1. cherrya

    cherrya Active Member

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    What's a good way to get to know your character?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by cherrya, Apr 11, 2017.

    Hi! I'm writing and I'm just coming to the realization that I don't know anything about this guy at all! I've written him a backstory, something, for example, that explains why he's in a constant quest of making every moment memorable, but that's just surface stuff, it feels...

    All I know when I write is that he's charismatic, he's a leader, he's funny, he's a bit arrogant... But when I write it all seems like different parts of different people, not one single person, and he just comes out bland and empty. Boring.

    So I was wondering if anyone had any tricks or advices to get to know a character?

    I feel it's easier when they have some sort of dark past, but this one isn't supposed to have one. Unlike another character in the story, he's meant to have had a pretty easy childhood...

    English isn't my first language, please don't hate me!
     
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  2. Apollypopping

    Apollypopping Member

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    I usually take a week or two to focus solely on one character, fleshing out traits, background, habits and relationships.

    It's hard not to go down the road of tortured past.

    I also take mannerisms and traits from myself and those around me.
     
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  3. Infel

    Infel Contributor Contributor

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    I find a really good way to get to know your characters is to write a little scene where they're trapped in a room with someone they hate! Or at least another one of your characters that you really like to write. For me, dialogue is pretty much king. It helps me understand my dudes more than anything else.
     
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  4. cherrya

    cherrya Active Member

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    I like that! I actually think it might help.

    Although I do have some major troubles on the dialogue department essentially because I don't know him very well, I think it might help if to try it with someone he hates.
     
  5. Stormburn

    Stormburn Contributor Contributor

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    I was going to say the very same thing. I write a lot of extra scenes and dialogue or, like the above poster suggested, just create scenarios.
    Also, I write 'organically'. I have my a's, b's and c's plotted, but, I let my characters guide me on how they get there. My story draft tend to provide the flesh and heart to the bones of my plot outline. Then, I'm ready for the first draft.
    Godspeed!
     
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  6. Joe King

    Joe King Member

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    That's a really good idea!

    I feel like you've got the base of the character right in saying that he's charismatic, funny, a little arrogant etc I'm sure you'll find a way to have it all mesh. It may seem like it's small parts of different people but remember a lot of people share a lot of the same characteristics, I don't think it would come across as bland.
     
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  7. ChaseTheSun

    ChaseTheSun Senior Member

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    You could try asking the character questions, like in an interview.

    Sit down with him in a quiet room, just the two of you, with a pencil in hand and ask him questions that range from funny/insignificant to probing/challenging and everywhere in between.

    Sit quietly in that space and let him answer the questions with his own voice. Don't try to force something. If he declines to answer a question, leave it blank and move on. Sometimes the silence is telling. Let him become real to you during this time and really give him the time and space to ponder your questions and give his answers. You might be surprised by his honesty, or you might sense he is hiding something. Go with the flow. Record his words without embellishment, but take note of how they make you feel inside. Does he give an answer that waves a red flag for you and makes you think, 'Hmm. That was evasive. There is something there he doesn't want me to know about,' make a mental note of that. You may even have a lightbulb moment where you have a God-like insight into the truth behind the evasive answer.

    When I sat with my two MCs and interviewed them individually in this way, we laughed together, attained revelations together and at one point one character said something so unexpectedly tragic that I was almost moved to tears.

    Be real with your characters and they will be real with you. Recognise that they are not yours to control; they are yours to coax, coach and reveal to the world.

    Best wishes!!

    P.S. If you are interested in this technique, you can check out the interview I constructed for my own characters. You are welcome to use this interview template, or you could make up your own to suit your unique novel's needs. :)
     
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  8. cherrya

    cherrya Active Member

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    Oh god, that would be so strange but it's such an interesting idea! I'll try that too.
     
  9. Alex Brandt

    Alex Brandt Member

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    I use the interview method myself. BUT a friend of mine did this when she would get into an acting role: she would surround herself with a lot of the same media the character would. Same type of music or TV, maybe cook a meal that the character would have, even think like the them with the same flawed logic and pain and humor for a while.
    Best of luck Cherrya!
     
  10. he who writes

    he who writes New Member

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    I have a template I use when creating a character, or developing them, before I actually implement them I think out a bunch of questions, answer them, and I even try to act like (visualize myself as) that character with all the info I have, and decide what they would do

    https://gyazo.com/c97c6ed841a06a32f5ad12dff13bd874
    https://gyazo.com/a1d186add96897b10088d3d2cb038b09

    These ^ are some of the questions I use, that could possibly help with what you're asking
     
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  11. jmh105

    jmh105 Active Member

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    I love imagining different scenarios for my character, whether related to the novel or not. See how he reacts or conducts himself in many settings! I also like to gauge what I know about a character through their relationships with other people. Try writing dialogue between your character and another and see what kind of person he ends up being in that context. And then just keep comparing these various scenarios to each other and piece them together like the pieces of a quilt. See how they relate to each other and to his overall character. Not everything has to be directly related, by the way. Multi-colored quilts are more fun than solid-colored ones. :D

    Another fun idea is attributing hobbies, etc. to your character. Put him through questionnaires that maybe you or I would take and respond in what you think to be his voice. :) I actually took Pottermore quizzes through the voices of some of my characters. It was super fun to see what houses they ended up in.
     
