Do you feel a responsibility to your characters?

Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Louanne Learning, Sep 21, 2022.

  1. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 10/190 Status: Confused Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2019
    Messages:
    4,628
    Likes Received:
    5,372
    Location:
    The White Rose county, UK
    We're not arguing. :) We have different points of view, and we're expressing them in a (relatively) civilised way, I hope!
     
    Xoic likes this.
  2. ps102

    ps102 Active Member

    Joined:
    May 25, 2022
    Messages:
    206
    Likes Received:
    223
    Location:
    Cyber Space
    That's fair, but I have another way to look at it.

    When the writer is writing a story, he isn't emotionally investing into the audience, he is emotionally investing into the character. The character is in the picture during the creative process, not the audience. And that investment, even if it isn't necessarily an emotional-drive one, is needed to write a good character. You have to be invested. Then when you write a good character, it can act as a bridge to connect you with the audience :)

    But yes, this really is starting to derail into debate territory because we are talking about opinions rather than technical fact. Not sure this is allowed outside the debate room.
     
    Louanne Learning likes this.
  3. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    13,720
    Likes Received:
    8,319
    Location:
    California, US
    Are human beings consistent? In real life I mean. It's true that in fiction certain inconsistencies or coincidences that might actually occur in real life won't be believable to a reader and should be avoided. I don't know whether consistency is how I'd look at it in terms of character actions. Believability? If a character establishes a consistent pattern of behavior then deviates from it, make sure the reader understands why and that the reason rings true?
     
    MartinM, Xoic and Not the Territory like this.
  4. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2019
    Messages:
    9,256
    Likes Received:
    10,024
    Location:
    Way, way out there
    I knew somebody was going to say this. In fact, sometimes the inconsistency you mention is exactly what you realize the character needs.
    I get it. You write characters very differently than I do. There's no need to keep responding to my every post and telling me that.
     
    Steerpike likes this.
  5. Louanne Learning

    Louanne Learning Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2022
    Messages:
    1,855
    Likes Received:
    917
    Location:
    Canada
    I can't separate the two. When I am writing, I feel a responsibility to my character. My responsibility is to what I create. That is what I can control.

    Maybe my sense of responsibility flows from the fact that the person I am creating represents people in the real world. They represent a shared experience.

    But I am responsible for/to what I create.
     
  6. Louanne Learning

    Louanne Learning Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2022
    Messages:
    1,855
    Likes Received:
    917
    Location:
    Canada
    Well said.
     
  7. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 10/190 Status: Confused Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2019
    Messages:
    4,628
    Likes Received:
    5,372
    Location:
    The White Rose county, UK
    C'mon Xoic, I wasn't responding specifically to your posts, but the posts that grabbed my attention. I'm not trying to prove you "wrong" or anything.
     
    Xoic likes this.
  8. Not the Territory

    Not the Territory Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2019
    Messages:
    743
    Likes Received:
    883
    Huh, speak for yourself, pal. Everything I say is technical fact.


    /kidding
     
  9. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 10/190 Status: Confused Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2019
    Messages:
    4,628
    Likes Received:
    5,372
    Location:
    The White Rose county, UK
    I think it depends whether your writing is story-driven or character-driven. Are you writing to showcase the character and their issues, or are you writing to tell a particular story? Sometimes, the two are the same, that is, the story is the character. But there are writers who do one thing and others who do the other. In part, it probably also depends on the genre.

    Is Star Wars story, or character driven? I'd say it started as story driven, and ONE character jumped out more than the rest - Darth Vader, and the series eventually became about him, which is probably not what George Lucas intended when he started. On the other hand, Dune is very much character-driven, or at least, the ones by Frank Herbert were. The ones written after his death are story driven, and, imo, poorly-written, but some people love them.

    Wheel of Time tries to be character-driven, but all the characters are the same character.

    Now, I write short stories. Out of necessity, they are story driven, because the length doesn't give a lot of time to develop characters (which is not to say that short stories can't be character driven, or that character-driven short stories don't exist). I think of writers like Asimov or Lovecraft, and their shorts are very much story driven.
     
    MartinM and Xoic like this.
  10. Catriona Grace

    Catriona Grace Search and rescue Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2021
    Messages:
    3,749
    Likes Received:
    3,281
    I love those moments.
     
    MartinM, Xoic and Louanne Learning like this.
  11. ps102

    ps102 Active Member

    Joined:
    May 25, 2022
    Messages:
    206
    Likes Received:
    223
    Location:
    Cyber Space
    I can agree with that, especially about the part where the story can be the character. The thing is, you'd probably not catch me writing a story that doesn't explore character issues from a larger picture (A grand argument as a theory piece I read called it). It's just what I like to do. And in that case, I simply use the mindsets I discussed above, it's just how my mind works and sees things.

