1. cherrya

    cherrya Active Member

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    How do you write charismatic characters?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by cherrya, Apr 12, 2017.

    Hello! I was wondering, how would you write a charismatic character without depending too much on other character's reactions to them? It's all good and nice going for a " x made y blush", but I don't feel like that's ever enough to convince the reader.

    I was thinking more of mannerisms, maybe? Just their general way of being. I tried thinking about some by myself but I think I'm trying too hard because in the end it feels weird to write"x looked at y in the eyes", or "x body was fully open", "x arms were like that and his legs were like that"... I don't know, I tend to fall into over description that makes the text sounds way too elementary (am I using that word right?). I'd like to go further if that's possible.

    I don't know, maybe I'm just desperate because I have a lot of difficulty with this one specific character of mine. Maybe I'm just bad.

    This forum has been such a great help lately, I was hoping I could get some inspiration from your ideas.

    English isn't my first language sorry if I made your eyes bleed!
     
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  2. Infel

    Infel Contributor Contributor

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    I love charismatic characters! They're an absolute joy to write. They talk a lot, they compliment other people, they make jokes, they take up the whole room just by existing. Other characters can't help but focus on them, and generally they either absolutely love the charisma, or they absolutely hate it. And the hate is more fun, because then the charismatic person gets to address it, calmly, almost humorously, with a smile.

    I would take a look here, just for fun, and maybe look into some of the characters it recommends!

    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MagnificentBastard

    Hope that helped a bit!
     
  3. cherrya

    cherrya Active Member

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    Gosh, you're always such a great help! That site is great, thank you!
     
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  4. Stormburn

    Stormburn Contributor Contributor

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    I agree with Infel, charismatic characters are fun. Its does seem the easiest way to write such a character is to make them a force of nature that the people react too. I believe that happens when a writer not only makes charisma their primary trait, but, their only trait. The best examples I've read is when the charismatic character is written as a fully fleshed out character with charisma as one of their attributes.
    A recent example of this is the portrayal of King Alfred in the t.v series 'the Last Kingdom'. He is an odd bird, and someone that doesn't exactly make a great first impression, but he does have a vision. People, while not believing in his vision for England, come to believe in him. It's a nice display of charisma at work.
    Godspeed!
     
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  5. he who writes

    he who writes New Member

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    Instead of coming out and just saying that they are charismatic or makes people like them, you could also describe them in a few ways if you think about it...
    Im not a great writer, but these are still alternatives that could be expanded upon obviously

    1.) X walked through the city streets, and he wasn't invisible as were most of the passersby, his magnetic aura (or something of the nature) made him visible

    Typically, charismatic characters have a way of commanding attention to themselves, it can be achieved in many ways other than just talking or socializing

    2.) His smile showed the feelings in his heart, it was sincere to the point that it became contagious

    Another quick one I thought up, typically charasmatic characters are very optimistic (unless they are the negative type where they are good at manipulating people) they can alone spread/evoke a certain emotion

    3.) He interjected, "If you think about it killing is unmoral" his voice was very silvery (silvery = clear,soft,pleasent)

    just describing their voice could impact the way a reader thinks, if you have a charasmatic person say "I think we should fight" when trying to lead an army, and their voice is wobbly, quiet, or brittle, chances are the army they are trying to lead isn't going to fight, or if they do, they wouldn't have a morale boost, usually provided by charasmatic leaders and stuff.

    If the character is knowingly trying to be charasmatic (not just a charasmatic character) you could say stuff like "he was intentionally altering the pitches and tones he was speaking in to draw more attention to the words he was saying, and to make people interested"

    Hopefully I was of some sort of help...
     
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  6. KaTrian

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Contributor

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    When I think about charismatic people, in my mind they tend to:
    - be good-looking and/or pleasant to look at or listen to (they dress well, always look tip-top)
    - be quick-witted
    - make others, even strangers, feel special (e.g. they show they remember something about you and maybe crack a fun joke about it, showing they have been listening)
    - look you in the eye, when they shake your hand it's a firm, sure shake
    - smile a lot, but it's an easy, natural smile
    - compliment other people (great job, you look nice today, that guy is so smart, etc.)
    - commit 100% to everything, be it some personal concern, a challenge at the workplace, their looks and manners
    - be positive; you won't hear them complain much and they can offer criticism in a developmental way
    -appear genuine (no fake positivity or enthusiasm)
    -be (self)-confident (they rarely falter but if they do, they can face and admit their mistake)
     
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  7. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I think it's really, really difficult to write a charismatic character from the POV of the charismatic character. It would just end up sounding like the character is totally full of herself. The examples in post 5 are more from an omniscient POV, which would make things easier, but who's writing in omniscient these days?

