1. frigocc

    frigocc Contributor Contributor

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    How Do You Stop Creating Characters With Other Shows' Characters In Your Mind?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by frigocc, May 22, 2020.

    Every time I go to create my mix of characters for a show, I find myself ending up pretty much copying the archetypes of characters from other shows. Yes, they all are unique, and not technically the same, but the dynamic is.



    For example, I'm starting to write an absurd comedy, similar to something like Community. I made these characters up. One narcissistic, sarcastic "only sane" guy, a young wacky dumb/nerdy guy that always gets into new shenanigans every week, a bitchy tough girl similar to the "only sane" guy, whose his love interest, a senile/grumpy/creepy old man, and a submissive female that's friends with the bitchy tough girl. I think up all their names, their backstories, even their plots and subplots.



    But then I just created Community minus Shirley.



    I'm really struggling writing a good main group of characters that mesh well comedically that aren't just derivatives of Community or IASIP.



    Or am I just overthinking this? Does it even matter? While the genre is the same, and even the archetypes might be similar, the dialogue is unique, the premises are, the character arcs are. Am I worried about nothing?
     
  2. Dogberry's Watch

    Dogberry's Watch Contributor Contributor Contest Winner 2022 Contest Winner 2023

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    I think it's going to be difficult to come up with new types of characters for a comedy show. If you look at the groups from all the classics, like Seinfeld and Cheers and that one show with Kelsey Grammar... Frazier, they have those archetypes as well. Then you get to the Friends era, and if you go too far into it, the How I Met Your Mother character list is essentially a rip off of the Friends characters. Right down to the Monica/Chandler, Lily/Marshall kid thing.

    I think you'll be fine with going ahead and writing your stuff, because the comedy is what makes the difference.

    In my opinion, of course. I'm not a fan of either Friends or How I Met Your Mother, but I liked Reno 911 and Parks and Recreation.
     
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  3. frigocc

    frigocc Contributor Contributor

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    Maybe the problem I'm having is that Community is still so relevant. Might be seen as copying.
     
  4. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Go back and watch older comedies or older sitcoms to get inspiration. There's tons of great ones - Three's Company, Our Miss Brooks, Soap, Mary Hartman Mary Hartman, Green Acres, M.A.S.H, The Phil Silvers Show - etc.
    It will break up that urge to link only to what's going on now by allowing you to take and dust off some forgotten types. I do it myself - I've been watching classic movies my entire life so my pop culture references are never quite drawing from the present they always have one foot in the past. I think it helps me from following trends to hopefully maybe starting one.
     
  5. Laughing Rabbit

    Laughing Rabbit Active Member

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    You could set the show in a different era (past or future, just make sure the writing and dialogue reflects the correct era), the characters would still have the similar archetypes as other shows, but with the different era comes different scenarios and the characters would feel different. Of course their personalities and writing will really have to shine through to make them unique.

    A few character ideas:
    1. The 4th wall breaker (occasionally, not too often. If the show is "serious", subtle is best, but this is an absurd comedy, have a character who knows s/he's in a show and gives nods to the audience, but not Deadpool level snark)

    Or, the character knows/suspects they're in a show but feels a sense of doom and gloom about it, doesn't give the audience knowing looks, but horrified or a "help me!" look. Again, not too often. May be too dark for an absurd comedy, but could work as the crazy/off-the-wall conspiracy theorist type.

    2. The Quiet One - Silent but deadly (haha!) - not creepy quiet, just "normal" quiet, the introvert who is highly knowledgeable on a few quirky subjects, would win at trivia night every time. Maybe has a competitive side which takes everyone by surprise when they are "in it to win it".

    3. The nerd who tries to be the jock, but often fails spectacularly because they're just not good at sports.

    4. The fan - loves tv shows/books/D&D type games/etc and dresses up/speaks like/quotes their favorite characters as often as possible.

    5. The mathematician/historian/realist - when the group tries or plans to do something fun or exciting to raise money or something, this person will inevitably know how much it will cost, the history of such things not working, and basically shoot down all ideas with "facts". May or may not be the grumpy old guy, might just be the middle aged woman who is matter-of-fact with her facts.

    6. The "fun"draiser - is always thinking of exciting and fun ways to raise money (for charity, to help a struggling store/person, etc), usually to absurd extremes, has a bubbly, happy personality, loves everyone.
     
  6. frigocc

    frigocc Contributor Contributor

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    Plan on having these two archetypes in a way. The main character, the Jeff Winger of sorts, will quote rock stars/songs pretty often. He'll be in the middle of a giving a speech or something, and bust out, "you can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you'll find, you get what you need."

    I will also sorta have another character that fits #4, in that he's always dressing up in different costumes, as he decides in that week that he wants to be a weldor, a painter, a hair metal singer, a bodybuilder, etc. Some of these things will be movie references (like he'll dress up as Jax from Sons of Anarchy, or Batman), and he'll talk like, and quote, them.

    And yes, it's spelled weldor. A welder is a welding machine.

    For #6, that'll probably be my Annie. A younger, submissive girl that let's her aggressive female friends walk all over her. Bubbly, proper-ish, and always finding causes to rally behind (so more like a mix between Annie and Britta).

