Creating Characters

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JillStar
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Creating Characters

Postby JillStar » Tue May 18, 2004 8:20 pm

I want to share one of the ways I create character descriptions. There is the obvious way of simply imagining what a character looks like, sounds like or acts like. . . and I recommend it because often a picture does not necessarily create a character.

However. . . I sometimes draw a blank and need to see a picture of someone in order to make the character come to life. One of the tricks I have come up with (and I'm sure others do the same thing) is to go out on the web and search for faces. I look at many modeling agencies with many different types of people to look at. I'm not looking for the "perfect" model all the time. I need to see what I would call "regular" people (like myself).

One problem I have found is that usually when you look at model sites, the people you find there are above average in looks, but once in a while I find just the right person to use as a bases for a character. Then I add in the personality to my liking for my story. Because I write fantasy, I am able to use whatever type of look I want and can make the men and women "hero" like if I so choose it. So. . . looking at modeling agencies does work for fantasy writing as often we write the characters the way we would like them to look rather than the way "most" of us truly do look.

Here is one of the sites I use: http://www.ryanartists.com/models/models_index.htm

Remember: You have to be careful when searching for models. When I go to Google and use "safest search" and put in the phrase "red head". . . well. . . lets just say it's an eye opener.

It's too bad because that means I have to be very careful when my son uses Google even in safe search. It DOES NOT block out porn the way it should and even the most innocent word brings it up.
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Postby Quicksilver Wolf » Fri May 21, 2004 4:32 am

Yeah, that's the nature of porn and sexually-related stuff: it shows up when you don't want it to but never does when you do want it too... er, not that I'd no, nosirree! :whistle: (I have no idea what's wrong with the emoticon, but it's not showing up here when I click it).

I tend to think along the lines of the characters I know in games and books, and sometimes movies (but never TV, cause TV sucks) to come up with concepts. Then I try to mutate them so far from the ideas I sto- er, BORROWED, so that they are unrecognisable as the original. Then again, sometimes original ones just come to me, BANG, like that.

The three main guys in Supertron I base off Myself (Jarred), my brother Ryan (Adam, although that's more his character than mine, he came up with Adam when we used to play make-believe SRN when we were kids), and my friend Corey (David, although David has some strong differences that I've incorporated lately).

As for the girls, however, I still need someone I can relate similarities to, and also to ask how they think about certain things that they'd be confronted with, and get ideas from real people so I know how they would act and think and stuff. There was one girl I knew from preschool and later grade 5-6 who I suppose would be a little like Sarah, but still... and I haven't seen her in 6 or 7 years, so that'd be tough. Two other girls I talk to on MSN are pretty good sources for Sarah, since they're both kinda like the character in their own ways. Need others for Jessica though, and definately need to find a way to get into Rachel's head (though good luck finding much in there). Two characters in Shift Chaser are named after two of these people, though I won't say who's who.

Ah man, I'm rambling again.

Anyway, I find for fantasy stories, I decide how many people I want, what type of magic(s) to use, what types of people I want, genders and races and stuff like that, and then I break the groups down into character images and basic concepts to match, before finally fleshing them more, giving them names etc.
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Postby Hyker » Fri May 21, 2004 9:29 am

Sometimes I'll go to a place where people congregate..like the mall...and "People Watch". I get some great ideas from watching people and their little habits when they don't know they're being watched.
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Postby JillStar » Fri May 21, 2004 9:53 am

Quicksilver Wolf wrote:Anyway, I find for fantasy stories, I decide how many people I want, what type of magic(s) to use, what types of people I want, genders and races and stuff like that, and then I break the groups down into character images and basic concepts to match, before finally fleshing them more, giving them names etc.

Great idea Wolf... I like how you create and then break it down. Good concept I'll have to consider myself.

Hyker. . . I love to people watch and have come across some great ideas just sitting in a little restaurant listening to other conversations.
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Postby Quicksilver Wolf » Fri May 21, 2004 9:49 pm

Damn, we must be the CIA, then.
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Postby Anblick » Fri May 21, 2004 9:51 pm

A great idea to get character reactions is to go to the mall and act "out of place." You'll get some great reactions. For example: dress up as a bum, go to the mall, and try to give away quarters!
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Postby JillStar » Sun Dec 12, 2004 12:37 pm

Was thinking this morning how I could come up with a great description for a new character and started searching through Wordtrip... funny... I found this thread that I started a while ago.

Sometimes I forget myself. :)

Any way... get out those snap shots, check out people on the web or your tv and start writing what they look like. Then... the important thing... you need to describe your character WITHIN the story and you need to show the reader... not dictate or tell the reader.



DISCUSSION: How do you show a character?


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Postby pengwenn » Mon Dec 13, 2004 2:35 pm

I hate showing characters. Why? Because I'm terrible about it. I hate reading a book and having the flow of the story stop so the author can say the main characert "is 6 feet 2 inches tall, 185 lbs with brown hair a little long of the ears and blue eyes and a scar running across his left temple". This dump of information is frustrating, especially if it doesn't fit into the type of story being used. I don't mind if it's worked into the story piece by piece instead of a big dump like that. I don't usually write a physical discription of my characters to avoid that issue and let the reader fill in what they look like. But then people who read my stuff say my characters are bland because they don't know what they look like. I'm still trying to figure out the best way to handle this.
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Postby JillStar » Mon Dec 13, 2004 2:49 pm

I never give descriptions like that... it's bland and mundaine.

