How do you guys make good/interesting characters?

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How do you guys make good/interesting characters?

#1 Post by Fenrir34 » Fri Mar 20, 2015 9:00 pm

So I'm in a bit of trouble. I need some tips on how to write good characters and/or writing their back story. I've heard writing out the back story really helps the writer know where to go, but I don't know how to do it right. So I was wondering if anyone had tips or advice about how they go about making one. I do know about characters charts but sometime they don't help and often limit me.

Any advice would be helpful =).


Ps- If anyone wants to Skype and give me advice on the Lynarsia girls I'd be very grateful. It would help me out a lot to have someone's opinion on them.

Edited 03/21/15

So I decided to take on inkbrush's advice and answered at least one question per character. I'm going to post them here and would like to know if the characters have their own voice, are interesting, and if the writing is decent. I'm grateful for any advice =). Oh and I also put the question that was asked before the character's scene


Yurena

Don’t Stand So Close to Me
Write a scene where your Protagonist is forced to choose between their companions, and their social standing. How does your Protagonist deal with this? Which are they willing to sacrifice: the respect of many, or the respect of their companions?

Ellie looks at me with dark eyes. Just from a simple stare she is able to intimidate me so easily. I shiver and try tonot let her know how much she's making me nervous.

“So,” she says calmly. “are you going to do it or still be a pathetic outcast?”

“A-an outcast?” I am already am outcast.

I won't deny that I do want to earn her respect. Ellie is someone who could make me feel welcomed and maybe even help me gain respect from the other songstresses.

But what about Sasha and the others?

They would never forgive me.

“Hey,' she says impenitently. “Are you going to do it or not?!”
I hesitate.
Slowly my mouth opens and it feels like I'm going to utter the word yes. The thought of Sasha comes through my mind again though and I stop.
Even after what happened between us, I still can't let myself do this.
She would never had done what she did unless it was to protect me.
“Your answer?!”
I smile softly at Elena. 'S-sorry, but I think not. It's just not me.”
Her eyes widen. “Y-you'll regret this if you don't say yes!”
I take a step back. “I know, but being friends with you just isn't worth losing what I have now. Thanks, but not thanks.”


Ace
No Wind, No Sea
Pick one of your secondary characters:
Write a scene where this character realizes that they’ve outgrown their childhood dreams. How did this come to be? And, above all, how do they feel about it? Is this a time for despair, or joy?

This sword...it doesn't feel the same anymore.
As I hold it the thing feels like a stranger to me.
I swing it a few times and try to get that feeling I had back when I first held a weapon.
I feel utterly nothing.
The sword slips from my hands and I stare down at it.
Just what am I doing?
Why did I become a knight?
Why?
I can't remember anymore.
I thought it was to protect me but that is a lie.
I-I became one to be someone other then me.
That's right...I became a knight for a totally selfish reason.
But now that dream is gone.
I'm nothing...
Everything I tried to be and everything I strived to become was taken away from me when that child breathed her last breath.
“I...have no right to be a knight.”
Tears stream down my face and I fall to my knees.
“I-I'm a failure! Nothing but a selfish failure!!!”


Ruka
In The End
Write a scene where your Protagonist has just made a terrible mistake that has not only ruined their life, but the life of their friends. How does your Protagonist deal with this? Do they offer apologies, or hang their head in shame?

I can't do it. No matter how hard I try, I can't resist his words.
Back then I hid the truth of everything with a stupid smiled.
I wanted the problems of my family to fade so I could be free to run my life the way I had intended.
No thoughts of duty or even loyalty. All I wanted was to care for myself and no one else.
Now though, I've ruined everything.
Everyone is so close to death and I'm the cause.
Just why the hell did I do it!
All I want is his approval and love. That's why I've tried to become one of the strongest songstresses in the world so he would love me again.
But now I don't even have that.
My friends are gone from my life.
I'm all alone....
I grab my stomach tightly and feel my whole body ache.
“I-I'm so sorry....I-I just didn't want to be alone anymore. Please everyone, forgive me...”


Sasha
Powerless
Write a scene where your Protagonist witnesses one of their companions be punished for a crime they didn’t commit, and are powerless to do anything about it. How does your Protagonist react to this? How does this change their outlook on “Justice”?

