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Mark B P
01-15-2009, 01:40 AM
I'm writing a fantasy series, and I am focusing heavily on character development. Right now there are 4 main characters...and they are all POV characters. My problem is that when I develop a new character, he shares too many character traits with the 4 characters, and then I just get rid of the new character and combine a few of his character traits with one of the 4 main characters, which makes them more complex.

When I think of characters...I'm thinking of personality traits such as determined, carefree, reserved, etc. I've created a list of character traits belonging to each of the 4 main characters. It is difficult to come up with a new character because I don't want to use any of the character traits I'm already using for the 4 main characters.

So yeah...basically I just need advice on how to make characters different. There are only so many character traits.

EDIT: a lot of you are probably going to say you can make then different by giving them different backstories and putting them in different situations...but that still doesn't really make the character different IMO. I'm looking for something else.

____________

EDIT: Here are brief descriptions of the main characters. Note that I am not including much about their back stories. I’ll describe the protagonist first and then the other 3 MCs.

Character One: Zack

Age: 23

Zack is probably the most complicated character. He is a thinker and a fighter. One of his most noticeable characteristics is that he is angry all the time. When his anger escalates he will often yell, but for the most part he is quiet, which is common for people who think a lot. He is an introvert, but he isn’t passive and reserved by any means. His anger leads him to be very aggressive and fiery. He is never cold-hearted.

As for his thinking…he is not logical. He thinks a lot and he thinks deeply, but because he is emotionally driven, he is prone to logical fallacies. He tends to over think everything and worry too much. He makes simple things more complicated than they are. He is also very analytical and he pays attention to details, but he often misses the more obvious things because he is so frantic all the time. He doesn't know how to relax.

He is a very emotional character as well. He is definitely not emotionally stable. He has had a rocky relationship with his father, and his mother committed suicide, and he blames himself. That, and the fact that he dwells on the past too much, cause him to be very angry. He gets angry about a lot of things. While most people can overlook a lot of things, he reads into things too much and it usually makes him angry, and his rage starts showing up. This is mostly just because he cares about everything and everyone. If something happens that he doesn't like...he can't just shrug it off. He is easily affected.

Like I said, He is also a fighter. Since this is a fantasy series, he applies this throughout the story. Going through a lot of emotional pain has in a way helped him become strong. Not that he is a tough guy...like I explained he is far from it. He's strong in that he keeps persevering despite his problems and his pain. He is very determined to fix problems when they arise. If he sets his mind on something, he obsesses about it and becomes very passionate about fixing it. Throughout the story he constantly tries to fix his broken relationship with his father, but his anger always comes out and makes them drift apart.

Zack is also very indecisive. This is due to him over thinking everything. He can’t just make a rational decision and stick with it. Of course, this does not mean that he just sits there and thinks when he needs to take action; on the contrary, Zack is very much a man of action and a fighter. Zack will take action quickly if he needs to. He just won’t be confident about what he’s doing, since he hasn’t really made up his mind. He just knows that he needs to take action, and he does it. As you might guess, this often results in him making the wrong decision. This is one reason he is very unconfident.

Zack also has a hard time maintaining relationships, mostly because he tries too hard to fix things that he can’t fix. His difficult life has led him to be untrusting of people in general. When he sees someone in any sort of pain, he is very caring and sympathetic. In the story, he has two friends with whom he is very close. As you may imagine, based on what I’ve said already, he tries very hard to maintain the relationship. Most people would be scared away by him…since he is never laid back about anything.

Character Two: Isaac

Age: 19

I won’t give you a full description of Isaac since I’m not sure it is necessary. Just know that he is a happy and fun character. He is not exactly carefree, but compared to Zack, he is much more laid back and easy going. He is intelligent and very social. He talks often. He is a bit naive and curious. He loves being around people in general and loves adventure. He is also ambitious and has a bit of a hero complex. His main flaw is his ego.

Like I said, he is not completely carefree, and he isn’t a complete clown either. He chooses to live life happily and have fun, but he can still get serious. He’s meant to be a very lovable character.

Although he seems very different from Zack, they are not complete opposites. None of them are bad guys, neither of them are apathetic, and they both have a desire to help people (though Isaac sometimes has selfish reasons). I could give more examples, but I just want to make it clear that although they are very different, they are not meant to be complete opposites.

