How do you prefer to manage your characters, are they constructs, doing their part to advance your story, fully under your control, or does the story grow and change as they grow and change? When I write, I find it impossible to have more than a very rough outline as I find that the actions my characters take and the things they learn begin to change the outcome of the story. I believe that this keeps them from becoming flat and predictable. However, some great authors (George Martin for one) believe that characters are contstructs and are to stay firmly in the control of the plot and story. Clearly, he has not suffered from 'flat' characters...
How do you all feel about character development? Do you plan it, or does it happen as an outgrowth of the story?
December 2nd, 2002, 11:14 AM
I guess it's an author's perogative on how they their characters. I've heard said that Robert Jordan's characters are artifically constrained by the plot. But his sales don;t seem to suffer.
Personally, it depends upon the character. Some write what I want. Others will invent some of their own stuff. And one or two strange ones dictate what I am to write - and it's an amazing process to be a secretary for a fictional character, when they're dictating sometimes complex arguments I don't have a clue about - until after it's typed!
December 2nd, 2002, 01:59 PM
Personally, my characters develop as I write, though I do try to keep them on the straight and narrow i.e. the plot outline, but sometimes they don't like it.
One started out as the hero's sidkick, but by the fourth chapter he was the hero!
Another would not lay down and die, talk about Monty python, "no not dead yet!"
I do draft out the rough line of a characters fate, though often there are sidetracks I wander down in the end I do try and keep to my desired ending, but then again.... endings can be changed.
December 2nd, 2002, 02:04 PM
I suppose this depends on the type of story I'm trying to write.
I once heard the advice that it's best to think of your characters as robots programmed to perform a specific task (even if that task is simply being as human as possible). So if your story is largely plot-driven then you use a character to get you from point to point - killing them off when necessary, having their secrets discovered at inoppotune moments - that kind of thing.
This is more difficult if the story is character-driven. In this case I find it easier to just create a character, dump him in a situation and watch how he evolves and changes. Of course, the problem with this is that I can watch him change for thousands and thousands of words only to find that the change is boring, or cliche or just not worthy of continuing.
December 3rd, 2002, 12:23 PM
I began writing stories last December, after being inspired by Aragorn's missing "backstory"! While working on the fourth one, I suddenly had a sense that some of my characters were demanding more time. A story that was meant to focus on Aragorn in Rohan ended up having four parts, with a different character's point of view dominating each part.
I am reminded of Tolkien's statement about "finding" Faramir walking in Ithilien one day. I had a very similar experience!
The process of working with one's characters to tell their stories fascinates me. My daughter writes Jane Austen fanfic, as well as other short stories, and she had often tried to explain how a character could take over his/her story. It was fun to make that discovery for myself finally.
December 3rd, 2002, 03:55 PM
I personally belive that the characters in my story are more important than plot. However, I don't think characters should be allowed to change the plot out of sheer, unbridled will. My characters may grow out of their prescribed boundaries as the story progresses but I do not let them take over everything else.
The main character in the novel I am currently writing goes through many changes that I did not orginally plan on. However, the basic plot remains strong and independent. He is still faced with the same challenges but he handles them differently than I would have first imagined.
December 3rd, 2002, 05:57 PM
By definition a character must develop as he or she grows. A character can be well-defined by the time the reader meets them, or the whole story can be a voyage of discovery for both reader and character(s).
The writer can choose to have the development planned out or see how a character reacts to certain situations. I prefer the latter because it allows the unexpected to suggest itself and that, for me, is more interesting.
But 'characters as robots'? It may be advice but I find it hard to credit. If a character is so rigid and defined, only there to perform a specific task, how can they ever step outside it, act out-of-character, and therefore demonstrate their 'humanity'?
December 3rd, 2002, 06:08 PM
Some characters I have firmly fixed from the beginning, others just appear out of nowhere - they suddenly enter the situation and then I have to figure out why. They also tend to be my favorites...
December 4th, 2002, 01:06 AM
Many of my characters, I have had with me for years.
I haven't even begun to approach a whole story, I've just been writing paragraphs of interaction, because I like doing that.
But it's weird, because like drops of mercury, those paragraphs are slowly puddling together to make more sense as a whole.
Maybe I'm writing multiple stories?
Who can say!
December 4th, 2002, 03:24 AM
I don't have a 'plot'. My characters make the plot.