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EmmaSohan
February 27th, 2020, 10:06 PM
In the last book I finished, the character is upset, runs away, finds herself in a bar, and remembers that people who are upset drink. Even though she doesn't drink, she decides to order a drink. And the question is, what would she order?

Not what drink you would order. Or think of.

If you said some sweet drink she will actually like, that presumes she knows enough about drinking to order that. Which is possible, but what if she really never paid attention? (The character has already been portrayed as astonishingly ignorant about things that don't concern her.)

She ordered a vinti martini. Which, if you have not been to Starbucks, is the large size (20 ounces). Which makes perfect sense from her point of view. And was inconceivable from mine. (from Do This for Me)

So, how easy is it to take your character's point of view?

Some of my favorite writing is when I realize that my character's view is not at all how I think. Has that happened to you?

Gamer_2k4
February 27th, 2020, 11:15 PM
If you're not writing from your character's point of view, you're not really writing the character. Questions like the one you're asking should be coming up all the time as you write the story; after all, if everything your character does could be done by anyone else, and isn't uniquely them, what's the point?

That said, my protagonists tend to be fairly bland, I think because I want them to be sort of a blank slate for the reader to "become." But everyone they interact with has a unique personality.

K.S. Crooks
February 29th, 2020, 04:08 PM
I like to think of my characters in terms of having a base personality with two or three traits (funny, serious, playful, quirky, smart, mean, bitter, caring, coward, etc). This becomes their first response in stressful situations. For instance if they become scared do they cower or get serious or crack a joke. After their first response then I proceed with what needs to happen in the story.

Sir-KP
March 1st, 2020, 02:40 AM
I think what OP is trying to bring up here is that a very common case that when we thought we understand someone, sometimes we may understand them wrongly.

Same case as to writing characters. Sometimes somebody like our character wouldn't do what we think they would.

Though frankly speaking whatever our characters do is within our authority because we are their God. But we are playing with risk of believability.

luckyscars
March 1st, 2020, 04:48 AM
In the last book I finished, the character is upset, runs away, finds herself in a bar, and remembers that people who are upset drink. Even though she doesn't drink, she decides to order a drink. And the question is, what would she order?

Not what drink you would order. Or think of.

If you said some sweet drink she will actually like, that presumes she knows enough about drinking to order that. Which is possible, but what if she really never paid attention? (The character has already been portrayed as astonishingly ignorant about things that don't concern her.)

She ordered a vinti martini. Which, if you have not been to Starbucks, is the large size (20 ounces). Which makes perfect sense from her point of view. And was inconceivable from mine. (from Do This for Me)

So, how easy is it to take your character's point of view?

Some of my favorite writing is when I realize that my character's view is not at all how I think. Has that happened to you?

It does strike me that your examples here are rather trivial things. I mean, unless the person is a total Mormon, it's probably quite easy to push oneself to imagining ordering a drink at a bar whoever they are. It starts to get more challenging when we're talking 'the character' as being a psychopath, space alien, historical people, etc and 'the view' as being something that is fairly difficult to stomach, like I don't know -- writing from the point of view of an abusive slave owner in the 1800's. So I think there's probably some differences there.

Ralph Rotten
March 1st, 2020, 04:56 PM
I'm inclined to agree with Scars. Unless you were a complete teetotaler you would have ordered drinks sometime in your life.
You'd have some kind of preference...?
But if the character really has no knowledge of drinking, then they would likely pick something attractive from the pictures in the menu or displays. Most likely they'd get a beer. Then you can talk about how they hated the flavor, or it was bitter...

EmmaSohan
March 1st, 2020, 06:55 PM
Ugh, sorry for not being clear. She ordered a venti martini. Venti is 20 ounces. It is apparently a Starbucks thing. It's a very plausible order for her; I never would have thought of it. We talk about showing versus telling -- it shows that she has no idea what she's doing.

But how did the author even think of that? I never would have. (It might have been a set-up, I admit.)

In a way, authors are asked to do the almost impossible. We create a scene, but the characters should behave according to how they see the scene, even if it's different from how the author saw the scene. And that's really for all the characters in the scene. To the extent that our characters are different -- and we intentionally make them different and interesting -- that just gets harder, yet more important.

Foxee
March 2nd, 2020, 02:38 AM
In the last book I finished, the character is upset, runs away, finds herself in a bar, and remembers that people who are upset drink. Even though she doesn't drink, she decides to order a drink. And the question is, what would she order?
I'm not sure if this is just worded awkwardly or if you would express your thought this way but I wouldn't expect a character to 'remember' how to act unless she's pretending to be someone else or she isn't human (maybe an android trying to pass as human) or something similar.

