1. Simon Price

    Simon Price Active Member

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    How do you design the personalities of your main cast to have good dynamics with eachother?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Simon Price, Sep 17, 2018.

    Hey, so, I've been struggling and drawing blanks regarding the details of the last two of the members of the "five man band" that composes my central cast (late into the planning and worldbuilding process I realized the original group of characters I had for the main character to hang around were way too normal and well-adjusted for the story I wanted to tell with him), and I was wondering if I could get some advice from writers here regarding how you make sure that your characters, as part of a group, will have good chemistry and dynamics with each other.

    Are there key social roles that you feel certain characters have to fill? Is there some other method you use when conceiving your main cast? Or do you just wing it and let the quirks of their personalities evolve over time and over the course of the rough drafts?

    I'm just concerned that I'm going to get too deep into the writing process and realize yet again that one or more of the characters are fundamentally flawed from a narrative perspective and don't work well with the rest of the cast.
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2018
  2. Dracon

    Dracon Contributor Contributor

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    Think more about their differences rather than their similarities. I'd five characters in a group are all getting along great, then I can see that it is very easy for one to blend into the other.

    Therefore, build your character dynamics on the conflicts between those characters; is character D envious of character A, and why? Do B and C have some shared history? Is there a love triangle? This is the sort of thing you should be looking towards for group dynamics as opposed to the friendships and banter if you want each character to stand out and feel unique.
     
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  3. Irina Samarskaya

    Irina Samarskaya Senior Member

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    Basically, ask yourself why they're with each other in the first place. They have to have a common set of values and get something personally from one another.

    For example, using 5 people;

    #1 is ambitious and empathetic, but foolhardy.
    #2 is small and skeptical, but melancholic.
    #3 is moderate and disciplined, but overbearing
    #4 is cool and confident, but directionless
    #5 is enthusiastic and brilliant, but dense.

    How do they compliment?

    #1 gets the reigning-in of #2; #2 gets the energy and light of #5; #3 gets the coolness of #4; #4 gets the push of #3. That's a simple way of looking at it but if you were to flesh them as actual men, I think you'd find their ability to compliment each other a good reason to be toghether.

    The ambition and empathy of #1 makes him a natural leader, which appeals to those seeking change (#2 and 3), direction (4), and an opportunity (#5). He can be a bit overconfident and foolhardy, thus #2 and 3 can check him. He enjoys #5 because they both seek to do things and are rather similar with the key difference being #5 is mildly autistic yet brilliant while #1 is somewhat untalented by skilled at reading and understanding people. #1 enjoys #4 because #1 gives #4 direction and feels 4's joy at getting that direction, as well as support from #4.

    And I could go on from the perspectives of the other numbers, but I basically suggest you think in terms of what they individually have to offer and what they lack. What they lack is plausibly what they're searching for someone who has an excess of (like a coward seeking a brave person to push them). However all this requires a certain mindset and compatible values. Like the same coward might reject brave people because bravery reveals the coward to be cowardly. However the other coward might seek brave people because he admires them and desires to support them even if it's not at the front lines (of whatever situation) and wishes to grow more brave himself. The difference between the two cowards is a willingness to admit weakness and grow. This is just one example (people are complicated, I'm trying to simplify people lol) but I think it'll help get the point across.

    Ultimately when I write characters I do so from the perspective of the plot and existing characters. Like if I want to write an adventure story, then #1 might have been my initial creation. The remainder of the cast born of a desire to give #1 friends. All other characters being invented to represent their own respective parties as well as give depth and life into an unrendered world. I think more is merrier, so long as everyone matters (in that they contribute something and provide a sense of depth).

    Do you have any more questions? I hope I helped.
     
  4. DeeDee

    DeeDee Contributor Contributor

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    The more you design , the more difficult it gets ;). People change, or act in an unpredictable manner. You can make your characters do whatever you want when you want it. Dynamics can be characters agreeing or disagreeing. It doesn't mean they have to fit each other like a glove.
     
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  5. DK3654

    DK3654 Almost a Productive Member of Society Contributor

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    Why do you wanna know, huh?
    There's two approaches you can use in whatever mixture.
    1- Develop character's general personalities first and then work out interesting dynamics between those general personalities you can reinforce with minor details.
    2- Plan what kinds of character dynamics you want first (romantic, close friends, rivals etc.) and then work your characters to include those dynamics in an ideal way.

    For me, I find these kinds of things just tend to work best by just going with whatever works best for you as you go along, and you don't need to do much advanced planning, just careful consideration.
    For my WIP, two of my mains, Sarah and Jade, develop a very close friendship where they support each other through their personal struggles. This isn't something I really planned, but rather came up while thinking about how my characters fit together and it worked for me. Even more so, I just came up with the idea randomly that Jade would develop strong feelings for Sarah as they get closer to each other, but Sarah doesn't feel the same way, and it creates a little more tension in the relationship.

