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Writing Help--Characters

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  • Writing Help--Characters

    Hey all, I'm looking for suggestions.

    As some of you may know, I've been trying to write a novel for like two years now. Only recently have I actually gotten a well-rounded plot for this thing, so now I think I've really got something worth writing here.

    ...However, now my problem is with characters. I have two protagonists in mind (one primary one), which came about naturally by way of their fit within the plot. I also have two (likely) antagonists in mind. My issue is with my protagonists, and imbuing them with life. I'm not sure how to go about this. Does anyone have any suggestions, preferred methods, etc.?

    I've considered filling out one of those character sheets you can find online, but those seem...of suspicious usefulness. Especially the ones that ask for your character's eye color and favorite ice cream, or whatever. Have any of you found anything of value?
    Last edited by Zymologist; 04-01-2015, 03:31 PM.
    I DENOUNCE DONALD J. TRUMP AND ALL HIS IMMORAL ACTS.

  • #2
    I do character sheets, although I try to focus more on their family background and such. I've heard doing prompts is particularly useful for developing your characters outside the plot. That way your characters are people and not plot devices.

    "Fire is catching. If we burn, you burn with us!"
    "I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to stay here and cause all kinds of trouble."
    Katniss Everdeen


    Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by thewriteranon View Post
      I do character sheets, although I try to focus more on their family background and such. I've heard doing prompts is particularly useful for developing your characters outside the plot. That way your characters are people and not plot devices.
      Can you link to any particular character sheets you like?
      I DENOUNCE DONALD J. TRUMP AND ALL HIS IMMORAL ACTS.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Zymologist View Post
        Can you link to any particular character sheets you like?
        Nah, I do my own. Although yWriter5, which I use, is a super nifty writing tool that gives you special space for character bios. One of my favorite things about it is that it will keep track automatically of characters you use in a chapter or objects or locations.

        "Fire is catching. If we burn, you burn with us!"
        "I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to stay here and cause all kinds of trouble."
        Katniss Everdeen


        Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast.

        Comment


        • #5
          David Edding's wrote a book called the Riven Codex which includes a lot of the background stuff he used for writing the Belgariad series. I found it useful for my own dabblings with writing.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rivan_Codex
          "If you can ever make any major religion look absolutely ludicrous, chances are you haven't understood it"
          -Ravi Zacharias, The New Age: A foreign bird with a local walk

          Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.
          1 Corinthians 16:13

          "...he [Doherty] is no historian and he is not even conversant with the historical discussions of the very matters he wants to pontificate on."
          -Ben Witherington III

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          • #6
            You should probably stick with writing with characters from the latin alphabet. It would be a bit confusing if you decided to write a novel using characters from Greek, Japanese, Hindi or some other foreign language.
            ~Formerly known as Chrawnus~

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Chrawnus View Post
              You should probably stick with writing with characters from the latin alphabet. It would be a bit confusing if you decided to write a novel using characters from Greek, Japanese, Hindi or some other foreign language.
              I just feel that the latin characters lack so much depth and unpredictability. The reader needs something he hasn't read over and over again.
              I DENOUNCE DONALD J. TRUMP AND ALL HIS IMMORAL ACTS.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Zymologist View Post
                I just feel that the latin characters lack so much depth and unpredictability. The reader needs something he hasn't read over and over again.
                I go with runes when I'm feeling creative.

                "Fire is catching. If we burn, you burn with us!"
                "I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to stay here and cause all kinds of trouble."
                Katniss Everdeen


                Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast.

                Comment


                • #9
                  How’s this for a character skeleton to flesh out?


                  Name:

                  (including nicknames or aliases, think about what the name means, is it something that describes them well, a reputation they have rightly or wrongly earned, or something they are resentful of and rebelling against?)

                  Occupation:

                  How they currently support themselves. Is it something they enjoy, or something they have been forced to do by someone else’s edict, or by the circumstances (e.g. the best of a bad set of options)

                  Education/training/skills:

                  What comes more naturally as well as what they have invested time and effort into learning (can be major overlaps with ‘strengths’ below)

                  History:

                  How they were brought up, in what culture, what character-forming events they have been through/people they have known that reinforced/undermined/added to their upbringing, helped them mature (or not), expanded their horizons or made them cynical or secretive.

                  Beliefs/ values/ morals:

                  What are they comfortable with doing, what are they prepared to do when the situation demands, and what is overstepping the line for them? What guiding principles are important to them, and how do these differ from those around them? Are these changing, or something they cling to through the turbulence of life?

                  Strengths/ Weaknesses:

                  Both in terms of physical and technical abilities and psychologically, what they can and can’t cope with well.

                  Hopes/aims/goals:

                  What is their ultimate goal beyond the immediate situation, what keeps them motivated to carry on, or tempts them to take the easy way out.