She ordered a vinti martini. Which, if you have not been to Starbucks, is the large size (20 ounces). Which makes perfect sense from her point of view. And was inconceivable from mine. (from Do This for Me)
This makes a lot of sense from a total novice drinker's POV. In fact, since I have never ordered a drink in a bar (nope, never, anytime I was near where there was drinking there were people who were ordering for me) and I don't really drink, I'm very aware that I don't know the proper terms for things or even what goes with what. A friend of mine who I think had never drank anything alcoholic in his life before writing a character who did, had the rock-n-roll guitarist in the dive bar take a big swig of Perrier before whooping and starting to play, thinking it was the brand name of a beer.

So, how easy is it to take your character's point of view?

Some of my favorite writing is when I realize that my character's view is not at all how I think. Has that happened to you?
I'll admit, characters who think more like me take less focus to write. It's more work when it's someone with a drastically different POV, still interesting and worthwhile, though!

So much comes down to really knowing your character so that they feel real to you.

luckyscars
March 2nd, 2020, 03:16 AM
Honestly, if I read a character who is upset ordering a “venti martini” I would assume either that was for comedic purposes or that the writer knew nothing about alcohol, or wasn't thinking clearly in terms of the character. A standard size martini is like four ounces of which 2.5 ounces is gin, so a twenty ounce martini is close to a pint of liquor. Even those oversized margarita glasses you occasionally see don't get more than, like, 12 ounces at most. So twenty? What kind of glass would that even be served in -- a pint glass, I guess? Kind of eradicates the glamour of martini sipping!

I’m not saying that sort of drink doesn’t exist, only that it’s hardly likely to be something most bartenders would pour (probably wouldn't be legal in a lot of jurisdictions), would be extremely expensive and...pointless? If she wanted to get drunk, why wouldn't she just get multiple regular size martinis? It certainly doesn’t scream “I’m upset". More like "I'm a frat boy wanting to show off to my bros".

I realize the size of the drink in this scene is not the point, but it does kind of illustrate the sort of problems that can arise when people try to write about things they don’t know much about or just don't think very carefully concerning what a character would actually do in a given situation. What might seem a hard-hitting piece of drama can easily backfire into parody/absurdity if basic logic gets lost.

Ralph Rotten
March 3rd, 2020, 05:36 PM
The Venti joke could work, but you would need narrator's assistance.

becwriter
March 23rd, 2020, 11:17 PM
LOL, my characters hijack my scenes all the time! They each have a mind of their own and don't always behave like I want them to. The good news is that it almost always works out for the best.

indianroads
March 24th, 2020, 04:46 PM
I'm unsure if we actually need to BE our character - but we should be able to see the world through their eyes. We become the ghost in the machine, watching mostly, but adding our narrative at times.

Maybe it's like going on a first date, or a job interview, in that we dress up, put on a mask and play pretend as we did as children.

I've heard it said that every character we write is a different aspect of our self, but I would add that I also draw inspiration from friends and people I've met.

In short, I think they are probably a mish-mash of a lot of things and people.

EmmaSohan
March 30th, 2020, 06:34 PM
I'm unsure if we actually need to BE our character - but we should be able to see the world through their eyes. We become the ghost in the machine, watching mostly, but adding our narrative at times.

Maybe it's like going on a first date, or a job interview, in that we dress up, put on a mask and play pretend as we did as children.

I've heard it said that every character we write is a different aspect of our self, but I would add that I also draw inspiration from friends and people I've met.

In short, I think they are probably a mish-mash of a lot of things and people.

But, you do not just want to see the world through your character's eyes, you want your character to respond the way your character would. I suspect you do that.

Ideally, your character should be able to react in ways that you wouldn't even think of. And our characters can drive to extremes, making that both difficult and important.

Ralph Rotten
April 1st, 2020, 11:19 PM
I think it is of vital importance to put yourself in your character's place.
If you don't then you will overlook critical factors, and prolly get gigged by reviewers.

It's like Die Hard 2; had they put themselves in the position of the tower controllers, then they would have realized that they were at an airport full of parked airplanes...and every one of them has a radio.
Doh!

Seriously, I uncover plot holes all the time by trying to imagine what I would do in each of my character's situations.

vranger
May 28th, 2020, 08:37 AM
In this age, we're a bit lucky. Via novels, movies, TV, and life, we've seen thousands of character types that are real (or expected). We get to pick one for each of our characters. Honestly, when I see authors try to go too much out of the way for a totally unique character, it looks forced--because it is.