    If there's really no way to get into the POV of another character, I'd either go really subtle or really obvious. In terms of really subtle, you'd just have to show the character having lots of positive interactions with other people. You could maybe even have her marvelling at what she's able to get away with. Or have it be really obvious - have some other character accuse your POV character of using her charisma, and have her charm the other character out of even resenting her for it!
     
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  8. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    Well since all the other posts just want to have the easy out and have idealized
    versions of charisma. I will take the other road just a bit. It is mainly about
    the charm and inspirational side of the character, they can still have plenty of
    faults. And if they are stuck in a situation when they can't exert such things
    they kinda have to rely on other tact. They can be charismatic and still have a personality
    outside of playing to stylized/idealized perfection. Even in real life their
    are people we meet that have it that we don't like. History is littered with
    charismatic people on both sides of the aisle. So you can have it both ways.
    One thing to be charismatic and lead the way, and it is another to be the
    epitome of simply trying to have the whole world like them.
     
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  9. Stormburn

    Stormburn Contributor Contributor

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    See my example of the portrayal of King Alfred in the t.v show 'The Last Kingdom'. A deft character portrait of a man who some of his followers don't like or even trust. Yet, they believe in his vision and is convince that he is only man to make that vision happen.
    Godspeed!
     
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  10. Seraph751

    Seraph751 If I fell down the rabbit hole... Contributor

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    When you have a charismatic character there tends to be a group(s) of people that follow this particular character. At it's most basic, this character would need to be the epitome of what this group of people are looking for.
    It depends on the type charismatic character you are trying to portray and how you want him/her others to interact with. What is the first thing that draws a person to this character? That is your building block.
     
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  11. Homer Potvin

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

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    And if you want to explore the dark side of charisma look no further than Hitler...
     
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  12. Commandante Lemming

    Commandante Lemming Contributor Contributor

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    I think a big part of charisma is just saying and doing what you want want to say, in a strongly stated fashion, and either just expecting people to fall in line behind you or just not caring. If I think about the times I've written characters that I think are charismatic, that's the only real key. I don't know if that's a mannerism or just a state of being - some people just have that sort of confidence, and it can just be magnetic when it manifests, because a lot of us don't naturally behave that way. (Granted, you can also write an annoying, non-charismatic character who behaves that way - my villian's secretary is extremely domineering and aggressive but I wouldn't call her charismatic - probably because everybody knows she's a pawn who has no real ability to back up what she says, and because in her case she does things on purpose that she knows will alienate people.)
     
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  13. Lemie

    Lemie Contributor Contributor

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    I don't really like people, so my view might be a bit screwy, but I always thought that the ones people find charismatic ARE full of themselves :bigoops:
     
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  14. Alex Brandt

    Alex Brandt Member

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    The very best advice I can give you is this:
    "Charisma is a presence that excites us. It comes from an inner quality - self-confidence, sexual energy, sense of purpose, contentment - that most people lack and want. This quality radiates outward, permeating the gestures of Charismatics, making them seem extraordinary and superior, and making us imagine there is more to them than meets the eye: they are gods, saints, stars. Charismatics can learn to heighten their charisma with a piercing gaze, fiery oratory, an air of mystery. They can seduce on a grand scale. Learn to creat the charismatic illusion by radiating intensity while remaining detached." - The Art of Seduction, Robert Greene.

    Charismatic people are bold and attentive. I honestly don't think there's a way to show a charismatic character without showing the effect on others because, that's the point. To elevate others and themselves along with it. But it is all an illusion, in truth they have the same insecurities as anyone else.

    Strong body language is good for what you're going for, but try to be more specific (what does "body open" mean? Example: "One arm was spread across the back of the couch, an ankle on one knee and a genuine smile beamed across his face.") I also recommend: http://www.scienceofpeople.com/2014/06/summary-definitive-book-of-body-language/ It's a cliff notes type thing of body language from a fanTAStic book about it.

    Hope it helps!
     
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  15. Stormburn

    Stormburn Contributor Contributor

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    You're right. I've read a lot of biographies and auto-biographies featuring an assortment of personalities ranging from military, political to artists and musicians. Yes, being 'full of themselves' is definitely a characteristic. I believe that trait comes from the amount of responsibility and risked assumed by that person. When they succeed it is huge, when they fail the fall is long.
    Godspeed!
     
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  16. socialleper

    socialleper Member

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    A good character shouldn't rely on other people's reactions or adverbs. If you do, you are telling the reader what to think. They should reach that conclusion on their own if the writing is good.
    The difficulty of writing a charismatic character is that you have to really understand charisma first. Strangely, people are often influenced by it without thinking about it, so they never really analyze it.
    First, there isn't one kind of charisma. There is the lovable sidekick, the patrician father figure, a person with infectious energy, the smooth talker, etc. Think about what sort of charisma you want your character to have.
    Second, what charisma is all about is winning someone over so they can influence you in some way. What is the sort of influence your character wants, and with who.
    Third, don't confuse comeliness for charisma. Being physically attractive helps with being charismatic, and vice versa, but they are separate attributes. Ugly people can be charismatic. Pretty people can be boorish. Charisma is more an intellectual attribute than a physical one. Charismatic people tend to be either a little smarter than the average bear, or have an innate magnetism in their demeanor that attracts people to them.
    Lastly, charisma isn't always universal. A character may have attributes that allow them to be charismatic to some, and disgusting to others. 50% of charisma is the other person. What is it in the charismatic person that people see that they like? What chord do they strike in other people?
     