                  Fears:

                  What is personally at stake for them if they fail, how invested they are in the situation and mission, what ghosts of their past still haunt them, what aspects of normal life are incomprehensible or intimidating to them. (Can be major overlaps here with ‘weaknesses’ above)
                  --------------------------------------------------------

                  Nakonec pravda vitezi (In the end the truth wins)

                  Nobility Among Us and Beyond the Mist are now on sale worldwide, as is my first poetry collection, Selected Verse - Faith and Family and my second, Selected Verse - Heroes and Wonders

                  Explore the Cinematic Superverse

                  A Hope That Burns

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Raphael View Post
                    David Edding's wrote a book called the Riven Codex which includes a lot of the background stuff he used for writing the Belgariad series. I found it useful for my own dabblings with writing.

                    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rivan_Codex
                    I dunno, I wouldn't hold up David Edding's work as great writing.

                    If the character is being thrust into an unfamiliar situation, you'll also want to explore how that situation changes the character as it progresses.
                    Enter the Church and wash away your sins. For here there is a hospital and not a court of law. Do not be ashamed to enter the Church; be ashamed when you sin, but not when you repent. St. John Chrysostom

                    Veritas vos Liberabit<>< Learn Greek <>< Look here for an Orthodox Church in America<><Ancient Faith Radio
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                    I recommend you do not try too hard and ...research as little as possible. Such weighty things give me a headache. - Shunyadragon, Baha'i apologist

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                    • #11
                      Good list, Ben. Thanks.
                      I DENOUNCE DONALD J. TRUMP AND ALL HIS IMMORAL ACTS.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I've been working on finishing my second book for a few months now. I find it helpful to think of characters in terms of their flaws, as most stories(with adventure/action stories as typical exceptions) can be broken down to a character confronting and overcoming a flaw: A personal or moral shortcoming. It is something internal(i.e. clumsiness is not a character flaw, but insecurity or anger management problems might be). It's useful because a character flaw generally provides a major source of conflict and backstory- where did it come from? how did they did with it in the past? how does it affect their current relationships? etc. And dealing with it in the novel provides character growth and drives the plot forward. Of course, that's not always true, it's just what works for the things I write.

                        I do my own character sheets too, and ask questions of characters like: What do they value most? What are they most afraid of? Who did they disappoint in their life, and how? Who are their friends, and how do they treat each other? Superficial details about eye color and ice cream preferences are just that, and I usually have no plan for them at all- I add them as I write a scene if and when it becomes relevant in the story: "Hey, we're at an ice cream parlor. What do you usually get?"- and then just jot it down after the fact. Character A likes chocolate. Who knew?

                        Hope that helps!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by LeaC View Post
                          I've been working on finishing my second book for a few months now. I find it helpful to think of characters in terms of their flaws, as most stories(with adventure/action stories as typical exceptions) can be broken down to a character confronting and overcoming a flaw: A personal or moral shortcoming. It is something internal(i.e. clumsiness is not a character flaw, but insecurity or anger management problems might be). It's useful because a character flaw generally provides a major source of conflict and backstory- where did it come from? how did they did with it in the past? how does it affect their current relationships? etc. And dealing with it in the novel provides character growth and drives the plot forward. Of course, that's not always true, it's just what works for the things I write.

                          I do my own character sheets too, and ask questions of characters like: What do they value most? What are they most afraid of? Who did they disappoint in their life, and how? Who are their friends, and how do they treat each other? Superficial details about eye color and ice cream preferences are just that, and I usually have no plan for them at all- I add them as I write a scene if and when it becomes relevant in the story: "Hey, we're at an ice cream parlor. What do you usually get?"- and then just jot it down after the fact. Character A likes chocolate. Who knew?

                          Hope that helps!
                          I actually just spent a little time filling out Ben's categories, and it helped tremendously. I think that finally, after two years of amateurish attempts and half-baked ideas, I have an idea that might be almost all the way baked now.

                          And your second book? Anything to tell about the first one?
                          I DENOUNCE DONALD J. TRUMP AND ALL HIS IMMORAL ACTS.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Zymologist View Post
                            I actually just spent a little time filling out Ben's categories, and it helped tremendously. I think that finally, after two years of amateurish attempts and half-baked ideas, I have an idea that might be almost all the way baked now.

                            And your second book? Anything to tell about the first one?
                            Good to hear! And, well... currently I'm editing my first one to make sure the plot is logically consistent and for accuracy, while at the same time getting close to finishing a first draft of the second. So I suppose "finished with one" depends on your definition... What are you writing about?

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by LeaC View Post
                              Good to hear! And, well... currently I'm editing my first one to make sure the plot is logically consistent and for accuracy, while at the same time getting close to finishing a first draft of the second. So I suppose "finished with one" depends on your definition... What are you writing about?
                              It's a fantasy, roughly, but I am also inspired by H.P. Lovecraft, so it's a bit of a genre mash-up. I suppose you could loosely call it a fantasy with horror elements. You?
                              I DENOUNCE DONALD J. TRUMP AND ALL HIS IMMORAL ACTS.

                              Comment

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