“Damn it all! Just what the hell am I doing!” I yell.
Noel's cries from inside the chamber make my ears hurt.
She didn't do anything wrong yet she was taking the blame. Why?
She should never have lied like.
“That bastard is the one who nearly killed them. He needs to be punished, not Noel!”
Her cries only escalate the more they use their magic.
I feel my head nearly split into pieces
I'm right here and yes I can't do anything! It's pathetic!
“Damn it...” My eyes become heavy. “I-I can't do anything to help her....Why am I do god damned useless?!”

Noel
Deal With The Devil
Write a scene where your Protagonist is visited by a stranger who offers them great power at no cost whatsoever. What does your Protagonist do? Is the deal too good to be true, or could it be that your Protagonist does not have the heart to let their temptation win for once?

“It's simple my dear, I'll give you what you want.”
And what do I have to give in return?' I ask calmly.
She smiles creepily. Just by her face it's easy to tell she's not one to do dealings with.
“All you have to do is allow me access to the tower.”
“W-what makes you think I know how to get into the tower?”
“Oh my dear Noel, I know so much about you, like how you desperately want to avenge your people.”
My eyes grow dark and I grip my sword tightly. “How do you know that? I've never told anyone.”
“Let's just say I keep my ears and eyes open. Now, do we have a deal?”
“No...I doubt a woman like you has any clue about the crystal,” I say slightly annoyed.
She just laughs calmly and lifts up her hand. I almost take out my sword but stop when I see a map. “A-a map of the hymm crystal?”
“Yes,” she says softly.
“H-how did you get it?”
She retracts the map and smiles. “That's my own little secret. Now, do we have a deal?”
“...I-I don't know. How do I know this isn't a fake map?”
She sighs. “I may be just an old beggar but I keep my promises. Besides,” she grins. “don't you need the crystal to save your people?”
Her words echo through my head.
She's right, sadly.
I've been searching for so long and now I finally have a clue.
But it's as clear as day she's not good. Still, I need to get the crystal soon before disaster happens.
“Fine, I'll show you where the secret entrance is.” My eyes narrow. “But you better not try anything.”
“Oh don't worry my dear. I want to save Lynarsia just as much as you.”

Mar
Darker Nights
Write a scene where your Protagonist helps someone in need, except that the person they helped showed no gratitude whatsoever. How does this affect your Protagonist? Could this experience keep them from trying to help other people in the future?

I recall the first human I ever helped. What a mistake.
He was on the verge of dying. From the looks of it the wounds he had were caused by a Virus.
I remember the words that kept coming out of his mouth “Cecilia...I-I want to see you again.”
I can't remember why I pitied him.
To me love is something that is pointless. Just what can it do?
Still I couldn't just leave him there.
Like a fool I used my magic and healed the poison that had been surging in his body.
When he awoke I noticed the guy had very beautiful green eyes.
For a moment he smiled at me with gratitude.
I won't lie, I felt slight happiness at seeing him smile at me like that.
What's the saying again? My heart throbbed when he did it. How cliché.
It wasn't till he got a better look at me that I noticed his eyes began to shake.
He pushed away from me and instantly got up, putting his sword to my face.
“V-Virus!” he yelled. “I-I know those horrid red eyes anywhere!”
Once again a human called me a Virus.
I just saved his life and he still thought me as some sort monster.
At that time all I could feel was rage.
I stood up to him and didn't even flinch when he stabbed my shoulder.
I didn't say anything to him. All I remember is his cries and he slowly begins to break apart.
What a weak life form he was.
It was because of him that I realized things like me can't be allowed to know what happiness feels like and that as a monster I am not meant to heal but rather destroy.
Last edited by Fenrir34 on Sat Mar 21, 2015 11:21 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: How do you guys make good/interesting characters?

#2 Post by Enigma » Fri Mar 20, 2015 9:16 pm

I think the best thing to do is to make sure all the information about the character meshes, and fill in the blanks from there. There should be a reason behind thier likes and dislikes, and those likes and dislikes are most likely influenced in some way by the enviroment they lived in. Basically what I'm trying to say is that the character should fit together as a whole.

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Re: How do you guys make good/interesting characters?

#3 Post by Juno » Fri Mar 20, 2015 10:31 pm

Character development is one of my favorite aspects of story creation.

