1. aguywhotypes

    aguywhotypes Active Member

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    creating character - detailed or not

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by aguywhotypes, Aug 7, 2019.

    I've been wanting to create a character first before the plot or even "the main idea" and get them in trouble and see what happens.

    I read accounts of how some people fill out this huge 100 questions, etc and get all super detailed about their characters and while something about this does appeal to me a little, I find myself more loose brush type, big strokes then fill in as needed type of person.

    I have a good book on character building but it's so huge and daunting I never read it. I feel I would never actually create a character.

    Can anyone steer me down the right path to get me started?

    Thanks.
     
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  2. Lawless

    Lawless Active Member

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    If you enjoy character development, do it. When you feel it has become a burden, you've probably done enough. Focus on telling your story.

    There is no doubt on my mind – writing down every even remotely important character's eye color, food preferences and childhood fears is not only completely unnecessary, excessive character building can be one of the ways to avoid doing actual writing.

    It's the story that matters. If the readers are dying to know what'll happen next, they keep turning pages regardless of how "developed" the characters are. Look at Harry Harrison's "Stainless Steel Rat" series. A few of his characters are rather unrealistic caricatures and the rest are mere pieces of cardboard with different names, yet he somehow makes the story so thrilling that you just can't stop reading.

    Those among us who are not such storytelling geniuses as Harry Harrison need to work on our characters a lot more than he has. Nevertheless, my recommendation is to develop your characters only as much as necessary. Look at those elaborate character sheets in that guidebook as helpful tools you can use for your purposes, not as obligations you must fulfill before you are allowed to start writing. If you have an immediate idea how tall or fat one or another character is, write it down. If you don't, it's likely that it won't matter. Don't make character creation a burden that keeps you from presenting your story people will want to read.

    In situations when you find yourself stuck with a scene, one of the things you can do is to take a closer look at your characters. Otherwise, don't sweat it.
     
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  3. RobinLC

    RobinLC Active Member

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    Pick 25 questions out of the 100 and see where you are from there. If you feel there are more pertinent questions to answer after your 25 then do so.
     
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  4. GrJs

    GrJs Active Member

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    Really you just need a bio of characteristics, a few traits, maybe behavioural stuff that is unique to your character (they do something in a way unlike your other characters). Maybe a few key points about their background.

    If you want to do the bare bones of character design and see how it goes you really only need the things about your character that stick out the most or make them stick out from your other characters and a little bit of info on why those things have manifested in your character.

    You don't have to know the ins and outs of your characters psychology, only the most important things about your character.
     
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  5. grayj0265

    grayj0265 Member

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    Well, usually with charters, we never know to much about them at first. We may know what they look like, and maybe an issue or two they are dealing with, but that is about it. So you can get your charter in trouble early in the story, if you want, and then see what happens. The character doesn't have to be fully developed in the first chapter.
     
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  6. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Contributor Contributor

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    Start with motivation. Motivation moves the story. Go from motivation to it's base.

    1. Character want's something.

    2. Behind that wanting is a need, deeper and often unconscious thing.

    3. Some kind of personal wound, flaw, trauma.... has made that need.

    Like this:

    1. Harry want's to become a wizard...

    2. ...because he does not have a place where he feels he could belong...

    3...because he is an orphan who lives in a closet with a socially and mentally abusing foster family.
     
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  7. talltale

    talltale Member

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    I would start with the morality of the character.

    What does the character believe in? Is he/she a "good" or "flawed" person?

    This site seems anti-Myers Briggs, but I like using it when creating a personality for my characters:

    https://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/home.htm?bhcp=1



    Once you understand your characters morals and personality, then it should be easy to "style" your character through actions, dress, and dialogue.
     
  8. badgerjelly

    badgerjelly Contributor Contributor

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    Just start off a random dialogue between 2 or 3 characters and see where it goes. After a few attempts you’ll have a handful of personalities to play with and refine. After all you get to know someone by talking to them - the visuals are just window dressing.

