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TrixieLox
04-14-2012, 04:35 PM
My characters aways come to me fully formed - I don't do character sheets and bios etc, I just write. But now I'm working on revisions with my agent, she says one thing I really must address is strengthening my characters.

I'm finding this difficult. Has anyone got any tips for enhancing characterisation during the revision process, when the story's already down? Any books on this, blog posts, websites?

Thanks!

gothicangel
04-14-2012, 04:46 PM
My characters aways come to me fully formed - I don't do character sheets and bios etc, I just write. But now I'm working on revisions with my agent, she says one thing I really must address is strengthening my characters.

I'm finding this difficult. Has anyone got any tips for enhancing characterisation during the revision process, when the story's already down? Any books on this, blog posts, websites?

Thanks!

I understand, as my characters do this too, stepping fully formed from my imagination. I've never sat down and created a character while writing a bio. I normally have a good idea of the character, but s/he still needs to be worked at. I will write a 'bio.' I use a book called 45 Master Characters [Schmidt], which uses archetypes as a foundation for creating characters. I knew my MC fell into the 'gladiator' archetype, so he fights for the pure pleasure of it, and the roar of the crowd; but I also knew in my mind that he was a 'fundamentalist' Roman, and an anti-hero.

I couldn't have created my MC from just writing a bio/CV.

Buffysquirrel
04-14-2012, 05:40 PM
It might be worthwhile going back to your agent and asking for an example of the sort of thing she means. 'Strengthening' isn't much to go on.

It could mean making sure each character speaks with a distinctive voice--for example, I have a character who rambles and rambles and rambles. I actually love writing him. So if I wanted to make his voice stronger, ie more like himself as I perceive him, I'd probably add more rambling...except I think any agent would say "Enough with the rambling Ms Sqrl!". He also uses very tame language, such as 'goodness' and 'dear me'.

However, he's also a mild fellow who doesn't get into arguments and fights, but loves explaining things. So I have other characters comment, for example, on how when he does something like make a slightly rude remark about someone, that for him is the equivalent of getting into a fight with them. This all goes to reinforce the idea that he's not aggressive. Characters should always act in character except when they don't--frex, once this mild-mannered rambling guy gets so excited about something that he actually shakes the narrator. Extraordinary circumstances change his behaviour.

One problem I had with the novel I'm currently revising is that although the reader's told that the protagonist is a very jealous type, there wasn't much evidence of it in his actual behaviour. So I strengthened that aspect of his characterisation by having him behave very jealously on specific occasions. That meant new scenes and different slants on old scenes. If you've defined your character as 'x' you need to show the reader that they are 'x'.

HTH

bearilou
04-14-2012, 05:43 PM
Larry Brooks, in his book Story Engineering (http://www.amazon.com/Story-Engineering-Larry-Brooks/dp/1582979987/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1326333669&sr=1-1) and on his website (http://storyfix.com/category/characterization-series), has a perspective on characters and characterization that really managed to give me a new way to look at my characters.

While the website series of posts touch at a high level of discussion, I found the book to go into a deeper explanation that made it all gel for me.

BethS
04-14-2012, 06:58 PM
My characters aways come to me fully formed - I don't do character sheets and bios etc, I just write. But now I'm working on revisions with my agent, she says one thing I really must address is strengthening my characters.

I'm finding this difficult. Has anyone got any tips for enhancing characterisation during the revision process, when the story's already down? Any books on this, blog posts, websites?

Thanks!


It could mean that your characters' motives need to be stronger or more clearly shown. But I'd echo what Buffysquirrel said. Ask your agent for clarification.

leahzero
04-14-2012, 09:12 PM
Even though you "knew" your characters off the bat, I'm willing to bet that by the end of the book, you knew them even better. They grew and changed. Compare who they are at the end to who they began as, and make sure the connections are strong and logical. E.g., X was selfish; by the end, she learns to be selfless, so make sure her selfishness is clearly illustrated early on.

lbender
04-14-2012, 09:29 PM
My characters aways come to me fully formed - I don't do character sheets and bios etc, I just write. But now I'm working on revisions with my agent, she says one thing I really must address is strengthening my characters.

I'm finding this difficult. Has anyone got any tips for enhancing characterisation during the revision process, when the story's already down? Any books on this, blog posts, websites?

Thanks!

My characters also appear to me with their full characteristics clear. The problem is taking what I know about them and putting enough of those characteristics into the story so the reader also gets it. That could be part of your problem.

When we read our own stories, our feelings and knowledge of our characters frequently color what we get from the story. Someone without that knowledge (the reader) comes at your story differently. The fix (not easy, I know from personal experience) is to try to read the story from a fresh, 'naive' perspective - trying to only get out of the story what's there on the paper. Then you'll know how to fix it.

Layla Nahar
04-14-2012, 10:03 PM
I think that if the only thing your agent said is that you need to strengthen your characters it's a bit abstract to be very helpful. I'd ask the agent for clarification. (Also, have you considered putting an excerpt in SYW?)

Hansey
04-14-2012, 10:12 PM
My characters also appear to me with their full characteristics clear. The problem is taking what I know about them and putting enough of those characteristics into the story so the reader also gets it. That could be part of your problem.

When we read our own stories, our feelings and knowledge of our characters frequently color what we get from the story. Someone without that knowledge (the reader) comes at your story differently. The fix (not easy, I know from personal experience) is to try to read the story from a fresh, 'naive' perspective - trying to only get out of the story what's there on the paper. Then you'll know how to fix it.

This is what I was going to say, and I suffer from the same issue.

I *know* my characters inside out. I adore them and know what they would do in every possible circumstance.

However, it can be a struggle to efficiently convey all that to the reader. You may think you have the most interesting characters in the world because of some elaborate backstory you've dreamed up for them in your head, but if your reader has zero awareness of those things, the character is just going to be flat and boring.

I'm not suggesting that you write pages of infodumps showing character backstories, but be aware of what character traits *you* are aware of that haven't been shown to the reader in your manuscript.

Orchestra
04-14-2012, 10:27 PM
For everyone but you, your characters exist only as words on paper. Whether you imagine them vividly and in great detail or as a sparse collection of traits, it doesn't really matter at all. I suggest taking a step back, perhaps putting the manuscript away for a few weeks, and then taking a long, hard look at what's actually on the page. Do you actually say what you intended to say? Do the descriptions match your vision? Are you highlighting the character traits you find the most interesting? Are they developing in a satisfying manner?

As you read your work with an outsider's eye, make sure you have more specific and detailed feedback from your agent. "Weak characterization" could mean almost anything from boring characters to problems in your descriptions.

Lady Ice
04-15-2012, 07:08 PM
I agree with the others. Whilst you may have a strong vision of your character, perhaps it is not transferring to your writing. Leave your book for a week or so, forget about it, and then re-read it, focusing on how the characters come across when you read them rather than what you as the writer imagine them to be.

Poor characterisation may be a result of:
- Unclear motivation, or a motivation that comes off as unconvincing.
- The character not having convincing interactions with other characters.
- Character does not come across as a person but simply a puppet.