    At the end of the day, people just have different processes and points of views they use to craft their characters and stories, I don't think there is a universal way, or even a singular attitude towards a story because stories themselves mean different things to different people, and the reason why they write in itself is different, so everything after that will be different too. It just makes sense. Why do I write? I like to write because I can explore social issues in very creative ways, I feel especially passionate about some topics like computer addiction, so I will pour much of my energy, thoughts, and experience into one character. And I will damn make sure that I do it in a right, and very responsible, way.

    When it comes to OP (Louanne), their profile says that they "Fascinated by the human condition and love to put it into words." Which is similar to my reasons, so it makes sense that we'd share this particular view as opposed to someone who doesn't care about that. For instance, I could never make something like Family Guy. I'd go insane doing it, especially with all the offensive jokes. Its writer obviously has very different reasons for writing it, and therefore different attitudes towards it as well.
     
  12. christos200

    christos200 Member

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2022
    Messages:
    25
    Likes Received:
    11
    I feel the responsibility of creating believable and (hopefully) interesting characters that can serve the plot. I've always been more focused on plot-driven stories, and craft characters that fit the plot and setting of my story. I do believe writers should avoid inconsistencies or having characters doing things they would normally not be doing, but that does not stem from a responsibility towards the characters, but rather it is a necessary condition of good storytelling.
     
    MartinM and Louanne Learning like this.
  13. MartinM

    MartinM Banned

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2020
    Messages:
    225
    Likes Received:
    204
    Location:
    Hong Kong
    @Louanne Learning

    Fantastic question. Took me a while just to understand the OP. I’m a complete amateur at best so, cannot offer solutions but only my problems. I want to create believable and interesting characters that fit well within the story told. However, I find mostly doing a disservice to in depth development of a certain character.

    I agree with @christos200 point to avoid inconsistencies in what a character might normally do. However, I find then that character becoming more two dimensional and wooden or stereo-typical. My writing is nowhere near good enough to explore the thought processes and influences that cause a subject to act out of character but would pay-off to the reader giving a more rounded three D look.

    An example for me, was a pirate captain. You can guess all his traits, habits and personality. The plot idea was for him to transport a famous British Naval Admiral into a restricted port. Drinking in his Ready Room with this famous Admiral the Pirate’s emotions and ego become conflicted.

    He’s got this huge persona in front of his crew, that inspires and pushes them beyond their believable limits. Yet he’s awe struck at having to entertain this celebrity sat on his chair in his cabin. His whole persona cracks...

    This was my issue in doing the pirate captain justice. It made him real and flawed, but would the reader get this as its so out of sync from the persona built up?

    Love the post

    MartinM
     
    Louanne Learning and christos200 like this.
  14. Louanne Learning

    Louanne Learning Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2022
    Messages:
    1,855
    Likes Received:
    917
    Location:
    Canada
    First of all, thank you.

    By coincidence, I was just reading an article yesterday about how to create 3-dimensional characters. Here's what I got out of the article:

    1st dimension - the outward identity, what is shown to the world, surface traits, quirks and behaviour (might be authentic, might not).

    2nd dimension - explains 1st dimension behaviours, takes backstory into account - fears, weaknesses, inner conflicts, unfulfilled dreams, etc.

    3rd dimension - who the character really is - their beliefs and moral substance that determine their decisions in moral situations.

    So, to show a character in their 3rd dimension, high-stakes decisions are involved.

    Character arcs should show how the character changes/grows at the 3rd dimension.
     
    MartinM, ps102 and christos200 like this.
  15. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2019
    Messages:
    9,256
    Likes Received:
    10,024
    Location:
    Way, way out there
    In retrospect now this makes perfect sense, and it's already been indirectly said above by @ps102 , but the reason this is possible (characters taking on a life of their own) is because I base my characters on people I've known. Pardon me while I slap my forehead real quick.

    Of course—when you borrow the personality and character of a real person (or steal their soul?), even if you modify it significantly, you have a vast wealth of material to draw from—enough to make a very complex character if that's what you're wanting to do. People are multi-faceted, and even if you start off writing just one aspect of their personality, when you remember what they were like more aspects will surface and if you want to you can try to include them. You have to be careful with that though—as they say fact is weirder than fiction, and real people are a lot weirder than any character in a book or a movie can get away with being.

    This is a very different way to create a character as opposed to a character sheet filled with traits and fears and wishes and lies and truths etc. Though of course you can combine the two, which is what I'm playing around with now. It helps you focus and limit all that endless material, so it becomes manageable.