I would write more, but I should get on with this.

Character Three: Kelly

Age: 26

Kelly is a friend of Zack, and the only female main character. Again, I don’t think I need to say much about her. She is a loving and genuinely good person. She doesn’t have all the anger issues and emotional instability that Zack has. She has maternal instincts and is comfortable around people. She is also the wisest and most confident of anyone else.

I have developed this character more than you’d think by reading this short description, but I think I still need to develop her more.

Character Four: Samuel

Age: 18 (the youngest)

Samuel is sort of the cool genius type. He is an extreme introvert and doesn’t talk much to anyone except Zack. He is a bit of a rebel and he has little respect for the law. Like Zack he is also a thinker. As a hobby he likes to go riding on his motorcycle or building things.

So far, he seems a lot like Zack right? Well, he is quite different. You’ll see once I flesh him out a bit more. Keep reading!

Where should I start. I guess one major difference is that Samuel is emotionally stable, in contrast to Zack. Samuel isn’t emotionless, but he is more reserved and detached, and doesn’t show his emotions as often. He can come across as a bit cold, but he really does care about people he is close too.

Like I said, Samuel is thinker, but in a different way than Zack. His thinking is less emotionally charged and more rational. He is also much more logical than Zack. This isn’t to say Samuel is all that logical either though (at least not like a Vulcan). I prefer the word rational. He is also scientific-minded (and a gear-head), which is another way he is different from Zack. Samuel sees things more clearly.

Samuel’s relationship with Zack shows other aspects of his personality. They connect because they do have some things in common (both being introverts and thinkers, and both having a general distrust for people). Zack talks about a lot of his thoughts and feelings and other abstract concepts, and Samuel can engage and talk intelligently about it. Even though Samuel is more rational and concrete in his thinking, he is an understanding person, so he can see what Zack is going through even though he cannot completely relate.

One major way the two are different is that Samuel tries to escape from conflict. He wants things to be rational and orderly, so when chaos arises, he prefers to escape where he can relax and take his mind off of the conflict. This is something Zack simply can’t do. Zack can’t escape because he feels a need to fix everything, so he runs toward chaos rather than away from it.

One part of Samuel’s back-story I should mention is that he feels like he has to be there for his mother even though he just wants to be out on his own. He values his freedom highly.

The New Main Character

I need a character that will become the series’ final antagonist. I’ve always wanted the final antagonist to be a fully developed character rather than an evil dude with a cape. He can, however, be morally ambiguous. In the story, he does things that seem wrong, and things that seem right. You never really know what side he’s really on. He is a POV character less often than the others, and when he is a POV character I don’t plan on revealing as many of his thoughts or feelings.

______________

So…how can I possibly make another character here? How could I make someone who is different? I already think Samuel is too similar to Zack (despite their many differences), I don’t fully understand Isaac, and I haven’t even developed Kelly enough. Assuming you’ve read this whole thing, I could really use your help. I’d be fine with you helping me develop these characters or help me develop the new character.

Note that the story wouldn’t really work if I dropped any of these characters.

nevada
01-15-2009, 01:48 AM
stop looking at character traits. i never think of traits when i develop my characters. (traits is a cool word, say it a bunch of times in a row)

create a character. give him a temper, give him something he loves. give him something he wants more than anything, give him something he would kill for, give him something he would die for. all that other stuff will come in how he reacts to the conflict.

I think you're overthinking your characters. Let them develop more organically (ooo i said organic) Just start with them as whole, and find the smaller parts that make them up as you're writing and exploring. Define the conflict and then see how a character reacts, just go with your guts. I know that sounds to me like that goes against how you write (im guessing from how you describe your character work) but try it. If what you're doing isn't working, do it a different way.

In other words, wing it. Discover your characters on their journey instead of doing an intensive psychological profile before you set out.

Mark B P
01-15-2009, 01:51 AM
stop looking at character traits. i never think of traits when i develop my characters. (traits is a cool word, say it a bunch of times in a row)

create a character. give him a temper, give him something he loves. give him something he wants more than anything, give him something he would kill for, give him something he would die for. all that other stuff will come in how he reacts to the conflict.

