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Novel-Goddess
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PostSubject: Bonding Time   Sun Feb 08, 2009 6:49 am

Characters. You can love 'em or you can hate 'em, but the fact remains that if you don't have characters, you don't have a story.

We've all heard -- and sometimes lived! -- the horror stories: that an author creates a wonderful story with the best plot ever created only to discover that his or her characters are predictable, flat, boring and completely cardboard.

So how do we avoid the nightmare of cardboard characters?

Bonding with them, of course!

How do you do that, though? I've had so many people come to me frantically asking how I create compelling characters (one or two people even go so far to consider me an expert on the subject. No clue why... Wink ) and begging me to help them with their own.

Well, what I do is this:

I've fallen into the habit of, when creating new characters, getting inside their heads right of the bat. When I seem to be staring off into space, in a practically vegetable-like state (which is often!), I am actually drilling characters. What's your favorite color? Where were you born? Do you like pie? What about strawberry yogurt? I ask them everything.

The pure gold, though, is in what I do when I'm actually paying attention to my surroundings. I ask my characters what they think or what they would do in whatever situation I happen to be in. I've gotten very interesting responses from "I'd run and cry, probably" to "I'd just kill them all. Why don't you go ahead and do that for me?"

If you do this long enough, characters will start to talk to you without prompting. It's at the point for me that I can't say, think or do ANYTHING without comments or ridicule or whatever from my characters. I ran into a pole once because I was trying to work through a plot snare and not only did I have to contend with the laughter of my peers, but the laughter of my characters as well...yeah.

So what do you do to keep characters from being complete cardboard? How do you bond with those lovely people up in your mind?

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Last edited by Novel-Goddess on Sun Feb 08, 2009 8:29 am; edited 2 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: Bonding Time   Sun Feb 08, 2009 8:25 am

I have to admire your diligence with your characters novel. For me - my characters don't 'talk' to me but i try to when i'm writing to place myself like an actor into their role. Rather than question them, i bond with my characters by pretending that i'm an actor trying to understand a role i want to play - its probably due to my training in drama but i find that method acting is really affective.

Basically i try for example in a highly emotional scene to evoke the emotions in myself and often i end up bawling my eyes all over my key board.
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Novel-Goddess
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PostSubject: Re: Bonding Time   Sat Feb 21, 2009 11:38 am

I'm right there, Emily. I'm right there. I've been dabbing at my eyes because I'm writing a very intense scene involving my main character and Lucifer in Hell and I'm just thinking back to all of these emotions that I've felt before. Loss, incompetence, guilt, general sadness...the list goes on.
And also, mixed in with that, is my main character's own thoughts and emotions. It's like one giant ball of unhappy mess that is literally about to make me cry. It's a sob fest.

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PostSubject: Re: Bonding Time   Sat Feb 21, 2009 11:53 am

My characters don't talk to me personally in my head, but they certainly talk to each other. Much of my dialogue is created nowhere near the keyboard. To get to know them, I do run a ton of questions over them, like you do, and then create character profiles and character arcs for the main characters.
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PostSubject: Re: Bonding Time   Sun Mar 01, 2009 11:37 am

I've done a lot of profiles for In Their Blood. Normally I don't. I'm experimenting. So far it seems to be helping. There's this one character, Lucie, who is one of my favorites. The profiles are helping. Smile

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PostSubject: Re: Bonding Time   Sat Mar 21, 2009 9:47 am

This post: Clicky is all about a published author talking to his characters, and how that stops him having writers block.

Just thought it might be interesting to those on this thread.

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PostSubject: Re: Bonding Time   Sat Mar 21, 2009 6:49 pm

Thanks for the article daeonica, it brought up a couple of good pointers.

I almost always write with music on, which actually helps me get back into "character" once I've had to get up and come back to write after awhile. The other thing is that I am driven by the "voices in my head" and usually just write what comes. But that being said, I've been an avid people watcher most of my life trying to learn why people do the things they do.

