Getting to Know Your Characters

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Sion
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Getting to Know Your Characters

Postby Sion » Wed Nov 23, 2016 12:53 am

I find that I can only get to know a character when I start writing him or her. No matter how much I plan, write, or contemplate a character, they only come to life in my mind once they I have to animate them in scenes. Same with role-playing too. Now that doesn't mean that I don't write any background or notes, but those notes don't really match the product that characters will create in the story. That makes outlining a serious problem because the characters don't behave and do what I want them too.

How do you get to know your characters?

One tip I have is to associate an actor with that character so that you can better realize him or her. Put that picture in your Story Bible and have it there to help you when you are in the wilderness.
"Sojourn is never early, nor it is late-- it arrives precisely when it needs to." --Dan, ep. 334

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Leoff
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Re: Getting to Know Your Characters

Postby Leoff » Wed Nov 23, 2016 8:19 am

If it's a first-person narrative, I start with what the person is noticing right now, how he or she is interacting with the surroundings. That leads into what they're doing, what their job is, who they're with and how they get along or are in opposition, and then the story's in full swing and they take care of themselves.

If it's a third-person narrative I start with what they're doing at the moment and how their actions appear to the people in the story who might see them (whether they're being observed or not), and then start bringing up who the person knows and how they get along: siblings, co-workers, opponents.

A more general method would be to make up a six-point character sheet as for a character in The Trouble With Rose: six characteristics, including one serious flaw, and one noble vulnerability (a vow, an overriding ideal). When I make up TTwR characters I also include a favourite saying or phrase, and a skill (which the person may not actually have, but it is part of their self-image).

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zircher
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Re: Getting to Know Your Characters

Postby zircher » Wed Nov 23, 2016 9:42 am

Since TTwR was mentioned, the nice thing about writing up a cast using that method is that you write-in future moments of tension/drama/fun simply by mapping out conflicting beliefs and secrets. You don't have to detail the scene (play/write to find out!) but by putting the pieces on the table, it can really spark the imagination. The brain loves to fill in the blanks, but tends to snooze when you give it all the answers. You can run with that and give the ol' gray matter something to chew on.

One trick I like to do is to open up a dialog with the character and have them explain themselves. Maybe an interview with a reporter or boss. Perhaps they're psyching themselves up for a speech or presentation. It allows you to get in their head even if that text is not used in your story directly.


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