I think you're overthinking your characters. Let them develop more organically (ooo i said organic) Just start with them as whole, and find the smaller parts that make them up as you're writing and exploring. Define the conflict and then see how a character reacts, just go with your guts. I know that sounds to me like that goes against how you write (im guessing from how you describe your character work) but try it. If what you're doing isn't working, do it a different way.

In other words, wing it. Discover your characters on their journey instead of doing an intensive psychological profile before you set out.

You're right. It does go completely against how I write. I'm not saying it is not good advice...it's just advice that doesn't work for me.

nevada
01-15-2009, 01:56 AM
You're right. It does go completely against how I write. I'm not saying it is not good advice...it's just advice that doesn't work for me.

Fair enough, but what you're doing now isn't working either. I'm just saying. lol

drachin8
01-15-2009, 02:31 AM
If assigning traits is the method you must use, then I think it might be best if you learn how to share traits. Singly, a trait may mean one thing, but paired with another trait, it can change so much.

For example:

Char1: careless, carefree
Char2: careless, repressive

Char1 tends to flit about unthinking. His carelessness is a result of not paying attention, of following whim. When he does something that hurts somebody, he just gives them a hug and assumes that will make everything better because we're all a bit careless sometimes.

Char2 punishes herself for her carelessness. She tries so hard to not make mistakes, to not let anything through her shell, but they happen. And when they do, she has to retreat to a corner to berate herself until she feels fit to present herself to society again. And she always promises that each careless mistake will be her last. She WILL pay attention. She WILL watch carefully every move she makes.


See? Two different interpretations of carelessness influenced by their other character traits.

Give it a try.


:)

-Michelle

Red-Green
01-15-2009, 02:31 AM
Wow. I'm with Nevada. I never do character traits. I just try to create real people out of whole cloth. Okay...how about this: pick a character trait you don't like and force yourself to make a character that you DO like who happens to have that trait.

ETA: Yes, Drachin8 has some good advice on this.

TheIT
01-15-2009, 02:38 AM
Start putting your characters in situations where they need to meet other people, then figure out what those other characters are like. Make your characters do something. Figure out what the supporting cast is like based on the type of story you want to tell.

For example, the population explosion occured for me once I had to send my MCs into a village. I knew what my MCs were like, but now I had to populate the village. I chose supporting characters based on what the village needed and also the types of reactions I wanted my MC's to have.

Mark B P
01-15-2009, 02:38 AM
If assigning traits is the method you must use, then I think it might be best if you learn how to share traits. Singly, a trait may mean one thing, but paired with another trait, it can change so much.

For example:

Char1: careless, carefree
Char2: careless, repressive

Char1 tends to flit about unthinking. His carelessness is a result of not paying attention, of following whim. When he does something that hurts somebody, he just gives them a hug and assumes that will make everything better because we're all a bit careless sometimes.

Char2 punishes herself for her carelessness. She tries so hard to not make mistakes, to not let anything through her shell, but they happen. And when they do, she has to retreat to a corner to berate herself until she feels fit to present herself to society again. And she always promises that each careless mistake will be her last. She WILL pay attention. She WILL watch carefully every move she makes.


See? Two different interpretations of carelessness influenced by their other character traits.

Give it a try.


:)

-Michelle

That's great advice. That should help me.

I think one of my problems is there are a lot of character traits I don't understand completely, such as being carefree. I know the definition, but I still don't know it well enough. Any more advice?

Is there a site that has character descriptions? I don't want to copy anything...I just want to get an idea of what I could do. I've tried finding character pages on wikipedia, but usually just talk about what the character has done rather than who the character is.

nevada
01-15-2009, 02:40 AM
two whole pages of character traits. I bet you don't have a character who is saucy. lol

http://cte.jhu.edu/techacademy/web/2000/kochan/charactertraits.html

drachin8
01-15-2009, 02:46 AM
Char1: careless, carefree
Char2: careless, repressive

Char1 tends to flit about unthinking. His carelessness is a result of not paying attention, of following whim. When he does something that hurts somebody, he just gives them a hug and assumes that will make everything better because we're all a bit careless sometimes.

Char2 punishes herself for her carelessness. She tries so hard to not make mistakes, to not let anything through her shell, but they happen. And when they do, she has to retreat to a corner to berate herself until she feels fit to present herself to society again. And she always promises that each careless mistake will be her last. She WILL pay attention. She WILL watch carefully every move she makes.