There are times, however, that you may notice in my writing that I would say something like "his slick black hair stuck to his sweating forehead, making him look shorter than his six foot stature..." Is that good? I don't really know... but I like it better than saying "he had black hair that stuck to his head and he was six feet tall."

Sometimes I use other characters to describe people for me.

Sally's eyes widened at his muscular body. She thought is amuzing that his hair clinged to his sweating forehead and wondered if he was even six feet tall.

I know some writers will even put their character in front of a mirror. I haven't used that and think it would really have to be "the right scene at the right time" for me.
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Postby Mlou » Mon Dec 13, 2004 3:14 pm

I think the mirror bit is overdone...although, oops, I think I had a bit of it in my book, when my character is combing her hair in such a way as to cover the long scar on the side of her face.

I think it works well if you slip in the necessary in bits and pieces. "He was so used to bowing his tall frame to squeeze through the small doorways of Mexico that he automatically ducked his head...."
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Postby pengwenn » Mon Dec 13, 2004 5:57 pm

I have no problems with the examples you gave jill, in fact I liked them. What I don't like is the physical descriptions that are like reading a medical file. Height, weight, hair color, eye color, blood pressure, blood type, etc.

mlou, I'm sure that scene looking in the mirror was more about the psychological aspects of the character and the fact she's trying to hide a scar then about giving an actual laundry list of physical characteristics.
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Postby Delaney » Mon Dec 13, 2004 9:38 pm

I think with describing characters you need to remember the rule to "show, don't tell"... so revealing certain aspects of your character as the story unfolds helps eliminate that corny stuff we all hate.

I would say, avoid describing your character at the beginning and all at once... spread it out a little.
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Postby Quicksilver Wolf » Wed Dec 15, 2004 5:59 am

I know they say "Show, don't tell." But sometimes, it's just as if the only answer to that I can give is "Yeah, HOW?" Anyone else get that feeling; like they're what they're saying here is just... hollow?
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Postby pengwenn » Wed Dec 15, 2004 1:28 pm

I think each great industry has their own buzz words or catch phrases that only those inside are suppose to know what they mean. "Show, don't tell" is it in the writing world. People say it and pass it along not wanting to explain it because they are afraid that they might not understand the principle of it themselves. In response I've heard people say "write descriptively," "write visually," 'write using metaphors or similes.' Those same people then turn around and say "don't write too much description, readers want action," "don't use too many metaphors and similes," "don't use flowery language, keep it simple." I think the only 'truths' out there are the ones that matter to you and your writing.
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Postby Delaney » Wed Dec 15, 2004 5:06 pm

I know they say "Show, don't tell." But sometimes, it's just as if the only answer to that I can give is "Yeah, HOW?" Anyone else get that feeling; like they're what they're saying here is just... hollow?


Yeah, true... let me think...

Instead of: Her hair was brown with highlights of red that glittered.

Maybe like: The sunlight on her hair turned it to a shiny auburn, a change from the rich brown that it was usualy disguised as.

Well, that sucks, but I hope I helped some.
<i>It may help to understand human affairs to be clear that most of the great triumphs and tragedies of history are caused, not by people being fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, but by people being fundamentally people. - Terry Pratchett</i>
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Postby Mlou » Wed Dec 15, 2004 5:25 pm

"She tossed her head in disdain and her auburn hair caught and held the light."
Don't you just love people who toss their head? The first thing I think of is somebody like the Headless Horseman tossing his head at the schoolmaster. I think it's a wretched phrase.
nothing is ever simply Yes or No. There's always a But...





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Postby Delaney » Wed Dec 15, 2004 5:27 pm

Are you showing me up, MLOU? Heavens... :giggle:
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Postby Mlou » Wed Dec 15, 2004 5:36 pm

Nope. Thought I was giving you a giggle. Guess I did, huh?
nothing is ever simply Yes or No. There's always a But...





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Postby Delaney » Wed Dec 15, 2004 8:38 pm

I will never feel the same way about that phrase again... :more giggles:
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Postby mystic511 » Wed Dec 29, 2004 10:54 pm

Jillstar, I thought I thought I was alone in finding "heads" online. My favorite site to do so is www.fotosearch.com

They have all walks of life and have served my purposes so far. :-P
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Postby JillStar » Thu Dec 30, 2004 12:21 am

Hey Mystic... I've found I'm pretty visual and although I CAN imagine what someone would look like... I find it very helpful if I acually know what they look like... even if the person reading what I've written does not. :)
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Postby JillStar » Sat Jan 07, 2006 12:30 pm

Anyone else use pictures to inspire characters?
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Postby LostCoastArtist » Sat Jan 07, 2006 2:12 pm

I don't usually use pictures to help create characters, but often use them for reference when trying to draw characters. I had three or four reference sites bookmarked before my old computer crashed, fotosearch was one of them, but I haven't been able to remember what the others were. :P

I'm still kicking myself over that. I would have swore I'd backed up my bookmarks at some point. :(
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Postby JillStar » Sat Jan 07, 2006 2:49 pm

Hmmm... I wonder how many of my bookmarked sites would be missed. I have tons of them yet only visit about 5 on a regular basis.

I was looking here: http://www.ryanartists.com/models/models_index.htm a while ago, but these models are not necessarily what I would use as characters all the time. They aren't all "fake" but they are posed and that makes them seems a little less real anyway. Plus... they're all "pretty girls and boys" and that isn't always what I want in my stories.
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Postby JillStar » Sat Oct 07, 2006 12:38 pm

I'm curious if anyone has come up with new ways to create characters? I still use pictures and whatever I'm dreaming about the night before.
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