1. Prettyinpnk

    Prettyinpnk New Member

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    Is my main character a mess?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Prettyinpnk, Jan 8, 2018.

    I've finally determined what I want my main character to be like. I didn't want the typical shy, nice girl, and I didn't want a tomboy either. But I feel like I didn't get it quite right and just made her into a mess. Here is a summary of her:

    A girl who loves the latest fashion and makeup, but is insecure, and usually settles for things that don't show too much. She is very materialistic. She tries to be fashionable and outgoing, but is afraid of overdoing it, and is rather shy when attention is put on her. However, she is bubbly and outgoing when around close friends. She sometimes tries to please others to gain popularity. She likes creating goals, and while she gets discouraged easily, she regains confidence quickly. She designs outfits, and sets for the drama club, and hates that she is afraid to be onstage. She's very prissy and hates getting dirty, and hard work, but shows how headstrong and fierce she can be if someone hurt her friends. She isn't fond of school and is the slowest learner in the group. She can be a bit shallow, but she has a lot of empathy and tries to help people as best she can. But also impulsive, and sort of inconsiderate to the wishes of the people around her.

    I feel like I made her a mess of things or I gave her too many flaws, I dunno. Would appreciate some feedback.
     
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  2. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin You're nearly a laugh... Contributor

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    Yeah, that might be a bit much. A character with all that going on might give the reader vertigo. I'd pick a handful or so and see where it goes.
     
  3. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    How did you assemble this collection of traits? It feels like you used a checklist or something.

    I'm going to forcibly smooth this out, to create what I would do with the collection.

    She's fascinated with art, especially clothing, makeup, and costume, and has a special passion for dramatic effects. She refers to herself as a costume geek--her room is filled with fabric and scraps, makeup and rhinestones, costume books and sketches. It's her hobby and her art.

    But she, personally, is never the canvas for her own art--she applies it to other people. Her younger nieces and nephews come to her for help with costumes and face paint for Halloween. For her favorite and very youngest niece, she once made an extensive set of fantasy costumes for that niece's American Girl doll. She makes costumes and sets for the drama club, and paints their faces before performances--cats, snakes, ghosts with deep dead eyes.
    She pushes for maximum drama--on other people.

    And she's only comfortable with other people when she's providing those services--when she's doing what she's most expert at. She shows up for every rehearsal and set-painting party; she won't go near the season close party, the one that's just about socializing. She'll paint and sew, because she's good at it; she won't ever read for a part, because she's not.

    She has a very, very few actual friends, people who are also theater or costume geeks and who won't push her social boundaries. With those people she will, once in a long while, voluntarily open herself up. Everyone else just sees the surface.

    Yes, I removed several of the most contradictory traits.
     
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  4. Prettyinpnk

    Prettyinpnk New Member

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    Yeah, I know. I wanted to make her as fleshed out as possible, and I read an article that said you need to be descritive with the character's traits, but I clearly overdid it.
     
  5. Prettyinpnk

    Prettyinpnk New Member

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    I
    I sort of kept adding traits that I thought she needed, and what other people said a character like this needed, and you could say I used a checklist, ha ha. It's funny, I love reading and writing stories but I'm terrible at it. But thank you so much for smoothing it out, I definitely have a better idea of what I want to do with her.
     
  6. mashers

    mashers Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    A mess? Maybe. But people are messy. They're conflicted and contradictory. So a certain element of that is needed for your characters to be realistic. I would, however, say that in all honesty, I don't think I would enjoy reading this particular character. Your description of her made her sound rather irritating to be honest. This is potentially fine as long as there is some indication that the character is working towards changing some of these traits. The reader needs to identify with the character on some level, and they won't want to do this if they see a shallow, high-maintenance person reflected in the character. So you will have to write this character carefully so that she acknowledges these parts of her self on some level, and at least tries to address them. The reader will want to see her grow as a person and overcome the parts of herself that the reader doesn't like. And you need to indicate to the reader that the character is going try to do this before they get too annoyed by the character and stop reading.
     
  7. Jupie

    Jupie Senior Member

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    I don't think there is too much. It's all about how you write her and whether the portrayal is believable. Instead of listing a bunch of character traits, it's probably just better to write a scene with her in it and see how she comes across. I usually get to know my characters through their voice, especially if it happens to be first person. There are tons of people who are shy in some ways and confident in others, and for the most part your character isn't actually all that contradictory at all. She seems obsessed with fashion right now, but deep down you mention she has a lot of empathy for others, so it may be a case of her just discovering her hidden depths and realising that it's okay to like nice things without needing to be materialistic.