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  17. Pinkymcfiddle

    Pinkymcfiddle Banned

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    Take the extremes of your personality, the stuff you wanna say, but don't, because you fear reproach. Pretend that the reproach would be treated with scorn (not in a childish, angsty way, but in a dismissive way). Imagine what you would love to say to the overpaid MD of some corporate multi-national- how you would like to tell him his wage relies upon the gentleman's club to which he belongs and he is otherwise a pointless sack of shit. Imagine how you would describe the politician as a self-serving shit. Put that in a character. Make them forth-rite and forceful.

    Or make them weak and submissive; one idea of many.
     
  18. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    This seems like nonsense to me. We're supposed to show how charismatic a character is without using other people's reactions?

    I would say the only way to show charisma is to write about how people react to the character. Anything else, to my mind, would be telling.

    Can you give an example of how you can show charisma without writing about other people's reactions?
     
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  19. Pinkymcfiddle

    Pinkymcfiddle Banned

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    I once shot someone.
     
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  20. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    Looking up Robert Greene though he seems kinda full of shit. He has questionable credentials at best (Classical studies) and he doesn't really use evidence other. So while his conclusions can make sense their basis is fairly anecdotal "I saw this", " in history this guy did this". His books have been caught making outright mistakes, and fairly basic ones at that. I'm not sure he's worth much as a reference.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2017
  21. socialleper

    socialleper Member

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    There is a difference between being charismatic and demonstrating reactions to being charismatic.
    Ex.
    "Hi," Bob said charmingly.
    or
    When Bob said "Hi" everyone in the room was drawn to him.
    These are a little lazy.
    Make the dialog convey more of the character's personality, or add more details about how the character is dressed or acts. Don't tell the reader the character has charisma, use the character's charisma to win over the reader. Take your time to make the reader fall under the sway of the character.
     
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  22. Pinkymcfiddle

    Pinkymcfiddle Banned

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    Interesting Soc...whatever (sorry, I literally got bored of trying to spell your name).

    But where does the line get drawn between common untruth and psychopath?
     
  23. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    So you think the readers are actually going to fall under the character's spell, without showing other characters interacting with the charismatic character? Can you give me an example of a time when this has been done in literature?
     
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  24. Stormburn

    Stormburn Contributor Contributor

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    What kind of story are you writing? Is is a short story or a long novel? Charisma is a characteristic of certain personality traits. I tend to go with the five traits as Openess, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism.
    A romantic short story about two people meeting at a track meet is going to showcase personality characteristics like charisma differently than a adventure novel about an orphan who discovers he/she is the sole survivor of the loyal line to this vast space empire and they grow up determined to avenge their family and take the crown back.
    Take a step back, think about your characters actual traits, then, look forward to the format of your story and how it will showcase your character.
    Godspeed!
     
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  25. socialleper

    socialleper Member

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    Atticus Finch. Tyrion Lannister. To a certain degree Alex in A Clockwork Orange.
    These are characters that use charisma and draw the reader in to them by simply being who they are.
    An illustration of a character that demonstrates his charisma without it having to be overtly pointed to is Captain Ahab. The reader doesn't necessarily like him, but he is able to influence his crew to a suicidal level. That is definitely one type of charisma.
    It is always a little easier to demonstrate Charisma through a first person POV narrative, because now the character is talking directly to the reader. Influencing them is easy then, because the character is working their charms on you. Kvothe of the Kingkiller books is a hero that uses charisma and wit more often than brawn, and he uses that with other characters but also how he speaks to the reader. Alex of A Clockwork Orange is a nearly uncontrollable sociopath, but still maintains a friendly report with the reader, so that by the end, you are willing to forgive his transgressions. That's charisma.
    In a book I'm reading right now, Kushiel's Dart, which is also first person POV, the narrator explains the behavior of charismatic people, and her reaction to them, without going so far as blatantly saying they are charismatic. She notes their mannerisms, listens to their speeches, and lets the reader come to their own conclusions.
    My point is, first understand what charisma really is, decide what sort of charisma you want your character to have, and then have the character demonstrate those qualities. It isn't easy, because as I said in my initial response, charisma is an often misunderstood, or ignored thing. It is subtle. Most people never realize they are being influenced by someone or why.
     
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