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Old 12-15-2012, 08:42 AM   #1
JustSarah
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Character builders disease?

I remember listening to writing excuses, and I remember Brandon mentioning that sometimes authors might have world builders disease, I'm wondering, can someone spend to long developing a character?

In the old days when I wrote first shorts, I might write a character bible or overall origin story, and many stuff did not end up going directly into the short story, but it helped put in the framework for the story to follow.
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Old 12-15-2012, 08:56 AM   #2
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It depends. Some people enjoy doing long character profiles and that sort of thing and some don't. The real test is whether you find it helpful and if you are then actually writing or, instead, using the character worksheet as an excuse to not write.

So, are you actually getting the writing you want to do written, or not?
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Old 12-15-2012, 09:05 AM   #3
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I'm finding it helpful in that it helps me have a frame of reference. Though a lot of what goes into it does not make it into the book, but it helps me get started. The only issue these days is I don't just have three or five main characters anymore.
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Old 12-15-2012, 09:09 AM   #4
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I have a small biography within my main text that I use to "ground" my characters (and help me remember things). Based on what I have written so far, here is the bio of my first MC:

Quote:
Cornelius Aaron Gault (1794-1883), aka “The Commodore”, was the founder of Gault Estate. He became socially prominent in the business world and amassed a huge fortune through steamboats, railroads, and various business enterprises from 1814-1824. He married Sophia Anne Gault. He discovered The Vault and The Machine in 1817 when building Gault Pavilion. His stories were first published in The Rise of a Railroad Tycoon and later compiled into The Gault Chronicles, both by James Anthony Wells.
Although this information is at present "just for me", I can use it to create an obituary when this MC dies (don't worry, there are other MCs).

I have compiled a simple genealogy in Excel which I can refer to and modify as needed. If I need ten extra years in a character's life, I can update all subsequent dates by 10 years to see how everything works. I have to be careful, though, because I am referring to actual historical events in the story and can't refer to something before it was invented or to a particular living person after they have died in "real life". For now, most of the genealogy is stable, but that may change as I work my way further/farther into the story.

I have blueprints of my MC's mansion and created a third floor (because I will need it for the plot). I have a map of the estate, as well, which can be changed on a whim. These will probably never be in the story, but I can see relations of rooms, buildings, secret tunnels, etc.

There is a lot of info on Google that you can use for ideas, but which may required tweaking if you want to use them integrally in a story, such as pictures, blueprints, maps, writing samples and styles, etc. You can look into the Wikipedia biography of a person similar to your character and get ideas from that, changing and morphing it to fit how you perceive your character.

Of course, these are just my ideas. You may be creative enough to do all of this in your head, but this being my first story, I am just creating myself an environment where "my happy little characters can live" (Bob Ross).
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Old 12-15-2012, 09:14 AM   #5
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I don't think it matter that much if what you develop doesn't go in to the story as long as it helps you. I've heard people who use that method (including some noted writers) say that much of what they develop in the way of character profiles doesn't actually go in their books. It's to help them have a clearer image of the character. I heard a best-selling writer say as much a couple of weeks ago, but now I can't remember who it was.

You might try doing a "quick and dirty" character profile worksheet if you have multiple main characters. List a character at the top of a sheet of paper (or Word file) and list everything you think of related to that character. Then do the next. It doesn't have to be as complete as what size underwear they wear . . . unless that's important to the story.
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Old 12-15-2012, 10:11 AM   #6
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Something else thats seems to help for interviews are character top tens. For example, What are the top ten best memories of your character? And other questions like that.

Oh and I like the method used above, I may try that next.^^
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Old 12-16-2012, 02:10 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JustSarah View Post
Something else thats seems to help for interviews are character top tens. For example, What are the top ten best memories of your character?
I do something like this. I start every writing session adding words to a character's 'diary' of sorts. Basically, relating memories of things that happened before the story starts. It's a way to fall into the voice before I start writing actual story. Eventually, when I'm 30K or so in, I can slip into the voice easily and stop the pre-writing, but it really helps me in the early stages of drafting.
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Old 12-16-2012, 04:15 PM   #8
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Characters develop for me as the story progresses. I have a good idea of what they are like to start with, but don't know their every belief or everything about them, until they reach a moral dilemma...
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Old 12-16-2012, 05:33 PM   #9
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I think "worldbuilder's disease" is just a catch all term for that mode that some writers (outliners in particular) must be wary of falling prey to, in which we spend so much time preparing the story that we never get around to writing it. That includes character work, I'd think. But that doesn't mean that one shouldn't worldbuild, or shouldn't dive into their characters ahead of time. It just means that you should be ready to recognize when you've reached that point of diminishing returns—you're no longer preparing; you're stalling.

But that trap can take many forms at the end of the day. You might have worldbuilder's disease, character builder's disease, researcher's disease, tweeter's disease, ass scratcher's disease or a whole other litany of afflictions that started out as helpful parts of the process and slowly became a barrier between you and chapter one. The only cure is just doing the damn thing.
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Old 12-17-2012, 07:51 PM   #10
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Something else thats seems to help for interviews are character top tens. For example, What are the top ten best memories of your character? And other questions like that.

I really like this idea - I may start doing that. So far for me, the characters have just told me what to do and I've learned about them along the way.
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Old 12-17-2012, 09:03 PM   #11
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I usually do a quick profile and then the character itself comes out through dialogue, body language, and situations.

Chuck Wendig did an interview with Michael R. Underwood over at Terribleminds recently and his answer to a question about characters really stuck with me:

Quote:
For me, writing a character often comes down to voice. Once I figure out a character’s talks, what their cultural frame of reference is, everything clicks. Through voice, most of the rest of the character becomes clear.

Say I’ve got a currently-undefined character who just learned something , and their reaction is to be incredulous. But how are they incredulous? In deciding how they express their incredulity, I learn who they are.

A character that says “No! It’ can’t be! AAAAH!!!” is someone with a lack of mental fortitude, who reacts directly.

A character that says “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.” with a sardonic tone is more world-weary and crass.

And one that says “Blasphemy! The scrolls forbade it!” is obviously religious and defines their world by what they’ve read.

In a one-sentence response to a situation, I can open a door to the character through voice and start rolling.
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Old 12-17-2012, 09:43 PM   #12
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Before I start writing, I list all of my initial characters and start listing important traits about them for later reference. Once I am get into the story, I add additional things to my character’s bios as I go, even add new characters. What started out as a few sentences, end up long paragraphs, with physical, personality traits, how they are connected with the my other characters (if its pertinent), and other information that is important in the story. Most of what I put in the character bios make it into my novel.
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