View Full Version : Writing and Character Development
October 3rd, 2006, 02:48 AM
I decided to start this thread based on my recent return to writting. I'm a published author and have been working recently to complete some stories for publishing again.
It's been a strange few years since I put it down and I really feel like now is a good time to rekindle my writting. I write lyrics/music for my band Noiseland. (www.noiseland.us) I have found that while both music and literature have many similar things in common, the over all experience is extremely different. Music tends to have instant gratification in it's creative license; an Idea comes to mind and if you know how to play your instrument well enough the idea manifests itself, instantly. You can hear it, and deternmine if you like it or not. And of course from there you can improve and add to it, but it's very spontaneous.
Writting fiction on the other hand, (Especially where novels or serials are concerned) is much more bottlenecked in it's progress. Stories require interesting and intriguing characters that need to be developed over time. A reader needs to become aquainted with the characters in your stories, without the benefit of their senses. That development must also be paced in accordance with plot of the story you are trying to tell. And all this must be done with out stereotyping your characters' personalities.
With all this said, I would love to know where other authors get their character ideas from and how they flesh out and define them. Characters are after all the background of most speculative writing. I am an avid fan of Joseph Campbell, and his philosophies on archtypes. I am a firm believer that there is a process all "heroes" from mythology (and many from popular fiction stories) must evolve through to make them memorable icons in our culture. I would like to hear other people's opinions on this subject and their overall experiences on writing in general.
I am planning on posting links to my work as time goes on so that people can give feedback on my writing and hopefully provoke some interesting discussions. In the meantime feel free to post your comments on my thoughts and opinions.
October 3rd, 2006, 08:42 AM
John -- welcome, or if you're coming back to the forum, welcome back.
We have a section for blogs in the site (see the home page) and if you would like to set one up, you can then do a link to it here, as people do with their stories and excerpts from novels, which we ask that they post in the Stories section of the site.
If you have any questions about available resources or policies for members, please check the Guidelines permanently posted here or contact a staff member by Private Message.
In the meanwhile, I have changed the title of this thread to "Writing and Character Development" for the forum discussion you want to have. You might also want to run a search of the archives for the Writing Forum for past conversations about character development and characterization.
October 3rd, 2006, 07:50 PM
The greatest influence on my characters has been Spider-Man (yes, comic books). Living a double life or keeping secrets, at great cost to oneself, has always been my favorite characteristic. Balancing power and responsibility is another, and not all of my characters have been able to do it. My modules were always enjoyed on game nights, so now I am hoping to add this to my writing.
As to character development, module writing is much simpler than story writing. You only have to show your players quick bits of key turning points, or drop an extremely brief clue, for them to accept an altered enemy or friend, then its back to the action or interaction. Story writing requires much more, which I am finding more challenging than plots!
October 10th, 2006, 12:26 AM
Thanks for the tip about the blog I have since started a blog of my writing that I may include. I'm new to this site but have been posting on forums for many years. I appreciate the welcome.
Concerning the discussion, I agree with you almost completely.
I am also a huge comic fan. I've been reading and writing them for years. I know a lot of people tend to wrongly doubt their credibility. The generalize all comics. I think that if we generalized any genre of writing so broadly the results would be similar.
I think comics are sort of like Modern mythology in a lot of ways. The characters are Iconic. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Spiderman, Captain America, and Iron Man to name a few, are all very well developed iconic characters. They each epitomize certain characteristics of the human condition or archtypes. I think there is definitely viable character development in well written comics. Spidey is one of the best. He's the "everyman" dealing with things we all deal with (Money, his job, his boss, his girl friend. taking care of his family, buying deodorant) but at the same time he feels a responsiblity to use his abilities for good. He's a hero in the costume but one of us when the mask comes off.
