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    •  
      CommentAuthorPotatoman
    • CommentTimeSep 9th 2013
     

    Any ideas? Any ideas at all? I don’t want help for characters right now, just want to know what your methods of developing your main characters are. :)

    •  
      CommentAuthorTakuGifian
    • CommentTimeSep 9th 2013
     

    Realism is all about psychology, and to develop psychologically realistic thought patterns, behaviour, logic and so on. Really, everyone’s method is different, so don’t take my word for it. I find it’s best for me to develop the character chronologically (i.e. as they grow and age). I find it very difficult to ‘pop’ a realistic adult character into existence, I need to age them over time, going through childhood, particular personality-shaping events and how they reacted to them, and so on. And then, unless I am writing within a known society, like my own, I have to consider how social, religious, cultural, economic, technological conditions etc. effect the character, and how these existing structures inform the character’s opinions/theories/motivations and so on.

    The problem is that this takes a lot of time, which is part of why I haven’t actually written anything substantial in a long time yet.

    A quick method I sometimes use when writing short stories is to apply Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need to the character as well as answering a few basic questions, such as: What does the character want/need? How is he/she going to get it? What is preventing them from doing so (could be external or internal, i.e. social mores, personal morality, personal weakness, external enemies or obstacles, etc.)? How will they try to overcome the obstacles? How do they react when they fail? When they are failed by someone else? What will they do after they have achieved their goal, and/or what goal will they focus on next?

    These questions establish a clear motivation (as compared to Because EVIL!), patterns of behaviour (as compared to rolling a D12 for reactions), and a general idea of the thought processes that drive the character (as compared to Because The Author Says So), which are a big step towards psychological realism.

    And apply that for every primary character (a short story generally only has two, protag and antag) and one or two of the secondary characters.

  1.  

    Step 1. Do not make a character sheet

    Step 2. DO NOT make a character sheet

    Step 3. Think about the character

    Step 4. Write the character

    Step 5. Think about the character some more

    Step 6. Rewrite the character

    Step 7. Repeat steps 5 and 6

    • CommentAuthorRocky
    • CommentTimeSep 9th 2013 edited
     
    The main thing I try to work on is creating background material that will never explicitly be mentioned in-story. That makes the little details more tactile as they're presented at face value rather than as part of an elaborate, purple infodump.

    And that works for both characters and setting.

    bq. DO NOT make a character sheet.

    Seconded. If anything, write a mini-bio.
    •  
      CommentAuthorPotatoman
    • CommentTimeSep 9th 2013
     

    @TakuGifian Well, this was interesting. I remember studying about Maslow in business class but I never thought it could be applied to fictional characters. Then again, it’s pretty standard operating instructions for creating your own characters that don’t end up like Mary Sues (i.e. they have to be realistic with realistic goals, struggles and beliefs). When I write characters I try and follow a predetermined timeline and see how they react to the events on the timeline. Either that or going out to ‘examine’ people outside (hey, big cities are useful for something huh?) :P It helps a lot to see how other people think about mundane situations, it makes writing character thought processes more realistic and they end up flowing better.

    •  
      CommentAuthorTakuGifian
    • CommentTimeSep 9th 2013
     

    DO NOT make a character sheet.

    I completely agree, there’s nothing that ensures a swifter or surer death to character realism as a laundry list of “strengths” and “weaknesses”. These things are all about circumstances and conditions, any particular “trait” may either help in one situation but hinder in another, so separating them into an arbitrarty dichotomy, of for example, “stubbornness is always bad, but optimism is always good” is useless and ultimately damaging to a character’s realism.

    It’s even worse if you start getting into games like “stubbornness is always bad , but tenacity or persistence or dogged determination is always good! “, because then you’re just being a disingenuous semantic pedant.

    Character sheets are always bad, though.

    •  
      CommentAuthorPotatoman
    • CommentTimeSep 9th 2013
     

    I don’t like character sheets. They’re limiting and a bit weird, honestly. It’s like spinning a wheel of misfortune trying to get cardboard cutout traits for cardboard cutout characters. I prefer to take examples from real life. Like I used to have a really mean teacher once. He formed the basis for one of the characters in the novel I’m writing now.