(Yes, I just quoted my own post for reference)

To go a bit further in, I can actually deduce more about these two characters based on that spare list of traits.

Char2 honestly can't stand Char1. The fact that he doesn't shrivel in shame when he does something wrong is almost revolting to her. Embarrassing, at the least. "If you're going to make a mistake, you should at least feel awful about it" is her motto. As a result, when Char1 screws up through carelessness, she points it out with a ruthless mercy. She will do anything, say anything, to break him down and make him feel the shame that he ought to be feeling.

Char1 just doesn't get why Char2 beats herself up so much. But he is pretty sure he can help her! All he needs is a bit more time to show her it's okay when you screw up, that people won't hate you for it. So even though she can be really ugly, he is pretty sure it is because she is trying to avoid the truth and push him away. If he hangs around her long enough, though, his goodwill is sure to rub off and help her be a lot less stressed.


See? More info based on a total of three traits shared between two characters. Fun, yes?


:)

-Michelle

nevada
01-15-2009, 02:47 AM
I think one of my problems is there are a lot of character traits I don't understand completely, such as being carefree. I know the definition, but I still don't know it well enough. Any more advice?

You are sooo overthinking this. your characters do not need to fit the traits as defined by some psychological textbook. Carefree is different for everyone, see drachin's example. real people are complex. they are contradictions. they don't fit traits like little pegs in holes. they're combinations of things. most people are dichotomies of traits.

take me for example. the people i work for would call me anal and too focussed on detail and driven to make sure that everything is absolutely done perfect, a place for everythign and everything in its place. so you would say my character trait is perfectionism. but when you see my house and my car you would swear my defining character trait is slob!! with a capital S. I never put anything away. If i have to take a passenger in my car i have to spend ten minutes cleaning out the passenger side. I haven't seen the floor of the passenger side in months. there is a week's worth of newspapers in my living room, empty diet coke cans everywhere including the floor of my bedroom where they migrate from the bedside table as they empty. and we won't even discuss my kitchen. Something like that at work would drive me insane, absolutely ape-shit bonkers. But at home I don't even see it. How could you define that off a list? That's how characters should be. contradictions. interesting. discovered along the way.

eta a funny story. one time my truck went into the shop. i told them not to open the passenger side door. the decided to do that anyway after the truck was on the hoist. the mechanic got beaned in the head by several things including a pair of steel-toed boots. the front desk guy told me it looked like the trouble with tribbles. I warned them.

drachin8
01-15-2009, 02:56 AM
I think one of my problems is there are a lot of character traits I don't understand completely, such as being carefree. I know the definition, but I still don't know it well enough. Any more advice?

I have to say, if you don't feel you know a trait well enough to be able to see an image in your mind, to feel the sub-context in all it's beautiful variations flitting about your brain, I would probably avoid that trait. Focus building your characters out of what you are familiar with. Maybe pick two or three primary traits and then just fill in around that with a few paragraphs of how you think those traits interact to make that person who they are. That should leave you plenty of familiar traits to share and have fun with.


Is there a site that has character descriptions? I don't want to copy anything...I just want to get an idea of what I could do. I've tried finding character pages on wikipedia, but usually just talk about what the character has done rather than who the character is.

I am afraid I am no help on this part. Personally, I lean stronger towards nevada's methods of character creation (with a strong emphasis on what has made them who they are before they hit my story, how they view themselves, and how they want others to view them). Looks like nevada provided you with a bag o' traits, though. Hehe.


:)

-Michelle

drachin8
01-15-2009, 02:57 AM
eta a funny story. one time my truck went into the shop. i told them not to open the passenger side door. the decided to do that anyway after the truck was on the hoist. the mechanic got beaned in the head by several things including a pair of steel-toed boots. the front desk guy told me it looked like the trouble with tribbles. I warned them.

Hehe, that is just funny. You did warn them...


:)

-Michelle

Mark B P
01-15-2009, 03:03 AM
(Yes, I just quoted my own post for reference)

To go a bit further in, I can actually deduce more about these two characters based on that spare list of traits.