I have played RPG's for many many years and the duty of Running the game often fell on my shoulders. I have writen quite a few published RPG modules (are they still called modules? Adventures? Whatever.) for Unigames, West End Games and TSR. I agree from a story writing stand point, a module is more like explaining to the GM that buys your module how to tell your story. Everything else in the module revolves around Character Stats and adding rules and system specs. If you explore your ideas thoroughly you can either take your story ideas and adapt them to modules or take a "plot thread" from your modules and write a convincing story based on it.
Of course to do that you have to add your own protagonists to the story and develop all of their dynamics and traits.
That brings us back to my original discussion about character development. I'd like to hear some thoughts.
Are well written comic characters more or less developed than other types of fiction?
What is more important to create a good story:
Character development or Story concept?
Do characters make a great story, or do Story ideas breed interesting characters?
October 10th, 2006, 02:18 PM
I think its a good balance of both. Good characters with a good story concept will result in a good book. One without the other will result in a book thats lacking. A reader should love the characters enough to want to see them through to the end, and join them again in any following books. A story concept should be interesting enough to draw the reader in on its own. I'm not published, so what I'm writing here is my own - and very inexperienced - opinion.
My own ideas for stories and characters are just as spontaneous as writing music or poetry. They form in my mind in that same abstract, emotional way. I might see an image or think of an idea that at first has nothing to do with a story or a character, and then later I'll develop that idea further by examining it and trying to make it as "real" as possible.
Like I said, I'm not published, I'm young, I'm inexperienced, and I don't know what put it in my head that I was in any way qualified to respond, because I'm really not. Talent and experience are two completely different things. I have talent, but experience... well, that's a definite and obvious no.
But regardless of that, this is how I see it, and I'm also curious to see how other, more experienced writers, will respond to this. Maybe I'll learn something :P I just hope its not learning to keep my mouth shut :eek:
October 10th, 2006, 11:45 PM
I couldn't agree more with you. I think that a balance is very necessary. I believe that in order for a character to be great they have to have an envoirnment to interact with to counter point their greatness and development. I think if your characters are well developed then their stories will be as well because the author will know that character's story. Every character should have a story in them somewhere, protagonist, antagonist or suppport character.
I also agree that there is a difference between talent and experience. In fact I think talent is the wrong word to use. I think that talent can be interperated as any ability... creative or not. I mean a baseball pitcher's ability to throw a 102 mph fast ball is a talent. It's not necessarily creative though. Same goes with music. There are a million "talented" musicians in the world. They can play their instruments with incredible skill. If they are given sheet music they play it without fault. Many of them can follow all the rules of the instrument to their tee. However a good portion of them can't write a song on their own that has the same passion and creativity that their ability allows them to play. On the other hand there are a lot of "musicians" that have great ideas and creative thoughts but cant express them because their ability to play their outlet is so poor.
I think the same is true of writing or any creative field. Creativity is like the fuel for talent. The more talent you have the better engine you have to create. I hate to sound like this but a lot of writers have great vocabularies and perfect grammar/usage but they have no stories to tell. Others have these great ideas that go completely undeveloped because they can't execute the ideas they have. My opinion (and this is just my semi-experienced, absolutely worthless opinion) is that writing skill can be learned. It comes more easily to some than others, but with effort it can be learned. Creativity is much harder and much more difficult to teach. Everyone has a well of creativity that can be pulled from but not everyone has a long enough rope to get the bucket in the water.
I totally think from your very humble comments that you should continue to trust in and focus on your own creativity. It obviously comes naturally to you. Sometimes the easiest way to learn the rules is to break them first and see what works and what doesn't. Just remember the more rules you know the more there are to break.:D
So speaking of what works and what doesn't, does anyone have any questionable examples of characters that they feel just don't work from fiction (stories, movies or otherwise) stand point. Are there any things that might have been changed about the character that could make them great.
I have one but I'l wait till other people chime in first. I'm looking forward to hearing some feedback. And please feel free to spread the word about this thread. I have a few of my own stories posted on this site if anyone wants to check them out.
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