    • CommentAuthorNo One
    • CommentTimeSep 9th 2013 edited
     

    Generally, I start off with very basic details, like a name, a gender, race and what their purpose in the story is before visualising them in my head and imagining myself having a conversation with them. When that doesn’t work, I visualise the settings in the story, put a stereotypical character in the settings, shove them around and see what their reactions are. If I have a general plot outline, I’ll put them through the general plot and ask why did they react that way. From there, I create their backstory that may or may not have any relevance at all to the story and break them out of their stereotype into someone who I would have a conversation with.

    Once I’ve got that down, everything really boils down to their backstory and psychology. I just imagine myself as the character that I’m building, set the parameters and go from there.

    Alternatively, I just base a character off a person that I know. :P

    •  
      CommentAuthorPotatoman
    • CommentTimeSep 9th 2013
     

    Hey, that sounds pretty good. I hate stereotypes, but they can always surprise you when put into a non-stereotypical situation. I prefer creating fully developed characters beforehand and then inserting them into my story.

  2.  

    I prefer creating fully developed characters beforehand and then inserting them into my story.

    Unless you’re some kind of natural genius(spoiler: you aren’t), all aspects of writing are iterative, character building included. P. skeptical of this method.

    •  
      CommentAuthorPotatoman
    • CommentTimeSep 9th 2013
     

    Unless you’re some kind of natural genius(spoiler: you aren’t), all aspects of writing are iterative, character building included. P. skeptical of this method.

    Haha I’m no genius. No way. But what I mean is as fully developed as I can make them. They always develop even after I put them in the story, so I suppose they aren’t fully developed. Badly worded on my part, sorry.

    •  
      CommentAuthorPryotra
    • CommentTimeSep 9th 2013
     

    Personally, I tend to start with basic personality, and build around that, sort of as a core. Personal history, name and everything else kind of comes after I know that core trait. I’ve never been one of the lucky people who can sit and talk with my character, so once I have a basic personality, I move on to other traits, like phobias and such, and then the back story. I don’t really get a feel for them until I’ve written a lot of dialog about them, and if I find it’s hard to write them, I look over them, consider what is giving them problems and tweak things around.

    But I agree that character sheets tend to be less useful then I’d like them to be.

    •  
      CommentAuthorswenson
    • CommentTimeSep 9th 2013
     

    DO NOT make a character sheet.

    I tried to write a character sheet for a character I’ve had for years, just as a way to try to get down everything I “know” about her and maybe pull out some interesting things I hadn’t thought of before. It didn’t work. As soon as I started trying to fill in pre-composed questions, my mind just shut down and went durr durr durr.

    A character sheet is honestly one of the most creatively stifling things I’ve ever come in contact with. I can’t really figure out why, other than perhaps trying to break a person down into single-line answers is impossible. Characters are more complex than that.

    And never ever ever use a character sheet that separates strengths and weaknesses, because that is guaranteed going to end up with some impossible conflicts (“patient and gentle” as a strength, “tends to resort to violence quickly” as a flaw, for example)

    As for how I develop characters…

    I try to think of them in contexts outside my story. Obviously, for whatever plot you have, you can just have the character step through it and do all the right things at the right times, but that’s just because that’s how you want the story to go. So I like to pull them away from the story and think about their life in totally different circumstances. What’s an ordinary day for them? What do they do if they’re tired or hungry or whatever? What about when they go shopping for clothes or something? And I either write down or at least think through some different scenarios with them, just to see how they could react to different things.

    Once you’ve got that, it’s much easier to look at the things that happen in your story and come up with a more realistic reaction for them—more realistic, because it’s not just what you think needs to happen, but rather is based on how that character is normally. And just in general, having a good feel for how characters react to different things will keep them consistent, because you’re not going to have them terrified into silence by a mugger one chapter, mouthing off to the Big Bad while simultaneously coming up with a devious plan in the next chapter.

    •  
      CommentAuthorPotatoman
    • CommentTimeSep 9th 2013
     

    I hate it when characters act bipolar and it’s not specifically mentioned in the book that being bipolar is a natural part of their personality. It ruins the effect of having created a realistic character.