    What's important is that you don't try to overload the reader in one go. So long as the character feels real, you'll be able to show off her characteristics while developing a meaningful story arc for her. It's true what the above poster said, we are all messy to some degree, and we can all behave in baffling and illogical ways. That said, we have certain defining traits or at least a core nature at the heart of who we are and so it's quite possible what she's really seeking is expression. She wants to be understood, and she probably goes the wrong way about it sometimes. Also, though she won't admit it, she might also need some other influence to help grow her, to make her more refined and less shallow. Sometimes, we need a whole world to open up for us before we can evolve and grow.

    But yes, you can definitely make it work. And if you happen to lose a trait or two, what's the deal? You may think of five new ones.
     
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  8. big soft moose

    big soft moose All killer, no filler. Contributor Community Volunteer

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    to be honest at this point you haven't got a character, you've got a bunch of potential traits on a character sheet -if I was you I'd start writing and see how it pans out as the chances are that as you construct the plot you will make some changes in characterisation as you go along anyway
     
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  9. Lankle

    Lankle Member

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    People are contradictory, we struggle within ourselves to 'be', assembling who we are through desire, reaction and experience. We are often unaware of our own contradictions, and even when we are, those contradictions can sit together without ever changing. Like smoking when you're a doctor. This set of traits could all exist in one person, you'll have to decide how she got like that, what she wants to change and which bits she's comfortable with.
     
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  10. Lankle

    Lankle Member

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    This is a character sheet, any use to you?

    • Name:
    • Age:
    • Height:
    • Weight:
    • Birth date:
    • Birthplace:
    • Color hair:
    • Color eyes:
    • Scars or Handicaps (Physical, Mental, Emotional):
    • Other distinguishing traits (Smells, voice, skin, hair, etc.):
    • Educational background:
    • Work experience:
    • Military service:
    • Marital Status (Include reasons):
    • Best friend:
    • Men/women friends:
    • Enemies (Include why):
    • Parents (Who? Where? Alive? Relationship?):
    • Present problem:
    • Greatest fear:
    • How will problem get worse?
    • Strongest character traits:
    • Weakest character traits:
    • Sees self as:
    • Is seen by others as:
    • Sense of humor:
    • Basic nature:
    • Ambitions:
    • Philosophy of life (Include how it came to be):
    • Hobbies:
    • Preferred type of music, art, reading material:
    • Dialog tag (Idioms used, speech traits, e.g. “you know”):
    • Dress:
    • Favorite colors:
    • Pastimes:
    • Description of home (Physical and the “feel”):
    • Most important thing to know about this character:
    • One-line characterization:
    Key Questions:

    • What trait will make this character come alive, and why?
    • Why is this character different from other similar characters?
    • Do I like/dislike this character, and why?
    • Will readers like/dislike this character for the same reasons?
    • Characters who are remembered are those who are strong in some way—saints, sinners or a combination. For what will this character be remembered?
     
  11. JLT

    JLT Contributor Contributor

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    Here's the thing: you can make the character as detailed as possible, with as many traits as you can think of. Leave it as a guide for your own use, but don't put it in the story, except where needed.

    The character traits can be gradually revealed as necessary, when a particular plot point calls for it. You only need to reveal enough so that the reader isn't totally blindsided by a sudden action (unless that's your intention, of course). Think of the character, and write the character, the way you would learn about somebody who has moved in next door. Your neighbor didn't hand you a résumé the moment she moved in, did she? You learned about her gradually, from her reaction to life as she encountered it.
     
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  12. Prettyinpnk

    Prettyinpnk New Member

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    I didn't want to have to have a character who's only flaws were too clumsy or too naive, that's something I see a lot. I wanted a character who had a few distasteful personality traits, but that's not a good idea.
     
  13. Lemie

    Lemie Contributor Contributor

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    To me it never made much sense to just list things about a character. Interests, flaws - none of that matters on it's own.

    Do you have a story to write - or did you start out by trying to think of this girl and the traits that she should or shouldn't have? I can only speak from my own experience, but things come more natural to me if I start out with a plot/idea/scene/whatever I write from. Usually a vague shape of the main character is intertwined with that idea, and then they sort of grow with the story. This might not work for everyone - just one way to work around the laundry list of traits.

