Being Your Character


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  1. #1

    Being Your Character

    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?
    English is a good language for people who like to be creative and expressive, not for people who want words to fit into boxes and stay there.

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  2. #2
    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.
    "Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing." - Benjamin Franklin

    "I do not over-intellectualize the production process. I try to keep it simple: Tell the damned story." - Tom Clancy

  3. #3
    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.
    K.S. Crooks- Dreamer and Author

  4. #4
    Member Sir-KP's Avatar
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    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.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by EmmaSohan View Post
    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.

  6. #6
    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...

  7. #7
    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.
    English is a good language for people who like to be creative and expressive, not for people who want words to fit into boxes and stay there.

    Hidden Content -- Hidden Content

  8. #8
    Patron Foxee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EmmaSohan View Post
    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.

  9. #9
    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.
    Last edited by luckyscars; March 2nd, 2020 at 06:13 AM.

  10. #10
    The Venti joke could work, but you would need narrator's assistance.

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