Jump to content

Welcome to RR

Message of the day

buy a fridge retard

Join a club

Maybe even start your own.

Click here to get started

Sign in to follow this  
Nox

An exploration of character.

Recommended Posts

Nox    19

I'm feeling a little pretentious today, as per usual, and I want to discuss how y'all write characters. I don't necessarily mean for books either, I just want a discussion about how people make "people".

I have a history of making people up. Dungeons and Dragons and other table top games frequently challenge me to create people. In my journey I've learned a few things about how to make a person.

  1. Everybody wants. If your character doesn't want something, chances are people won't be very interested in them. Want creates conflict and plots all on its own. If I make a person, I need to make them want something.
  2. Characters lie, both to themselves and to others. Narrators lie too. A character can be as moral as an angel, but they lie all the time, just in different ways.
  3. Strange may be one of the best labels you can put on a character. If something is strange, then it isn't normal. If your character is strange, chances are they're interesting too. 
  4. A flawed character is a better character. The greek gods wouldn't have such interesting stories if they were without flaws. Zeus banged everything, Hera was an utter bitch, Athena was incredibly jealous e.t.c. Despite being god's, a definition of perfect, they have flaws which make them interesting and also tend to make them WANT.
  5. The best time to get to know a character is when they are alone.
  6. Characters are best expressed through action, not description. Dialogue may be the best way for a character to express themselves. 

Those are some things I think about when I write people. What are some of your guys' favorite characters? How do you write people, if at all?

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
ragreynolds    795

I've never really attempted to write/create any characters that are not directly derived from myself. For some reason I just can't get interested enough in actually writing unless I make it a personal thing and put my own personal qualities into said character. So I've never really tried to invent a new character to really answer your question(s).

However, I do greatly appreciate many characters across multiple mediums, whether that be video games, movies, or television. The characters that intrigue/fascinate me most tend to be the ones who are the most damaged/fucked up in the head (so long as they actually have a written psyche and it's not just a character who is crazy/horrible for the sake of being a crazy/horrible character). The 'good' characters never interest me as much, simply because I tend to think that good people are far more common in the real world, and it is far less often that anyone ever comes face to face with someone truly crazy, nasty, or psychotic. The unknown is just far more interesting than what is common in everyday life. I love characters that you actually have to think, and perhaps even revisit material time after time again just to understand properly. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Justin13    84

I like secrets. I know you said everyone lies but I feel like a secret is more than just an upfront bluff check. Keeping a secret is more about dancing around a topic in order to arouse suspicion or interest from players. Clearly, my experience is in Pathfinder and tabletop, not book writing. I think secrets, if as simple as "where I hid the body" or as complex as "I'm the money-laundering support for the Big Bad Evil Guy that you've been chasing after all along despite my being the mayor of the town that also hired you to hunt him down!" create an entire new dynamic for players to consider. From then on, once they've discovered my "secrets" mechanic as a DM they don't trust everyone so quickly, which seems more realistic to me anyways. And a secret is harder to uncover than a lie in tabletop, I think. Just my two-cents.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Seeker    116
12 hours ago, Nox said:
  1. The best time to get to know a character is when they are alone.

What? No... No, no, no.

Show, don't tell. Inner monologues should only be used if absolutely necessary, and even then... Meh, there's always another way to convey what you wanna.

How a character reacts to the world and those around him/her is how you really get to know 'em.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
pxc    156
2 hours ago, Seeker said:

How a character reacts to the world and those around him/her is how you really get to know 'em.


I agree with this bit here. It's the little things that really disclose a lot about a character, but I do think it's equally important to see them alone and around other people. The realism comes out when you can compare the two, see the inner conflict as well as the outer and how well they can hold their secrets.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Nox    19
15 hours ago, Seeker said:

What? No... No, no, no.

Show, don't tell. Inner monologues should only be used if absolutely necessary, and even then... Meh, there's always another way to convey what you wanna.

How a character reacts to the world and those around him/her is how you really get to know 'em.

How does being alone stop a character from "showing"? Isn't a serial killer's actions in their lair pretty telling about the character? How they keep their tools if at all, how they plot their next target, e.t.c.

I agree with "showing" more than telling. I mentioned this in 6, though. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Seeker    116
9 hours ago, Nox said:

How does being alone stop a character from "showing"? Isn't a serial killer's actions in their lair pretty telling about the character? How they keep their tools if at all, how they plot their next target, e.t.c.

I agree with "showing" more than telling. I mentioned this in 6, though. 

Definitely. Did you read the post all the way through:

How a character reacts to the world and those around him/her is how you really get to know 'em.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Nox    19
On 3/12/2017 at 4:35 AM, Seeker said:

Definitely. Did you read the post all the way through:

How a character reacts to the world and those around him/her is how you really get to know 'em.

