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Help with characterization?

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Tue Jun 14, 2011 6:13 am
ilessthan3you says...

Whenever I write, I normally end up focusing more on what's happening and much less on my character. In short, I'm not great at characterization. How can I give my character personality? General tips or specifics would be appreciated (:

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Tue Jun 14, 2011 11:04 am
Cotton says...

hey :) sometimes I get like that too, and then I read back what I've written and the speech is either unbelievably cringey or just plain unrealistic. so now what I do is, when I get an idea for a story, I think about why my character is in that situation, how his/her life before will have led to this, and what kind of person he/she is. My English told me once that she knew someone who wrote for a soap, and when they started writing a new character they wrote pages and pages about them. That might be a bit excessive for a short story! But the idea remains the same - it might feel a bit lame, but turn them into your new friend, think about the problems they have in their life, what motivates them etc etc. Sorry if this reply is a bit pedantic :P
also, know in your mind how they talk - are they well educated and speak well or are they foreign and put their sentences together strangely? treat them like a real person, and it will all fit together :D
good luck!
Here's a story of a brother by the name of Othello,
He liked white women and he liked - green jello... - Reduced Shakespeare Company

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Tue Jun 14, 2011 6:58 pm
mvb627 says...

Well I have the opposite problem!!

Usually I do character profiles. Included in them are, for example, what they eat, who they like, what they feel about school, stuff like that.

Sorry if this is no help at all...
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Wed Jun 15, 2011 1:36 pm
Dynamo says...

I guess putting together a character is like putting together the world in your story. The way I did it, I spend weeks and weeks fleshing out my story world, creating the landscape, the nations and their different cultures, a bestiary of all the creatures that live in that world, and a few pages on the history of the land before the main story takes place. Sure, I'm not going to reveal it all to my readers all at once, because that would be crazy, and to be honest most of it won't even appear in the first book. But the point is that you have the framework of your world set in your mind, you know how certain people act in certain cultures, where you can find a certain animal based on where it lives, etc.

In my mind, building a character is no different, especially the main character who the audience has to relate to. Build up your characters in you mind as much as you can, then through your story reveal a little more about that character to your readers through the actions he/she takes. Don't bog the story narrative down about who this or that character is and what has happened in their past. Actions speak louder than words, make your characters' actions the things that define who they are.

Also, the most important thing to remember when making a character, again especially the main character, is to make sure the readers has empathy for that character. I don't mean feeling sorry for him, that's sympathy which is totally different, and nowhere near as effective as empathy (which few people seem to understand sometimes). Empathy is when we can relate to a character, when we can make an emotional connection with someone because we see a little of ourselves in him/her. It's the difference between feeling sorry for a character and understanding the pain he/she's going through. For example, does your character have trouble with authority? Does he/she have problems fitting in with society? Does he/she have a mental condition or addiction that they have to fight against? Out of these three examples alone I can say without a doubt that anyone who reads this has had some sort of experience with one of these, whether it's personal experience or it happened to someone they know.

If I could use my own story as an example, one of my main character's flaws comes from a traumatic experience he went through as a child. He got into a fight with another kid and during the scuffle he was pushed down a well just outside the village he lives and got stuck down there for 8 hours. There was no way for him to climb out and he was too far away from the village for anyone to hear his cries for help. This leads to the main character developing claustrophobia, so now he gets uncomfortable in places with crowds of people and he's petrified of going into caves and the like, and his adventure will usually take him to both places. Not only does it give him an interesting character flaw, but it also gives people who have experience with phobias something to empathize with.

I hope this advice can help you in any way. Good luck!
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