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Author Topic: Relating to characters  (Read 5019 times)

Offline CryptofCthulhu

Re: Relating to characters
« Reply #15 on: February 03, 2016, 01:04:16 PM »
I have great doubts that this "identifying with characters" thing is even real. People talk about it a lot, but I don't find it very convincing.

Because?
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Offline Nora

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Re: Relating to characters
« Reply #16 on: February 03, 2016, 01:31:07 PM »
I have great doubts that this "identifying with characters" thing is even real. People talk about it a lot, but I don't find it very convincing.

I agree. I think the character I vividly identified with was the kidnapped girl of The Collector, which made the horrible book 10 times more destructive on my psyche, but it was because she had an extremely similar relationship with a man as I had just gotten out of, and similar thoughts and centers of interests in art, ect. So it struck me that I could empathize completely, since I had similar opinions and could sort of predict her thoughts.
That was a big one off.

Most of the time I see characters like I see my friends around myself : either the third person voice shows them to me, or the first person make it as if they were telling me a story.
Regardless, they're a stranger to me, and I need them believable and consistent, not similar to me.
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Wishy washy lyricism and maudlin unrequited love are my specialty - so said Lady_Ty

Offline CryptofCthulhu

Re: Relating to characters
« Reply #17 on: February 03, 2016, 02:04:48 PM »
I have great doubts that this "identifying with characters" thing is even real. People talk about it a lot, but I don't find it very convincing.

I agree. I think the character I vividly identified with was the kidnapped girl of The Collector, which made the horrible book 10 times more destructive on my psyche, but it was because she had an extremely similar relationship with a man as I had just gotten out of, and similar thoughts and centers of interests in art, ect. So it struck me that I could empathize completely, since I had similar opinions and could sort of predict her thoughts.
That was a big one off.

Most of the time I see characters like I see my friends around myself : either the third person voice shows them to me, or the first person make it as if they were telling me a story.
Regardless, they're a stranger to me, and I need them believable and consistent, not similar to me.

You agree yet you just showed you really identified with a character. Which one is it?  ;D
“Silence is only frightening to people who are compulsively verbalizing.” ~ William S. Boroughs

Offline Nora

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Re: Relating to characters
« Reply #18 on: February 03, 2016, 02:21:24 PM »
I have great doubts that this "identifying with characters" thing is even real. People talk about it a lot, but I don't find it very convincing.

I agree. I think the character I vividly identified with was the kidnapped girl of The Collector, which made the horrible book 10 times more destructive on my psyche, but it was because she had an extremely similar relationship with a man as I had just gotten out of, and similar thoughts and centers of interests in art, ect. So it struck me that I could empathize completely, since I had similar opinions and could sort of predict her thoughts.
That was a big one off.

Most of the time I see characters like I see my friends around myself : either the third person voice shows them to me, or the first person make it as if they were telling me a story.
Regardless, they're a stranger to me, and I need them believable and consistent, not similar to me.

You agree yet you just showed you really identified with a character. Which one is it?  ;D

I've read well over 300 novels in my life, I think that me identifying strongly with one ONCE states my point! I generally don't, I see them as external. I'm like a camera following the movie's scene, not the character himself.
"She will need coffee soon, or molecular degeneration will set in. Her French phrasing will take over even more strongly, and soon she will dissolve into a puddle of alienation and Kierkegaardian despair."  ~ Jmack

Wishy washy lyricism and maudlin unrequited love are my specialty - so said Lady_Ty

Offline Blackthorn

Re: Relating to characters
« Reply #19 on: February 03, 2016, 09:29:24 PM »
Identify may not be the right word, I don't need to necessarily be similar to the character. I just need enough interest in what they would care about in order to make them believable. If that makes any real sense.

Offline Yora

Re: Relating to characters
« Reply #20 on: February 03, 2016, 10:14:05 PM »
What does the word "relating" even mean? The more I think about it the less I think I have any idea what people even talk about.

