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Thread: Creating Characters

  1. #1

    Creating Characters

    We see them in our minds. So clear and precise. But, how do we show them to our readers if we are not completely familiar with them?

    What does your character like for breakfast?
    What is his or her favorite color?

    So many questions we never think to ask ourselves. That is why I often refer to this checklist I came across. It's enclosed as an an attachment in pdf. format to be read with Adobe Acrobat Reader. I hope it helps.
    Attached Files Attached Files

  2. #2
    Wɾʇ∩9 bdcharles's Avatar
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    I just have them do stuff - coated in weetabix crumbs or clad in that goth trenchcoat if it helps develop them. That said I am partial to Proust's interview questions

    ~ * ~

    "Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror which we are barely able to endure, and are awed,
    because it serenely disdains to annihilate us."
    - Rainer Maria Rilke, "Elegy I"


    ~ is this fire, or is this mask?
    it's the Mantasy! ~
    - Anonymous


    "C'mon everybody, don't need this crap!"
    - Wham!

    ~ * ~

  3. #3
    I normally think of the character's backstory then make their personality out of it.

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  4. #4
    Member JaneC's Avatar
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    I tend to just start writing and see what comes out at first. Then I go back and work on the backstory, working some of the details I've already written. I've looked at worksheets before and found them interesting, but not always helpful.

    I like the interview questions and have found some interesting results from that. I actually started using some of the questions posted in the Interview your protagonist and antagonist threads to figure out some of my characters.

    I've even sat down and written out an actual interview with my MC and another random character just to see how things would progress. I just write/ask what pops in my head. Its kind of a fun way to practice writing and get to know the character better. Plus, gives me ideas on other stories.
    Twitter: @jjsullivan_
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    "It's not how many times you fall, but how many times you get back up."

  5. #5
    Actually, it doesn't matter. Your reader doesn't want to know your character as they know themselves. It would take a thousand pages to make them know that, and there would still be lots missing. And who wants to read about a character, just for the sake of reading about the character? As Peter Miller observed: “There are far too many would-be works of fiction in which plot and character are not revealed, but explained.”

    Your reader wants to know about those aspects of the character that are relevant to the scene in progress. Sure, over time we end up knowing a lot about the character, but that's a byproduct of watching that person live the plotline. Did the character collect stamps when s/he was fifteen? Who cares? A good rule of thumb for every line in the story is: does it move the plot, set the scene meaningfully, or develop character in service to the story? Hopefully, it will do more than one of those at the same time, because the fewer words to tell the story the faster it moves. But if it does none of the three, the opposite is true and it slows the narrative.

    A long standing writers axiom is to kill your darlings: those beautiful pieces of description that you love because they are beautiful.

    I once gave a story opening to my critique group, proud of the way I outlined the history of the land my protagonist was living on, from the time of the dinosaurs to the present, and how it went from what it was to the desolate waste it is, loved by no one and tolerated by damn few. I was really pleased with it, and how I'd set the mood for both the story and the elements that would later come into play.

    The first comment from A reader, though, was, "Jay, you introduced Zack and put him into the scene. And then you left him standing there while you talked about things that happened millions of years before the poor bastard was born. Why do I care? Isn't it Zack's story?"

    She was right. It was all from me, an info-dump of data the reader hadn't asked for. What mattered to the story wasn't obvious at that point, and would be forgotten before it became relevant, in any case. That night I flushed 1500 beautiful words, my darlings, which in reality, contributed nothing to either the scene I stalled with them, or the reader's entertainment. I nearly cried when I pushed the delete button, but the story was a lot better for it

    In short: present story, not history. And story lives in the heart and mind of your protagonist, in the moment they call now, not in their past.
    Jay Greenstein
    My articles on writing.
    The goal isn't to tell the reader that the protagonist is terrified, it's to terrorize our reader.

  6. #6
    I also think about voice a lot now, and the best practical article I've found about that so far is this one:
    Last edited by mrmustard615; April 4th, 2017 at 01:13 PM.
    "I have achieved more in the past two months using your program than in the previous two years." Click here to find out more.

  7. #7
    As with every writing tip, this was provided to help. I find that by completing it, I get a clearer picture of my character. Of course, I don't go through the word dump of describing them to my readers. Just bits and tidbits here and there when it seems appropriate. It might be appropriate in a scene where a character is frustrated to have him push aside a cowlick that always seems to appear when least wanted.

  8. #8
    Member plawrence's Avatar
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    I prefer to discover my character's traits as the story progresses. If he's under stress, how does he react? If he's confronted with bad news, what does he do? I have a general idea of who the character is when I start writing, but sometimes, after writing a scene, I change my mind about his behavior and alter to better fit the scene.

    I do constantly check back to the beginning to make sure my character is being consistent throughout, but discovering who he is and how he reacts to things is part of the fun of writing.

  9. #9
    I don't pre-plan characters. I learn about them both as I write and from when they speak to me (crazy as that sounds, it's true. I hear them in my head, usually while at work and while performing a task). My coworkers have come to accept that I'm nuts, I think, because I'm often giggling to myself. My favorite is Vern, an old grizzled Viet Nam vet. He makes me laugh a lot and I've used a lot of what I found funny in his dialogue later when I sat down to continue his story. It's how I also learn a character's traits and quirks. What I don't know instantly, the moment the story idea comes to me, the rest comes little by little. Once I know enough that I'm comfortable starting the story, I start pecking away. It's a maddening process but I also love it.

    "Life is a risk; so is writing. You have to love it." ~ Richard Matheson

    "There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves."
    ~Will Rogers

  10. #10
    The mannerisms section intrigued me especially.

    Good stuff Ivcabbie!
    Carpe Diem.

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