I learn the most about my characters when I throw them in different situations and make them interact with different people. Sometimes I'll know their backstory first because it just came to me, other times I rely on their personalities to give me clues on their past. If I have two characters or more that I want to know more about, I'll just think of some inane situation--like what would they both do if all of them were locked inside a haunted mansion or if they all were stuck on a train that broke down in the middle of nowhere.

The alt-universe situation helps because me because I don't have to stress about developing the central plot while I am learning about my characters. It's interesting to see what choices the characters will make, who starts bickering with who and what they are bickering about, what their priorities are, what makes them scared or happy, etc. If that makes any sense.

If they are very nurturing, I wager they probably had siblings they cared for or if they are more callous and selfish, they probably had something happen in the past that made them think they are the only one they can rely on (maybe they were abandoned or picked on as a child).

If you need a sounding board, PM me your Skype and I'll try to help, I'm mostly only online at night.

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Re: How do you guys make good/interesting characters?

#4 Post by SundownKid » Fri Mar 20, 2015 11:02 pm

I usually make a setting and fit the characters into that setting in an interesting way. Another important part of making characters interesting is giving them flaws. Everyone has something they are good at and what they are bad at. I also try to make people have motivations even if they can be considered a villain. Although some may be unwilling to join the side of the heroes while others may just have something they need that happens to oppose the heroes' goals.

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Re: How do you guys make good/interesting characters?

#5 Post by inkbrush » Fri Mar 20, 2015 11:15 pm

Hi Fenrir!

Character creation and development is one of the most challenging parts of writing, in my opinion. Luckily for me though, it also happens to be one of my favorite parts. :D

Since you seem to want help with your characters from Lynarsia, I'll give you a bit of feedback from the character descriptions you have written down there for the public to see. C:

Overall, you seem to have very well balanced characters when looking at negative/positive personality traits. So, I'd say you're doing a great job and don't need any assistance with that aspect.

As for backstory, I noticed that you do give some hints as to their backstory in the descriptions. I don't know if this was to draw curiosity or if you really just have no idea what to do with their backstories. (Either way, you definitely sparked my curiosity and I really want to learn more about these characters.)
For some help backstory-wise. My technique is to take certain aspects of a character's personality or maybe even something they like or dislike, and built a REASON for why they're like that. Just like @Juno there says.
If they are very nurturing, I wager they probably had siblings they cared for or if they are more callous and selfish, they probably had something happen in the past that made them think they are the only one they can rely on (maybe they were abandoned or picked on as a child).
I have found that this really helps me. Even if there's something you throw away later, it might help you to get a basis for their backstory.

For an example, I'll take Noel.
Also, unlike most, she has a want to help the Viruses and not just kill them off.
So, first you recognize a point to start with, which in our case, is this part above. Then you start to ask yourself "WHY?"
Perhaps she witnessed a brutal death at a young age? And she doesn't believe that anyone should have to go through something so painful. That could also play on the fact that she's a loner. Trauma is always a good reason for someone to become distant. (But, then again, she could always be a loner just because of the fact that so many of her previous partners had abandoned her.)

I hope you understand the gist of what I mean here. :D


Now, I now you said that you tried to use a character sheet and it didn't really help much but perhaps you should try it again?
I don't use character sheets to map out all the details of their lives. I really just use them to get my brain-gears in motion. Filling out a character sheet for me can open up new ideas about a character's likes, dislikes, or sometimes even backstory.
Another useful thing is to "interview" your characters in a way. Make a list of questions, get in the heads of your characters, and answer the questions like that character would answer them. Not only might that help you develop them, but it will also help you define their voice.
And I don't mean just BIG questions like "What's your name?" or "How old are you?" or maybe even something as specific as "What's your favorite thing to do?"
You want to ask more bizarre questions, along with the regular ones. For example, "What's your favorite number?" or "What would be the perfect life, in your opinion?" or maybe even something like, "What is your dream home?"

Here is another useful reference for you: Max Kirin Character Questions
Max posts daily character questions to help writers--just like him--develop their characters. If I'm ever stuck on my characters, I either do one of these prompts each day until I'm good, or I just scroll through and imagine what I would write but go through the whole list until I'm satisfied.

Max Kirin is a very good resource, though. He has a Tumblr and a Youtube account where he answers writing questions.