After two hours of searching the internet, the term "relatable" actually got me two replies that really try to explain the concept.

Relatable: The adjective that is everywhere but means nothing
The 'Relatable' Falacy

So much for that.

Interesting sidetrack, but that's not what Blackthorn was asking about with the original question. It was "How do you effectively write characters you have very little in common with?", and I am interpreting this as how we can make characters that readers enjoy reading about.

Many of my favorite characters are people I find very dispicable and lacking any sympathetic qualities and with whom I have nothing in common. Kane, Darth Vader, Walter White, Lucy from Elfen Lied. But many times I really enjoy a character it's because I understand them and think I've figured them out. And perhaps there's also a reaction of joy to keep following them and seeing if my guesses about them are right. I've not thought about it in this way before, but I sound quite convicing to myself right now.

I think what makes a character interesting and entertaining to follow is to learn about them, getting a more complete picture of them, and gaining an understanding of how they think and what they want. This is to me the primary meaning of "character development". Not so much how they change through the story, but how their personalty is expanded.
To create characters to which this applies requires that you have to understand them yourself. You need to have a pretty good idea of what they want, how they think, and how they act, so that you can remain consistent throughout the full length of the story. Or in case you want the character to go through a change through the course of the story, you need to understand the change and how it is happening. Once you got that you need to put the character in various different situations to which they can react according to their motives, thinking, and abilities; and through which they can show new aspects of their personalty. If you have a character whose story consist of fighting orcs six times, trolls two times, and a dragon one time, you won't really show any new facet of the character to the audience after the second or third fight. Instead you'd better cut out half of the fight scenes and perhaps replace them with a scene in which he encounters an escaped prisoner, one scene in which a wounded enemy wants to surrender, and one scene in which he has to get through a heavily reinforced gate quickly. As the character deals with different situation, we get to see different facets of his personalty, and if they remain consistent we can get a better picture of them as a real person.
« Last Edit: February 03, 2016, 11:36:57 PM by Yora »
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Offline Blackthorn

Re: Relating to characters
« Reply #21 on: February 04, 2016, 12:10:35 AM »
Reading through these posts I've suddenly had the suspicion that I should outline more of my story.
It might just be that my characters fall flat simply because I have very little idea where I'm going with the overall story arc. I have a beginning, an end, and some other scenes, with no idea how the characters move from one to another. Perhaps I'm expecting too much from a simple character idea.

Offline CryptofCthulhu

Re: Relating to characters
« Reply #22 on: February 04, 2016, 10:19:57 AM »
Reading through these posts I've suddenly had the suspicion that I should outline more of my story.
It might just be that my characters fall flat simply because I have very little idea where I'm going with the overall story arc. I have a beginning, an end, and some other scenes, with no idea how the characters move from one to another. Perhaps I'm expecting too much from a simple character idea.

Outlines are always helpful. I like to list the major players and the decisions they make that have a big impact on the story and then work on motivation and how they came to the point where they would adopt that mindset. Once you start working on that it isn't too hard to give a character depth. The flimsiest characters are the ones that do things "just because" and the author expects the audience to just accept that and move on.

For example a villain, usually the Big Bad, wakes up one day and decides they want to conquer the world and enslave everyone. Where in reality dictators usually develop their mindset over time based on how they interpret their own life experiences, the ideas they've been exposed to as they are developing their own identity, and so on. Even serial killers can develop some warped reason why they have to do the things they do.
“Silence is only frightening to people who are compulsively verbalizing.” ~ William S. Boroughs

Offline Yora

Re: Relating to characters
« Reply #23 on: February 04, 2016, 11:20:02 AM »
The best stories are those in which the plot is the result of the personalty of the character. If anyone would act the same way if put into the position of the protagonist, then the plot is written in a way that allows almost no agency.

