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MrBF1V3
May 12th, 2005, 02:38 AM
Keep in mind that I flunked Dumb Questions 101, and I think there are as many answers for this one as there are people to answer. I've been thinking about this lately, and since I sometimes get kind of lonely in my own mind, I thought I might try some community contemplating.

How do you make your characters come alive? What do you do to take them from black and white printing on a page (or monitor) to someone a reader might care about? Is there a difference between a hero and an action figure?

What do you think?

B5

Wildeblood
May 12th, 2005, 03:49 AM
You love them when they make you laugh, but you don't really understand them until they make you cry.

JamesL
May 12th, 2005, 04:16 AM
The best way of making readers care or like a character is to force them to sympathize with that character. Put the character in an awful situation and show their suffering. Show how their hopes are dashed are shattered and their fears have come to pass. Then please the readers by making the character overcome the obstacles, but perhaps leave a few negatives so that the readers will always have some degree of sympathy for him/her.

A good example of this is John Marco's character, Richius Vantran. The guy finds himself in bad situation after bad situation and is forced to watch, helpless, as he friends are killed off one by one and the woman he loves is torn from his grasp (literally). The reader cannot help but sympathize with him and will subsequently delight in the progress that Richius makes.

Another easy way of giving characters some life is to give them a memorable habit. For example, Raymond Feist's Nakor used to pluck oranges out of a magic bag and offer them around. Hodor from ASOIAF used to always say his own name - it was the only word he could say. Such things might seem minor but if done properly they can really add detail to a character and also propel them into the readers' affections.

milady
May 12th, 2005, 06:19 AM
The best way of making readers care or like a character is to force them to sympathize with that character. Put the character in an awful situation and show their suffering. Show how their hopes are dashed are shattered and their fears have come to pass. Then please the readers by making the character overcome the obstacles, but perhaps leave a few negatives so that the readers will always have some degree of sympathy for him/her.

A good example of this is John Marco's character, Richius Vantran. The guy finds himself in bad situation after bad situation and is forced to watch, helpless, as he friends are killed off one by one and the woman he loves is torn from his grasp (literally). The reader cannot help but sympathize with him and will subsequently delight in the progress that Richius makes.

Another easy way of giving characters some life is to give them a memorable habit. For example, Raymond Feist's Nakor used to pluck oranges out of a magic bag and offer them around. Hodor from ASOIAF used to always say his own name - it was the only word he could say. Such things might seem minor but if done properly they can really add detail to a character and also propel them into the readers' affections.
Yeah, I agree. :D :D

Make them suffer, then everyone feels bad for them. No one cares about a character whose life is perfect (or who is perfect). The reader, through jealous human nature, is more inclined to hate them.

Plus, I also think you've got to have a balance with the bad situation. If too much of the disaster that is happening to them is caused by themselves through their own stupidity or immorality, then it is hard to really feel sorry for them. Instead, the reader keeps thinking stop being so stupid and is just frustrated.

Conversely, if all of the misfortunes in the character's life are just that - misfortunes - or if they are caused by other characters - then it can get an over-the-top tragedy feel. It is extremely depressing, but is again frustrating for the reader, when nothing the character does will get them out of trouble.

I think you need a balance between character's own mistakes (they're only human), and misfortunes/bad situations caused by other characters (they've got a hard life, and they're not fools digging their own graves through their stupid actions)

Dawnstorm
May 12th, 2005, 06:23 AM
Why not use astrology to create a character? Whether you believe in it or not, it's an incredibly detailed character creation set for writers. :D

kater
May 12th, 2005, 07:04 AM
Flaws, mannerisms and humour. If a character takes him/herself too seriously or is too righteous/evil then they come across as one dimensional stereotypes. I also believe in avoiding archetypes if possible, this happens a lot more in fantasy than in sf, because even your average reader knows what to expect from the invincible swordsman, the elf, the dwarf etc and it removes some of the possibility for empathy with the characters. As James mentioned a character like Nakor who does his 'tricks', cheats at cards and causes mischief wherever he goes has enough endearing characteristics that we accept the character rather than the accidental hero type he arguably is.

Prunesquallor
May 12th, 2005, 08:10 AM
first impressions count - if the first time we meet someone he smacks some wisecracking child, or feeds a beggar, or slides the stiletto in - it sticks with us.

MrBF1V3
May 12th, 2005, 11:03 AM
Wow, so much to comment on. Interesting discussion so far.

I tend to just create the character then put them in situations, and maybe I can come up with an explanation later, which may or may not have anything to do with reality.

Yes Prunesquallor first impressions cut right to the heart of the matter. Often, I think, it's the actions a character takes, more than my descriptive narrative, that make the difference. For example, I can write, "He was a mean, cruel guy." or I can write, "He stuck the knife in the kids stomach, then walked all the way around him, just to watch him bleed."

kater, about avioding archetypes, in many situations I will attempt to "cast against type". If done well, it can turn out great. You know, Nevell Longbottom saves the day. The great hero who doesn't want to lead anyone. Of course, sometimes those can become archytypes in their own right.

To a related question; does a character have to suffer in order to become real?

B5

Wildeblood
May 12th, 2005, 11:16 AM
To a related question; does a character have to suffer in order to become real?
Define "real".

No, it is the reader that has to feel something (suffering if the author is a sadist). All these suffering characters will just result in your story being tossed aside with a "Nice try, bozo, but I'll decide whether I like your character."

Why not just include a preface that says: xyz is my favourite character, please like her or I will be forced to torture her in an attempt to elicit undeserved sympathy.

Does being a victim automatically make someone likable? Or "real"?

JamesL
May 12th, 2005, 11:18 AM
Does being a victim automatically make someone likable? Or "real"?

Being a victim doesn't necessarily make them likeable; it's how the character responds to being the victim that really determines that.