Friday, March 26, 2010

Building Characters

I've been in the FanFiction game longer than I've been involved in the regular writing groups deal. I've always loved to mold an existing character into my wants and needs--even tweak him/her as I see fit.

But what about the character you have to design from scratch? What about the protagonist, or the heroine, or even the bad guy? How do you find that note of creativity and believability when you don't have an established RL character to work from?

A lot of us in the FF realm will make the heroine in our stories a little too close to our own image. And that's great--for our first story. Write what you know, right?  But what about when you have a cache of stories and your heroine is starting to sound the same every time?

How do you change it up?

How do you make people care about your character?  It's an important question and one that you should think about before you start writing a story. Far too often (ESPECIALLY ME) I start a story with an idea, but I don't think far enough ahead about what the story will become and the story starts to stagnate, to drift into that boring sort of static character that no one gives a crap about.

So tell me do you make your heroine stand up to the men we write about. This could be the Jovi Fiction that I'm most familiar with, or even another band--a TV show--whatever.  When you've got a living, breathing character like the lead singer of a band, or the lead guitarist, how do you create a female counterpoint that can hold up?

Discussion anyone?


SoulGirl said...

Wow—great topic.

One of my favourites actually. I love the process around building the character, right from the naming to the looks part(the shallow part) LOL through to what makes my girls tick and what their flaws are.

To me, I work to make my characters rounded and complex, so that they are believable to a reader as if you think about people you meet in real life, who are the ones you remember and who are the ones you care about? Those ones, so as a writer that’s what I look for, also as a reader. I want people to care about my character and cheer them on as they struggle with their conflicts. Good characters are flawed, otherwise they are not realistic---the best part as a writer is writing the conflicts watching that character grow as they move through the story—I can’t tell you how rewarding that is for me as the writer.

Building this from scratch though is no easy feat. I’ve recently taken some classes that have been invaluable for this part of the process though, but you really have to think about the big picture in order for it to work.
I think when you’re talking Fan Fiction, and specifically Jovi ,there are certain traits I see consistently coming through like, Jon has strong MFC’s and Richie romances the hell out of his MFC’s---just as a loose example.

I think though your point about making them stand up long term for the story is what do they add to Jon, and what does Jon add to them---and how does this serve the whole plot of the story and the development of both characters? That’s what I now ask myself
before embarking on such a mission.

Great topic Tara. I love this stuff.

norwichliz said...

It's funny...I never really thought about it until I read this...I just did it.

I guess my process starts with the story idea, then who my MFC is and who her partner is going to be. Since at this point I've only written FF, whether my MFC is going to be with Jon or Richie will determine some of her main character traits. Right or wrong, I can't see Jon with someone who isn't strong willed and independent. Richie needs someone caring and understanding, but also somewhat firm (that's just my opinion).

The story itself will dictate some traits as well. A few major events and how I see her reaction will tell me about her personality. Sometimes it changes during the course of the story, sometimes it doesn't. I also don't want perfect people, so I try to highlite some flaws.

I will admit that there is a certain amount of myself - or how I wish I could be - in my MFC, but I also use other people that I know. It helps me to keep them realistic if I use real reactions.

I'm not as concerned about whether the readers like my characters as I am that they understand where they're coming from. They don't have to agree with them (it's more fun for me if they don't actually).

I usually have the personalities pretty set in my head before I ever start writing.

But that's just me