Char2 honestly can't stand Char1. The fact that he doesn't shrivel in shame when he does something wrong is almost revolting to her. Embarrassing, at the least. "If you're going to make a mistake, you should at least feel awful about it" is her motto. As a result, when Char1 screws up through carelessness, she points it out with a ruthless mercy. She will do anything, say anything, to break him down and make him feel the shame that he ought to be feeling.

Char1 just doesn't get why Char2 beats herself up so much. But he is pretty sure he can help her! All he needs is a bit more time to show her it's okay when you screw up, that people won't hate you for it. So even though she can be really ugly, he is pretty sure it is because she is trying to avoid the truth and push him away. If he hangs around her long enough, though, his goodwill is sure to rub off and help her be a lot less stressed.


See? More info based on a total of three traits shared between two characters. Fun, yes?


:)

-Michelle

That's great. Maybe you could help me with the 3 characters I'm struggling with. I'll give you some names (not actual names), character traits, and descriptions.

EDIT: Sorry, I accidentally posted it before I was finished. I'll finish writing character descriptions and then post it

Mark B P
01-15-2009, 04:00 AM
You are sooo overthinking this. your characters do not need to fit the traits as defined by some psychological textbook. Carefree is different for everyone, see drachin's example. real people are complex. they are contradictions. they don't fit traits like little pegs in holes. they're combinations of things. most people are dichotomies of traits.

take me for example. the people i work for would call me anal and too focussed on detail and driven to make sure that everything is absolutely done perfect, a place for everythign and everything in its place. so you would say my character trait is perfectionism. but when you see my house and my car you would swear my defining character trait is slob!! with a capital S. I never put anything away. If i have to take a passenger in my car i have to spend ten minutes cleaning out the passenger side. I haven't seen the floor of the passenger side in months. there is a week's worth of newspapers in my living room, empty diet coke cans everywhere including the floor of my bedroom where they migrate from the bedside table as they empty. and we won't even discuss my kitchen. Something like that at work would drive me insane, absolutely ape-shit bonkers. But at home I don't even see it. How could you define that off a list? That's how characters should be. contradictions. interesting. discovered along the way.



I totally see what you're saying, but the thing is I do think of them as complex and more than just a list of traits. The problem is that I want each one to be completely unique from the others, or at least pretty damn close. Once I describe my characters you'll see what I mean.

Kitty Pryde
01-15-2009, 04:14 AM
two whole pages of character traits. I bet you don't have a character who is saucy. lol

http://cte.jhu.edu/techacademy/web/2000/kochan/charactertraits.html

Great list! Hmm: "Saucy: served with or having the consistency of sauce" That's a tough one.:ROFL:

nevada
01-15-2009, 04:17 AM
Great list! Hmm: "Saucy: served with or having the consistency of sauce" That's a tough one.:ROFL:

obviously only applicable to shapeshifters.

drachin8
01-15-2009, 05:07 AM
Great list! Hmm: "Saucy: served with or having the consistency of sauce" That's a tough one.:ROFL:

Only used for one-shot characters, often clothed in red shirts. May be eaten by cannibals, aliens, or gourmet dragon chefs.


:P

-Michelle

Mark B P
01-15-2009, 06:40 AM
I just included character descriptions. I need everyone's help here!

nevada
01-15-2009, 06:51 AM
I donít fully understand Isaac, and I havenít even developed Kelly enough. Assuming youíve read this whole thing, I could really use your help. Iíd be fine with you helping me develop these characters or help me develop the new character.

Note that the story wouldnít really work if I dropped any of these characters.

With all due respect, while we are not above brainstorming, we tend to think people need to do their own work. Having said that, i stand by what i said earlier. start writing. stop obsessing about these characters. get a plot, get some conflict and start. you will discover things about these characters in how they react to the plot. things are so intertwined. there's no point in giving a character a trait if that trait is never utilized in the plot. if you make a character a slob just to give her a trait and her being a slob is never impacted by or impacts on the plot, it's not necessary. at the same time, the trait of being a slob can have a great effect on the plot.

you cant just make up a bunch of characters, no matter how well rounded, and just stick them in a story. ie decide that one of your characters is a great fighter a member of a secret sect of fighters who can overcome any obstacle. great trait. but what if you end up writing a plot where a great fighter isn't needed? then you don't need that character. then the "great fighter" is just a "character tag" stuck on to make him "interesting and well-rounded". it'll read false.

stop giving yourself busy work and get started. you'll be writing 3 or 4 drafts anyway, not counting the minor editing and revisions you'll be doing. this first draft is your discovery draft. go forth and discover.