    Example:

    A : Where do you mean?
    B : O-ver there!
    A : Touchy, touchy ... okay got it. Now what?
    B : What d’ya think? Put the damn thing on already.
    A : You’re the most snarky mentor I’ve ever had.
    B : Haha! Well, I’m the only mentor you’re likely to get this side of the wall.
    A : How do I attach these tubes?

    If you get bored just drop it and start afresh. Eventually someone will pop that interests you. I used to like to do this mid-conversation/scene and figure out what was going on and where they were as the thing progresses (for example I was starting to envision these characters diving).
     
  9. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Senior Member

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    I used to spend months filling in character charts and trying to make them as fleshed out as possible.
    Then for some practice I just sat down thought up a moment in someone's life and wrote it. I'm realized that the real magic happens on the page, regardless of the amount of work you do on them. Character stuff comes naturally to me. When I revised it with the checklist provided with the exercise I noticed, without thinking, I given my character a goal, motivation, conflict, etc. So maybe I didn't need to do some much character building. The events in my story were all over the place. I needed to pay more attention to constructing my plot and pacing. It was a fun exercise and taught me a lot about my strengths and weaknesses as a writer.
     
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  10. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I can't do character sheets anymore nor can I create a character outside of the story. Either the story doesn't fit the character or the character doesn't fit the story leaving me to force things to bend in either direction. Now I simply come up with a rough idea of the character in my head - my WIP featured two ideas - moody but talented young star and a creatively burnt out director. The story started with the fourteen year old boy and by the time I got to writing the scenes with the director his attitude had changed - his temper became more prominent becoming the reactionary I needed to balance the sullenness.
    The trouble with writing isolated characters outside of the work is they might not work well together in a scene. I've seen dozens of stories on writing sites that fall apart because the characters tend to echo each other -- they may look different but they're all on the same page (emotionally, politically, ideologically, everything) and it just stalls the conflict and the tension. Or they're too much opposites and can look cartoonish.
    I tend to find that as I'm writing the scene the goal for it will start to shape the characters. They will become deeper because I don't know everything about them.
     
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  11. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I normally start writing and develop the character via the story - i find character sheets to be a total waste of time on account of the ammount of irrelevant bollocks they contain.. Ive published 6 books in the dusty miller series and i still don't know what his favorite colour is
     
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  12. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think if you MUST create a character sheet, it's probably a good idea to make it relevant to the story. If you have ideas of what will happen in your story, get some idea of what your character will think of these events.

    If he's going to be married, what's his attitude towards women in general? Marriage? Children? How does he expect a wife to fit into his life?

    If a village is going to be under attack, think about how your character is likely to react to it. Has she any previous experience with this sort of event? Is she likely to fight? Hide? Protect others? Run? Create a diversion?

    Has your character got a good opinion of himself? Does he feel pretty confident when he tackles something new, or does he need to be dragged into coping with the unexpected?

    Is your character friendly towards people in general, or only people she knows? Or does she fear new encounters? Do other people's children drive her crazy, or does she love them?

    What kind of childhood did your characters have? And how has that shaped their lives?

    These kinds of questions will help shape your story and provide a way for your character to fit in. I'd say just asking irrelevant questions (does she like to eat eggs?) is more of a distraction from actually writing than any kind of real help.
     
  13. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Also I think characters that are more part of a series i.e. Hercule Poirot, the Wakefield twins, Kinsey Millhone can be created outside of the story as it's more about them and their adventures or events swirling around them. From what I've seen of series characters they don't typically change which is where a character sheet might come in handy.
     
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  14. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Good observation. Yeah. In a situation like that, 'does he like eggs' might be useful.
     
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  15. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Contributor Contributor

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    Detailed for me. I'm not going to write a main character unless I have a solid understanding of their backstory. That way I know where they've come from. I know their important triumphs and failures. I know their virtues, flaws, and important relationships. And I can write them accordingly.
     
  16. suddenly BANSHEES

    suddenly BANSHEES Senior Member

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    I wouldn't say there is a "right path" here, because different things work for different folks.

    Personally, I find things like character sheets or personality tests to help give me a little push when I'm feeling lost with a character. But mostly, I just do those kinds of things for fun.