If you want more help with your characters or any writing questions, I suggest checking out his masterlist of writing questions


And my final tip for this post is this:

Don't think of your characters as characters. Think of them as people. Think of them as a stranger you might see on the street or your best friend who lives down the road.


Anywho, if you'd like more help or would like my assistance getting deeper with your characters, send me a PM with your Skype. I'll even help you idea bounce if you'd like. :wink:

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Re: How do you guys make good/interesting characters?

#6 Post by Fenrir34 » Sat Mar 21, 2015 12:59 am

Enigma wrote:I think the best thing to do is to make sure all the information about the character meshes, and fill in the blanks from there. There should be a reason behind thier likes and dislikes, and those likes and dislikes are most likely influenced in some way by the enviroment they lived in. Basically what I'm trying to say is that the character should fit together as a whole.

Yes, likes and dislikes are a good way to get to know your character more. I'll remember that. Thank you =).

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Re: How do you guys make good/interesting characters?

#7 Post by Fenrir34 » Sat Mar 21, 2015 1:01 am

Juno wrote:Character development is one of my favorite aspects of story creation.

I learn the most about my characters when I throw them in different situations and make them interact with different people. Sometimes I'll know their backstory first because it just came to me, other times I rely on their personalities to give me clues on their past. If I have two characters or more that I want to know more about, I'll just think of some inane situation--like what would they both do if all of them were locked inside a haunted mansion or if they all were stuck on a train that broke down in the middle of nowhere.

The alt-universe situation helps because me because I don't have to stress about developing the central plot while I am learning about my characters. It's interesting to see what choices the characters will make, who starts bickering with who and what they are bickering about, what their priorities are, what makes them scared or happy, etc. If that makes any sense.

If they are very nurturing, I wager they probably had siblings they cared for or if they are more callous and selfish, they probably had something happen in the past that made them think they are the only one they can rely on (maybe they were abandoned or picked on as a child).

If you need a sounding board, PM me your Skype and I'll try to help, I'm mostly only online at night.

Then you're like me. You at times have your characters back story to help with the plot, if I'm getting this right XD. I find that with Lynarsia that has helped me greatly with Ruka. I know she has a family secret and will do anything to protect it. Now I just have to decide why and how XD

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Re: How do you guys make good/interesting characters?

#8 Post by Fenrir34 » Sat Mar 21, 2015 1:01 am

SundownKid wrote:I usually make a setting and fit the characters into that setting in an interesting way. Another important part of making characters interesting is giving them flaws. Everyone has something they are good at and what they are bad at. I also try to make people have motivations even if they can be considered a villain. Although some may be unwilling to join the side of the heroes while others may just have something they need that happens to oppose the heroes' goals.

I agree with you 100 percent! Flaws are needed since it makes them more human and motivations as well. Thank you for the advice. I'll do that better with mine =).

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Re: How do you guys make good/interesting characters?

#9 Post by Fenrir34 » Sat Mar 21, 2015 1:05 am

inkbrush wrote:Hi Fenrir!

Character creation and development is one of the most challenging parts of writing, in my opinion. Luckily for me though, it also happens to be one of my favorite parts. :D

Since you seem to want help with your characters from Lynarsia, I'll give you a bit of feedback from the character descriptions you have written down there for the public to see. C:

Overall, you seem to have very well balanced characters when looking at negative/positive personality traits. So, I'd say you're doing a great job and don't need any assistance with that aspect.

As for backstory, I noticed that you do give some hints as to their backstory in the descriptions. I don't know if this was to draw curiosity or if you really just have no idea what to do with their backstories. (Either way, you definitely sparked my curiosity and I really want to learn more about these characters.)
For some help backstory-wise. My technique is to take certain aspects of a character's personality or maybe even something they like or dislike, and built a REASON for why they're like that. Just like @Juno there says.
If they are very nurturing, I wager they probably had siblings they cared for or if they are more callous and selfish, they probably had something happen in the past that made them think they are the only one they can rely on (maybe they were abandoned or picked on as a child).
I have found that this really helps me. Even if there's something you throw away later, it might help you to get a basis for their backstory.