    •  
      CommentAuthorTakuGifian
    • CommentTimeSep 9th 2013 edited
     

    There again, if they are consistently bipolar or irrational, that’s much better than one or two scenes of carrying the idiot ball.

    that is guaranteed going to end up with some impossible conflicts (“patient and gentle” as a strength, “tends to resort to violence quickly” as a flaw, for example)

    Now hold on, there. I am both patient and gentle, right up until I lose my temper. :P

    The problem that I have with character sheets is that you are taking something that is supposed to be a complete, psychologically complex, developed character, and slicing it up into neat little portions like sushi into bento boxes. You’re effectively doing the opposite or character building, or worse, you’re reversing what has been built, reducing it to its basic raw materials again.

    And just in general, having a good feel for how characters react

    On that note, I think it was mentioned in a similar thread a few weeks (months?) ago, but one of the best ways of developing a ‘feel’ for how a character would react is to place them in various different situations and writing their reactions and/or actions. Don;‘t just do one or two common scenarios, but many of them, and odd little things that you might not think about. How does your character react to finding a hole in their favourite (or last) pair of socks? Do they ignore it, moan, fix it with a needle and thread, or just refuse to go anywhere until new socks have been brought to them? Or they lose a boot in a mudhole, how do they react to that? Does the fact that they’ve been walking for miles in the rain affect their reactions?

    •  
      CommentAuthorswenson
    • CommentTimeSep 9th 2013 edited
     

    Now hold on, there. I am both patient and gentle, right up until I lose my temper. :P

    Well, maybe, but if somebody genuinely is incredibly patient and yet very quick to anger, I’d better see some explanation why! :)

    •  
      CommentAuthorPotatoman
    • CommentTimeSep 9th 2013
     

    Uh, this may sound like a weird question, but how do I characterize a girl? I don’t mean to sound bad. I really don’t. I just don’t know if I’m being accurate or not. When girls read the novel they may think that it’s not how they act at all, and that’s not what I want. I want girls to be able to identify with my female protagonist.

  3.  

    how do I characterize a girl?

    Same way you’d characterize a boy, broadly speaking. I think this approach eliminates any need to add ‘girly’ stereotypes, and this is mostly how I approach writing men. I’m not sure exactly how ‘masculine’ they are, but oh well. When I’m reading, I don’t usually think that a girl is unrealistic unless she’s obviously stereotypical and underdeveloped. (Unfortunately, this is often the case.) She’s a person first, then a woman.

    Of course, women are distinct from men- for that kind of nuance, I’d recommend actually talking to girls and getting to know them. Books are a great resource as well. My favorite women in literature tend to be confined to books that are (unfortunately) considered too girly for boys, but I’ve always found them fun to read about: Jane Eyre, Anne Shirley (of Anne of Green Gables), Hermione Granger, Lyra Belacqua (of His Dark Materials) and as a more anti-heroic example, Scarlett O’Hara (_Gone With The Wind_), as just a preliminary list.

    •  
      CommentAuthorResistance
    • CommentTimeSep 9th 2013
     

    Not using character sheets is something I’ve stumbled upon quite recently. I like to think of a character, maybe just based off someone I saw on the street and write them in the story. As I go over multiple drafts, I add more of those little nuances and get to develop their backstory more. Character sheets makes you think of that all at once, and that’s sort of hard to do. You don’t know what sort of music your character likes to listen to, and you probably shouldn’t, unless that’s one of the foundations of their story. And if you do, then you’re probably overthinking it, or making your character “Whisper, the goth girl who likes to listen to Black Veil Brides”.
    I personally think even doing character sheets after you know your character well is a bad idea. For me it sort of flattens them, and then when I go to write them, they’re confined to that list of traits. Not saying that characters should be stubborn in chapters 1-6, and easily persuaded in chapters 7-8, and stubborn in chapters 9-10, etc., but sometimes people go against their personalities because they feel like they should, they have to for a certain reason, etc. When I write down, “Lilly, black hair, brown eyes, 130 lbs, happy”, she seems like a flat Bella Swan. You can’t sum up anyone in a list of character traits, no matter how hard you try.
    And I love stealing from real life too, I usually take people I don’t know very well or met once or just seen in a car driving by and change them and add their story and build etc. That’s always a good method, stealing from real life.