    Finding writing or character prompts sometimes helps me a little more than a plain-old list of traits. Things like, "What would this character do in [x] situation?" Even if the character will probably never be in that situation in their actual storyline, the right prompts help me get the ball rolling.
     
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  17. C.D. Silb

    C.D. Silb New Member

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    There are different ways to approach character development. My favorite author, Richard Adams, said that he based many of his character in Watership Down on people that he knew. It's certainly a good way to start. You could then use your ideas of real people and build from there.

    One thing that I like to do (for fantasy) is create a notepad file and world build. Even if the world you're writing about is real, you can use this as a space to jot down all of your ideas and develop them over time, even before you start your novel. From there, you can use this as a space to write down any characteristics that come to mind about specific characters within mini bios.
     
  18. Dorafjol

    Dorafjol Member

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    You should always remember that whenever you write a scene or a piece of dialogue, nothing forces you to use that in a story. My suggestion is to just get a basic idea for a character. What does this person hate, and what does she think is just? Is she snarky? level-headed? Oh. So what would it take for her to panic? You don't have to use these exact questions. Ad-lib questions which seem relevant to you, and build new questions from your answers. Don't get too into it. Just as soon as you get an inkling of a feel for who she might be, imagine scenarios. Write a short scene (In my example here I said she was level headed, so now I'll write an intense stealth scene where she just started to realize "they know I'm here." Or whatever. Write a scene where she's supposed to coax information from a suspicious man, gets him drunk, but is now accidentially super drunk herself.

    These scenes are not important, and they don't have to make sense. In fact, I encourage you to write scenes that you know won't come up in your story. That way the stakes are low for you, and you don't reason yourself into a corner. If the scene turns out horrible it doesn't matter. But maybe you got to know your character just that one bit more.

    Disclaimer: I actually have no idea what I'm talking about, but this has worked for me. I was stuck in a state of mind where I was paralyzed, since I felt obligated to write something good. I knew this wasn't the case, but it's how I felt. Just write, would be my advice.
     
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  19. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Hi floor, make me a sammich. :P Supporter Contributor

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    I lead with to main elements and branch out from there.

    1. Gender
    2. Vocation (Job)

    Then I figure out what their personality should be based upon
    such simple traits, which as it turns out been quite easy when
    tossed into a situation that is not the norm, or is the norm, but
    with a few extra added dimensions that will help the character
    grow through their journey. Which could be a lot, or a little based
    on the parameters and how taxing the elements are to them.
    Obviously the more wild and extreme the unknown obsticles are
    the more room for growth along the way. It is more about how
    they think, learn, and adapt to what is ahead of them. And if you
    need to (want to) sprinkle bits that add personality to them, and/or
    characteristics that make them stand out from the extras, endearing
    them a bit more to the reader on a personal level.

    Overall, characters are tricky things to nail down, let alone nail with
    100% accuracy in the text. Just do your best, and that they stay true
    to who they are throughout the story. :)
     
  20. StoryForest

    StoryForest Active Member

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    I don't think super detailed characters are needed to start any story especially if you don't enjoy it. Usually character details are created as you write so they will come with time and writing. They even change through the process. So there's no need to stress about creating them ahead of time. It's ok to start with just a general idea.
     
  21. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    Have a conversation with them, like you're at a cocktail party and the host just introduced the two of you for some reason and now you're compelled to engage them in conversation not only to be polite, but figure out why specifically someone thought the two of you should be paired together. I always found the way people answer questions and the questions they ask in return tell you more about them than a list of likes, dislikes, and incidental details about them.
     
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  22. Tralala

    Tralala Member

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    I've never used character sheets. Interesting idea. It's all worth trying, if you're stuck.

    There's a saying - I can't remember where I heard it - that every character is a plot device.

    That's how I progress through a long piece. You just invent the character who will give you what you need to move forward.

    Contrasts. Lots of contrasts.

    If I have two people in a scene who are similar (unless it's a moment of high drama) I'm not happy.
     

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