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A fully developed main character...question!

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Thu Jan 19, 2012 4:32 pm
MoonlightMayhem says...

How can I make my main character "3 demensional?"

My main character is a seventeen year old girl named Serafina Mathonwy. She is emotional and unique, a misfit, hidden in a crowd easily, but has supernatural powers and is the Chosen One for another realm because she has the purest, most good heart.

These all seem to be relatively surfacey characteristics. I'm wondering how to make her appear a) more likable and b) more realistic/ well developed in my story.


The main gist is that she was selected by the seven gods of a world called Astricka to be the Chosen One, the ruler of a secret realm beyond, where divine creatures that are purely good at heart, and abundant sources of magic lie. The creatures are waiting for a leader to rule them, because they claim that without a leader, they will die. The Chosen One provides enough magical energy to make their world go round, pretty much.

Serafina was identified to be the Chosen One by the seven gods because she has the purest heart. But in order to either a) prove herself worthy to officially take the position or b) be absolved of her duties and powers as the Chosen One, she must go on a quest for the Patremorphis, a giant ring that collects keys, which are scattered in the realm of Astricka, each representing a concept. The keys are hidden and guarded by monsters and riddles and such, and the Patremorphis is in a secret location that only the true Chosen One can find. The Patremorphis is nicknamed "The Golden Keychain" by modern slang in Euterpolis, Astricka's great city. Without it, the realm of Lumasis cannot be opened.

The thing is, Serafina doesn't want to be the Chosen One. She wants to be free because the idea overwhelms her. In real life, she's already dealing with applying to college, friends in high school, betrayal, portfolio critics as she hopes to be an artist and journalist, and many other dramas.

*** end of plot summary for this character

How do I expand this character to be three dimensional? Any tips?
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Thu Jan 19, 2012 6:37 pm
Stori says...

One thing you should keep in mind is that even a pure-hearted person has flaws.

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Thu Jan 19, 2012 6:39 pm
Rosendorn says...


The key question is "Why?" In reality, we all all a collection of surface traits. How often have you looked at somebody and though, "oh, she's emotionally tortured" instead of "oh, she's snappy" or "oh, she's shy", which is the end result.

Start figuring out what's behind those traits, instead of adding in more. You don't need to give characters a dozen complexes just to have them be "in depth." Know how they behave in everyday life, have some idea why they behave that way, and keep writing. Let them grow and develop as you keep going forward, then edit the novel to reflect what you learn about them later.

For me, the fun in writing is your characters growing and changing in front of you. So come up with a backstory, a collection of traits, and have fun watching them grow and develop.
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Sun Jan 22, 2012 5:08 pm
Dynamo says...

Sometimes the best way to make a fully developed character is through growth. Your character may start off as simplistic at the beginning of the story, but it's the lessons and hardships she experiences through her journey that will make her grow as a person and give her more depth.
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Sun Jan 29, 2012 8:26 am
lackless says...

I'm sorry if this may sound harsh but I really must say that your main character, even down to her name, sounds like a total Mary Sue. Sorry, but you are here for advice, right?

Let me say now that there is nothing wrong, or should be nothing wrong, with having a character who is "pure of heart". You just need the right balance of characterization, flaws, and good ol' fashioned growth to make sure you aren't pelting your audience over the head with how special and good and perfect she is. Give her reasons behind the way she acts, put her through events that bring out the worst part of herself, have her rise like a phoenix out of the ashes during her darkest hour. It's important for a heroic character to develop into something we all want to be, right? Just make her struggle a little and, even though she is the "Chosen One", don't have everything revolve around her.
She withdrew into herself,
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then touching thousands.
She incarnated ghosts, hurt, and joy
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Sun Jan 29, 2012 3:48 pm
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Rosendorn says...

I'd just like to add a point about Mary Sues:

Some of the most beloved characters of all time are Mary Sues. Namely, comic book characters, and a few of the more "amazing" characters floating around fiction.

Admit it. Batman is one of the ultimate examples. He has a million tech toys, can take practically anybody on in a fight and win, has a detective mind to rival Sherlock Holmes, and has enough connections in the police to get away with some of the more moral-ambiguous actions. He's fought off enough toxins to drive ten/twenty men insane long enough to get the antidotes in his own body.

"But wait!" you say. "He has the extreme flaws to match!"

Let's describe his personality a bit before you say he's got a good balance of flaws and amazing skills.

He adopted Dick Grayson because he felt sorry for the guy and could afford to take him in, and has basically adopted all his sidekicks and been somewhat kind to them. He is an excellent actor because he can pull off the millionaire playboy act so nobody is the wiser. This includes being caught by villains at social functions and getting out, then returning as Batman, without people really noticing. He still runs his parents' technology company so it can fund all his activities. He became the Batman from a pretty selfless goal: so nobody else would have crime effect their lives the way he had. He refuses to kill anybody.

His flaws: workaholic/obsessive tendencies and emotional detachment. And one can lead to the other (working all the time= no time for emotional relations). You could possibly add in his grief as a flaw, but, it's what leads to the obsession with getting rid of crime.

On paper, not that extreme flaws, hm? Only two or three, to counterbalance all the amazing skills above.

This is where the beauty of backstory, justifications, and ramifications come in handy.

Backstory for Batman is rather simple, and includes some justification: he saw his parents get murdered, didn't want anybody else to live through that, traveled the world to get the skills he needed from the best, and came back to find his beloved city overrun by crime he felt compelled to weed out.

So, there's your first justification. He went and learned from the best. And that's a justification for most of his skills, sans the personal connections.

Those come from just being in the crime world and helping the cops out. Mundane, maybe.

So what makes Batman a somewhat rounded character?

His flaws go down to his heart and his good side is used against him.

He still has a selfless goal and refuses to kill. If you want to see how that is used against him, watch Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker and shudder. His flaws mean he has no clue how to show true affection, and his relationships do not end well. You practically have to read code in order to understand how he behaves. He doesn't trust anybody and has plans to take down practically every superhero he can work with. And yes, the plans work. Supervillains have used them successfully.

It is not a case of filling out profiles and saying, "this makes a character flawed" or "this makes a character good." It's a case of saying, "This is my character. Here is their life."

That is why backstory and writing out the book is so important. You can fill out dozens upon dozens of character profiles and not get anywhere, but when you finally toss that out and say "here's how they have and currently live", suddenly you have a pulse. A living, breathing character. And you can't exclude the setting itself, be it the modern world or a created one. You always have to figure out how that setting has changed the character and what opportunities would be available at any given time.

So write. Get rid of your "flaws" and "good points" lists and combine them all under "traits." Make their "flaw" result in something good and their "good point" have something bad happen. Create justifications for their skills, reasons they hold those world views.

Then you'll have a fully formed character.
A writer is a world trapped in a person— Victor Hugo

Ink is blood. Paper is bandages. The wounded press books to their heart to know they're not alone.

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Fri Feb 24, 2012 6:11 pm
Anoia says...

Something I do to make my characters more *real* and seem more alive is to write a kind of interview, with them being interviewed and an irrelevant other party asking the questions. Pretend you are the character, and answers the questions as them- it helps! :)
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