TrickyFiction
01-15-2009, 07:04 AM
Mmmm... Do something else with Kelley. Every young, male writer I know has written this perfect, maternal, angelic female. And that's it for women in their stories (aside from maybe some sexy evil sorceress or a brothel babe). Remember how in the Hero's Journey, the mother is the creature to overcome? :)

Give kelley a guy's name if it helps. Write a man, then change her into a woman after you've fleshed him/her out without the idealization.

That would be my advice, anyway.

blueobsidian
01-15-2009, 07:17 AM
I totally see what you're saying, but the thing is I do think of them as complex and more than just a list of traits. The problem is that I want each one to be completely unique from the others, or at least pretty damn close.

I suppose the question I have to ask is, why? If your characters have nothing in common, why would they be brought together in the story? How are your characters going to ring true or connect if they share nothing?

I think you need to take a look at the real people in your life. Spend some time people watching or just thinking about your loved ones. You all share some "traits" if you look at some defined list, but you are all still completely different people. Two people can both be carefree and express it in entirely different ways. Individuality isn't defined based on abstract characteristics. It sounds like you don't need character profiles, but you need to learn more about human nature and personal development.

Mark B P
01-15-2009, 07:25 AM
I suppose the question I have to ask is, why? If your characters have nothing in common, why would they be brought together in the story? How are your characters going to ring true or connect if they share nothing?

I think you need to take a look at the real people in your life. Spend some time people watching or just thinking about your loved ones. You all share some "traits" if you look at some defined list, but you are all still completely different people. Two people can both be carefree and express it in entirely different ways. Individuality isn't defined based on abstract characteristics. It sounds like you don't need character profiles, but you need to learn more about human nature and personal development.

You're probably right. I went through college staying to myself...and barely interacted with people. I only know myself...and that went into the character Zack. The others were based on what I have observed.

Mark B P
01-15-2009, 07:34 AM
Mmmm... Do something else with Kelley. Every young, male writer I know has written this perfect, maternal, angelic female. And that's it for women in their stories (aside from maybe some sexy evil sorceress or a brothel babe). Remember how in the Hero's Journey, the mother is the creature to overcome? :)

Give kelley a guy's name if it helps. Write a man, then change her into a woman after you've fleshed him/her out without the idealization.

That would be my advice, anyway.

That's a great idea. I think she's more complex than a perfect, maternal, angelic female...but that's pretty close.

Mythical Tiger
01-16-2009, 05:45 PM
Wheres the athletic character? The one who always stays back and helps others, not giving a damn about himself. The one who's 28 and secretly likes Kelly. Always watching over her a little more than the others. The one who knows what he's doing and makes right choices and even dumb choices. All for the well being of others.


Hope this helps!

Mark B P
01-18-2009, 09:18 PM
Wheres the athletic character? The one who always stays back and helps others, not giving a damn about himself. The one who's 28 and secretly likes Kelly. Always watching over her a little more than the others. The one who knows what he's doing and makes right choices and even dumb choices. All for the well being of others.


Hope this helps!

Well that'd be Zack. He is not 28, but like I said he's a fighter, and he often attempts to protect Kelly. He's very unselfish.

I think what I'm going to do is get rid of Samuel, and then put his character into the others. Zack was already a lot like him. And now Kelly can have some more character.

Dale Emery
01-19-2009, 06:27 AM
So yeah...basically I just need advice on how to make characters different. There are only so many character traits.

First, identify what your four main characters want and what they are doing about it.

Now, for each main character:

If the MC gets what she wants, who might be harmed (however slightly) by that? Those people will react, perhaps in a way that helps the story.

How might the MC's actions toward her goal interfere with something that someone else is trying to do/be/have? Those people will react.

How might the MC's actions benefit some other character? What if the MC doesn't like that other character?

What opportunities do the MC's actions create for enemies (or shaky allies) to do things that hinder or harm the MC?

Who might be able to twist the MCs' accomplishments toward some evil purpose?

Which "allies" are really enemies in disguise? Which "enemies" are really allies in disguise?

Dale