I think the best well known example from fiction is Indiana Jones. When he is faced with a problem, he does not do the obvious sensible thing, but some crazy daring Indiana Jones thing. He's consistent in that and we have it figured out pretty quickly, so when he jumps from a horse on a truck full of enemies, we're not really surprised or think the writers throw out silly ideas randomly. We actually anticipate something like that and looking forward to it. Put any other character with whatever personality in his position at the start of the movie and you can be certain that the rest if the story would not have played out anything like that.
Dark Lord taking over the world and heroes stopping him because it's the right thing to di won't get you anything like that.

I am of the personal opinion that you can't write a good adventure story without outlining.Or if you start out blank and just see where it would take you, you probably need so much revising that the first draft effectively becomes your outline. There are some kinds of fiction where you can just go exploring and surprise yourself with what you get in the end, but I don't believe that works for stories of the adventure type.
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Offline JMack

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Re: Relating to characters
« Reply #24 on: February 04, 2016, 11:24:58 AM »
I very much like Yora's comment:

Quote
The best stories are those in which the plot is the result of the personalty of the character. If anyone would act the same way if put into the position of the protagonist, then the plot is written in a way that allows almost no agency.
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Offline Blackthorn

Re: Relating to characters
« Reply #25 on: February 04, 2016, 07:32:15 PM »
Normally I would write without planning and it usually works out alright. I have of course never tried writing something of the scale I am now.

Though it goes against my usual nature I tried making a rough outline of my first couple chapters. The result was undeniable, I felt more comfortable with the characters. I expanded on the story in a place where I couldn't find enough action. Overall, I think ill be plotting my stories a lot more in the future.

Thanks for all the help!

Offline Yora

Re: Relating to characters
« Reply #26 on: February 04, 2016, 08:05:56 PM »
The problem I see with "freestyle" writing is that the plot that emerges from it will largely be situations and developments that come intuitively to mind while you are writing. And intuition tells us to follow the path we're already familiar with. Which in this case means following stereotypes and even cliches.
Doing something new and clever isn't likely to happen by accident. You have to actively decide to get off the beaten path with a purpose or you will quickly drift back to it because that's what comes naturally.

If your focus is on reflection and atmosphere, heading out without a goal could probably get you pretty interesting results in that area. (I don't really read stories of that kind myself.) But if you want to do stories with an emphasis on characters being clever, mysteries being solved, and things connecting together in unexpected ways, I think you need to have a pretty good idea of where the story starts, where it ends, and who the actors are before you begin with the first draft.
Or you end up with something like Lost or X-Files where the audience just throws their hands up and resign any hope that there will be a satisfying payoff in the end. Or it's highly predictable the entire time.
We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on a big tower of other dwarves.

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Offline Francis Knight

Re: Relating to characters
« Reply #27 on: February 04, 2016, 11:26:38 PM »
I don't need to relate exactly, but I do need to see why a character acts as they do (even if it's not as I would). I need to understand them

Writing a character not like you is a challenge. I suspect I go a bit Method -- when I'm in the zone, I'm not me, I am only channelling them. Ack, I sound like a total hippy. But I get into their mindset. Their background, personality, everything plays into it. 99% of my characters are nothing like me, so you have to be able to manage it somehow or your book is going to be wall to wall character who are you. When you come across a scene or problem, you don't think what would I do. You think, what would they do? You walk a mile in their shoes. Sorry I can't give more practical advice, but that's just what I do -- if I were, say, a male PI with Daddy issues, magical powers that scare me, a fear of heights and a sarcastic manner, what would I do at this point? Not what Julia would do. What they would do.
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Offline shadowkat678

Re: Relating to characters
« Reply #28 on: March 26, 2016, 03:24:52 AM »
Read a wide range of character types. There are MCs of all different shapes/genders etc. That will help to bring you into other mindsets and expression. What kind of character are they? Put down a few main things and try to find a,few books that have similar characters. Study them, then use that as a muse.

You can't teach experience, but you can allow yourself to open up to more than your own.

