What types of characters do you enjoy writing the most?

  1. Strong, determined, heroic type characters. Leaders.

    0 vote(s)
  2. Meek, quiet, shy types.

    0 vote(s)
  3. Unusual, random, goofy, comical relief

  4. Mature, manipulative, confident and charismatic

  5. Other.

  1. opalineduet

    opalineduet New Member

    Jun 3, 2016
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    Looking for advice on developing writing skills!

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by opalineduet, Jun 3, 2016.

    Hi there!

    New user here. To cut to the chase- I find myself currently stuck in this box and I'm having a hard time breaking out of it.

    I have this character, an elf who is a scholar in a fantasy setting. I have given her a goal and a plot and have been attempting to make connections along the way, by including obstacles that will get in the way of her plot and what she will do to overcome those challenges and so on. Story building and character creation has been something that I desire to improve on, but at the same time I am looking at my character and she seems so incredibly plain and downright boring! There is little that makes her unique or believable and she just feels like this bland placeholder and I am not attached to her at all. She might be pretty, or have admirable attributes, but what is fun about a character who just reacts to everything and doesn't act or move the plot forward?

    Even though I have been writing for almost fifteen years, I feel like I am just starting to understand the elements that go into story building, and characters are something I have been struggling with. Ontop of that,
    I start to realize that I have these flaws as a writer where I tend to use the same or similar descriptions over and over, no matter how many times I try to include new words, I always go back to this one style of writing.

    Do any of you out there have suggestions for breaking old habits, and introducing something new, or ways you might have improved yourself? As a disclaimer: I generally write collaboratively with other people - aka: roleplaying. I want to be able to give my writing partners in the future something to respond to, and to engage them mentally just as much as they do for me. (What's the point in writing with someone when their character is just dragging along, reacting only and not contributing right?)

    I'm sorry if this is too much of a rant but it is indeed frustrating and any tips would be greatly appreciated!
  2. GrimBarillian

    GrimBarillian New Member

    Jun 3, 2016
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    If you are specifically trying to work on character development at the moment I personally recommend ignoring the story you are trying to develop with this character and instead try to see her story. Try to think of yourself interviewing her, ask her about her life, her family, the struggles she has been through, challenges she has overcome. Get to know her and learn what makes her who she is. By getting to know her past you can shape her future, you might learn how she got into this mess, why she would choose one thing over another, how certain conflicts will be influenced by the life she has lived, even just how she will repond to other people. Remember or try to think of her as someone, not as your creation. She is a person with a history and her own life, get to know her.
    Scottieluvr, hawls and Oscar Leigh like this.
  3. Roberta Parsnip

    Roberta Parsnip New Member

    Jun 23, 2015
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    I always focus on the story first, not the characters. Once I got the idea of what kind of story I'm going to write. I might not have the exact ideas all aligned, but I at least got a general setting. After that, I get an idea for what kind of world this would be and what kind of people would fit into it.
  4. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

    Jan 21, 2016
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    Inner West Sydney, Australia
    Well, there's actually a number of questions here. Let's break it down.
    1. Your character feels bland. How do you improve that? Well, it looks like your doing something I seem to see a lot. The character is a plot device. If you want to write complicated, interesting characters, you will need to change this. Especially if she's a main character (it sounds like she is). Think of them as a real person. Think of all the different aspects of a person that exist. Tastes, mannerisms, relationships, goals, typical emotions, how do they respond to these emotions, philosophies, ways of thinking, skills, weakness, moral flaws (although that's subjective what's morally wrong), backstory so on. Like it was mentioned above, think of interviewing her.
    2. You apparently use repetitive description. Now this is a double-edged sword. On one hand, there is a need for your own style and you can't escape who you are altogether. On the other, you can't be too repetitive and simplistic. So this is a question that needs more information to answer. Really, every example requires it's own analysis. As to how to improve that? Well, that's hard to say. If you are already trying I don't what you can do. Thesaurus and other language sites? If you say shining like moonlight, well sunlight, stars, a blazing fire. So expanding your vocabulary and phrasings seems to be the only thing I can recommend. But don't force everything to be different.
    3. How to break habits. There's really only one way. When you find yourself doing it, consciously intervene. The more you do that the less you will need to intervene because you brain will pull that up earlier and eventually it will be your habit not to do that thing. Just as instinctively as before. It's not particularly easy and it can be annoying but there's not much else to be done. Other things might help but they're all secondary.
    Good luck!
    Scottieluvr likes this.
  5. Megalith