For an example, I'll take Noel.
Also, unlike most, she has a want to help the Viruses and not just kill them off.
So, first you recognize a point to start with, which in our case, is this part above. Then you start to ask yourself "WHY?"
Perhaps she witnessed a brutal death at a young age? And she doesn't believe that anyone should have to go through something so painful. That could also play on the fact that she's a loner. Trauma is always a good reason for someone to become distant. (But, then again, she could always be a loner just because of the fact that so many of her previous partners had abandoned her.)

I hope you understand the gist of what I mean here. :D


Now, I now you said that you tried to use a character sheet and it didn't really help much but perhaps you should try it again?
I don't use character sheets to map out all the details of their lives. I really just use them to get my brain-gears in motion. Filling out a character sheet for me can open up new ideas about a character's likes, dislikes, or sometimes even backstory.
Another useful thing is to "interview" your characters in a way. Make a list of questions, get in the heads of your characters, and answer the questions like that character would answer them. Not only might that help you develop them, but it will also help you define their voice.
And I don't mean just BIG questions like "What's your name?" or "How old are you?" or maybe even something as specific as "What's your favorite thing to do?"
You want to ask more bizarre questions, along with the regular ones. For example, "What's your favorite number?" or "What would be the perfect life, in your opinion?" or maybe even something like, "What is your dream home?"

Here is another useful reference for you: Max Kirin Character Questions
Max posts daily character questions to help writers--just like him--develop their characters. If I'm ever stuck on my characters, I either do one of these prompts each day until I'm good, or I just scroll through and imagine what I would write but go through the whole list until I'm satisfied.

Max Kirin is a very good resource, though. He has a Tumblr and a Youtube account where he answers writing questions.

If you want more help with your characters or any writing questions, I suggest checking out his masterlist of writing questions


And my final tip for this post is this:

Don't think of your characters as characters. Think of them as people. Think of them as a stranger you might see on the street or your best friend who lives down the road.


Anywho, if you'd like more help or would like my assistance getting deeper with your characters, send me a PM with your Skype. I'll even help you idea bounce if you'd like. :wink:

Oh thank you so much! I'll do a character question ^^. Also I don't mind character sheets. They helped me get an example of two of my characters, Noel and Ruka. The only problem I have is that sometimes I feel a bit limited XD. And sure. Once I do this character question thing, I'll show them to you =). Expect a pm soon XD.

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Re: How do you guys make good/interesting characters?

#10 Post by Juno » Sat Mar 21, 2015 2:50 am

Fenrir34 wrote: Then you're like me. You at times have your characters back story to help with the plot, if I'm getting this right XD. I find that with Lynarsia that has helped me greatly with Ruka. I know she has a family secret and will do anything to protect it. Now I just have to decide why and how XD
Exactly. One of the most exciting parts for plotting for me is when I have those big missing pieces and then after developing the rest of it, those pieces just kind of suddenly make sense. Like, a long time ago, I had a character that did something completely out of character considering how kind and gentle she was. It drove me crazy because I didn't understand why she would do that. After developing the other characters around her though, it suddenly hit me and it was so obvious that she had to do what she did in order to help a specific person she cared about (although the cost was hurting someone else).

Sometimes that can get frustrating waiting on that, though. I guess the best piece of advice I can give is what inkbrush said:
inkbrush wrote:Don't think of your characters as characters. Think of them as people.
I have a lot of people tell me (and I read a lot of places that say this, too) to think of your characters as tools for your plot. To not get emotionally involved in them because the point of the story is to essentially torture them with conflict.

I hate this. I get that it works for some people--and you have to also realize that even though you might love a character, if they don't contribute to the story in any way, you can't keep them for decoration--but I think you should always see your characters as actually people and not just tools. When they are just tools, they become flat and boring and no matter how cool the plot is, if those characters fail to get me emotionally involved, they story just doesn't do anything for me.

I like conflict to stem from the choices the characters make along the way, especially the MC. So I really need to know my characters in and out. Initially the story's conflict usually will be out of the character's control, but character development is all about making the characters make their own choices based on their personality, background, and goals.

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Re: How do you guys make good/interesting characters?

#11 Post by Mad Harlequin » Sat Mar 21, 2015 3:23 am

Juno wrote:I have a lot of people tell me (and I read a lot of places that say this, too) to think of your characters as tools for your plot. To not get emotionally involved in them because the point of the story is to essentially torture them with conflict.
The misstep people make here is thinking that you can only torture your characters if you're emotionally detached from them. But the best, and most palpable, conflicts involve characters that live and breathe.
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Re: How do you guys make good/interesting characters?