    •  
      CommentAuthorResistance
    • CommentTimeSep 9th 2013
     

    And psychology books are good to read too. A lot of characters in books have different mental disorders that I don’t think the authors even knew what they were. And also for basic psychology, like people’s belief in God and how that works (especially if you’re an atheist and want to know more what it’s like – and we all hate the stereotypical Bible-thumper, no matter whether it’s written by a pantheist or a Satanist). I’ve learned some interesting things by reading psychology books, even ones on abnormal psychology. That’s a point of interest for me though, so if you’re not someone who likes to read lots of statistics and case studies (even I skim through those), then I wouldn’t necessarily reccomend that.

    •  
      CommentAuthorPotatoman
    • CommentTimeSep 9th 2013
     

    And psychology books are good to read too. A lot of characters in books have different mental disorders that I don’t think the authors even knew what they were.

    Interesting… I personally read through a bunch of different novels to see how other authors make their characters come to life. Of course, some are badly written but it still gives you a little window into how the author thought they should be written.

    •  
      CommentAuthorPotatoman
    • CommentTimeSep 10th 2013 edited
     

    She’s a person first, then a woman.

    Don’t you just hate it when you read a character and you get the fact that she is a woman/girl rubbed right in your face all the time? I’d like to know other things she does besides being a girl. It would make better reading. Of course I don’t mean to sound sexist when I said that. It’s just that in some of the books I’ve been reading recently, the decisions made by the female characters are influenced only by the fact that they are female. Nothing to do with outside complications.

  4.  

    If you’re trying to figure out some kind of trick to writing female characters, you are probably not approaching it from a good angle. Do what SWQ said because it is good advice.

    Of course, women are distinct from men- for that kind of nuance, I’d recommend actually talking to girls and getting to know them.

    but whoa now let’s not get crazy here

    •  
      CommentAuthorPotatoman
    • CommentTimeSep 10th 2013
     

    but whoa now let’s not get crazy here

    lol

    I’ve never been too good with girls but talking to them shouldn’t be a problem. After all I have lots of cousins who happen to be teenage girls. But learning how a girl’s mind works is probably impossible for a guy.

    •  
      CommentAuthororganiclead
    • CommentTimeSep 10th 2013 edited
     

    But learning how a girl’s mind works is probably impossible for a guy.

    Woah there. That attitude never flies if you’re going to try and write anything. While there’s always room for improvement on any subject, starting off with the mindset that girls are some alien creature is going to bite you. That’s how you get characters defined by being a girl and not defined by their personality. That also assumes that all girls have the same personality and mentality. Most differences you see in life and not in the media are social ones and the expectations they choose to either embrace or reject. The easy answer is to give them the same personality you’d give a male character with different expectations in life, the more time consuming answer is going to be look at some basic feminism articles to see what sort of silent expectations are there as a way to figure out how society influences women.

  5.  

    girls are some alien creature

    Ahahahaha not true at all. Don’t worry- women have written some great men, and men have written some great women (though I feel like this category is smaller at this point in time for reasons relating to sexism, etc.) I think that GRRM writes some pretty damn good female characters- not just ‘for a guy’, but for anyone. I’ve related to his women, but also to his men, so don’t get too hung up on gender.

    •  
      CommentAuthorsanguine
    • CommentTimeSep 10th 2013
     

    Here’s how I do it.

    First, I think of a character’s role in a story. If their role is important, and the events involving them are important, then I make sure to flesh them out very well. After I’ve got the name/gender/race, I tend to try and make them physically unique and visually interesting (for example, one of my major characters always wears a tricorne hat). It just makes it more fun for me to write them. Next, I go deep into their past and think about what might affect how they act now. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. I generally have a sense of how I want a character to be when I think them up, so I tend to make their past reflect how they act. For instance, a character who is bitterly resentful and likes to scowl and cross his arms may have been abused as a child, or perhaps had dealt with many people who showed him little respect, and so on.

    Then, I write them. This is where it gets interesting. For at least half the characters in my series, they completely changed from how I wanted them. It mostly comes out in their dialogue, reactions, and thoughts, and a little bit from their demeanor. And once I’ve written a few chapters of them, I generally have a good sense of who they are. Now realize that this can be frustrating. Sometimes I really really really want the story to go this way, but my changed character won’t allow it, so they take the story that way. Damn those stupid characters.

    In case you were wondering, the main focus of the events of my series have changed more than three times. Complete u-turns, just so that one character can make sense. People are complex, and never forget that when writing about them.

