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October 5th, 2005, 11:19 AM

Just curious. I'm writing my 1st story outline(pretty enjoyable!) currently and have realized one thing in the process.

I've no problems defining the few main characters, but for the rest of them(lots of others and those "extras"), do I create and define them all(personality, costume, attitude etc.) before I even write the outline, or should I write the outline and develop these minor characters(as deem fit) as the story goes along?


October 5th, 2005, 12:33 PM
Personally, I don't try to define each person appearing in my book when I work on an outline. Those aspects just seem to come up in the process of writing. Sometimes, I even find that 'minor' characters become a larger part of the story.

October 5th, 2005, 06:41 PM
I agree with pcarney. I don't overly examine the main characters. I just jot down the major stuff and the personalities seem to find themselves in the writing process.

My theory is that the reader will project their own traits onto the characters (whether from past books or real life experiences) so it's not important to bang them over the head with your version of the character.

I think story development is 100 times more important than character development anyway.

October 5th, 2005, 07:05 PM
I'm also in the "little planning" box. I find that characters evolve as a write and usually by the end of a draft I have a much better idea of who each character is.

Things I will look into have largely to do with research. I'll make a few notes about the time period, how things work in that world, etc.

October 6th, 2005, 12:12 AM
Create them as you need them. When it comes time to edit the story, you can decide if it was worth it or not.

October 6th, 2005, 01:34 AM
I have piles and piles of notes on different characters who have no where to go but i find i'm more likely to build characters better when they have a story with them. i build them as i write to discover more about them.

i usually dont fiddle with plots as much but some characters i know well and others i dont. as for "extra" characters they will grow to their full as my protagonist talks and meets with them etc. they usually aren't planned

but i dont tend to plan a whole plot only scenes i know will definately be there. i dont write my stories in sequel i write them with scattered scenes that i know i can write or can imagine in full right in front of me. from there edit and join, scratch some scenes etc.

~ Tari

October 6th, 2005, 02:35 AM
I usually do a plot structure, or rather jot down where I want my story to go. Call it an outline if you will. But the moment I start writing, that outline begins to change and grow. Same with the characters. As I write they and I adapt to the story, become sometimes more, sometimes less than what I wanted them to be at the beginning.

The first 10,000 words of a novel tend to be off the cuff. An idea bubbling onto the page. After that I have to sit and think on each scene, how it fits into the whole. Planning, carefully working out, reworking of previous scenes to fit in the changes that happen as the work grows. I always have an "ending" or rather conclusion in my mind, but how I get there changes and grows as the story and characters do.

Quite often on character decides to become something more than I orginally wanted. This can be quite interesting for as you write in the changes the relationships of everyone else become sometihng else.

Michael B
October 6th, 2005, 01:14 PM
Create them as you need them. When it comes time to edit the story, you can decide if it was worth it or not.
Absolutely, especially if you are having to work down to a word limit. In one story I edited out an entire bar scene including a barbarian whom I had some great lines about. However, the main character in question was able to beat up a minor character without her audience and in the process save me two hundred words.

In fact try to limit the number of characters present full stop. In his later works, Shakespeare was a good one for dropping people. There is a scene in the Scottish Play where Macbeth talks to himself. In earlier works, Shakespeare would have had more than one character in said scene, one bouncing words and philosophy off the other. Later on, he obviously figured out how to do it with just one character.

If a maestro like Will aims for plot over people, then it is worth emulating his practice.

October 6th, 2005, 01:49 PM
As far as defining extra characters, I'd say it depends on how integral they are to the story. If they're just in one or two short scenes, I'd say let them develop organically as you write.

If, on the other hand, they have a somewhat larger role to play, at least give them a goal, a motivation and a conflict. One of the main quibbles I have with many novels is that their side characters just exist as pawns to advance plot. They come out wooden and bland. Unrealistic. I don't think you need to define them too clearly, but giving them an emotional conflict, a motivation (which could be completely outside of your story) and a goal (which can also be completely outside of your story) will breath life into them.

I also like to figure out where my minor characters are "off screen" (so to speak) while the major events of the story are occuring and adjust their actions and reactions accordingly.

Hereford Eye
October 6th, 2005, 02:30 PM
It seems to me that as much as I can be said to maintain any discipline in my writing, I am more likely than not to begin with a situation and then put a character into that situation to see what happens. I don't know the answer until I finish the story. At that point, I need a damned fine editor. :)

Recently, though, I had a character I'd already used in a story but for whom I discovered a situation perfect for her exploration so that violates what I started with this post with.

When you are telling a story, I suspect you can begin anywhere, with the character(s), the situation, or the plot. If memory serves me as it should, Donaldson pulled off all three in The Real Story: The Gap Into Conflict