Authors, script writers, mangaka and cartoonists, story tellers, lyricists, journalists, no matter what type of writing you do, we all have something in common.
As writers, it's not only our job to put pen to paper, or finger to key, and write something. We strive to not only express ourselves, and be heard, but to also write something that people would enjoy. Something that would serve as that trusty warm bit of home that people would read, over and over. A joke to lighten the mood, a tragedy to soften the soul, a romance to bring fire and adventure to the heart.
And still, the timeless question that has badgered our minds since perhaps the beginning of existence lasts on. How do we become better? How can we describe the picture in our mind with the finesse of an artist? How can we convey the feeling we know as a piece of our being with the elegance of a poet? How can we sway the most sturdy of convictions with the adroit writing of a masterful journalist?
How do we get better?
I like to think that we temper it, like one would do with a blade.
That we must heat it, and shape it, in fires and scrutiny that we and our fellow writers light. That we must polish, and sharpen it, by giving it care and attention. Thus, I have created this thread! Where every week a new topic on writing will be started, and advice can be shared, and questions asked! Hopefully everyone could get something out of it to help temper their skills.
This weeks topic!
Are there any overdone character types to avoid? Any tips for getting into the character's mindset? How about advice for crafting the perfect background to fit them? Or, maybe character's should be crafted from their background?
Want to give advice? Any other questions? Post away!
I guess I just tend to base them off of people in real life. Just like changing my friends' (or enemies') names and guessing how they would react in the story.
It's really weird, but I hardly even think about what my characters are going to say or do. I decide on their personality and the story almost writes itself. I can easily switch between different personalities in my head and I don't let my emotions get in the way. I guess my tip on writing out your characters is that you have to keep an open mind. You have to let yourself see the world from other people's perspective and see their morals and values without seeing them as wrong. Even if they conflict with your values in real life, you can't let that prejudice slide in the story.
The obvious types of characters to avoid are the Gary/Mary Sues where everything goes impossibly right almost all the time. the most common type of Sue that I see is the beginning trainer that happens to encounter a hurt legendary, has the medical skills of a doctor, and then they become best friends and defeat all other foes without breaking a sweat.
However, defining a Sue can be very challenging and if it's one thing somebody will mess up on while reviewing, it's calling a character out. I've called a character a Gary Sue when it wasn't appropriate (sorry Ray) and it's something you better be dang sure about if you're going to call one out.
As far as backgrounds go, I really don't have much to say about them. It really depends on the story. The one thing I will say, however, is that the back-story has to make sense. I've seen it so many times where a writer wants to make one of their character edgy and cool, so they give them an impossibly rough background. One that has absolutely no happy moments whatsoever and it's nothing but pain and misery. There has to be a balance. I don't really know how to boil my thoughts down on this subject into a couple statements, but hopefully an idea or two emerged somewhere in there.
I'll probably post more complete thoughts later on when I read some other responses and can bounce my ideas off of them, since that's just how my brain works.
It's different for every writer on how to get into the character's mindset. Some swear up and down by those character questionnaires, the ones that ask "What's your full name? How many parents do you have? What are your dreams and ambitions?" and all sorts of things. Other writers prefer taking the bare minimum of a character and throwing them into the story, learning more about the character as the plot moves along. I'm one that falls into the latter. When I need a character, I get the very basic amount of information about them (age, name, sex, gender identity) and send them out into the world. Any more information about them like their personality or back story I learn when it comes up in the story or what comes to mind while thinking them over in my head. Then I rewrite the story with that information a little clearer or a little more defined.
I'm going to have to pull out my trusted character/viewpoint guide book, aren't I?
Thanks, guys, for the participation!
Sorry I couldn't get to this thread sooner, I've had a lot on my plate!
Okay, as for my advice!
In the field of acting, there is a certain group of people who could be known as 'becomers'. Such a motley of people, these in particular do share the common trait of being able to squeeze out their own personality, and absorb the role of the character as themself. Whilst as I know that writers are most certainly not actors, I do indeed encourage the acquisition of this method. Being of the mindset to be capable of asking "What would I do in this situation?" for each of your characters, I find to be much more effective than asking "What would they do?"
If however, you find difficulties in the pursuit of emulation of character, then merely thinking rather pertinently on their course of action would be optimal. For, as we all know, different people tend to have varying perspectives. You may well enjoy eating yogurt, but would ×character? That's perhaps an overly simplistic analogy, but it conveys my point effectively, I believe.
In the case of character types, I wouldn't necessarily say that there are any clichés to avoid. However, if you truly, and unavoidably needto have a "brooder", for example, in your story, then at least make the best attempts to breathe some new originality into them. Unless a concept that's been portrayed several dozens of times has been masterfully executed, then readers will very quickly tire of it without anything new to snag their interest.
Now, to bring up a topic that was featured especially in the article that Astinus linked, and that Slayr mentioned. . .
Please, please, please, do not create a Gary/Mary Sue character; or try to express overawe in the other characters in your story because of something the hero/ine did. Too much enthusiasm in featuring how great your main protagonist is, or too little failure on their part, can honestly wreck your story. All of us, or most all, are human. And humans are failible creatures. We make mistakes, we lose sometimes, and perhaps worst of all, some of us accept defeat. But, that's what makes us human. A lacking of flaws in anyone in any sort of writing can effortlessly cause a disconnet between the readers, and what they're reading. This means bad news for the writer.
Of course, that's not entirerly a given, since I have on occasion read very well thought-out and gripping tales where the main character was meant to be perfect. Though, I'll assume you understand what I mean.
And lastly, to address character backgrounds. . . think them through!
Even if your character/s and their background/s are cool as ****, you will do a substantial amount of damage to your writing if background conflicts with character type, or background conflicts with the story itself. This should be one of the most elegantly, and cautiously considered aspects you include!
Okay, sorry this post was so long, I didn't have time to make it shorter.
Also, I'm leave the current topic up 'til next Monday if no-one has any gripes, protests, or disturbances, with, against, or from that.
I intended to participate in this thread before now and sadly got distracted. [Sorry Rococo, and thanks for the invitation.]
Hopefully, I'll remember to swing by more often.
My advice for character creation, and indeed any aspect of writing would be the same piece of advice that was given to me by my English-Lit' teacher.
If you find yourself stuck or struggling in any way to advance, then you must take the part [of your story, your character, etc] which you most value, the piece of writing which you are most proud of and throw it away.
It is brutal and it hurts, but it will entirely change the direction of your writing and afterwards you will look back and wonder why you were stuck in the first place.