Yeah, it just looked like you missed what I said.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm studying film production at university and personally one of my favourite parts of it is screenwriting. I love coming up with characters. My inspiration is from my personal life. Writing from semi-autobigraphical prospective is great most of the time. Most pieces of fiction are done that way when it comes down to characters.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Nox    19
10 hours ago, The_Right_Honourable_Jimmy said:

I'm studying film production at university and personally one of my favourite parts of it is screenwriting. I love coming up with characters. My inspiration is from my personal life. Writing from semi-autobigraphical prospective is great most of the time. Most pieces of fiction are done that way when it comes down to characters.

Yeah, totally. I was once told that fiction is designed to explore ideas. If you aren't exploring, it ain't fiction.

Characters are like ships in this regard, helping you sail into the unknown...

I've been told that writing from personal experience is a good thing too. It was Picasso who said, "Good artists copy, great artists steal," and this is true for writing too. Steal your own experiences and your writing will be better.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Nox said:

Yeah, totally. I was once told that fiction is designed to explore ideas. If you aren't exploring, it ain't fiction.

Characters are like ships in this regard, helping you sail into the unknown...

I've been told that writing from personal experience is a good thing too. It was Picasso who said, "Good artists copy, great artists steal," and this is true for writing too. Steal your own experiences and your writing will be better.

Yeah I mean it's much easier as well. If I want a character that everyone would hate, I would think of my nemesis and incorporate that into it. If I write about a woman and want to create sexual tension, I have to use personal experience because if I don't, then it's all clichè. 

Also its easier because if I'm going to be directing real people trying to perform these characters then I have to definitely incorporate personal experience into character development. However, I'm also quite liniment when it comes to improvisation and I like for the actors to put their own spin on the characters. It's like you choose the flower seeds in the screenplay during pre-production and then you watch the actors flourish and grow through the performance on location which is so beautiful to be honest.

To me writing a screenplay and directing it afterwards is like playing god, creating a universe. That is what I love about my field.

  • Upvote 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
GAR    6

Flawed characters as well as any character with strong desires, problems and/or goals are the best characters. The point of a main character is to follow their journey and watch them grow in a sense while seeing the world building through their senses. I think some great examples of strong characters and uncovering character development are films like Silence of the Lambs and Psycho.  I feel like when people see characters make mistakes in movies and TV nowadays they're too offended by it.

 

I disagree with your 5th and 6th points Nox. Character development comes from interaction with other characters or with the world built around them, also their character description based on looks alone can say a lot when they're first introduced (ie how they are dressed or their overall posture).

Edited by GAR
  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Nox    19
3 hours ago, GAR said:

Flawed characters as well as any character with strong desires, problems and/or goals are the best characters. The point of a main character is to follow their journey and watch them grow in a sense while seeing the world building through their senses. I think some great examples of strong characters and uncovering character development are films like Silence of the Lambs and Psycho.  I feel like when people see characters make mistakes in movies and TV nowadays they're too offended by it.

 

I disagree with your 5th and 6th points Nox. Character development comes from interaction with other characters or with the world built around them, also their character description based on looks alone can say a lot when they're first introduced (ie how they are dressed or their overall posture).

Eh, I don't really see how those points conflict with five or six. Physical description is inherent to a character's being; You'll be given it when they're alone (unless written otherwise). Being alone is a direct interaction with the world. Tom Hanks was alone on an island in Cast Away, so he tried to get help (interaction while the character is alone).  I simply like it when a character is alone because you get to see more unique examples of a character's behavior. You act differently when you're alone than you do when with friends, right? What interesting stories could you tell from a time when you were alone? Certainly they'd be unique examples of how you behave. 

I mean, fuck, Spongebob demonstrates it well:

 

It was a simple way to tell us something about Squidward and (incidentally) develop him. Change the setting a bit (to say, an island perhaps) and you've got plenty of great ways to make a character better.

Description has its perks too, but actions explain so much more about a character. Imagine a man with a bloody stump for an arm. With that thought alone, all he'll be is a man with a bloody stump for an arm. Now, imagine this man in two different scenes: one where he falls to the ground and cries about his missing limb, and one where he sticks a plunger to his stump and  jokingly hits you with it. With an action, this man becomes two different people. 

It all depends on context which one is more important, though. When I read, I tend to find character description is pretty minimal aside from important details. The reader tends to fill in a lot of blanks if you give them just enough to work with. The bulk of the character development is then carried out by how they act. Certainly they rely on each other, I just see action as having more sway.

"The best way" is a little subjective in this case, sure (I also just realized the contradiction in six). Context is everything, and there is no wrong way to creatively write if you handle the language well. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×