    Also, I tend to write more female characters, simply because I find them more interesting to write about. I love the idea of seeing the world through a woman’s eyes, which is something I’ve never been able to do because I am not a female. Women were tricky to write at first, but I think I’ve gotten the hang of it. Now I think I’m even better at writing women than I am at writing men. It’s kinda like drawing. I’m better at drawing women because I have more practice at it.

  6.  

    On writing female characters: I agree with what others have said. Write a character. Don’t write a girl. It’s not impossible for men to understand women any more than it is to understand any other person who is separate from yourself. I am terrible at socializing with and relating to people, and yet people recognize my characters as being human beings. Sansa holds the title of Manliest Manly Man of Impish Idea, and I don’t recall ever questioning his lead woman character’s femaleness. You just have to put yourself in a the mindset of a A-Person-Who-Is-Not-You.

    I think that GRRM writes some pretty damn good female characters- not just ‘for a guy’, but for anyone

    I mostly agree, but they are a bit over-focused on their own boobs at times.

    •  
      CommentAuthorsanguine
    • CommentTimeSep 10th 2013
     

    I think Asha Greyjoy is a bit manly and sex-obsessed. But I suppose it was a different culture, a different time. Who really knows, right?

  7.  

    I’m only about halfway through Feast, but I think Asha’s manliness works because she has been the “son” of her family, so she has taken on the role of a man. Also, she wants power, and only men are allowed to have that. I’m not sure that I found her overly manly anyway, though.

    With my characters, I think about what kind of person they are (not vague at all, right?). Then I base what they do on that and on their past actions, thinking, “How would X character react in Y situation.” It just takes practice, I’d say.

    Also, observing people and listening in on how they talk and relate to each other is really helpful, especially when writing dialogue.

  8.  

    Sansa holds the title of Manliest Manly Man of Impish Idea, and I don’t recall ever questioning his lead woman character’s femaleness.

    :3

    You just have to put yourself in a the mindset of a A-Person-Who-Is-Not-You.

    Bingo.

    I think Asha Greyjoy is a bit manly and sex-obsessed. But I suppose it was a different culture, a different time. Who really knows, right?

    what the fuck is this post

    •  
      CommentAuthorPotatoman
    • CommentTimeSep 10th 2013
     

    You just have to put yourself in a the mindset of a A-Person-Who-Is-Not-You.

    I’ll try that, thanks :)

    I mostly agree, but they are a bit over-focused on their own boobs at times.

    Having never read any of GRRM’s books or watched the televisn adaptation, I think I will take your word for this haha. I just want my characters to be realistic is all. But I guess I will have to start thinking of my characters as people instead of differentiating by gender. That is when things start to go wrong, am I correct?

    Also, observing people and listening in on how they talk and relate to each other is really helpful, especially when writing dialogue.

    Very true. I love doing this, but I’m still having a little trouble writing non-stilted dialogue. I guess I need some practice.

    •  
      CommentAuthorPotatoman
    • CommentTimeSep 10th 2013
     

    Damn those stupid characters.

    LOL.

    •  
      CommentAuthorResistance
    • CommentTimeSep 11th 2013
     

    When I do dialogue (I’m not great at it either) I just write it. Then when I go back to edit/revise, I say the dialogue aloud as if I was acting the part. Sometimes my own “versions” of the dialogue come out by accident because that’s what I’m used to saying. Reading it aloud is probably one of the things that really helped my dialogue.

    •  
      CommentAuthorsanguine
    • CommentTimeSep 11th 2013 edited
     

    what the fuck is this post

    Don’t get me wrong, I love Asha Greyjoy. She’s totally badass.

    Also, I hate how the show changed her name to Yara to eliminate confusion between her and Osha the wildling… but that’s suggesting that Osha is more important to the story.

    OT: I’ve never tried speaking dialogue out loud, mainly because I would feel uncomfortable.

    •  
      CommentAuthorResistance
    • CommentTimeSep 11th 2013
     

    @sanguine I don’t do it in public, usually when I’m alone in a quiet place. It would be a little weird to see someone having a conversation with no one in a library. It is a little uncomfortable at first, but you get used to it. I don’t usually talk really loud either, not a whisper, but at a medium tone.

  9.  

    Don’t get me wrong, I love Asha Greyjoy. She’s totally badass.

    I am not taking issue with whether or not you like the character.