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Thread: How to add depth to characters?

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    red apple How to add depth to characters?

    While writing a story, I often fail because I can't bring on enough depth to my characters. Especially the main characters should have developed personalities that are easy to sympatise with, so you have to put a lot though to both their strong and weak points. Often a clumsy writer like me just wants to focus on acts and that's what makes the fic too fast-paced in the end.

    So any tips?
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    red apple Re: How to add depth to characters?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mikachu Yukitatsu View Post
    While writing a story, I often fail because I can't bring on enough depth to my characters. Especially the main characters should have developed personalities that are easy to sympatise with, so you have to put a lot though to both their strong and weak points. Often a clumsy writer like me just wants to focus on acts and that's what makes the fic too fast-paced in the end.

    So any tips?
    Just knowing what you're inclined to do is a great step as a writer so nice work =)

    I would work at this issue starting from your strengths. You said you do well with acts, "plot" I take it. So start with that. Think of the plot, get all the action planned out like you're comfortable doing. Then look at your characters who are carrying out this master plan. Why did one character do what he did? Did he have some motivation beyond problem solving? Perhaps some character trait or part of his personality made him react in such a way. Perhaps a past disappointment or tragedy. By thinking about these things, you're giving your character depth. Now start thinking about how to show this to the reader. Maybe you decided your character jumped into a battle because he is confident to a fault. What little tics, or mannerisms can you give this character to show his overconfidence? What's something that overconfident people to do in you, the author's, experience? Sprinkle those mannerisms into your narrative whenever you can.

    Somebody told me once, always know more about your character than your reader. Have some facts or history about him in your head that you have never written down, maybe from his past. That kind of mindset will train you to think about character depth a lot more often.

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    Default Re: How to add depth to characters?



    HOLY SHIT, IT'S DH!!
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    Default Re: How to add depth to characters?

    Hi Dragoknight!

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    Default Re: How to add depth to characters?

    Quote Originally Posted by DragoKnight View Post


    HOLY SHIT, IT'S DH!!
    I have to admit this was my exact reaction. Hey Martin, good to see you around again. How's life?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mikachu Yukitatsu View Post
    While writing a story, I often fail because I can't bring on enough depth to my characters. Especially the main characters should have developed personalities that are easy to sympatise with, so you have to put a lot though to both their strong and weak points. Often a clumsy writer like me just wants to focus on acts and that's what makes the fic too fast-paced in the end.

    So any tips?
    I create detailed Character Profiles of my main characters and outline every aspect of that character: their physical attributes; their personality; their relationships; and their history/backstory. A lot of advice I have read online says to do this for every character, but I honestly seem to lose interest after I've done the main character, main villain, and a handful of supporting main characters. I found this helped me when I wrote LTL: I knew a lot more about my characters than was ever written into the story, and I felt like this aided the depth of the characters a lot. I have done character profiles for three main characters for the novel I am currently working on, and it has really helped me to visualise and understand how my characters would react to certain things.

    I hope this is helpful. Good luck man!
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    Default Re: How to add depth to characters?

    Nice to see you, dratinihaunter13. I remember seeing your username in mr_pikachu's War of The Forums.

    As for your tips, they will be helpful, thanks a lot. For instance, when I drew a 50 page cartoon back in 2004, I did have a separate paper where I had drawn the four main characters. However, that paper had only pictures of them and their names and ages in the beginning of the story. But I might try harder now. I guess it's a bit like creating characters in RPG.
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    Default Re: How to add depth to characters?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mikachu Yukitatsu View Post
    Nice to see you, dratinihaunter13. I remember seeing your username in mr_pikachu's War of The Forums.

    As for your tips, they will be helpful, thanks a lot. For instance, when I drew a 50 page cartoon back in 2004, I did have a separate paper where I had drawn the four main characters. However, that paper had only pictures of them and their names and ages in the beginning of the story. But I might try harder now. I guess it's a bit like creating characters in RPG.
    Yes, like an RPG. Actually that should be a pretty effective way of looking at it.

    And Hi Gavin! Life's good. Married, starting a medical career =).

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    Default Re: How to add depth to characters?

    OH SNAP HI THERE DH!

    When I write, I like to jot down random facts about characters and illustrate them. Many writers pick attributes that fit their vision for the character, then find other subtraits that emerge as a result of exploration. Things can start to flesh out this way. Some possibilities include zodiac sign, birthday (were they born on a holiday? They may share that holiday's traits, or maybe they resent it), Myers-Briggs type, blood type, and IQ.

    If you want a character who sets themselves up for disappointment, perhaps they have a cousin or sibling who does things successfully. Ask what situation could have created that characteristic. How did the character's trait manifest before, during, and after that incident?

    If a character is introverted, are they agreeable? Most people score on a diverse spectrum of Big Five traits (OCEAN). Each Big Five trait has a half dozen subtraits. For example Openness to Experience also includes openness to Aesthetics, Fantasies, Actions, Values, and more.

    When I was working on Culture Wars (and still am, just not online right now), I used Big Five. Damian is more conscientious and agreeable, while Grey is more open to experience and neurotic. They are equally extroverted. Damian feels pressure from his family to be successful in part due to having an older sister who studied maths but also because he is an American of color and has to work harder to achieve equal access in Western society. Grey is more radical and aggressive, and I wrote her as more sexually active and experienced because the Pokemon franchise is lacking in women whose romantic/sexual capacity is not relative to their worth to the male protagonist--I also don't want her to be an object to pander to Damian's male gaze, so I made Damian pansexual and preferring men. (I still might write them as a couple in the end, but that's really up to Grey since right now she thinks of Damian as a brother; I also don't want to erase Damian's queerness, but that's really up to Damian!)

    On another note, I wrote Damian as a Gemini but he decidedly behaves more like a Pisces; he's only a Gemini so that way his birthday happens during his story arc. You can get around that, if you wish, by drawing natal charts for your characters. So Damian could be born in the early morning and have a Pisces midheaven and exalted Jupiter, and with that comes a whole set of possible traits. The same with Grey; I thought a character lamenting that they don't want to spend their birthday on an alien world would help drive the sense of urgency behind the story in a silly yet realistic way. Grey became a Taurus because the characters enter the Pokemon world shortly before graduating from university and, consequently, becomes the older of the two characters, although she behaves much more like an Aries.

    Sometimes writing protagonists who are different from yourself is much more challenging and requires that you consider their position in society on a deeper level. That's why I approached power and privilege in American society as a contrast to a colorblind and gender-blind society (Pokemon in my story) which has other political issues at the front line. It forces Grey and Damian, who are highly educated and feminist, to tactfully consider their American attitudes toward business, government, and society from a lens in which their own privilege is redefined, gained, and lost, while forcing me as the writer to carefully balance their racial, ethnic, gender, and sexual identities without whitewashing them.

    Mikachu, I know you like to write characters of either Finnish heritage or Japanese, so this could just be a new challenge for you
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    Default Re: How to add depth to characters?

    My suggestion is when you think up a character, think of a backstory for them explaining what they are like, what are their beliefs, what is their history, and so on and so forth.
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