1. Thaegrim

    Thaegrim Guest

    How to make characters character more noticeable?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Thaegrim, Feb 5, 2017.

    This may be a silly question, but in a group of protagonists, each with their own personality, how could I make some of them stand out in subtle ways, without changing the plot directly?
     
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  2. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

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    I think the simplest way to do it would be "screen time."

    The characters you wish to stand out can have more time acting in the novel. The others will feel secondary and tertiary comparatively. What kind of POV are you using? You can only have the ones you want to stand out as POV characters and don't give the other characters any sort of attention like that.

    Another way to do it is to give the Stand Outs leadership roles. Let them be the decision makers.
     
  3. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Are you asking how to let them all influence the plot and have their own plot arcs, or just how to give them personality?
     
  4. Dracon

    Dracon Contributor Contributor

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    It might not be subtle, but the biggest way of doing it is by showing their character through actions, especially if that action is controversial (not necessarily the right action).

    An interesting backstory can help too. Some past event that defines the person that they are today, and how that influences their values and actions. For example, in my story, one of my main characters is plagued by an act of cowardice he committed in his past, breaking too quickly under interrogation and endangering those people who were important to him and almost disgracing his family name. And though he is now ostracised by his family, it was a bad experience he vowed never to repeat, and as a result, it has made him an extremely loyal person who would sacrifice everything for those he cares for, and that shows throughout the story (I hope!). However, such loyalty has also led him to make some rather rash decisions too.
     
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  5. Phil Mitchell

    Phil Mitchell Banned Contributor

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    Be mysterious, philosophical, entertaining or horrifying. You choose.
     
  6. Cave Troll

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

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    Go, Go, Power Rangers! :supergrin:

    You could give them more of a part within the narrative.
    Allow them to display their own unique personas and
    how they interact with your MC and others. :)
     
  7. MilesTro

    MilesTro Senior Member

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    Make one of them do what the others refuse to do.
     
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  8. Thaegrim

    Thaegrim Guest

    Can I choose all of that?
     
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  9. Thaegrim

    Thaegrim Guest

    I see that many of you suggest to give certain characters more time in a narrative or making them do stuff that others wouldn't, but the whole point of this question is how to avoid that. My goal is to make characters stand out, without ANY plot interaction, so that a potential reader would "feel" who true protagonists are, but not really sure why he perceives them as such (and maybe start questioning that later).
     
  10. Thaegrim

    Thaegrim Guest

    I'm asking how to make some of the protagonists stand out from others without the plot suggesting anything.
     
  11. Thaegrim

    Thaegrim Guest

    Oh and thank you for your help
     
  12. Adam Kalauz

    Adam Kalauz Member

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    Can you expand just a little more, the question isn't very clear.

    You said they're a group of protagonists, but what are they doing?

    Are they all protagonists? Or do you just mean characters? (Usually you want to have 1 protagonist?)

    There are four approaches that jump to mind:

    - Appearance. Have them wear something odd, different coloured hair, an odd pin on their clothing, or even just the only guy who hasn't properly put a knot in his tie
    - Behaviour or approach. One is slouched, while the rest are stood to attention, or everyone crowded round enthusiastically to greet her, except the one sat sullenly at the desk at the back of the room.
    - Defined roles. When the fire alarm sounded, everyone except the receptionist jumped, a startled moment from the loud noise before they realised it was probably just a drill. (Come back to the receptionist later?!)
    - Sixth sense. Have your POV character have an odd feeling or sensation about one of them, but not be able to pin it down.

    Hope this is helpful, I'm kinda shooting in the dark... :)
     
  13. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    Strategy = Deciding wether to go from Point A to Point B instead of from Point A to Point C
    Tactics = Deciding how to go from point A to Point B

    Even if you don't want to change your characters' actions on a strategic level, would you be open to looking at changes on the tactical level? If you're characters aren't already doing things to distinguish themselves in the plot, then my first idea would be to change what they're doing in the plot.

    Characterization and plot development happening at the same time is always more interesting to me than going back and forth between one at a time.

