Characters are probably one of the most important elements in a novel. Often, it is because of them that there is a story in the first place - however, they need not be important for the actual outcome itself to occur, but may be necessary, or perhaps just useful, for the actual story-telling. Characterisation, however, is one aspect of writing that is extremely difficult to master. Characters that are not only believable, but are also consistent in their behaviour and personality are hard to create and harder still to maintain. As I am only a beginner to writing, I'd like to know exactly how a person goes about creating (and, of course, maintaining) such characters - the study, research and practice advice I already know, but other hints would be helpful and appreciated.
[This message has been edited by Umesha Chalanie (edited November 27, 2001).]
November 26th, 2001, 09:02 PM
A good question, Umesha!
I guess a lot depends on your imagination and what quirks etc. you can think up for your various characters. I tend to base a lot of my characters on a trait or personality of someone I may know and expand from there.
If you're writing in different character POV then you need to be able to clearly define each personality. This is also helpful if you're writing in first person and really want the reader to get inside your narrator's head!
In my opinion, sometimes character development isn't as important as a strong plot line. I found numerous books which tend to go a little overboard with characters at the expense of a good plot or storyline development. Interesting and plentiful characters are fine, but without a good story to hold them all together, they'll be nothing more than a group of well-written words languishing on the dog-eared pages of a forgotten book!
Like most things, it's all a queston of balance!
[This message has been edited by erebus (edited November 27, 2001).]
November 27th, 2001, 01:22 AM
I agree with €rebus, but I usually put more weight to the characters than to the story-line. I mean, if I characters just would not do something because of his/her personality, then I'm not gonna have him do it to serve the plot. Perhaps, I'll twist the plot so the character is anyway enbroiled in it.
November 27th, 2001, 07:19 AM
If you have designs on being a writer, then observation and analysis of people must be part of your milieu. The majority of authors who create fictional characters do so either knowingly or subconsciously by combining the attributes of persons they have witnessed in life. This is not to say you can't imagine an unseen combination in a character, but it tends to be more acceptable to a reader and more convincing when you write about that which you know for a fact.
You can check yourself out on this rather easily, first by conjuring a figure and assigning random attributes without calling memory into play. Then, as a comparison, create a second figure, based upon features you've seen exhibited before. Read them back. Which style is more pervasive? Which character is more worthy of notice? Try it! It can't hurt and it might assist.
November 27th, 2001, 07:25 AM
I think some of the keys to characterization are writing characters that interest you, as the writer. Don't try to write stereotypes to please people, just write a character that would best fit the story.
For realism, something that I like to do is to base some of my characters personalities off of people that I know. Whenever I go out with friends, sometimes I'll just watch the way that they conversate, and any habits they may have, I'll tack it onto one of my characters. Conversation is very important, because often times, a lot of your character's "character" will be defined during conversations. You learn a lot about them by how they handle situations as well, but there's often times far more time for conversation in a story.
November 27th, 2001, 09:27 AM
For me, characters develop as the story develops, since action & dialogue comprise their entire personality as far as the reader is concerned. I usually don't bother to worry to much about pigeonholing them for myself, either. My better characters tend to take on a life of their own, and will stubbornly re-direct the entire story to suit their own flaws. Just remember to cling to the "show, don't tell" mantra when developing characters and you might surprize yourself at what comes out.
November 27th, 2001, 09:45 AM
Characters are a part of the whole. I believe they are equally as important as a strong plot and proper language skills.
As far as any tricks to fleshing characters out . . .
First you should know that I'm admittedly a bit, well, detail oriented. When I first started writing, I had a questionnaire that I filled out from each character's perspective as the character is at the beginning of the story. It was similar to those corny questionnaires found in women's magazines, only the questions were specifically geared to help me fix in my mind who the character was. For instance, I'd ask what one word best describes you, how would your friends describe you, what's you best/worst quality, etc.
Of course the characters grow as the story progresses. If there was any particular experiences or a specific path I wanted the character to go, I made it clear on the questionnaire.
But that's just me. To be honest I haven't done that questionnaire in a long time. The stories I've been working on lately feature characters I created 10+ years ago, so the characters are fairly set in my mind. I've added depth and changed a few things through the story itself.
Just remember that you characters should never do anything "out of character". If you have them clearly defined in your own mind then you should be able to convey that character to the reader. How to convey that character to the reader is another issue (a topic with a wide variety of methods).
November 27th, 2001, 12:06 PM
Can I put forward a slightly different point of view?
One of my hobbies is fan fiction, but to write good fanfic you have to stay true to the characters and the universe. You are "loaning" the characters and any out of character will have the fans screaming at you.
As far as plot goes, if you change your scenery, the character's traits remain the same. Yet how they deal with different situations doesn't, which is where the fun lies.
The best way of keeping a character "in line" is to write a detailed profile.
We react to situations because of what we have experienced, therefore our characters need a past.
Write a bio for your character, even if 90% of the stuff doesn't get used, it forms your character and when you hit a change of scenery, referring to this bio will give you how the character will react.
Just my opinion,
[This message has been edited by Angelesque (edited November 27, 2001).]
December 15th, 2001, 11:48 AM
I know my characters are becoming real when they take charge. That's a little beyond volition...
I find myself getting fond of them, and they enter my imagination in a kind of independent way, as if they really do exist apart from me. I guess one of the important points for me about characterisation is that they have contradictions - like real people do. The temptation with a fictional character is to make him her or it completely consistent, and that is a mistake I think.
I don't know everything about them, just as I don't about the people I know, or even myself, and find out as I write.
Plot and character seem to me to be deeply interwoven with eachother - I can't separate the two. After all, decisions by characters drive the plot often, and what decisions they make depend on their characters - etc etc etc