    EDIT: I think as a general rule, to make interesting believable character dynamics, they shouldn't be entirely antagonistic or entirely friendly, and shouldn't be based around only one element of personality or history, not all characters in the same position should have similar dynamics with each other, and dynamics should be susceptible to long term change and short term flux.
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2018
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  6. MusingWordsmith

    MusingWordsmith Shenanigan Master Contributor

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    So I usually try to make sure my characters function as people separate from their group. Each has their own unique viewpoint/ideals/standards/what have you. Sometimes I try to gear them into more clashing personalities too. What character trait does X have that gets on Y's nerves, how does Y's mannerisms make Z think they're dumb, etc.

    One thing I'd say- if you're having trouble coming up with enough characters for a 'five man band'- then don't do a five man band. Don't stuff characters that won't progress the plot and overall detract from the story just for the sake of filling a number quota.
     
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  7. Simon Price

    Simon Price Active Member

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    Thanks for your advice, everyone! This and some other research I've done has really helped a lot, and I've got a clearer picture of the full group now!
     
  8. zoupskim

    zoupskim Contributor Contributor

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    Too often character conflict doesn't have meaning in a story. Bob and Betty want to get some waffles, but they argue about how to do it, so there's all this argumentative dialogue about where to go, when they both want flippin' waffles, so it's all hallow.

    Have Bob want waffles, and Betty wants a pizza, so they argue about that, then Bob is driving so he just goes where he wants, but then Betty refuses to pay and orders a pizza while they're standing in front of the waffle cook, so they get in a huge fight with the waffle cook joining in, and the waffles get burned, and the pizza is delivered to the door and a dog eats it.

    Have your character conflict actually affect the plot. It shouldn't just be the dialog between the action scenes.

     
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  9. Kallisto

    Kallisto Ruler of the world... somewhere... Contributor

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    With something like that, I would probably focus more on their attitudes towards each other than even their own wants and desires.
     
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  10. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Funky like your grandpa's drawers.... Staff Contributor

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    Have you started writing yet or are you still in the planning phase? For me at least, all of the interaction/dynamic stuff comes when I'm writing the scenes and dialogue. Difficult for me to know what any of that shit will look like until it's actually sitting on the page.
     
  11. Andrew Vord

    Andrew Vord New Member

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    I have a multi person party as part of my d&d inspired fantasy I'm working on. The characters don't necessarily get along all the time, and not do I want them to. Each has a role to fill, with their own personality and beliefs. Sometimes those clash, which is great. Sometimes one person is alienated for his past and his worldview (Barbarian who grew up among feral tribes). It works because they have a common goal, and I just let it develop from there.

    I understand the fear of getting to deep and wanting to change a character. My barbarian was originally a half orc in the first draft. I didn't like the way he fit his role within the inter party conflict, so I changed him to a human barbarian who spent most of his teenage years raising and pillaging in the lands he now resides in working as a mercenary for a highly influential merchant. It sucks having to rewrite most of your book on the second draft, but such it the writers lament

    Hope this helps. Good writing
     
  12. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Banned Contributor

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    I want them to have problematic dynamics. I don't wan't them to have good chemistry.
     
  13. Nariac

    Nariac Contributor Contributor

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    I prefer them not to get along, to be honest. Certainly not perfectly. I like the idea of two people thrown together into a situation who clash over what to do, but part of their journey is finding things about the other they can respect, if not like.

    For example, I have a pair of MCs who are brother and sister, and although they do love each other, they will quarrel quite heatedly about certain things, but then fairly quickly afterwards forgive and forget. But they do clash and I think that's important because (a) it's realistic and (b) character conflict is interesting.

    I'd find a group of characters who all got along boring. Even Enid Blyton's Famous Five would argue quite a lot about how to solve their latest mystery and that was a children's series. Conflict is fun!
     
  14. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Assertive Neophyte Contributor

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    I recently rewatched the first two seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation and I was pleasantly reminded that main characters got along remarkably well. They have so much respect, concern, and camaraderie with one another. Riker and Picard, the two most important officers on the Enterprise, have the best relationship imo.
     
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  15. Nariac

    Nariac Contributor Contributor

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    It's almost like books and episodic TV series are different! :D
     
  16. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Assertive Neophyte Contributor

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    They're all just stories to me.
     
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  17. Nariac

    Nariac Contributor Contributor

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    The closest thing I can think of to an example of what I mean is the very first episodes of Star Trek: Voyager, where Janeway and her crew are chasing a rebel ship, and then both vessels get sucked through a wormhole and crippled, and to survive, the remnants of both crews have to fix and crew the Voyager. There's then a sort of distrust which is only dispelled after the new combined crew has adventures together on the long journey home. I thought that kind of dynamic was pretty neat.
     
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  18. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Assertive Neophyte Contributor

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    @Nariac I thought the start of Voyager was interesting too. In terms of the stuff I read and watch it's usually the case that the main cast of characters have significant relationship issues. TNG just popped into my thoughts as a series that successfully used a different formula, which I found refreshing.
     