    In my Urban Fantasy WIP, my narrator and his boss/friend (my main character) are going into a bank for a robbery. My narrator asks his friend if she wants to be the one who gets in line to give the teller their demands while my narrator waits in one of the seats against the wall as back-up in case of a shoot-out. He's very authoritarian, it's very important to him that his friend is The Boss, and unless she tells him something else, it's very important to him that she – The Boss – be the one with the most important role in the robbery.

    My main character then tells him no, he's taking point and she's waiting in the back. She's not a people-person the way he is and she's not as quick to improvise in a crisis. She'd taken point on an earlier robbery that week because she'd practiced extensively to rob that particular bank, but she doesn't have the preparation to rob this one.

    My narrator then does as he's told because a) she's right, and b) she's The Boss.​

    Would it be more interesting if my narrator and my main character only established their "he's a people-person and an improvisor, she isn't" dynamic when they weren't doing anything plot-relevant, if when they were robbing banks together they did it in exactly the same way as each other so as not to "break the plot"?

    Absolutely!
     
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  14. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    but the reader can only feel who the true protagonists are through their actions (or thoughts, or dialogue) - characterisation isnt divorced from plot in the way you suggest , you can't have one without the other (well you can but it involves a shit load of telling and isnt generally a good idea - Icelandic sagas are a classic example where every character is introduced by a paragraph about who he is, who he is related to and what hes done to date... but in normal fiction,no )
     
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  15. Thaegrim

    Thaegrim Guest

    Thank you. I think I have an idea by now. Further replies won't be necessary.
     
  16. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Discussions generally turn into discussions. :) If the topic interests people, they'll keep talking.
     
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  17. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Presumably you only have one POV character per scene? What the POV character feels about the other characters will make these other characters memorable. Don't waste time with them slouching or wearing silly clothes to make them stand out. Let your POV character reveal what they are like by reacting to them. Visuals aren't as likely to stick with the readers as the POV character's emotions are.

    Maybe the first character's slouching really irritates the POV character no end. The reader will remember that reaction more strongly than if you just tell us the character is slouching. Maybe the POV character admires the self-confidence of the other guy who wears a silly hat and isn't bothered that other people think it's silly. That's what I mean. Stick the character differences by revealing them via your POV character.
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2017
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  18. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Hang about, if a discussion turns into a discussion, what was it before ? :bigsmile:
     
  19. texshelters

    texshelters Active Member

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    This is not a silly question, actually. More screen time is a great answer. I had to do that once I decided to shift protagonists in one book. Dialogue with other characters helps. Give them a tic or strange pattern of speech. I have a detective that taps the ground with his left hand when looking at a dead body and that tic annoys his partner to no end. Women also comment on his good looks to his partner, subtly, of course. But screen time is the ultimate answer, given that the character is already interesting in some way. Peace, Tex
     
  20. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

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    They don't all need to stand out, at least not at first.

    The problem with trying to make everyone stand out is that no-one really does. Make one or two of them stand out in overt ways (give one a toothpick or a cigarette or something obvious), make another the 'mouth' who is always talking. Then the others just react to those two. The rest mark themselves out by their reactions not by their behavior, at least not until they get more character development.

    So, for example:

    Cigarette guys lights up. Guy 1 says do you have to do that here? Mouthy guy talks at length about how passive smoking is bullshit anyway. Guy 2 tells Mouth to shut the hell up. Guy 3 says hey come on we need to focus on this here. Cigarette tosses the butt and they go to commit crime or what have you. And there we go. Five guys we can tell apart at a glance. Cigarette because he's the smoker who even smokes on the job, Mouth is the chatterbox, Guy 1 is a whiner, Guy 2 is a ball breaker, Guy 3 is the professional. This presumes you are writing a heist story but you get the idea. Their outlooks and attitudes are communicated via reaction not action, only one or two of them need to be 'notable' to start getting the juicy character points out.
     
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  21. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    A discussion it was, it is now, and a discussion it ever shall be, world without end, amen. It's foreordained, and not by the OP of any thread. Let it be so. Discuss on.

    :supercheeky:
     

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