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When do you find out who your characters really are?

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Sun Oct 01, 2017 2:54 pm
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StellaThomas says...

So, I'm currently working on a second draft of my novel Silk which, by this point, anyone who's reading this has probably heard way too much about, or hasn't heard a word and isn't interested at all in hearing anything about it.

The thing is, on my first draft of Silk, I had no idea who my protagonist, Pip Starsfall was. I knew that he was 19, the son of a rich merchant, who made bad decisions, especially when it came to women. I initially wanted him to be a sort of dreadful person, and made him to be a playboy and a heartbreaker.

But as I wrote him, I realised that the idea I had for him didn't quite fit into the story I was telling. On the second draft now, Pip probably the biggest heart of any character I've ever written. In the story, he is caring towards everybody he meets, no matter if they're a ghost, a wall, or a giant spider. He absolutely dotes on his sisters. And his playboy history is there, but in the form of a serial monogamist who keeps giving his heart away too easily. He's flawed, temperamental at times, lazy, spoilt, but ultimately a sweetheart.

The funny thing is, I didn't know any of this when I started the story.

So my question is: do you have characters, fully-formed and ready to go, when you start writing? Or do they evolve through drafts? I mean this separate to character development where they change during the story, of course. I just mean, that initial, getting-to-know-them phase.

I kind of like starting off with only a rough idea of a character in mind and discovering them as I go along. But would that drive you mad?
"Stella. You were in my dream the other night. And everyone called you Princess." -Lauren2010

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Sun Oct 01, 2017 3:29 pm
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Magebird says...

I've noticed the same thing with my own writing. I haven't technically started revisions yet, but I'm already noticing that with my novel. Though I've talked about replacing one of the characters on my wall, I feel like the biggest change is with my character Mira. She was initially meant to be someone whose aim was to help and not cause conflict, but I've discovered that she's actually quite a bold and tough character.

I think discovering characters is actually one of the best parts about writing!
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Sun Oct 01, 2017 4:36 pm
Steggy says...

When I am writing novels or short stories, I usually have a clear image in my head of what this character is going to be like, how they look, etc before even writing them out. This leads to me having too many characters in one place and usually confusing characters. I now do this thing where I plan ahead with my characters but usually, this also changes because with me, at least, I want each to be cookie cutter and do the things I want. For example, before writing Madly, I had a great image for Tad (the mental patient who falls in love with his doctor) but in writing, it didn't seem to fit my standards.

Basically, when I start writing characters, I usually "try" to bring them back to my original idea of them but often times, it doesn't work and I give up halfway through with writing the novel.
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Sun Oct 01, 2017 10:11 pm
Mea says...

This is something I've been working for a while too. I tend to not have a very good idea of my characters until after I've started writing with them, though I'm trying to change that by planning more that because it more than anything can make me lose motivation in a first draft when I realize that I have no idea who I'm writing about. My writing winds up feeling cliche and wooden and it's super frustrating. Because of that, I'm planning out characters a *lot* with my current project. I'll let you know how it goes. :P

With Mixing Magic, I had very little idea of who Ayda was going to be when I started writing it. I knew I wanted her to be adventurous and curious about new people and places and love the road. But I had little to no idea of the sheer drive with which she pursues her dreams, or with how she can get tunnel vision to the point of selfishness, or even how fierce her loyalty to her family and friends is once she does stop being selfish. All those things evolved partly over the course of the first draft, but really solidified during my second draft. It was a pretty awesome process.
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