translate the name.)

    I hope my characters are interesting to you! Throw any scenarios at me, and I'll update this post with character reactions so you can get a better sense of them in action.
     
  2. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I think that a better way to flesh out these characters is with scenes, even if they're throwaway scenes. So, let's say that Stella goes out to lunch, and is served seriously problematic food--like, say, raw chicken--and the waiter is unhelpful.

    What does that look like? What sort of restaurant does she choose? How does she react to the problem? How does she react to the unhelpfulness? I'm not suggesting that you answer these questions, I'm suggesting that you write the scene.
     
  3. Justin Thyme

    Justin Thyme Active Member

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    Specific answer to your question; I do find them sufficiently interesting and relateable to get me engaged.
    I would be quite happy with that as a level of introduction to a character if I was reading it.
    I like your characters a lot, I like that you have plenty of scope to add a bit more each time you mention them.
    I find the concept you are creating is very alien to me, but I find it interesting and engaging.
    I think ChickenFreak's suggestions would be an ideal way of developing the characters.

    Just as a side-thought;
    I wonder if you have thought of giving the characters very slightly extended characteristics of the animal such as 'the fine soft hair on the nape of Stella's neck is sooo strokeable', 'could be quite usefully descriptive with different species characteristics. Skin with with slightly reptilian characteristics might not be so sensuous, or maybe it might.
    (had a retriever when I was a kid, an extremely strokeable dog.)
    just a thought.
    Is 'Strokeable' even a word?
     
  4. Prudence Jones

    Prudence Jones Member

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    Ah! The ears are the only characteristic most of the characters have. One character has a significant number of animal traits: it's a plot point.
     
  5. Prudence Jones

    Prudence Jones Member

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    Interesting idea! Do you want me to post short scenes like that here, or just keep them to myself?
     
  6. Oxymaroon

    Oxymaroon Active Member

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    You may not want to take to take time to do this for every character - depends how many you have.
    I find it useful to make a card for each one, listing their date and place of birth, parentage, physical description and short biography. I know how smart they are, their cultural background, convictions, tastes and anxieties; how they speak, what they read, how they dress, what they like to eat. That way, when a scene requires them to react to some new situation, I'll know where they're "coming from" ; what's plausible and consistent.
     
  7. Partridge

    Partridge Active Member

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    You can flesh out a character pretty easily, if you're smart about how you do it.
    This is what I've found works:

    Think of the character's reputation, and how their friends and family treat the character because of this reputation. For example, my MC is a womaniser, so friends and family dropped in a few sarcastic comments to him early on in the book. This means you have learned a bit more about this character's past and personality, without the neat to tell instead showing. Doing it in a way that seems natural takes practice, but you'll get the feel for it if you stick at it.

    Chicken Freak makes a good point with the restaurant idea, with the method of using another scene to expose parts of your MC's personality. I actually think I'm already subconsciously doing it, and weirdly enough I've had a scene in a restaurant (but I guess it could be anywhere - the post office, a garage waiting room while your MC has new tyres put on his car, a train etc etc etc).
    With this method you can kill two birds with one stone - your character could have a conversation that moves the plot on, sees something that moves the plot on even thinks something that moves the plot on (I have a self imposed rule that each page must move the plot on in some way). Not only will it keep things moving, it will keep things interesting because you can explore new settings in the book, as well as letting the reader learn things about where the book itself is set.

    How much have your written prior to this story, Prudence Jones?
     
  8. Storm713

    Storm713 Member

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    Give the characters voices—this being both internal and external. How do they speak—in short, clipped sentences, or long, often rambling paragraphs? Do they grunt or murmur? Are there phrases or words they use often? Introverted or extroverted, and how does this play out in their speech?
    How do they think—do they make decisions with their heart or brain? Are they anxious or calm? What situations will make them tick? Where are they most happy?
    What are their hopes, fears, and needs? Why? Does this tie into their background/history? The main character often has a Lie—something they believe that will prevent them from reaching happiness/peace or their ultimate goal. In some cases, it prevents them from defeating a villain.
    An excersize I enjoy doing is interviewing my characters, starting with a few main questions and breaking off of them. Instead of creating your character’s flaws and safe places, let them tell you it themselves.
    I also use the Myers-Briggs personality test, which gives me a better understanding of my character. Introvert or extrovert? Intuitive or sensing? Thinking or feeling? Judging or perceiving? The free test is at 16Personalities.com, and you can read about your character’s personality type there too.
     

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