    I definitely do love the classics. Already planning a M*A*S*H episode. Maybe they'll fight over who gets what role. "I'm Hawkeye." "No, I'm Hawkeye. You're Radar, and she's Hot Lips."
     
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  7. Fervidor

    Fervidor Senior Member

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    Rather than trying to avoid being influenced by other storytellers, I like to take it one step further by combining different influences into something interesting. In the case of characters, I'll usually start with a very vague concept based on what sort of character I intuitively feel I want for the story. Then I may take the (very general) appearance of one character I already know of, the personality of another, and perhaps the archetypal attributes or role of a third. Then I put them together into one character. (Of course, you can also combine features of the same category.)

    After that it's just a matter of tweaking and fine-tuning the character depending on what the story requires or my own whims. I may add traits I happen to be fond of and like working with, as well as subtract traits from the original influence that I don't like or feel wouldn't work with the character concept I have in mind. Sometimes I switch their gender or alter their age, etc, just to see what I end up with.
     
  8. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin A tombstone hand and a graveyard mind Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Yep. That's what makes them archetypes. They keep getting copied, and copied, and copied... some of them all the way back to Ancient Greece.

    Nothing wrong with that. It's almost unavoidable... I wouldn't sweat it. The audience likes seeing familiar symbols, too. The fewer things they have to think about, the better. That's how people get hurt.
     
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  9. Lazaares

    Lazaares Contributor Contributor

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    Unsure whether this is applicable to shows; in fiction writing and in roleplay, I find I always start out with "archetype" characters that are flat and boring. Over the course of the story unfolding and various revisions the characters develop into something more unique. I would say, subject the characters to various scenarios that you would imagine is their past and it will change them into something unique while retaining a "familiar" core.
     
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  10. frigocc

    frigocc Contributor Contributor

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    I guess that's true. Every show pretty much starts with just archetypes. They don't differentiate themselves in the first episode, it always comes through character development in proceeding episodes.

    Now I just need to write a kickass pilot . . . can't really get straight into the absurd stuff. They have to meet each other first.
     
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  11. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    I actually wrote a thread a while back about exactly this :)

     
  12. Fortuna

    Fortuna New Member

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    Well, in a comedy story it's quite difficult to not use archetypes... I had a similar problem on some short stories. I wanted to write something funny but I always found myself writing something too close to the work of a french show runner for my own liking... but well it's because I love his work, so it's hard to not be influenced by his tone and his style. I guess a good way to put aside the characters from Community (I don't know this show or book) could be to deconstruct them, to analyse them : which archetype are they based on ? Are they just archetypes or are they any variations or specificities that makes them pop out ? If you understand how they are created and how they work, maybe you'll be able to not be captured by them and you could let them aside while writing ? Moreover, understand how they work could help you to construct your own characters.
     
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  13. Thorn Cylenchar

    Thorn Cylenchar Senior Member

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    Some archetypes are older than dirt:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stock_character#:~:text=A%20stock%20character%20is%20a,ages%2C%20social%20classes%20and%20demeanors.

    "The study of the Character, as it is now known, was conceived by Aristotle's student Theophrastus. In The Characters (c. 319 BC), Theophrastus introduced the "character sketch", which became the core of "the Character as a genre". It included 30 character types. Each type is said to be an illustration of an individual who represents a group, characterized by his most prominent trait."​


    Even if the character is 99% the same to a character from another show(just a different name), putting them in different situations can lead to a unique story. The characters themselves are just a small part of the story. Their interactions, the environment and setting and reactions and are what really make the story.

    One idea for injecting something different into your story-watch comedies from other cultures. Chinese and Korean comedy vs British and American. Comedy is not universal, even if you will find some characters who have the same basic personalities. How they are presented matters.

    All of us are influenced by other writers and stories, shows and movies we have seen. How many High Fantasy stories can you find that don't have a LotR influence? How many futuristic space themed books don't have some connection to Larry Nivan or Star Trek? Or Futuristic and/or dystopian without flavors of Phillip Dick, Isaac Asimov or Andre Norton? Hell, an entire subgenre is referred to as Lovecraftian. Unless you are the pioneer of a genre, you are going to have similarities to other works. So, I wouldn't worry about it too much, just try to tell the story I want to the best of my abilities, and along the way challenge myself to look at different sources.
     
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  14. GraceLikePain

    GraceLikePain Senior Member

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    Hm...it seems like you have an inspiration problem. Yes, archetypes have existed since forever, but being inspired by an archetype and being inspired by a specific character are two different things. It sounds like you're saying you're starting from the characters automatically. Huh....maybe consider getting out of your current TV shows. In fact, TV entirely. I suggest reading nonfiction books. Try to be inspired more by events, real ones or ones you make up, and then try to make the kind of people who would live in that given situation. This is a random example, but say you're writing about people who are trapped in a video game? What kind of person would choose to be in that video game, or happen to be playing it when they were trapped? Or if you wrote about an asteroid hitting the earth, who would live nearby, who would know about the asteroid first, and who is most likely to survive it?

    I don't really know what to tell you because I don't know what you write, but all I can really say is know what you want to write, what you want to say to your audience. Everything in writing really stems from that.
     
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