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Xeon
October 2nd, 2005, 10:24 PM
Hi all,

After almost half a year from picking up a pen, I've decided to start writing again.
I'm intending to self-publish a book this time and hire an editor to edit the book for me, mainly because while I've lots of creative ideas and plots, my English, although slightly better than the man on the street, is not good enough to write an error-free book.

I've a few questions before getting started, though.
For a start, I'm more into fantasy(some bits of science fiction) kind of genre.

1) Regarding character development, how do you guys go about doing it?
I've discovered that it's very difficult to express individualistic personality in each of my characters, and that's why, at the end, they all sound like they're talking like the same person with the same opinions. And that's very bad and hopeless.

Do you guys draw out the characters on large white papers and sketch out their personalities? Because in a dialogue, for example, the tone style and speech of my characters always sound the same, even though one may be a female and the other one a male, both with extremely different personalities. :rolleyes:

The worst thing is how to imagine yourself as the different character you are writing about each time to make them think, act and talk as if they're truly real and different personalities?

Thanks all!
Xeon.

Kreschyboy
October 2nd, 2005, 11:46 PM
Well, here's my little contribution

I try to base at least some characters off of people i know, or have known. I really like that whole big white paper idea. I have never heard that before. i think i'm going to try that.

I have heard of a few different books that help you differentiate you female characters from your male. If you check the sticky thread Writer's Resources or something like that, you'll find a lot of books that help with that.

When developing characters, i try to always make sure that they aren't just wandering aimlessly. i make sure that every character has a direction in which they're moving, a reason that they do what they do. Also, if you want to make up a bit of past for each character, you may be able to change their speech accordingly. For instance:

If a character never had any formal schooling, or say grew up in a cave, they may slur some words, or use good instead of well, ye instead of you, gonna instead of going to, etc. Whereas if your character had noble upbringing, you could have them always talk down to other characters as if they are "less" than them.

all of these little things come together to make a story mor believeable. Also, just the act of doing something different for each character can stimulate your brain to come up with a personality for them.

Hope i helped

-Kreschyboy

Tari
October 3rd, 2005, 02:28 AM
Kreschyboy has made some good points Xeon. take heed of the sticky thread Writers Resources it is quite handy.

the big white paper idea. i've heard of and although i only draw cartoon i have attempted occasionally when i have a desperate issue with characters but it's not my cup of tea.

i find with me characters are not the issue bcoz most of the time they're already in my head fully formed. but when i need a new character i usually (And i know this is different) try to act out a scenerio between him/her/it with another character, usually the protagonist. bcoz i act i find getting into a character quite simple. it helps develop their posture, speech, personality. my friends and i use this techniques regularly.

If thats not for you you could always simply base different aspects of your personality on different pplz or animals even. or write scenerios. play around with your characters voices a litlle before putting them into a plot line or a scenerio even. put them somewhere by themselves and see how they interact with inanimate objects and then with pplz.

Each writer works in different ways. find yours.

Hope this helped.

~ Tari

Dawnstorm
October 3rd, 2005, 07:20 AM
Perhaps you could try the following exercise? Write a scene in 3rd person omniscient. Than re-write it in 1st person for every character in the scene. Do so a couple of times and you should get an idea what for what makes characters different.

Another method would be to take one of those tests, "What kind of lover are you?" etc. And fill it out for each of your characters.

I remember Expendable suggesting to go shopping for your characters. Tried it, it's fun. :D

The gist of that is, the more you treat them as real the more real they will become, to the point that they will protest when you misquote them in your novel. Just remember that very few people out there (i.e. the real world) understand or appreciate it when you talk back at them in fictional personalities.

JamesL
October 3rd, 2005, 07:35 AM
Every main character needs to have some impact on the main plot and, even better, a problem that they need resolved (ideally these two can tie together). This gives characters purpose and drive, and from these you can determine motivations and personality.

It also helps to give each character a simple personality trait. A classic example is Nakor from Raymond Feist's work - a peculiar mystic who has a great sense of humour and a tendency to pluck oranges out of thin air and offer them to people. Such a simple device and yet so effective; it really helps the reader to remember nakor and it portrays his personality really well.

qonox
October 3rd, 2005, 02:19 PM
Good characters take command of the plot, they aren't just a cog in the system. Characters should motivate other characters to act a certain way, and become something they weren't at the beginning of the story.