    I've also used the technique of character-mashing as I described here: I know nothing about my MC

    Each character was originally based on somebody from the message board I was on at the time, but also had to fit a role in the story, and I ALSO mashed together several existing characters from movies, shows, etc. This was probably the first time they really started taking on their own lives. And it occurs to me that when I mashed together a few different characters and added them in to what I knew about an actual forum member, my mind was able to freely work with all that material and create something unexpected. In each case I had an idea of what the character was going to be like, but as soon as I started writing, they were somewhat different—some very different—from how I imagined them. The mind just works its magic deep inside, where you can't see it happening. And I want to modify what I said on that thread—I did nothing like sawing up characters and Frankensteining them together, it was a lot more like melting them down in a crucible and then waiting to see what emerges. I didn't select certain traits or anything, I just thought about all the characters and let it simmer for a few weeks until I started writing the story.

    Of course the downside of this method is that you're writing about actual people, some of whom maybe you still know, and they might find out. That opens a whole new kettle of clams. Just be sure you're ready to deal with that if it happens. And I'm not recommending it.
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2022
  16. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2016
    Messages:
    5,055
    Likes Received:
    5,018
    I'm with you on this one.

    Kurt Vonnegut says to be a sadist and make awful things happen to your characters to show what they're made of. It's a good piece of writing advice if you ask me.
     
    Earp likes this.
  17. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2019
    Messages:
    9,256
    Likes Received:
    10,024
    Location:
    Way, way out there
    I consider that a responsibility to the characters actually. You gotta challenge them hardcore so they can reach full development, just like parents need to challenge their kids and teachers their students. Otherwise you've failed as a writer.
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2022
  18. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2016
    Messages:
    5,055
    Likes Received:
    5,018
    But the OP said some "moral" obligation. That just sounds ridiculous to me. And I can't see any obligation or responsibility of any sort to a character. I don't even get what that means. Writers create characters to serve the writers' needs in telling a story and not the other way around.
     
  19. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2019
    Messages:
    9,256
    Likes Received:
    10,024
    Location:
    Way, way out there
    Do you not in any way think of your characters as living people, but only as chess pieces to be moved around on a board? I doubt you really do, at least at certain times. Sure, you also have to plot and plan and be a gamesman, but you also need to see them as actual people interacting. Otherwise it would be like that assertion made against Hitchcock, that he saw actors as cattle to be manipulated and nothing more. He may have said something like that, but I think he was playing up to his image, and it seems clear to me from his movies that he understood people and saw his characters as actual people with feelings and motivations.
     
    ps102 and Louanne Learning like this.
  20. Earp

    Earp Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2016
    Messages:
    3,727
    Likes Received:
    7,223
    Location:
    All In.
    I can't find the full quote (internet search gets worse by the day), but Nabokov, answering a question like the OP's, said, "My characters are galley slaves.".
     
    MartinM and deadrats like this.
  21. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2016
    Messages:
    5,055
    Likes Received:
    5,018
    No. In no way do I see my characters as living people. They're not! They are more like chess pieces that I move around. That doesn't mean my characters are lacking anything. I do write character-driven works. Also, just a note -- I do sell my fiction regularly.
     
  22. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2019
    Messages:
    9,256
    Likes Received:
    10,024
    Location:
    Way, way out there
    But I think most of the disagreement here is because people are interpreting or understanding things differently so we're coming at it from different perspectives. What the OP sees as a responsibility to the characters some of us see as a responsibility to the readers, but I think ultimately we're both talking about the same thing in different ways. It's a glass half full/glass half empty thing I think.
     
    ps102 and Louanne Learning like this.
  23. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2016
    Messages:
    5,055
    Likes Received:
    5,018
    Here is a video where he says it. It's number six on his list. I know this is about writing a short story, but it rings true for creating characters in anything, I believe.

     
    Louanne Learning likes this.
  24. Louanne Learning

    Louanne Learning Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2022
    Messages:
    1,855
    Likes Received:
    917
    Location:
    Canada
    That's the way my sense of responsibility manifests. It certainly does not have to be the same for all writers. When I am writing, I feel responsible to my characters because they represent a shared experience of real people.
     
    Not the Territory and Xoic like this.
  25. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2019
    Messages:
    9,256
    Likes Received:
    10,024
    Location:
    Way, way out there
    There are two levels to it. On a pure plot level of course they're all chess pieces, but very complex ones. But you also need to be able to see them the same way a reader will, as people engaged in dramatic action. People with a full range of human emotions. I think @Louanne Learning was speaking more from that level in the OP, and when people disagree I think they're talking strictly about the plotting level.
     
    ps102 and Louanne Learning like this.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice