Character Development Advice Needed

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Steph.s
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Re: Character Development Advice Needed

Post by Steph.s » January 27th, 2011, 10:52 pm

Thanks to everyone for all of your great advice.

Sommer Leigh
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Re: Character Development Advice Needed

Post by Sommer Leigh » January 28th, 2011, 8:29 am

If you're still having trouble figuring out how to make him a more realized character, take a step back and pick up a book you really like with a strong male character. Read the book specifically looking for the things you think make that character so engaging and memorable. I do this when I can't see through my own work because I'm too close to it. I look for dialogue, actions, reactions from other characters, whatever stands out. This helps me understand where I have failed or not done enough. It is my experience that the characters I turn to are more complicated, more conflicted, and more difficult to pin down than the character I'm having trouble with. People are awesome and complex. We might make the heroic choice at one crossroads but give in to our temper when no one is looking. If you can slot your male character into a catagory (heroic protector, for example) then maybe he isn't complicated enough. And don't forget growth. The best characters are always the ones that have been perminantly altered by the story in some significant way. Maybe he's not growing with the story.

Good luck! I know how hard it can be to complicate a character when you want them to play a specific part. Your writing will be stronger for it though.
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Claudie
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Re: Character Development Advice Needed

Post by Claudie » January 28th, 2011, 12:35 pm

Science-Fiction author Michael Stackpole has some great exercices for characters in his 21 Days to A Novel. The first days are all about creating multilayered, interesting characters. Ever since I tried them out, I find myself going through them when I work on my WIP's characters. Here goes:

Day 1: Write five short sentences about five different aspects of your character's life. This can be profession, love, friendships, hobby, dreams, fears, past events, appearance, standing, personality, etc. Anything, really. Keep it under 15 words.

Day 2: Expand the five sentences into five paragraphs, explaining them.

Day 3: For each of the five paragraphs, write another sentence that contradicts or nuances it. So if you've said your character was loyal to a fault in a paragraph, this could be "He once sold his best friend for a pack of cigarettes." The more punchy you are with these, the funnier.

Day 4: Expand the five contradictory sentences into paragraphs, explaining them.

***
From experience when I start these exercises I have 3-4 aspects well set in my mind, and the 1-2 left are created on the spot and give relief to my characters. Soon after there are exercises that are "Write down one long-term goal and two short-term goal for your character", which ties to Margo's post about his greatest desire.

For the record, while I'm not a complete fan of the last 3-4 exercises of 21 Days to a Novel, the... 16 first ? were really helpful. It's worth checking out. :)
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Louise Curtis
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Re: Character Development Advice Needed

Post by Louise Curtis » January 28th, 2011, 5:02 pm

Steph.s wrote:
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.
Wouldn't it be more interesting if she DIDN'T know why he did what he did? Because then you have the mystery of why he didn't want to get involved (which taunts the reader) plus the tension between the two main characters (which also taunts the reader - taunting keeps people interested).

I don't like taunting people in real life, so I always want to immediately spill the beans and/or soothe my poor characters. But I resist.
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sierramcconnell
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Re: Character Development Advice Needed

Post by sierramcconnell » January 30th, 2011, 9:40 pm

When characters aren't well rounded I use two methods.

1. 101 Questions You Should Be Able to Answer About Your Character
2. Go shopping and out to eat with your character.

Then you start to realize things about them that you didn't before, and they start to sneak into your MS. Like how they twirl pasta, or they curl their hair, or maybe have a compulsion to scratch at their shoulder when nervous. Things like that.

People on the other board who've read my story tell me I have wonderfully well rounded characters. That they seem so alive, so I guess it must be working! XD A lot of them give this sort of advice, too. Of course, I also act out photostories with dolls, and do the play acting where I'm a character and try to be the character to see how they would be in a scene, all with falling down and acting hurt if there's action and so on. It's fun, and it helps.

Of course, the dogs don't like that last one. XD
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