As far as making every character different, study the personalities of people you know and borrow traits from them to put in your characters.

I'm not much of a character guy. I don't really care if the characters in a book are one-dimensional. It's just not that important to me. The story is what intrigues me the most. If a story haunts me for weeks after reading it, then I know it is good.

Expendable
October 3rd, 2005, 05:50 PM
Shopping for your characters is a great way to get to know them. Everyone expresses themselves by what they wear and how they wear it - but don't stop with clothes. What's in their pockets and purses? Where would they go out? Try it, you might be surprised at how easy it is.

choppy
October 3rd, 2005, 07:16 PM
You also may need an environment in which character differences can come out - a backdrop that will highlight their differences. If they all have a common enemy and dealing with that is the essence of the plot, then likely you won't see much of a difference.

Sometimes it takes a while for character to really come out too. I'm finding I can get all the way through a first draft an only really get hit with who the characters are by the end.

Character development is also dynamic. Characters change. Think about the things you recognize as different when you realize that people you know have changed. What made them change?

Xeon
October 3rd, 2005, 09:17 PM
Thanks a lot, everyone, for your replies! That really helped me a lot!

1) Regarding the costumes and appearance of your characters, we have to have a good conception and image of them in our minds so that while we're writing the story, we can add in and hint on the details like the dress's accessories, the hair color and such, right?

2) I've read from one of the articles at www.writing-world.com that in a good story, you must rise as many questions throughout the book(to intrigue the reader) and equally as many answers to answer these questions(to satisfy the "lust" in the reader and to make him feel the story is complete and wonderful).

Do anyone of you do this? Like in a certain point in a certain chapter, you make something happen but make it incomplete, and somewhere at the end, you provide indirect hints to this.
For those of you who've done this, isn't it kinda tricky? :)

Anyway, I'm currently trying to make my fantasy-based storyline more realistic and the challenge is to bring different folklore characters out of different places and make them travel together.:rolleyes:

Thanks all!
Xeon.

camaris
October 8th, 2005, 03:45 AM
Getting to know my characters is the best part of writing for me.

A couple things.

First of all, I believe in giving each of my characters a central emotional conflict. Say, love vs. duty or revenge vs. honor--you get the picture, I hope. The central conflict needn't have anything to do with the main plot of your story, except when it comes to the protagonist. Your protagonist's emotional conflict should tie into your theme and plot. For more on this, read Bova's book about writing science fiction. It's invaluable and will be helpful regardless of what genre you choose to write.

Once I know the character's emotional conflict, I can figure out how they got there psychologically. I figure out what their childhood was like, and what the key defining moments were for them as they grew up. It's important to know where your characters are coming from and for their conflicts--and reactions to conflicts--to make psychological sense.

I give my characters a motivation, a need and a goal. Again, these don't necessarily need to involve the main storyline except when it comes to your main character. I always try to make sure my secondary characters have lives outside of the main storyline so that they're not sitting around waiting to interact with my main character. Know what your characters are doing off stage (so to speak). It keeps them from being two dimensional pawns.

As an example of the above, one of my secondary character's goals is to get married. His need is to feel safe and his motivation is getting as far away from an encroaching war as he can. Only the war plays a part in the actual main storyline. Once you understand these things about your characters, its very easy to see how they'd react in a given situation and it's REALLY easy to make them different from your other characters.

An exercise I've found helpful is to figure out what your character's typical day will be like. This will help you keep your character consistent (ie, don't have a character who works at 4 AM go out carrousing at midnight--unless you show him paying dearly for it later) and get to know him or her better.

Another exercise that helps is to write out how each character feels about the other. Know what their relationships are. If you write it out in first person, you'll get the hang of each of your characters' voices.

As for your answer to number 2 (above), I'd say that problems/questions should arise from your characters choices. While your character is working to resolve one problem, he or she should manage to create one or two more. This will keep your story moving forward. I hope that answers what you're actually asking and that I haven't misunderstood.

I also recommend checking out Randy Ingerman's articles on writing here (http://www.rsingermanson.com/html/on_writing.html). They're extremely helpful, especially the snowflake method and how to create a scene.