    What is the story? What part does the main character play? Why is she driving the story forward - what is stopping her?
     
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  14. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Just popped in to say that your screen name has me humming The Psychedelic Furs... :bigconfused:

    And I'm gone now... :whistle:
     
  15. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I think that it will work better to view her as a person, rather than a mixed sack of traits. What does she do? How does she interact with others? How does she feel? That’s what I tried to do in my example of squishing the trait collection together.

    She can have contradictions, but I think it’s hard to get a handle around those without specifics. No human is as simple as any list of characteristics, no matter how long the list is.

    I suggest that you stop editing the bag, and write a scene. It doesn’t need to end up in the final work, but write it anyway.
     
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  16. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Well, why don't you just try writing her out in a scene? The best way to discover your character is to write them. I don't find character sheets or listing traits useful at all because when I get to writing them, I forget all those details - they don't even register in my head at all - and I write what seems natural. Imagine this, what would you say if I asked you to describe your best friend? Or your mother? No list of traits will ever be enough to encompass fully who that person is, and no description will ever feel adequate. I'm no master at character creation but I tend to take the feeling I have about my character and write based on that.

    You can write some inconsequential scene or just something entirely made up with your character in it - not part of your actual book at all, or it could be, entirely up to you. But write her, and see her come to life before your eyes.
     
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  17. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Does this character have a story? Because that's where it really counts.
     
  18. zoupskim

    zoupskim Contributor Contributor

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    I agree with the people saying to need to write this character in a scene, because I personally think you have to imagine the character doing these things to feel out why she's doing them.

    Okay, why? Does she like the feel of applying makeup? Is the act of dressing, and suiting, and painting her face and body a loving ritual she performs alone to experience the smells and thickness of caulk and gloss?

    OR, is she dedicated to that perfect final look; that mix of sex appeal and power that will turn every head that notices, even the dogs.

    Habit? Maybe she lines her eyes, dabs red on her lips, buttons her suit, and steps outside with all the ritualistic obedience of a 5-9 office job automaton of middle-management in the fashion industry. Tick-tock, on the clock.

    You can put ten versions of this character on the sidewalk, all looking exactly the same, yet every version is ten ways different than the other.
     
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  19. Kallisto

    Kallisto Senior Member

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    I think what you're missing is what does your character actually want? Why do they want it? And what is keeping them from having it? In other words, what is your character's goals, motives, and conflict.

    What you're doing here is over compensating. You've got these traits that blatantly contradict each other. You're worried about making a Mary Sue character, which I get, but you're over thinking practically everything about your character. Here's the thing, no matter what personality you give your character at the beginning it won't matter. If you give a character a goal, a motive, and a conflict and combine that with basic story telling structure of exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution, that encourages your character to grow and change, you'll be fine with the character.

    Get your character's start point. She can be all these things you mentioned, just not all at the same time. Figure out what she is before and what she will become.
     
  20. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    I've heard it said that characters in fiction usually have to be more consistent than real people. It's a case of "truth is stranger than fiction."

    A real person inclined to stealing might grab a twenty out of his friend's dresser if he gets a chance, but the difference between doing it and not might be how well he slept. If you wrote a character that way, people might take it as kinda stupid or unbelievable. Is he a thief or not? What's the point.
     
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  21. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with everybody who is suggesting you put your character into a story and see how she gets on. Without a story, she's just a list of traits. What do you want her to do? What do you want to happen to her? Figure these things out and then start writing. She'll find her feet as the story unfolds! Good luck, and do have fun! :)
     
  22. Gregory Bertrand

    Gregory Bertrand Member

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    I almost never fill out a chart like that at the beginning of a story.Usually, I wait until the second or third draft to do character charts. I'm terrible at knowing what I want to do from the beginning of the story process, so I push off most of that work until I know what I'm writing about.
     
  23. Gregory Bertrand

    Gregory Bertrand Member

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    Have you tried writing the story before building the characters? I know it sounds backward, but I find when done that way you can discover things about your story and characters that you might not have thought of without putting them through the trials of the plot.
     
  24. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I'm a little befuddled. It's not as if a character chart is mandatory--why do you do one at that point, when presumably the character is pretty well established anyway?
     
  25. Gregory Bertrand

    Gregory Bertrand Member

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    Honestly, they are just fun to fill out. I usually do them at work when I can't put 100% of my concentration into writing. It's easier for me to come in and out of character sheets without breaking any flow or narrative voice.
     
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