Where do characters come from?

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Gypson
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Where do characters come from?

Post by Gypson » September 9th, 2011, 1:42 pm

Where do your characters come from? Do they spring from your fingertips out of nowhere, fully formed? Do you consciously "create" them to fulfill a specific purpose in the story? How much do you know about your characters when you first meet them?

As a bit of a spin-off: how often do your characters surprise you? Are they actors on a stage, or directors of their own lives?

A lot of questions, to be sure, but I'm curious about others' writing processes. ^-^

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sbs_mjc1
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Re: Where do characters come from?

Post by sbs_mjc1 » September 9th, 2011, 1:50 pm

Michael, my co-author, basically 'meets' his characters fully formed, which inspires major jealousy for me :?
I tend to build up a concept, but when I start writing my characters never cease to surprise me-- always some lurking backstory or hidden motives *I* didn't see coming.
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AnimaDictio
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Re: Where do characters come from?

Post by AnimaDictio » September 9th, 2011, 4:05 pm

My characters come from the USA Network, of course. Also from the people I meet on the commuter train, Shakespeare and the Bible. Especially the Bible. And I also lean on the weird twenty-six characters that make up the alphabet. They're useful. :)

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polymath
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Re: Where do characters come from?

Post by polymath » September 9th, 2011, 6:07 pm

My characters come from developing one of SPICED's features first. In terms of discourse, for example, I might start with a form, say a fable. Then perhaps an idea leading to a theme. It's on by then. Settings, plots, characters, events flow from there.

Sometimes I start elsewehere, say character or event or plot. One feature is central, related to plot; that is, a main purpose for a central character, be it desire, want, need, hope, wish, etc., whatever. Then in quick succession a main dramatic complication opposing that purpose. It's been said to the point of becoming a truism, give a character a desire and then have the entire cosmos keep him, her, or it from achieving the desire. From a desire a character to suit can be created.
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Re: Where do characters come from?

Post by dios4vida » September 9th, 2011, 6:24 pm

I'm a dyed-in-the-wool pantser, so my characters are barely more than nebulous people with a few vague motives when I first start. They grow and evolve as I write. I don't really know them until about halfway through the book. One good thing about this method is that I can make the characters' motivations fit the plot (I rarely have "this character wouldn't do that!" moments) but it does mean a lot of extra editing and rewrites.
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maybegenius
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Re: Where do characters come from?

Post by maybegenius » September 9th, 2011, 9:03 pm

My characters develop as I go. Once I have their general outline, I think about the sort of person they are, their history, their motivations, and I flesh them out that way. I rarely try to create someone just to fill a role, because I think those sorts of characters generally feel very flat. If I do need someone to fill a role, I think about the sort of person who would naturally fit into said role. Usually they fall right into place, because they develop into the story organically.
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Beethovenfan
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Re: Where do characters come from?

Post by Beethovenfan » September 10th, 2011, 5:56 pm

dios4vida wrote:I'm a dyed-in-the-wool pantser, so my characters are barely more than nebulous people with a few vague motives when I first start. They grow and evolve as I write. I don't really know them until about halfway through the book. One good thing about this method is that I can make the characters' motivations fit the plot (I rarely have "this character wouldn't do that!" moments) but it does mean a lot of extra editing and rewrites.
My style is so much like this! I had a character that I thought would be the main love interest for my MC but he turned out to be the main villain! I was surprised. And thrilled! It added an entire dimension to my story that I hadn't planned.
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Cookie
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Re: Where do characters come from?

Post by Cookie » September 10th, 2011, 7:05 pm

For me, it depends on the characters. Some come to me fully formed, and others are fleshed out as the story progresses. I have had characters surprise me before, one of my MCs in particular. He was a secondary character, until one day, he decided on a whim to steal the show. Very sneaky of him. But fitting, given his character.

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GingerWrite
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Re: Where do characters come from?

Post by GingerWrite » September 11th, 2011, 2:03 am

My characters are amalgamations of people I've met or seen. Then there are some who are created because I wished they existed.
And they constantly surprise me. Many plot twists can be attributed to characters simply going where they want to go instead of where I intended.
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Re: Where do characters come from?

Post by washingtonwriter1968 » October 4th, 2011, 11:20 am

My characters come in both ways. I sense them in the guy jogging through the supermarket... the woman scolding her tolder for trying the get out of the stroller..., or the person I just met for the first time.

They come together in my mind as a small spark... an echo of " I would do it this way if I were in this situation". Then like paper dolls I try them out in several scenes to see what they will do. If I have fun playing with them they will progress to the "find out how they tick stage".

This is the stage where I ask why are they behaving this way... Is it just an internal personality thing... or did something happen in there lives to motivate them to behave this way.... This is the stage where I write letters to and from my characters. It's the fun part cause I learn about their Mom and Dad and the fact they were not popular in school and how they broke their leg at 12 because they jumped off their roof at home thinking they could fly when they tried pot for the first time.... stuff like that.

When I start they look exactly like the person who sparked my idea of a character... over time they begin to morph... morph into the look that I need them to have for their character and what is in the plot... eventually they become there own person looking nothing like the person who sparked it all. and by that time.... watch it because they actually feel nearly real to me... Then and only then... is this character ready for their debut in a WIP.
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Hillsy
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Re: Where do characters come from?