Sometimes when I can't get the answers from my characters as to why they do something I will do something similar to what Novel will do and just go watch people for a bit. You'll be surprised how things come to you when you try to shut off your brain for awhile.
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PostSubject: Re: Bonding Time   Thu Apr 02, 2009 8:37 pm

The other day I just sat...and listened. I didn't think. I didn't watch the tv. My iPod was turned off. I just sat there, head resting against my pillow, and listened to my characters speak. I didn't join in their conversation at all. I just...listened. It was very...interesting. Amazingly enough, it didn't give me a headache. I think it's my new de-stress exercise. Razz

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PostSubject: Re: Bonding Time   Thu Apr 09, 2009 2:13 pm

I wish my characters would talk to me. i haven't had time to concentrate at all on my novel lately but whenever i think of all the work i need to do i start to freak out.

especially in regards to the characters. I have a very very vague idea of what they will be like, but it feels so daunty to 'fill them out' - i know that i'll have to keep adapting as the novel progresses and i get to know them better, but i feel like i have sooooo much slug work to do before i can even get to the 'bonding' stage.

i'm definitly in the 'creation' stage.

I'm reading a book 'how not to write a book' and theres a page called 'why gods job is easier than your's and it says "this really happened" - which shouldn't in the book world. i thought it was funny because you need to have right balance with characters.

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PostSubject: Re: Bonding Time   Fri Apr 10, 2009 12:19 am

I'm like you, Emily - I can never tell you in detail about my characters early on in te novel. I have to get to know them gradually, as I write, the way you'd get to know real people. It's only when I put them into the situatons I create for them , and see how they react, that I start to know what they are like on the inside.
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PostSubject: Re: Bonding Time   Thu Apr 16, 2009 10:51 am

I do something similar to what you do, Novel-Goddess. I try to get to know almost everything about my characters, even if the information is never used in the story. Like, I know what their favorite foods are, even if it doesn't matter. It helps me get to know them.

What I feel is most important is getting to know their past. Usually, our past experiences affect our future ones, so I figured that's a very important place to start with any character. Did the character have a happy childhood? A sad one? Were they abused? Were their parents divorced (though that affects each person in a different way, so that requires a lot more thinking)?

After I have a basic idea of their biography and other details, I begin stepping into their shoes. It's always easiest for me to step into the shoes of a character that is similar to me, but when it's a character that's nothing like me, I find it much more fun., even if it is more difficult.

But some days when I'm just not "up to par," and I'm writing something, the next day I will usually reread it and go "He wouldn't do that! He'd probably--" And that's my way of checking myself. I find it much easier to get into their shoes in a first-person perspective, that way they're almost telling you what they think. You get to know the character more and more as you write in their perspective. You can never tell everything before starting.
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PostSubject: Re: Bonding Time   Thu Apr 16, 2009 11:13 am

I use this...

http://cornerscribe.com/wordpress/2007/07/15/character-creation-worksheets/

http://atomicbearpress.com/2005/10/18/character-development-worksheet/

They are both awesome character development sheets! The first one is SUPER lengthy, the second is shorter and more concise. I use them both for main characters and sometimes just the second one for minor players.

I also try to give them quirky details that I tend to notice when I meet people for the first time. I spend more time doing that one main characters though... I wonder if I should for peripheral characters....
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PostSubject: Re: Bonding Time   Thu Apr 16, 2009 11:19 am

Thanks julie, these look excellent. i'm always looking for new ways to develop background of my characters

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PostSubject: Re: Bonding Time   Mon May 04, 2009 4:01 am

Ok i'm posting this on other threads too, but here is an excellent post by a very established writer (think she's published 46 novels across a load of sub genres) - http://pbackwriter.blogspot.com/2009/05/ten-with-character.html its to do with organising stuff for character info, but she gives links to free stuff like evernote - which compiles information and synchronises all your book infor. i haven't done it, but gona look into it when i have time and look at these links too.

what you guys think?