#12 Post by Queex » Sat Mar 21, 2015 6:27 am

For me the biggest thing is to make sure that they speak like people actually speak. I don't just mean avoiding "As you know, our father the king..."-type dialogue, but constructing sentences that seem like they might actually come out of a human being's mouth. Thinking about where someone might pause in a sentence, or change their mind about what to say, makes dialogue come alive.

Compare:

Code: Select all

"Brian looked as though he wanted to disobey the order, but seemingly became aware of my rank."
Brian "Could you repeat that order, sir?"
to:

Code: Select all

Brian "You can take that order and-"
extend " ah-"
extend " {i}repeat it carefully[/i]."
extend " Sir."
They both convey much the same thing, but the latter shows more about Brian's character. And the way he changes gears once his mind catches up with mouth is much more engaging than the narration simply telling the player that he's feeling mutinous.

If you find a 'voice' for the character, you can work backwards from that to decide why they speak like that, how they got that way.

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Re: How do you guys make good/interesting characters?

#13 Post by doodlemancy » Sun Apr 12, 2015 4:38 pm

I developed a lot of the characters for the comic-and-possible-VN script I'm writing through roleplay (MSN messenger... those were the days). Of course, that requires another person to participate, and it's quite a time sink. But it seriously does help. Bouncing your character off another person forces you to think about stuff you probably wouldn't on your own. It's a pretty sure-fire way to get some sparks flying. Just yank your character out of their universe and stick them wherever-- adapting them to different environments is part of the fun, and it'll help you narrow down what really makes them them.

I think it works so well because it's like "life experience" for them. XD We're shaped by our experiences, after all.

Sitting down and analyzing the traits and motivations of fictional characters you really like can help, too. Pick apart what you like. Pick apart what you don't like. Try to pinpoint why you feel the way that you do about the characters in whatever you're watching or playing or reading.

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Re: How do you guys make good/interesting characters?

#14 Post by E-night » Mon Apr 13, 2015 1:54 am

Juno wrote: I have a lot of people tell me (and I read a lot of places that say this, too) to think of your characters as tools for your plot. To not get emotionally involved in them because the point of the story is to essentially torture them with conflict.

I hate this. I get that it works for some people--and you have to also realize that even though you might love a character, if they don't contribute to the story in any way, you can't keep them for decoration--but I think you should always see your characters as actually people and not just tools. When they are just tools, they become flat and boring and no matter how cool the plot is, if those characters fail to get me emotionally involved, they story just doesn't do anything for me.

I like conflict to stem from the choices the characters make along the way, especially the MC. So I really need to know my characters in and out. Initially the story's conflict usually will be out of the character's control, but character development is all about making the characters make their own choices based on their personality, background, and goals.
Out of pure curiosity who say this?
Because I have only ever heard "think of the characters as real people" and not just plot tools. So I am interested in knowing if there is a whole school of writing teqnichues out there that I've just never heard about.

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Re: How do you guys make good/interesting characters?

#15 Post by SundownKid » Mon Apr 13, 2015 5:07 am

Juno wrote: I have a lot of people tell me (and I read a lot of places that say this, too) to think of your characters as tools for your plot. To not get emotionally involved in them because the point of the story is to essentially torture them with conflict.

I hate this. I get that it works for some people--and you have to also realize that even though you might love a character, if they don't contribute to the story in any way, you can't keep them for decoration--but I think you should always see your characters as actually people and not just tools. When they are just tools, they become flat and boring and no matter how cool the plot is, if those characters fail to get me emotionally involved, they story just doesn't do anything for me.

I like conflict to stem from the choices the characters make along the way, especially the MC. So I really need to know my characters in and out. Initially the story's conflict usually will be out of the character's control, but character development is all about making the characters make their own choices based on their personality, background, and goals.
I don't feel like having an emotional connection to your characters means it's bad to torture them. In fact, having them go through a harsh conflict can help them build character and show their innermost selves better to the reader. And without the reader knowing more about them, they may as well be unmemorable and not exist. So in essence having them go through conflict is making the reader care more about them and know more about them.

Plus, conflict gives you more power as a writer. That is, it's more satisfying to write a story where you don't know what's going to happen.

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