Soooo, I don't even know if that is germane to the question. We can be a character that has our traits. All other characters must have traits we've observed enough to write convincingly, but they'd best have their own personalities and experiences, or we get insipid sameness.

How important is it to choose specific traits for characters? Only as important as it is to the details of your story. A mousy librarian or a macho hero can face the same crisis and overcome it, and the reader won't know the difference if you made it real for them.

Ralph Rotten
May 28th, 2020, 03:17 PM
This is why I often base my characters on real people I have known.
Luckily I have known some very...diverse...people.

Other times I base characters on the actor I'd like to play them.
This technique helps the character solidify sooner in the story.
Then after about 100 pages, when I really know the character, I go back and put that knowledge into the beginning of the story where the characters are thinnest.

Cephus
May 28th, 2020, 05:31 PM
This is why I often base my characters on real people I have known.
Luckily I have known some very...diverse...people.

Other times I base characters on the actor I'd like to play them.
This technique helps the character solidify sooner in the story.
Then after about 100 pages, when I really know the character, I go back and put that knowledge into the beginning of the story where the characters are thinnest.

That's honestly why I don't understand why so many writers get characters so wrong. It's like... you have a whole planet of examples of characters, just go outside! How can so many people not have any functional knowledge of how people act? They live on a planet full of them!

Amnesiac
May 29th, 2020, 04:48 PM
Maybe this is why the vast majority of writers never turned out anything of consequence until they were 40+ years old. By the time one hits middle age, they've got a fair amount of living and have have met enough people that their work hits a maturity, a convincing backstory, and believable characters. It's just a byproduct of living.

Foxee
May 29th, 2020, 06:25 PM
Thinking over this question as a reader, the characters who I most easily fall into the story with are characters I can relate to, even if I've not got a lot in common with them.

One of the moments that drew me into a Jack Reacher book was when he was sitting down at a diner for a cup of coffee and I found that he has very definite ideas of what makes a good cup. Not just the brew but the shape of the cup and the handle (avoiding a finger-trap cup). It was a simple thing to win me over and it also is similar to the analysis that Reacher brings to other, bigger problems. So even though I'm not a large man and I've never been an MP, I feel comfortable riding along with Reacher's perspective.

KristinJenae
May 29th, 2020, 07:15 PM
For me, if I'm really excited about a particular scene, it makes it a lot easier to connect with the character because I'm already to entrenched in the scene itself. If I'm not overly excited about a scene, I look at my character notes. I like to sort my characters into their Hogwarts houses to get a rough idea of their core values, and then I build forward.

Also, of course you know your character best, but I think having her seriously order a venti martini might be a little too much. Venti is a term from Starbucks, but not all coffee shops. It might seem more realistic if you present her as knowing that a venti martini isn't a thing, but she says it anyway as a joke because otherwise she wouldn't know what to say/order. Maybe the way you show her making that joke can convey that she's an oblivious person.

When I first went to a bar I was 20, so I was pretty nervous. I didn't know what to order so I just blurted out screwdriver because I've seen so many movies and TV shows where young people drank screwdrivers, so it made sense. Another time I just said Jack and Coke because it rolled off the tongue and I also heard of that drink before. Since you said the character isn't super aware of things that don't concern her, maybe she has a favorite TV show or musician, and she orders whatever they drink.

Characters are hard to nail down, but best of luck figuring out the tricky scenes. Happy writing!

- Kristin

Theglasshouse
May 29th, 2020, 07:50 PM
As mentioned borrowing characters from a work in the public domain and changing it to suit your needs seems to be good advice. Or combining them also seems solid and better. Or wherever the imagination takes you.

Ralph Rotten
June 3rd, 2020, 03:22 PM
When you base characters on real people, they come with a complete set of values and habits.
But when you create characters from scratch, those things develop slowly over the course of the first 100 pages.

Cephus
June 3rd, 2020, 07:17 PM
When you base characters on real people, they come with a complete set of values and habits.
But when you create characters from scratch, those things develop slowly over the course of the first 100 pages.

Don't just steal real people, that's lazy writing, just be aware of how real people work so that when you create your own versions, they appear believable and your readers won't immediately recognize that it's just plot convenience. It's the people who have no clue how real people work, who are simply operating from pure fantasy, that create bad characters like Mary Sues.

Taylor
June 24th, 2020, 07:55 PM
Yes and I push myself to think in ways other then my own thought patterns. It is not easy and I have a habit of writing characters that have similar views as me. Also, I find when I read other peoples work, I am attractd to characters that think like me. And again, that is limiting.