Author Topic: Believable Characters  (Read 5065 times)

hillwalker3000

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Re: Believable Characters
« Reply #15 on: November 08, 2016, 08:45:46 AM »
Yes as long as you don't obsess about the issue. In a nutshell we, your readers, get to know your character by how they behave, how they interact with other characters and respond to situations, not by what information you feed us in order to create a clearer portrait. I'd be wary of inserting too many clues about their past or their physical attributes. Stuff like that should blend seamlessly into the narrative. If we can see you're dropping in information then you've not been subtle enough.

Having said that, many readers aren't as critical as your fellow-writers on here so you can probably get away with murder (the same way Orson Scott Card does.  ;)

H3K

Offline Markopolo

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Re: Believable Characters
« Reply #16 on: November 08, 2016, 08:55:37 AM »
Lol thanks H3K.  You are so cheeky.

I'm currently reading Enders Game. Not read much Sci Fi but I like this. Have you read this one before?

hillwalker3000

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Re: Believable Characters
« Reply #17 on: November 08, 2016, 09:00:25 AM »
I only browsed the opening to the first in the series on Kindle Look Inside. Most of that was a self-indulgent Preface. But there's about four pages of story and I feel if he'd posted these on our Review My Work thread he'd probably have been surprised at our feedback.

H3K

Offline Markopolo

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Re: Believable Characters
« Reply #18 on: November 08, 2016, 09:22:15 AM »
LOL. Yeah there was a whole Introduction that last ages. I skipped it after reading the first page.

Offline TheOtherAdrian

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Re: Believable Characters
« Reply #19 on: November 08, 2016, 10:14:09 AM »
I know nothing about Ender's Game, but in my opinion, characters can't be boiled down to a checklist - no matter how long. A character goes far beyond what ends up on the page, and in fact beyond what I think is possible to write down in finite time. That may sound counterintuitive, but the thing is that what we read on the page - a character's backstory, dialogue, reactions, etc. - is ideally a reflection of the more complete character existing in that fictional universe you're constructing. However much you write, it can never be any better than looking at your fictional world through a keyhole.

That means there are two conceivable ways to make a character work:

First, you can work out all your descriptions and make sure they all fit together and form a coherent picture of the character. Hint: This is virtually impossible. There's far too much to consider, and you'll never make it all fit.

Or you can do it the other way around: Know your character beforehand, and simply write down only stuff that is consistent with that character. That won't always work, as details about your character's personality are prone to corrections over the course of writing. But then you can simply go back, see what doesn't fit, and replace that with the version that rings true.


About the only thing that checklists can do is serve you as a way of tricking yourself: Working on the checklist inevitably forces you to think about your character, to get inside their head. In the end, the checklist itself is irrelevant and you should refrain from enslaving yourself to it. The character in your head should evolve above and beyond what you initially defined.

I spend a lot of time thinking about why characters react to situations a certain way. Sometimes you just know exactly what a character's gonna do, but you can't put your finger on the reason for their behavior. Figuring out what their motive might be (for doing things that seem out of character at first) takes you a big step toward additional depth.

Dunno if that helps.
« Last Edit: November 08, 2016, 10:15:47 AM by TheOtherAdrian »

hillwalker3000

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Re: Believable Characters
« Reply #20 on: November 08, 2016, 10:27:02 AM »
I spend a lot of time thinking about why characters react to situations a certain way. Sometimes you just know exactly what a character's gonna do, but you can't put your finger on the reason for their behavior. Figuring out what their motive might be (for doing things that seem out of character at first) takes you a big step toward additional depth.

Part of the fun when your character has become 'real' is that you don't know how they're going to respond to a given situation. My characters often do the opposite to what I'd prefer them to do - quite in keeping with their humanity - which means they surprise me and so in turn surprise the reader.

H3K

Offline ed

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Re: Believable Characters
« Reply #21 on: November 08, 2016, 10:31:08 AM »
Yeah mark you are on the right track.

I used to give a lot of thought to characters.

Now I generally just focus on making sure the main character or several characters have (reputation, something unique about them and a goal )

Make it something memorable.

Watch movies where they are dealing with more than one character and you will notice that each character is given something that makes them memorable. Usually it's something we see or hear.

- scar
- patch
- accent
- religion
- attitude
- weird clothing
- unique power
etc.


