Character Development Advice Needed

The writing process, writing advice, and updates on your work in progress
User avatar
Steph.s
Posts: 33
Joined: December 12th, 2010, 11:18 am
Location: Texas
Contact:

Character Development Advice Needed

Post by Steph.s » January 27th, 2011, 4:45 pm

I have a character problem that I really need advice on. I just got a crit back from a beta reader and she suggested that I work on my male lead. He's a very reserved, academic (a little wounded) kind of guy. The problem is that he came across as very "generic hero character" and a little boring to my reader. I suspect that he fades into the background when compared to my female POV character.

I do not want to take him over the top in order to compete. Does anyone here have any advice to offer? How do you make a reserved character stand out?

User avatar
HillaryJ
Posts: 434
Joined: February 3rd, 2010, 7:22 pm
Location: Alaska
Contact:

Re: Character Development Advice Needed

Post by HillaryJ » January 27th, 2011, 4:51 pm

What POV are you writing in, Steph?

Ways I've used to round out retiring characters are with physical tics (always straightening things, easily distracted, gestures), displays of unexpected expertise or passion regarding something unusual, and through refined dialogue. Even a wallflower can be captivating if they say the right things.
Blog http://www.hillaryjacques.blogspot.com
Twitter http://www.twitter.com/hillaryjacques
CARNIEPUNK - http://books.simonandschuster.com/Carni ... 1476714158
as Regan Summers - The Night Runner series from Carina Press

Guardian
Posts: 563
Joined: September 29th, 2010, 4:36 pm
Location: Somewhere between two realms
Contact:

Re: Character Development Advice Needed

Post by Guardian » January 27th, 2011, 4:55 pm

Just a question. Did your beta actually told you why your character is boring (Other then "generic hero character"). What is making him boring? His actions, his characteristics, his dialogues? So it would be good to know, because this "boring" stuff can be anything. It can range from simple "It's boring because of his characteristics", to "It's boring because of the reader's lack of imagination or complete incompetence" (This is the worse case scenario.).
I suspect that he fades into the background when compared to my female POV character.
You suspect? Did you get any details regarding this matter (I guess not.)? But if yes, could you be more specific?
Last edited by Guardian on January 27th, 2011, 5:02 pm, edited 4 times in total.

User avatar
Steph.s
Posts: 33
Joined: December 12th, 2010, 11:18 am
Location: Texas
Contact:

Re: Character Development Advice Needed

Post by Steph.s » January 27th, 2011, 4:57 pm

I am using first person POV.

Louise Curtis
Posts: 88
Joined: September 24th, 2010, 7:48 pm
Location: Canberra, Australia
Contact:

Re: Character Development Advice Needed

Post by Louise Curtis » January 27th, 2011, 4:59 pm

Flaws. More than one. And actual flaws, not "sometimes he dresses badly".

You can also give someone heart by three types of pain - past pain (expressed subtley, eg there's a photo of his dad on the wall but not his mum), present pain/tension (usually via a plot, eg he likes a girl/he hates his job etc - the more active he is in solving his problem, the more readers will like him), and "jeopardy" which means future pain (either the reader knowledge that the girl is about to reject him, or a scene in which he is in danger of physical pain - either way, the pain needs to actually happen to pay off the tension).

Also, contradictions in who he is - all real people have them. In "The Fugitive" Tommy Lee Jones plays a great character who is extremely intelligent and utterly merciless. But he is constantly teasing and being teased by his team, which shows us he's not a psychopath. There is a moment very early on when he is snapping out orders, and then he spots one of his team not moving, and first yells at him, then orders him, "Since you're not doing anything, fetch me a coffee. And a donut. Chocolate, with those little sprinkles on top." In that last sentence, he smiles for the first (and almost the only) time. This is a man who loves his sprinkles, just like the audience. Suddenly he becomes human. It doesn't take away from his toughness, either - it shows his bravery comes from a human, not a machine.
Louise Curtis
Twitter Tales @Louise_Curtis_
Writing Tips, Steampunk, Baby Talk, and Daily Awesomeness http://twittertales.wordpress.com

User avatar
Watcher55
Posts: 741
Joined: November 27th, 2010, 8:25 am
Location: Plantser-ville
Contact:

Re: Character Development Advice Needed

Post by Watcher55 » January 27th, 2011, 5:04 pm

Write about him. Stuff that will never be in the book. Stuff that your MC doesn't and never will know. Stuff only you and he will know. A character is doomed to be flat if he doesn't live in the procreator's head.

User avatar
Steph.s
Posts: 33
Joined: December 12th, 2010, 11:18 am
Location: Texas
Contact:

Re: Character Development Advice Needed

Post by Steph.s » January 27th, 2011, 5:13 pm

The beta said that the feel of the character is vague when comparing him to the POV character. She says that he is not well defined and that after we get his back story early on he seems boring - no more mystery, no secrets.

User avatar
Josin
Posts: 98
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 1:07 pm
Contact:

Re: Character Development Advice Needed

Post by Josin » January 27th, 2011, 5:31 pm

Give him some quirks, idiosyncrasies. Maybe he listens to a particular song over and over. Maybe he hates the color puce. Maybe he only drinks chocolate milk

Maybe he's so tidy that the compulsion to clean makes him miss out on things he wants to do. Maybe he can't say no and almost bankrupts himself giving money to people.

You need to layer him.