  12. cherrya

    cherrya Active Member

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    Haha! I like the Pottermore quiz idea!
     
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  13. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I've sometimes done the Myers-Briggs personality test for my characters - an interesting set of questions AND you get to read the conclusions and either agree or disagree and change things.

    I usually do this at the end of writing, just as a sort of fun game, but there's no reason you couldn't do it closer to the start, I wouldn't think.

    Fairly straightforward version of the test is at: http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp
     
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  14. Phil Mitchell

    Phil Mitchell Banned Contributor

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    I just mentally run through scenarios constantly.
     
  15. EstherMayRose

    EstherMayRose Gay Souffle Contributor

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    I HAVE COME WITH LINKS!

    http://www.miniworld.com/adnd/100ThingsAboutUrPCBackGround.html

    This is a quiz I'm currently taking in the voice of one of my MCs. I find it easier to write it in the first person, with a conversational sort of style (start sentences with "well", etc.) and it also has the added bonus that long answers suggest that your character is more extroverted whereas short answers imply a shyer type.

    http://springhole.net/writing/marysue.htm

    This is a great test that, even though it's technically a Mary-Sue (look it up, it's hard to explain in a sentence) test, it actually allows you to develop your character as you take it by asking you about things you hadn't thought about. Also, the website in general is great.

    I also imagine that someone has peered over my shoulder and asked "who's he"? Then, I'll have to explain the character to them, which can help me understand them myself.

    Also, as many others have said, I like to imagine little scenes where several characters sit around and talk about nothing at all. Since a lot of the characters in the story I do this for are sisters, they often tease each other about certain traits or past escapades. This has often opened my eyes to some of the more unpleasant traits of my characters.

    Also, good on you for not going down the "tortured past" route! :)
     
  16. ChaseTheSun

    ChaseTheSun Senior Member

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    For me, it has never worked to put the character into different scenarios and settings and then watch the way they respond/speak/behave to get to know their characters. I have heard lots of writers use this advice and so it obviously works for many and it's worth you trying to see if it suits your style. Personally, I find those isolated scenarios unhelpful because they aren't big picture enough for me. What comes before and what comes after plays into what happens now. I need the continuity of events and emotions to inform the way things play out in any given scene.

    All the best to you. Getting to know our characters is a journey that can be just as complicated and rewarding as developing any real life relationship

    I love this idea!! I'm going to try this. :)
     
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  17. EstherMayRose

    EstherMayRose Gay Souffle Contributor

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    I also often find myself psycho-analysing them during these talks - why each aspect of their backstory makes them behave a certain way. All three of my MCs have somewhat difficult - although certainly far from traumatic/tragic - home lives.

    You may want to try it when you're alone as I find speaking aloud helps you keep better track of your thoughts. (Then again, I'm always muttering to myself.)
     
  18. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Supporter Contributor

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    I'm with those who write little scenes involving the character. These scenes don't have to be part of the final story; they're just there to help me learn about the character, his setting, and the voice I use to write about him.
     
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  19. Stuart B

    Stuart B Member

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    I play out different scenes in my mind. Sometimes I'll write them down but at first I don't want to be slowed down by the process of writing (not that there is anything wring with writing the scenes first). I treat it like an improv scene and let it go were it will (or where it makes sense for the characters to take it). I don't have any plan for how these scene goes. It could go well, it could go badly. It does not really matter, it is more about the journey. This way I learn how my characters react to different situations and what that tells me about them.

    I'll also generate a lot of info about the character that might not be needed for the story but it will help me write the character.

    I've also had one of my characters come out of a D&D character I role played. It's not a very practical to work out all your characters but it helped me really get to know this.
     
  20. Jack Semmes

    Jack Semmes New Member

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    I cast characters as if I were casting a movie. I pick someone I can envision playing the role. Most often this is a famous actor or actress. I will then write a short fact sheet containing information which may come up in my story, for example age, education etc.

    I find when I see my characters as real people, they take over the creation process. They provide dialog, plot twist and take the story places I had not expected.
     
  21. Cave Troll

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

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    I whip up a quick bio/stats card type thing to go off.
    For the most part though I just try and figure out each
    and give them personalities that reflect them.

    Then there are the 'flesh out your character questions'.
    The one below has 500 of these questions. Have fun. :)
     

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  22. joe sixpak

    joe sixpak Banned

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    I don't get to know them until I see them in action.
    Initially I have a minimum of info that is needed for the role they are to play.
    I add to that as I go along and fill out more details as needed.
     
  23. EstherMayRose

    EstherMayRose Gay Souffle Contributor

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    I usually just bung some traits together and the character fleshes themself out. Sometimes they act completely different to how I thought they would.
     
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  24. Odile_Blud

    Odile_Blud Active Member

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    I do this just for fun not really to get to know my characters, but I think it could be good for character development. Take a character from one of your works and have them have a conversation or an interview with a character from another one of your works. That way you can see how both characters would respond to certain questions and comments, and see how they would interact with each other.
     
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  25. EstherMayRose

    EstherMayRose Gay Souffle Contributor

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    Haha, I think mine would just end up hurling insults! :)
     

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