    Megalith Contributor Contributor

    Jan 7, 2015
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    New Mexico
    I develop my characters and my story at the same time. It makes sense to me to only have a vague idea of a character's past so that you can tie it into the plot better without having to wonder about the chicken or the egg. What makes characters 'complex' are their motivations and emotions they experience through the story. If you want someone's motivations to be 'complex' then what you need to concentrate on is making them unpredictable while still being reasonable. Complex emotions are a little harder to handle and will usually rely on experience.
  6. GeoffreySmith

    GeoffreySmith Member

    Feb 7, 2016
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    For myself (a big time novice), I try to write very small stories with very diverse characters.
    My WIP was getting very bland, I thought. So I took a break and wrote 20 very short stories about 20 totally different characters. It took me two days or so (they were very, very short). When finished, I looked through them and picked out the ones I liked.
    I went through those stories and tried to do a little more character development and style refining. When I was done I had five stories with interesting characters written in completely different ways.
    I felt it was a needed hiatus to hone in my dulling writing skills.

    Perhaps you could do the same. It helped me a lot.

    I also began writing journal entries from my character point of view. I did it every night, pretending I was the character. I used crumby english and missed commas-- the whole nine yards.
    I learned so much about my character after only a few weeks. It was like a new person had risen out of the computer screen. Perhaps try that too!
    Of course every person (and every WIP) is very different. Play around and see what you discover.
    Good luck--
    Geoffrey :)
    Oscar Leigh and Lifeline like this.
  7. Cave Troll

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

    Aug 8, 2015
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    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    Might I suggest a Thesaurus, comes in handy when playing with descriptions.
    One thing that I find useful when it comes to characters, is to in a sense become them. Walk in their shoes if you will, imagine who they are and what they are like. It can be a bit challenging at first, but the reward of having a more realistic character is always nice. Alternatively you can write up a bio-sheet of the character(s) to flesh them out a bit as well. The more real they feel the more dynamic roles they will play.

    Good luck and have fun. Now venture forth and journey to places unknown and tales untold. :cheerleader:
    Oscar Leigh likes this.
  8. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Contributor Contributor

    Nov 30, 2006
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    Ohio, USA
    Consider, are you writing plot driven or character driven novels, realizing that on the scale from one to the other, there stories aren't 100% ________ driven at the expense of the ____________ driven.

    Also, you can have 'ordinary' characters, placed in extraordinary situation or events. Many novels are like that. What does that character do, how does that character respond?

    Take the scholarly elf...obstacles in the plot that get in her way...what is at stake if she chooses not to confront or overcome the obstacle, what will it take to do it? Is she forced to apply what she learned in the abstract to a real life crisis? Maybe there is a mishap or an incomplete understanding of the situation, and things get worse. What does she do? What has the misjudgment cost her, those around her?

    I would suggest picking up a few of your favorite novels, and re-read them. Follow what the author did to make the story interesting...plot, character actions and reactions, the pacing and building up of events, cause and effect and consequences, setbacks and triumphs, and the personal cost of each. Take notes and then apply what you learned to your story and characters and writing style.

    Good luck as you move forward. It can be done!
    Oscar Leigh likes this.
  9. hawls

    hawls Active Member

    May 24, 2016
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    Belonging to a writing forum is a good start. You might notice that I'm new here myself, but I've been a member of other writing forums over the years and left them for various uninteresting reasons.

    Showing your work will help. I understand you have a posting criteria to meet before you can start showing your work in the workshop but that is fair enough.

    The combination of critical feedback you receive there, and the additional insight you can get by asking questions and participating in ongoing discussions will improve your writing immensely.

    If you are open to it.
    Oscar Leigh and Cave Troll like this.

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