That's what makes them stand out or at least makes them memorable

-reputation
-history
-motivation
-goal

Are what drives their actions for good or for bad.

Every character has a physical and emotional ARC ( what they want + what they really want )

Luke sky walker for instance.

- He wants to rescue the princess and destroy the death star (physical goal or outward goal)
- He wants to become a Jedi and use the force (emotional or internal goal)

Female character from Silence of the lambs

- She wants to catch Buffalo bill ( external goal )
- She wants to silence the lambs from her past ( internal goal )

The physical goal means a lot to many people beyond the main character ( i.e if they don't destroy the death start tons of people will die )
The emotional goal means more to him (if he doesn't learn the force he won't become a jedi )

You will know how they are going to respond because you know the ARC before you write.

I want him to go from WEAK to STRONG

Well his actions will have to reflect that as the story proceeds.

Just as the STAKES raise as the story goes from ACT1 to ACT3, so does your characters response to what is happening.

« Last Edit: November 08, 2016, 10:35:19 AM by ed »

Offline Markopolo

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Re: Believable Characters
« Reply #22 on: November 08, 2016, 10:34:55 AM »
 ???  :o ??? :o

I don't really see those points as a checklist. I know what you are saying with a checklist though. I have seen loads and wouldn't want to use them. I quite like what Orsen Scott has said. I need a starting point. It will give me a foundation to build my characters on. Then hopefully they become less one dimensional. I will keep working on it. I will get there in the end.

Thanks for your input.

MP

Offline ed

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Re: Believable Characters
« Reply #23 on: November 08, 2016, 10:39:01 AM »
???  :o ??? :o

I don't really see those points as a checklist. I know what you are saying with a checklist though. I have seen loads and wouldn't want to use them. I quite like what Orsen Scott has said. I need a starting point. It will give me a foundation to build my characters on. Then hopefully they become less one dimensional. I will keep working on it. I will get there in the end.

Thanks for your input.

MP

Just bear in mind, don't spend too much time on it.

Not all readers are smart enough to see what you have done with a character.

You will always get that one who says the characters were shallow and one dimensional.... and the one smart one who notices what you have done.

Just get the story clear in your mind, write it and move on to the next.

Offline Markopolo

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Re: Believable Characters
« Reply #24 on: November 08, 2016, 10:40:09 AM »
Thanks everyone.

Offline G. London

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Re: Believable Characters
« Reply #25 on: November 08, 2016, 09:12:28 PM »
You've got to do the hard work of character creation and it is work.  The character bible or card which is a detailed run out of everything about that character, and I mean everything.  If you do this it will help you.  There are many craft books on this. Or Google character bible.

Jo Bannister

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Re: Believable Characters
« Reply #26 on: November 09, 2016, 09:41:48 AM »
I so disagree.  I can't think of a better way of turning any character into a cardboard cut-out.

Offline Gyppo

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Re: Believable Characters
« Reply #27 on: November 09, 2016, 09:52:14 AM »
I so disagree.  I can't think of a better way of turning any character into a cardboard cut-out.

I have to agree with Jo.  If you know everything about your characters they can't surprise you.  If they can't surprise you they won't surprise your readers.

If your 'character bible' is too complete then you may as well be assembling an Airfix kit or completing a paint by numbers picture.

I've recently read enough low-priced kindle books to realise that in some cases the authors are working from a series of 'cheat cards, either real or mental, where the characters have no room for growth.
My website is currently having a holiday, but will return like the $6,000,000 man.  Bigger, stronger, etc.

In the meantime, why not take pity on a starving author and visit my book sales page at http://stores.lulu.com/gyppo1

Offline Markopolo

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Re: Believable Characters
« Reply #28 on: November 09, 2016, 10:33:01 AM »
Hey Jo & Gyppo. Do you both disagree with my post and what I have taken from the Orsen Scott book. Is that what you are disagreeing with?

Offline Gyppo

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Re: Believable Characters
« Reply #29 on: November 09, 2016, 11:01:14 AM »
Marko.  I'm just about to go put, but I'll try and answer you later this evening.

Gyppo
My website is currently having a holiday, but will return like the $6,000,000 man.  Bigger, stronger, etc.

In the meantime, why not take pity on a starving author and visit my book sales page at http://stores.lulu.com/gyppo1