Post by Hillsy » October 4th, 2011, 5:53 pm

My characters almost always occur in reverse.

I shotgun plot, meaning I have a mass of scenes, ideas, set-pieces and conversations and I fire them at a blank sheet - then my job is to find an organic narative that leads through each one. In most cases, these snippets of plot come with a cool character behaving in a confliting or abnormal way. If I believe that character can hold the story on his own, I build a second path backwards through those cool scenes to find out how he became the person we see later on. That way, at maximum pay-off I've got the character I want in the situation I want for those 'set-pieces' to work. It also means that without thinking about it too much I'm almost guaranteeing some kind of character development.

Plus it gives me liscence to daydream about cool things, which I like :D

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Re: Where do characters come from?

Post by washingtonwriter1968 » October 5th, 2011, 2:39 am

Hillsy wrote:My characters almost always occur in reverse.

I shotgun plot, meaning I have a mass of scenes, ideas, set-pieces and conversations and I fire them at a blank sheet - then my job is to find an organic narative that leads through each one. In most cases, these snippets of plot come with a cool character behaving in a confliting or abnormal way. If I believe that character can hold the story on his own, I build a second path backwards through those cool scenes to find out how he became the person we see later on. That way, at maximum pay-off I've got the character I want in the situation I want for those 'set-pieces' to work. It also means that without thinking about it too much I'm almost guaranteeing some kind of character development.

Plus it gives me liscence to daydream about cool things, which I like :D
I have noticed that if I don't use the character in current WIP it ends up in some future work in progress. My works are more character driven... maybe that explains the difference between us. I always fall for my people first and then tell their story!!
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Chantelle.S.
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Re: Where do characters come from?

Post by Chantelle.S. » October 6th, 2011, 10:59 pm

Gypson wrote:Where do your characters come from? Do they spring from your fingertips out of nowhere, fully formed? Do you consciously "create" them to fulfill a specific purpose in the story? How much do you know about your characters when you first meet them?

As a bit of a spin-off: how often do your characters surprise you? Are they actors on a stage, or directors of their own lives?

A lot of questions, to be sure, but I'm curious about others' writing processes. ^-^
Mine come from my subconscious. I tend to watch people a lot and see their mannerisms and such. You know more about a person by watching them for a couple of hours than if you were to talk to them about their life story. So I'm pretty sure all the little habits and scars my characters have, are things that got stored away in my subconscious.

I also read a lot, and characters that intrigue me tend to have some kind of influence on my own creations. I've pitted inspiration for a couple of characters from mythology as well. Loki, and the Siberian folklore of werewolves, and the Naga race from Indian mythos. They take a lot more coaxing to become solid characters with fitting personalities, are a lot more work than the ones who randomly stumble their way from my mind onto paper. So some that come from ME are usually straight-forward to write, others that are inspired by someone or something else, they're the ones that I label WIP.

Oh. My characters never surprise me. I let them tell the story so I go into it with an open mind. It's hard to be surprised by anything they do because it's all new to me.
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Re: Where do characters come from?

Post by sierramcconnell » October 8th, 2011, 10:35 pm

My dolls. I play with them and interact with them, and from how they act in my play time I tend to get ideas. I know, from a thirty-year old that sounds insane but it works.

Case in point, Jeremiah Aubry (last name still in the works) got a quirk from when I was fitting some clothing. I tend to talk out loud to them, a perk of living alone, and was rambling about something while trying to fight to get an article of clothing on. I can't remember the exact phrasing but it had to do with him having a bug on him. As a doll, he was doing exceptional in fitting, aside from his hands being a little snug on the sleeves. But as soon as I mentioned having bugs on him (ah, now I remember, Joshua had had a bug on /him/ from being outside) he launched himself off the table and into my arms butt naked.

O_O

So ...Jeremiah Aubry doesn't like bugs, eh? How cute~ The little prince is afraid of bugs...~

And ever since the little prince does tend to get kicky in clothing if I mention the bug thing. They may be dolls but I often wonder about the lifelikeness... It's an often discussed thing on the doll forum and I don't know if anyone has read about the Uncanny Valley, which can be applied to Ball Jointed Dolls.

But that's where I get my characters. My BJDs and my interacting with them. I also make some up by random flybys and dreams of strange people who are mostly going, "Hey, I need you to write this" and then I usually end up getting a doll of them...because it's easier to interact with someone if they're not living in your head. :shock:
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airball
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Re: Where do characters come from?

Post by airball » October 18th, 2011, 10:55 am

I write historical mysteries with the intent of both entertaining the reader and exploring a historical issue. When I conceive of my characters, they not only have to contribute to the plot, but also advance my historical agenda as well. (For example, my protagonist is a midwife, and I use her to talk about childbirth, sex, and witchcraft. Her sidekick is a maidservant, so I can use her to get at the exploitation of female servants, the working of patriarchy, etc.)

For my current work, I've become really interested in how prostitution worked in 17th century England, so I've decided to introduce a character who is a bawd, a sort of an early modern madam. Through her relationship with my MC, I'll be able to dig into the history of prostitution.

That said, it's not all planned out. I have no idea how the characters are going to illuminate a particular issue, and that's where the fun comes in. (Hell, I was 1/4 of the way into the book before I knew the bawd would be so important.)
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