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complicated character concepts???? (1 Viewer)

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kunox

Senior Member
how would you explain characters that have very complicated set ups. race wise or other wise.. in simple terms without getting all technical... I know... even asking the question shorts what I mean. so i will use ryoko from tenchi muyo as an example. so this character is a ghost who can summon demons. ontop of that she is a android science experiment/giant antimatter cell whoes mom is a scientist who forgot she is a godess and thus ret coned into being a demigod/homunculi …. that's the kind of explanation I want to avoid. I just want to say the character is an {add x thing here} and people get it. ontop of that is the any character concepts more convoluted than this. just curious to the most convoluted character concept in existence. especially if it is pulled off very well..
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
That is pretty complicated - but you could perhaps let the reader know about your character a piece at a time. Maybe intro her as an android, then have her surprised when she can summon demons?
 

kunox

Senior Member
ty.. I borrowed someone else's character concept btw.. I got a race with a similar problem. they are undead but also androids who are plants.... I have to break that down one step at a time though like that.
 
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vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
That is pretty complicated - but you could perhaps let the reader know about your character a piece at a time. Maybe intro her as an android, then have her surprised when she can summon demons?


This. ^^^^

You're getting into "show don't tell" territory here--which isn't always the thing blogs tell you it is--but is still a concept to keep in mind.

Whether it's a technological advance in sci-fi, magic in fantasy, or a complex character, explain it to yourself so that you know the rules. Don't explain it to the reader. Let it's nature come out in the story. That's one of the things that keeps readers reading. You've given them a peek, and if you do it right, they want to keep reading to learn the whole picture.

Leaving mysteries about a character is a trope so common it falls just short of ubiquity. It's so common because it works well to tantalize readers.

Explaining everything about a character with a laundry list of fantastic qualities is a mistake so grievous I'd be immediately moving on to the next thing in my TBR list. A laundry list of fantastic qualities is a mistake itself. It smacks of the writer substituting a peacock character for a clever story.
 

kunox

Senior Member
This. ^^^^

You're getting into "show don't tell" territory here--which isn't always the thing blogs tell you it is--but is still a concept to keep in mind.

Whether it's a technological advance in sci-fi, magic in fantasy, or a complex character, explain it to yourself so that you know the rules. Don't explain it to the reader. Let it's nature come out in the story. That's one of the things that keeps readers reading. You've given them a peek, and if you do it right, they want to keep reading to learn the whole picture.

Leaving mysteries about a character is a trope so common it falls just short of ubiquity. It's so common because it works well to tantalize readers.

Explaining everything about a character with a laundry list of fantastic qualities is a mistake so grievous I'd be immediately moving on to the next thing in my TBR list. A laundry list of fantastic qualities is a mistake itself. It smacks of the writer substituting a peacock character for a clever story.


duhh.. lol.. showing.. can be a form of explanation though... the character that's been levitating the sword for a while can't do it to a plastics spoon.. or a wooden log.. because they aren't lifting things with their minds.. just as much of an explanation that the character is controlling magnetic fields as just straight up telling the person they are electro connect... sorry if I sound frustrated or bad/angry when I am saying that. I don't mean to be. I just wanted to point out your assumption that "explaining something" means telling and not showing... to show is an explanation in itself...

P.s. I feel like we are going to argue.. and I hope were not going to... I just think you mis understood what I meant...
edit/p.s.s. I realy am not trying to sound like I am starting a fight or being mean... I just wanted to say that before I moved on...
 
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Terra

Senior Member
how would you explain characters that have very complicated set ups. race wise or other wise.. in simple terms without getting all technical... I know... even asking the question shorts what I mean. so i will use ryoko from tenchi muyo as an example. so this character is a ghost who can summon demons. ontop of that she is a android science experiment/giant antimatter cell whoes mom is a scientist who forgot she is a godess and thus ret coned into being a demigod/homunculi …. that's the kind of explanation I want to avoid. I just want to say the character is an {add x thing here} and people get it. ontop of that is the any character concepts more convoluted than this. just curious to the most convoluted character concept in existence. especially if it is pulled off very well..