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  19. Nariac

    Nariac Contributor Contributor

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    Oh yeah, for sure. All sorts of things can work well, and for the record, I love TNG!
     
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  20. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Banned Contributor

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    Or binding.

    You have lots of different kind of wefts. You weave your story from those wefts. Every weft must be weaved inside the fabric or your story looks awful.

    Your conflicts start form something. They can't rise from nothing if you want to make characters and situations psychologically credible. And they can't just vanish.

    They have an arch of their own. You must show it if you want your story to look good.

    And your conflicts does not need to be social conflicts. If all of them do, your story is like bunch of teen inside a hormone hurricane. That is both boring and tiring.

    Conflict does not necessarily mean arguing. For instance a conflict of interests can be very polite and sofisticated - and still a clear conflict.

    Or other example: Political correctness is always a conflict. It is a passive aggressive conflict that tries to mask its aggression to dishonest politeness. So there is a two level conflict that tries to look nice but does not.
     
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  21. The Dapper Hooligan

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

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    Classic 5 elements as it pertains to group dynamics. J'approve. Just to add, though, that characters can fill more than one of these roles, so these principles could still apply if you wanted to work with the smaller 3 man band or so.
     
  22. Lifeline

    Lifeline South. Staff Contributor

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    Going a step further, you can 'design' your characters with conflict in mind. Choose characters who will get into each other's hairs the minute they meet because of clashing personalities/bad history between them/conflicting goals, and all you need to add is some tiny outside spark and watch the bonfire :D
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2018
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  23. Some Guy

    Some Guy Manguage Langler Supporter Contributor

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    Tuple of four M/F/F/F

    M: Inwardly conflicted, perceptive, temperamental, cuddlebear, stallion.
    F: Sensible, mischevious, intelligent, sensitive, accomodating, adventurous.
    F: Soft, motherly, loving, polyamourous, outwardly confident/controling, emotional, loveable.
    F: Adorable, sexy, bubbly, bi-sexual, promiscuous, childlike, dancer, 5'1" kick-ass in disguise.

    Lot's of conflicts, lots of crying, lots of dialog, lots of sex, lots of mistakes, lots of cuddling...
     
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  24. LastMindToSanity

    LastMindToSanity Contributor Contributor

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    I would say that, within the group of characters, I would separate them into these categories:

    1. The Rallying Point: This character's purpose is to be the one person that all of the others can rally behind. They can be the Leader of the group or the Moral Center. Hell, they could even just be the cute one that everyone finds too adorable to hate. The main point is that this character can get all of the others to act when they need to.

    2. Loyal to the Group: The name says it all. This character should hold the Group, as an entity, in high regard. Anything that could harm the Group needs to be addressed, and this character is the first to address it. They exist to balance out The Problem.

    3. The Challenger: This character serves to challenge the others. When the Moral Center, for example, thinks it's a good idea to let a serial killer live because "Everyone deserves a second chance!", this character will try to make them see sense.

    4. The Problem: This character is here to upset the Group's balance. This is important because no group is perfect, and this character should always be there to point out when the Group is causing problems. This one is called "the Problem" because they're usually seen as a problem the Group needs to deal with, but they exist to make the Group question itself. They are there to balance out Loyal to the Group.

    5. The Doer:
    This character does the Group's dirty work. When something needs done, this character should be the first to do it. They can be relied on to take action when no one else will, as well as pull the rest out of a dire situation.

    6. The Moral Center: This character exists to make sure the Group never abandons their ideals. This can work with moral groups or amoral ones. All that matters is that this character keeps the Group on the track they started out with. Note that The Moral Center's view on the world can change, and this can lead them to abandon the Group, which can make them become-

    7. The Deserter: This character leaves the Group at one point. They can leave for any number of reasons, like the Group losing their way, or they themselves losing their way, or maybe they're forced out of the Group (Like going to jail or something). The reason doesn't matter, but this character needs to leave at one point, even if they come back in the end. They exist to force the Group to adapt and solidify their foundation and, hopefully, not fall apart.

    8. The Changed: Finally, we're at The Changed. This is the final type that I like to use. They're purpose is to be changed by the Group in a meaningful way. This is important because it shows that the Group not only has the power to change the world around them, but also the people around them. While it's difficult to fight an opposing force, it can often be just as difficult as fighting an opposing force. This character has to have something important about them change because of the Group. This can be for better or for worse, depending on what you're trying to do with it.

    So, yeah, that's my personal idea of what kind of characters make a good, dynamic team. These can be mixed and matched to your heart's content and covers as many bases as I can think of. Hope this helps!
     
  25. DK3654

    DK3654 Almost a Productive Member of Society Contributor

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    Compares to the five man band, a specific trope of a group dynamic, but one that provides a good setup and is quite common.
    The leader
    The lancer
    The smart guy
    The big guy
    The heart
     

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