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PostSubject: Re: Bonding Time   Mon May 04, 2009 11:18 am

That link was really helpful, Emily! I found a few pages on dialogue and creating "real" characters. :] Everyone should definitely check out that link.
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PostSubject: Re: Bonding Time   Sun May 24, 2009 9:14 pm

Question:

Do any of you ever just sit staring at the wall (maybe listening to music) and talk to your characters or think through their backstories? Or is all of you characterization done while doing busy work, i.e. profiling or straight writing?

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PostSubject: Re: Bonding Time   Mon May 25, 2009 1:38 pm

Sometimes I just lie in bed (it's comfy and it offers alone time) and think about that kind of stuff. Like, I just run the chapter through my head to see if it makes sense and flows. I also think about my characters and their reasoning behind their actions and their fears, etc. I find it really helpful to sometimes just think without distraction or writing it all out.
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PostSubject: Re: Bonding Time   Tue May 26, 2009 11:12 am

I tend to think a lot about my stories when I'm walking the dogs. An hour of doing nothing else is a great time to focus on story problems. Smile

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PostSubject: Re: Bonding Time   Tue May 26, 2009 4:36 pm

What I've started doing recently is writing short, one to three page short stories with my main characters to try to get to know them better. I realize that I've been making them make decisions to adancce the plot that they wouldn't actually make, so I wanted to get to know them better. I feel it helps me. :]
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PostSubject: Re: Bonding Time   Tue May 26, 2009 10:06 pm

I do a lot of my characterizations while I'm in the shower, walking or driving.
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PostSubject: Re: Bonding Time   Mon Jun 01, 2009 11:26 am

walking, sitting on the train, listening to music!

definitly a boring commut helps alot Smile

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PostSubject: Re: Bonding Time   Tue Jun 16, 2009 8:44 pm

Story time:
When I was really little, my sister and I would play, what we ambiguously called 'Games.' We'd watch our favorite TV show, and then run outside and basically enact fanfiction - we'd pretend to be the characters, but make up our own storyline or something. Eventually I started writing these down as I got older, and my fanfiction writing forked off into original fiction.

To some degree, I still play 'Games' even now. I might not run around saying 'In the name of the moon, I shall punish you!' but occasionally I'll go through a day pretending to be one of my characters in my head, just as a thought experiment. 'What would Tara do?' 'What would Tara say to that?' Helps me get inside them better. This happens when I'm writing fanfiction, too. "Oooh, what if Bella and Edward went on a date like that?? How would that end?" And tada, a brand new fluffic is born.

What's disturbing, though, is when I realize that, at the end of the day, I'm still in my character's head. I take my shower and crawl into bed, and as I wrap my arms around my body pillow, I get a reality check. The body pillow is NOT Morgan, and I am not Tara. (This isn't your typical run-of-the-mill 'I wish I was Bella with my own Edward' fantasy. Sometimes I get so deep inside them, if I'm alone in my home without any friends to remind me I'm Ren, I'll forget. Some people have referred to is as channeling, and it's at least a good description of how deep I go.) Sometimes I'll realize I went to all my classes, doing the things Tara would have done, responding to situations the way Tara would have... and sometimes my characters are very different than me.

I suppose the bottom line is - as long as I know I'm crazy, and I'm not hurting anybody, it can't be that bad, right? Wink

<3 Ren
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PostSubject: Re: Bonding Time   Wed Jun 17, 2009 1:40 am

hahah oh ren - we're all crazy!!! - your not alone Wink

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PostSubject: Re: Bonding Time   Wed Jun 17, 2009 7:51 am

Ren: At least you probably have very in-depth characters! <3 Do whatever it takes to prevent your characters from being flat. >w<
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PostSubject: Re: Bonding Time   Thu Jun 18, 2009 5:28 am

Ren: Okay, I totally do that. It gets really strange sometimes...especially since several of my characters find my friends and most of my family extremely annoying. They all know that when I act like I hate them, I'm either in need of a nap or channeling a character. Wink

My best friend made me talk to her as different characters for an entire week. Very rarely was I actually me. It got a little odd and it left me a little loopy. Don't you just love friends?

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