User avatar
polymath
Posts: 1821
Joined: December 8th, 2009, 11:22 am
Location: Babel
Contact:

Re: Character Development Advice Needed

Post by polymath » January 27th, 2011, 5:34 pm

Character development orients on personality and behavior traits. A reserved character can have a set of traits that contradict or parallel the reserved behavior. Asking W questions, who, what, when, where, why, and how, about the causes of his reserved trait might provide insight.

Is he confident? Awkward? Reserved because he doesn't want to interfere? Reserved around people when he's in street clothes, but in a mascot costume he's gregarious? Self-deprecating because he doesn't want anyone to notice him? An avoidant personality? Low self-esteem? Does he have a Clark Kent syndrome, meek and mild mannered in disguise, but a megalomaniac who believes he's capable of great deeds though his actions contradict his greatness? Is he shy because he's been told all his life he's worthless? Perhaps he is a good person but doesn't find what everyone else is interested in interesting and what he finds interesting no one else wants to consider?

They say still waters run deep, and quiet. A reserved character can stand out by doing very little as long as it's poignant.
Spread the love of written word.

Guardian
Posts: 563
Joined: September 29th, 2010, 4:36 pm
Location: Somewhere between two realms
Contact:

Re: Character Development Advice Needed

Post by Guardian » January 27th, 2011, 5:46 pm

no more mystery, no secrets.
Try to rearrange some scenes or some details. Sometimes writers used to shot all their ammunition, all their ideas in the beginning and leaving the characters uninteresting for the rest. In these case rearranging these details can solve this problem... if you don't want to add more mysteries and secrets. But the other evident solution is to give more mystery and secrets. This can be solved on few different ways; such as a well known fact has a double meaning and you're revealing the second meaning only in the end, which is giving a twist and giving a 180 degree in your character's characteristic.

Or if you don't want to make it complicated; hide some details. i.e. your MC is not talking about his past, because of an X reason and you're revealing this reason step by step. Or your character has a phobia, but you're not revealing it's true reason.

As Polymath written, give a chance for your readers to ask the following questions regarding your character throughout the entire novel; who, what, when, where, why, and how (You don't have to use all of them at once. Pick two or three.).

User avatar
Watcher55
Posts: 741
Joined: November 27th, 2010, 8:25 am
Location: Plantser-ville
Contact:

Re: Character Development Advice Needed

Post by Watcher55 » January 27th, 2011, 5:50 pm

polymath wrote:They say still waters run deep, and quiet. A reserved character can stand out by doing very little as long as it's poignant.
Conspicuous understatement - always there but never making waves until it's time to make a splash.

User avatar
HillaryJ
Posts: 434
Joined: February 3rd, 2010, 7:22 pm
Location: Alaska
Contact:

Re: Character Development Advice Needed

Post by HillaryJ » January 27th, 2011, 6:08 pm

Is there conflict or tension between him and the female protagonist? Sometimes it's not what a character does, but what he resists or doesn't do that is interesting. One of my favorite male leads (quiet guy existing in a dynamic book told in the female lead's POV) grew on me when he disagreed with or objected to the female's actions. She could be bull-headed, and since the story was in her POV, she expressed irritation with him, but as a reader, I judged him right. Thus, at times, I liked him better.
Blog http://www.hillaryjacques.blogspot.com
Twitter http://www.twitter.com/hillaryjacques
CARNIEPUNK - http://books.simonandschuster.com/Carni ... 1476714158
as Regan Summers - The Night Runner series from Carina Press

User avatar
Steph.s
Posts: 33
Joined: December 12th, 2010, 11:18 am
Location: Texas
Contact:

Re: Character Development Advice Needed

Post by Steph.s » January 27th, 2011, 6:44 pm

In the story he's very much the voice of reason and chivalrous protector (even though he isn't big or scary) for the female lead who tends to rush into situations that could be life threatening. He's been there before and came very close to dying which is a big part of why he is so reserved, the rest is just his personality.

In the beginning I found it necessary to tell his story to the female lead in order to show her why he didn't want to get involved in the conflict.

GeeGee55
Posts: 173
Joined: February 19th, 2010, 11:01 pm
Contact:

Re: Character Development Advice Needed

Post by GeeGee55 » January 27th, 2011, 8:44 pm

I think it might help to give him an internal conflict. If he's quiet, does he want to be boisterous? If he's awkward, does he long to be athletic? If he's cautious, would he rather be carefree? That might help make him more interesting to readers. Will he change or not? Use whatever might add to the external conflict.

Margo
Posts: 1712
Joined: April 5th, 2010, 11:21 am
Contact:

Re: Character Development Advice Needed

Post by Margo » January 27th, 2011, 9:01 pm

How far did you go into character development before writing? I'm guessing, just guessing, not far enough. On one end of the extreme would be me with a 15-page list of questions I ask myself about each of my characters. I'm sure quite a few people would feel comfortable with less, but it sounds like you need (a little/some/a lot) more than whatever amount you've done. I can't imagine a fully developed character who is boring unless he's made entirely of stereotypes.

My rule of thumb: if you can't immediately tell someone what the character's greatest fear is, what his greatest desire is, and why, he needs to go back in the oven. He's not done yet.

The internal conflict is usually closely connected to these.
Steph.s wrote:In the story he's very much the voice of reason and chivalrous protector (even though he isn't big or scary) for the female lead who tends to rush into situations that could be life threatening.
It sounds like you might be using him as the impact character to play off your main character? Perhaps you haven't pushed that role as far as it could go and asked 'why' about each of their actions and reactions?
Urban fantasy, epic fantasy, and hot Norse elves. http://margolerwill.blogspot.com/

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests