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Building a character

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B.A. Boose
(@britty4760)
Posts: 21
Advanced Member
Topic starter
 

In recent years I've been honing my skills working on building believable characters that feel like they could walk off the page. Since entering WotF, I feel like I'm getting a better grasp on putting characters together but I'm still missing a few things that make them come alive. I enjoy reading books, blogs, articles, etc. on this topic. The downside is the feeling like I'm trying to drink from a fire hose; there are so many tips and tricks out there on how to put together a character I sometimes don't know what to use.

What do you guys think about this? How do you form a character? 

V37: 1Q HM, 4 Q HM
V38: 3Q HM, 4Q HM
V39: 1Q HM, 3Q SHM

 
Posted : April 26, 2021 10:50 am
Disgruntled Peony
(@disgruntledpeony)
Posts: 1283
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I flesh out my characters through writing (and, sometimes, tabletop roleplaying), but when it comes to getting a basic starting skeleton that I can build on, it helps me to figure out the following:

  • Name (Having a name gives my brain a focus point where I can layer on character traits.)
  • Virtue (The thing the character most aspires to be--brave, caring, tenacious, protective, ambitious. This doesn't have to be one of the seven holy virtues--I've just played a lot of Chronicles of Darkness, so the term stuck for me.)
  • Vice (The character's baser self or default state--stubborn, greedy, cruel, timid, obsessive. Again, doesn't actually have to be one of the seven deadly sins--I just really like the way CoD characterizes things.)
  • Aspirations (What does the character want? I like to have one or two short-term goals in a scene, along with one larger-scale overarching goal.)

One thing Jim Butcher said that's stuck with me is that, when you introduce a character, you want to do so in a way that highlights one or more of the protagonist's major character traits. The reader is going to make assumptions about your character based on said introduction, so you want to give them the right impression. (For example, if you have this big, muscle-bound character planting flowers, the reader will make very different assumptions than if that character gets introduced as the instigator of a massive barroom brawl.)

If you are in difficulties with a book, try the element of surprise: attack it at an hour when it isn't expecting it. ~ H.G. Wells
If a person offend you, and you are in doubt as to whether it was intentional or not, do not resort to extreme measures; simply watch your chance and hit him with a brick. ~ Mark Twain
R, SF, SHM, SHM, SHM, F, R, HM, SHM, R, HM, R, F, SHM, SHM, SHM, SF, SHM, 1st Place (Q2 V38)
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Posted : April 27, 2021 6:59 am
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Reuben
(@reuben)
Posts: 201
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I liked how Robin Hobb went about it in writing excuses -- https://writingexcuses.com/2016/10/12/11-bonus-01-characterization-and-differentiation-with-robin-hobb/ -- where she talked about getting to know your characters. Certain things I've learned always go into it, mainly: What does the MC really want? What does he think he wants? What kind of thing would make him act against his nature?

 

Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm ~ Winston Churchill
V37: R, R, R, HM
V38: SHM

 
Posted : April 27, 2021 11:13 am
B.A. Boose
(@britty4760)
Posts: 21
Advanced Member
Topic starter
 

@disgruntledpeony, thank you, that helps! Those four basic character starters are really good. I'll definitely try that. Smile

V37: 1Q HM, 4 Q HM
V38: 3Q HM, 4Q HM
V39: 1Q HM, 3Q SHM

 
Posted : April 30, 2021 11:13 am
B.A. Boose
(@britty4760)
Posts: 21
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Topic starter
 

@reuben I'll check out that episode, thanks!

V37: 1Q HM, 4 Q HM
V38: 3Q HM, 4Q HM
V39: 1Q HM, 3Q SHM

 
Posted : April 30, 2021 11:15 am
pdblake
(@pdblake)
Posts: 340
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I use list of questions that I got from Holly Lisle's site Forward Motion.

 

R:6 RWC:1 HM:6 SHM:3
My Blog

 
Posted : April 30, 2021 11:23 am
Cray Dimensional
(@craydimensional)
Posts: 484
Gold Star Member
 

Interesting. I flush out through writing, but usually they start out as a variation of a personality I met. I just started using one note to create backstory notes.

I am curious does character development come before or after plot development for you? 

Small steps add up to miles.
V38: R, R, HM, HM
V39: RWC, HM, HM, SHM
V40 : P
"Amore For Life" in After the Gold Rush Third Flatiron Anthology
Forthcoming “Freedom’s Song” in Troubadour and Space Princesses LTUE Anthology

 
Posted : April 30, 2021 2:07 pm
B.A. Boose reacted
pdblake
(@pdblake)
Posts: 340
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Posted by: @craydimensional

Interesting. I flush out through writing, but usually they start out as a variation of a personality I met. I just started using one note to create backstory notes.

I am curious does character development come before or after plot development for you? 

I tend to have a story idea then think up characters. The character development always affects the plot though. 

R:6 RWC:1 HM:6 SHM:3
My Blog

 
Posted : May 1, 2021 1:16 am
Agathon
(@agathon)
Posts: 62
Bronze Member
 
Posted by: @craydimensional

 usually they start out as a variation of a personality I met.

I do this a lot. I've known a lot of people over the years. A large percentage of them well-intentioned but barely competent. I've also observed my own attitudes regarding what constitutes reasonable behavior change as time goes by. The problem is making the real person unrecognizable in the story. Your friends, co-workers, and acquaintances might not be amused.

Agathon McGeachy
Figure Sculptor, Mechanical Designer, Reformed Rakehell, Writer
Vol 37, Q2: HM
Vol 37, Q3: HM
Vol 37, Q4: HM
Vol 38, Q1: R
Vol 38, Q2: R
Vol 38, Q3: HM
Vol 38, Q4: HM
Now in print: NIWA 2020 Anthology 'Escape' and NIWA 2021 Anthology 'Forbidden' available on Amazon

 
Posted : May 1, 2021 11:22 am
Cray Dimensional
(@craydimensional)
Posts: 484
Gold Star Member
 

@agathon Thanks for your words of wisdom. I have been changing things up quite a bit lately.

Small steps add up to miles.
V38: R, R, HM, HM
V39: RWC, HM, HM, SHM
V40 : P
"Amore For Life" in After the Gold Rush Third Flatiron Anthology
Forthcoming “Freedom’s Song” in Troubadour and Space Princesses LTUE Anthology

 
Posted : May 1, 2021 12:09 pm
B.A. Boose
(@britty4760)
Posts: 21
Advanced Member
Topic starter
 

@pdblake, thank you, I'll check it out!

V37: 1Q HM, 4 Q HM
V38: 3Q HM, 4Q HM
V39: 1Q HM, 3Q SHM

 
Posted : May 1, 2021 1:45 pm
B.A. Boose
(@britty4760)
Posts: 21
Advanced Member
Topic starter
 

@craydimensional, I think it's a mixture of both. I get an idea for a plot then I'll start developing a character, then I'll work on the plot more once I get a better understanding of who my character(s) are. 

V37: 1Q HM, 4 Q HM
V38: 3Q HM, 4Q HM
V39: 1Q HM, 3Q SHM

 
Posted : May 1, 2021 1:51 pm
Reuben
(@reuben)
Posts: 201
Bronze Star Member
 
Posted by: @britty4760

@craydimensional, I think it's a mixture of both. I get an idea for a plot then I'll start developing a character, then I'll work on the plot more once I get a better understanding of who my character(s) are. 

Same. I get a cool idea, think of what would cause conflict in such a situation, and who would be the most affected/conflicted, that sort of thing. By then I have a basic character and a basic plot. I explore those, trying to find ways to emphasize conflict and also deepen the characters' motivations which would, in turn, deepen the conflict.

Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm ~ Winston Churchill
V37: R, R, R, HM
V38: SHM

 
Posted : May 1, 2021 6:46 pm
Disgruntled Peony
(@disgruntledpeony)
Posts: 1283
Platinum Member
 
Posted by: @craydimensional

I am curious does character development come before or after plot development for you? 

Depends on the story. Sometimes I get character ideas first, sometimes I get plot ideas first. I have some favorite characters who tend to summon new stories to them every so often...

If you are in difficulties with a book, try the element of surprise: attack it at an hour when it isn't expecting it. ~ H.G. Wells
If a person offend you, and you are in doubt as to whether it was intentional or not, do not resort to extreme measures; simply watch your chance and hit him with a brick. ~ Mark Twain
R, SF, SHM, SHM, SHM, F, R, HM, SHM, R, HM, R, F, SHM, SHM, SHM, SF, SHM, 1st Place (Q2 V38)
Ticknor Tales
Twitter
4th and Starlight: e-book | paperback

 
Posted : May 1, 2021 7:08 pm
B.A. Boose
(@britty4760)
Posts: 21
Advanced Member
Topic starter
 

@reuben, yes exactly!

V37: 1Q HM, 4 Q HM
V38: 3Q HM, 4Q HM
V39: 1Q HM, 3Q SHM

 
Posted : May 5, 2021 3:03 pm
B.A. Boose
(@britty4760)
Posts: 21
Advanced Member
Topic starter
 

@disgruntledpeony, that's cool! 

V37: 1Q HM, 4 Q HM
V38: 3Q HM, 4Q HM
V39: 1Q HM, 3Q SHM

 
Posted : May 5, 2021 3:05 pm
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