I like complexity of character in stories, especially if the author unfolds the complexity with bits and bites as the story progresses. It doesn't bother me when reading if I have questions, like "wha? how did she do that?" as long as my question gets some sort of explanation in a timely manner, regardless of it being show or tell. Hints to the reader that the character isn't everything presented ... that there is "more" to her than just a glorified computer ... are important to keep the reader enticed to keep reading. If the complexity in a character is part of her backstory, she could slip into her memory banks to retrieve information about plants -- a superficial and simple example, but it shows how there is a connection between the two aspects of her character.

These are all just thoughtballs that struck me when I read your initial post.
 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
I like what you said about a psychological scar in terms of trying to fix the character's insides. Concentrate on doing just that. For that character that has so many backgrounds. You could want to repair the background of that aspect of the character's life. The backstory is important of the character. Fixing their past and some of this is caused by the environment or heredity and by the character's previous actions. We are a sum of environment and heredity and our decisions. Also, of what our parents teach us. If you will like Noah Lukeman implied this is all backstory. This is the characterization you need. How did they become this way? What is outside the character are his troubles caused by what happened in the past? The previous people he or she encountered taught them things. To deal with the problems they had a flawed view on how to cope with their past. This became the error in judgement. The present and past are two separate realms. This can be imagined if you will by some tropes in the example in the opening post.
 
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vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
duhh.. lol.. showing.. can be a form of explanation though... the character that's been levitating the sword for a while can't do it to a plastics spoon.. or a wooden log.. because they aren't lifting things with their minds.. just as much of an explanation that the character is controlling magnetic fields as just straight up telling the person they are electro connect... sorry if I sound frustrated or bad/angry when I am saying that. I don't mean to be. I just wanted to point out your assumption that "explaining something" means telling and not showing... to show is an explanation in itself...

P.s. I feel like we are going to argue.. and I hope were not going to... I just think you mis understood what I meant...
edit/p.s.s. I realy am not trying to sound like I am starting a fight or being mean... I just wanted to say that before I moved on...

My post was discussing two things. One, expanding on what indianroads had to say, which was perfect advice, and two, considering how authors who have come to be household names handle this sort of technique. It's not meant as something specific to your story, which we don't know enough about in this thread to comment on in that manner.

Then we have a matter of taste. The example you gave of another story was not something I'd read. That's not your story, so I don't know why we'd argue. What I was thinking about in particular was a self-pubbed author on Amazon who wrote a complete mess years ago, and to this day shamelessly brags about it in spams everywhere he can. I'll admit I didn't read his book (I did read the first chapter, and couldn't stomach more), but I read his own excerpts where he describes it. He made the most childish mistake possible. His character had no predetermined peacock feather list. Every time the character faces a crisis, he makes up a NEW ability on the fly to resolve it, and that is supposed to impress the reader, instead of make us gag.

Thinking about his mistake made me think of something else. If you've got an internally developed character with a list of qualities, how do you dribble them out without making it look like each one is made up on the spot? :) Important question for me, because I'm actually going to face that matter of technique later in my WIP, and BIG TIME in the next novel I'll start from scratch.

The possible tipping point is whether character abilities/qualities seem a natural progression of what we know about the character, or we see the author intrude and shine a spotlight. I can think of many times where I've seen the author intrude, and very few of those where I liked the result. So I'll have to be careful about that myself.

I'm glad this discussion made me think more about the subject. I'm pondering my answers right now, and I'll be better prepared when that writing comes up.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
In one of my novels, the main character was an android - but he was brought on line with a story of his life as a human in his memory. This was done because his creator feared human intolerance if they knew his truth. So he didn't know what he was. I dropped clues throughout the story, then revealed what he was at the end - feedback from readers was that they enjoyed the surprise, and a few went back and read the book again.
 

Mutimir

Senior Member
In one of my novels, the main character was an android - but he was brought on line with a story of his life as a human in his memory. This was done because his creator feared human intolerance if they knew his truth. So he didn't know what he was. I dropped clues throughout the story, then revealed what he was at the end - feedback from readers was that they enjoyed the surprise, and a few went back and read the book again.

I think this is a very good approach. It's almost like a mystery inside the story. I guess you could say it's a subplot depending how in depth you get with it. I think the key is to leave hints because if it's just randomly revealed at the end it is kind of ridiculous.
 
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