You have to disconnect your self from the character. The character doesn't care about what you think or care about. They have their own self. That is what you have to tap into.

For me, there is a lot of placing myself into that characters mind. Think about who they are. Their past, their experiences that make them. Their motivations, what drives them? This is a hard thing to do for some people. I speak from experience. I am a night writer for a reason. I need time to get my mind right and into the character. Once I'm there, I feel it. You should see some of my facial expressions.  :o Its a weird thing being in that place.

Practice is the big thing. Write until you get closer to what you want. If its not right, try again. Keep doing it until it is. Then write more until it's perfect. Write out of your comfort zone until you've got it.

Ah, THAT place. I love and hate it all at once. Problem for me is I don't always do it at night. I find myself there in other places...such as a crowded hallway.  8)
Be not a writer, but a Storyweaver. For that, my friend, is how you'll truly leave your mark.

Offline Justan Henner

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Re: Relating to characters
« Reply #29 on: March 26, 2016, 02:35:49 PM »
The problem I see with "freestyle" writing is that the plot that emerges from it will largely be situations and developments that come intuitively to mind while you are writing. And intuition tells us to follow the path we're already familiar with. Which in this case means following stereotypes and even cliches.
Doing something new and clever isn't likely to happen by accident. You have to actively decide to get off the beaten path with a purpose or you will quickly drift back to it because that's what comes naturally.

This is a bit silly. Writing without an outline doesn't suddenly give you an inability to recognize tropes, nor does it mean you put less thought into what you're doing.

Frankly, I don't think there is much of a difference between gardeners and architects aside from how much you know when. Most gardeners I've spoken to have a vague idea from the start of what is going to happen, they just haven't put the path down onto paper. It means just spending more time on a particular scene immediately, as the scene is being written, and more time spent rewriting later to adjust dialogue and setting to push the plot toward the end goal. It also means not knowing what elements must go into what place at what time, right from the get go, and while I think gardeners probably spend more time in the rewrite phases, I don't know any authors who don't have to rewrite in order to rework these details anyway.

On another point, architects are working with as much intuition in writing their first drafts as gardeners are in their first drafts, in the same way gardener's spend as much time reworking their scenes as architects spend reworking their outlines.

Personally, the reason I prefer freestyle, is a) because I'm lazy, b) writing an outline saps all the fun out of writing the actual scene, and most importantly, c) I know what I have to work with at every moment. Since I already know what has happened, and what spontaneous changes have already arisen, I have the opportunity to build upon those changes without having to go back and rewrite entire sections of an outline, or try to force a course correction to get myself back on track.

I've tried outlining, but what fails for me is that I found most good ideas actually do come to me in the spur of the moment. They build from small details in plot, things like describing the setting and writing the dialogue. These minor details are typically things I wouldn't have put into or thought of in the outline.

I'll give you an example:
One of my main characters is a traveling merchant. I knew nothing about her when I started, except that she would be the initial PoV's foil, something to balance the "quiet, brooding, teenage protagonist" that I was hoping to make fun of. In the spur of the moment, this merchant became overly talkative, to the point I was having her tell random stories from her life, with no purpose in them aside from showing that she liked to talk. At one point, she told a story about a time she got drunk and broke into a library, and shit in a book. It was meaningless at the time, I had not planned it to mean anything at any point, it was completely and utterly meaningless.

A few scenes later, I was writing dialogue for another character, and suddenly the merchant shitting in a book became the backbone of the story. It became a critical moment which thrust everything else into motion, and why? Because I thought it was funny. It set the entire course of the story from that point forward, and yet it never would have ended up on an outline, because it stemmed from an inessential, spur of the moment conversation.

I'm not saying that architects don't have this level of spontaneity, in fact I very much believe they do, but the assertion that freestyling it leads to tropes and stereotypes is just silly.
« Last Edit: March 26, 2016, 02:48:55 PM by Justan Henner »