main
side
curve
  1. Welcome to the new boards! Details here!

Giving charactors a believable personality: Your Thoughts?

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction and Writing Resource' started by Vaders_Angel, Jun 17, 2005.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Vaders_Angel

    Vaders_Angel Jedi Youngling star 3

    Registered:
    Jun 10, 2005
    Hi, I apologize if I placed this in the wrong forum.

    I'm fairly new to writing fanfic and I was just wondering how all of you that manage to portray your charactors so realistically go about giving your charactors so much personality without actually TELLING what type of personality they have? I find that when writing my fics, trying to convey what the person is feeling without using the actual words, I fail miserably and always end up naming the emotion, which in my opnion takes away from the piece by not letting one use their imagination much. My pieces often have little to no dialogue because I try so hard to tell you what the charactor is feeling, that the storyline seems to get lost somewhere in the emotive descriptions.

    ex: He felt betrayed, his anger rising to the boiling point, she cried as sorrow overtook her to the very core of her being, etc.

    I've read some beautiful work here that conveys emotion wonderfully without mentioning the name of that emotion at all, and I would just like some tips on how you guys do it.

    Thanks
     
  2. LadyPadme

    LadyPadme Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 26, 2002


    I think the axiom of 'show don't tell' is important here. In real life people don't necessarily go around saying "I'm angry" or "I'm happy" or "I'm sad" but we can often tell by other things, namely actions. If someone slams a cup down on the table and shouts, we don't need to also be told they're angry or agitated. If someone normally serious starts joking around or humming we can tell they're happy.

    Dialogue is also a biggie. What a person says and how a person says it can convey emotion very powerfully without any further indicators on the author's part.

     
  3. CarrKicksDoor

    CarrKicksDoor Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Jan 16, 2005
    What I try to do is to describe the physical symptoms of that emotion--you said anger reaching the boiling point:

    He felt his face flush as the full force of his folly came racing towards him with all the subtlety of a Star Destroyer, his hands clenching into fists so tight his palms ached. His heart pounded as he glared towards the object of his wrath and they trembled.

    Do keep in mind, though, that I am given to wanton expressions of overblown prose and fanciful complicated wordifications (to quote my British lit professor). :D

    ~Carr
     
  4. talkingbanana

    talkingbanana Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Jun 4, 2003
    One thing I've learned is that what you say sometimes isn't as important as how you say it. The actual words don't matter so much as, say, the order or the rhythm or the sentence structure itself.

    Y'know, all those things that we thought only mattered in poetry. ;)

    It's a "show-don't-tell" kind of thing on a slightly different level. People act different ways when they're feeling different, and more importantly for fiction, they speak in different ways. Angry people shout and use the strongest - and often the shortest - words when they speak, or they might not say anything at all, choosing instead to seethe in silence. They're angry, they're irrational: they speak in fragments, or you might describe them in fragments. Sad people often ramble; when a character is upset, you might consider having him speak in run-on sentences to show that.

    Alliteration, metaphors, similes, weird tricks with the sentence structure: poetry tricks are a great way of capturing personality. Don't be afraid to break a rule or two, and pay close attention to the connotation of words - don't just think of what you want the reader to know, but also pay attention to what you want them to think of.

    Another thing I've seen used is some sort of "catch-phrase" - an ingrained part of a character that the reader will automatically recognize, just like you would recognize some strange quirk that your friend has. Real people have quirks, so why not characters, too? In one story I frequent, the main characters banter incessantly when they're frustrated or stressed (usually in the middle of a firefight), and one of those characters gets nauseated at the sight of a blaster. That author no longer has to say that so-and-so was nervous; all he has to do is describe the character's stomach churning, and we know what's going on.

    It really all depends on what the goal of your story is. If the actual action is the most important part of the story, how you portray the individual characters should be second to how you portray the action. If the character development is the most important part of the story, that's where you really have to pay attention to the details of your characters.

    Oh yeah, detail. That's where the most important part of a character's personality is; it's all in the details, because they'll make or break a character more than anything else. My main OC has been a prisoner in Iceheart's Lusankya prison from the X-Wing series since childhood, and as a result of that, he's obsessed with the idea of freedom. He's never been free, so he doesn't know what freedom is, and everything that happens to him ends up going back to that central definition of freedom. That's how you build a solid character: give 'im some central thing in his personality, and always go back to that.

    If any of that made sense to you, I hope it helps. ;)
     
  5. Vaders_Angel

    Vaders_Angel Jedi Youngling star 3

    Registered:
    Jun 10, 2005
    Thanks for all the great advice everybody, I appreciate it so much! I'm bookmarking this page so I can use it as a refferance point later. :D Once again thank you LadyPadme, CarrKicksDoor, and talkingbanana and anyone else who wants to post here and give me any bit of advice please do so, I like I said this will be bookmarked so I will be checking back.
     
  6. agentj

    agentj Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Dec 3, 2004
    That would make a great sig. :D
     
  7. SephirothsKiller

    SephirothsKiller Jedi Youngling star 1

    Registered:
    May 28, 2005
    felt his face flush as the full force of his folly

    Lol, your a great writer carr but thats a allteration overflow right there. :)
     
  8. Alethia

    Alethia Jedi Master star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 13, 2005
    Well, 'show, don't tell' obviously plays a role here.

    Another thing I do is, well, I pretend that I am the character. I think about what it would be like to be in that situation, with that character's past/history and then simply right. Yes, characters do rarely think 'I am angry', but the way they think and what they think of, as well as what they do in certain states of emotion is every bit as telling as actually writing out 'I am sad'.
     
  9. CarrKicksDoor

    CarrKicksDoor Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    Jan 16, 2005
    *giggles* I suppose it is. :p Hey, I could have used the word fury in there too....:p Thanks for the compliment. [face_blush]

    ~Carr

    Edited to use the quote function correctly. :p
     
  10. maderic

    maderic Jedi Knight star 3

    Registered:
    Oct 8, 2004
    Definitely "show don't tell" applies. If you have Padmé burst into tears, we don't need to be told that she's sad or upset. Likewise, if Anakin bellows out an enraged scream and cuts down someone with his lightsaber, we don't need to be told that he's angry or upset (or insane ;)).
     
  11. americantragedy

    americantragedy Jedi Youngling star 3

    Registered:
    Jun 6, 2005
    well, this probably isn't the best advice as i'm not the best fanfic writer but what i try to do is think of how i would react to something if i were in said characters position. What would you do if your planet was blown up? Probably not scream "I am feeling slightly sorrowful and may in fact cry." You'd do something.
    Does that at all make sense?
     
  12. Thumper09

    Thumper09 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 9, 2001
    I'm not sure how much sense this is going to make, but another approach is to show a character's personality via the actions or reactions of another character in the fic. It's kind of indirect, but it can add to a story. For instance, say someone was writing a story about my life (though why they'd do that, I have no idea :p ). The author would know that I act differently around Person A when Person A is happy than when he is angry, so showing my actions would also show how I interpret Person A is feeling.

    The downside to this is that it's so indirect that it's open for more reader interpretation than you as the author may care for. If I borrow a movie from Person A, accidentally lose it and then spend the rest of the day avoiding him because of it, it could show that Person A has a very bad temper, but it could also show that I'm just a complete and utter wimp. :p Unless more detail is given, it all would come down to reader's interpretation. The upside to this is that if you can make it work, you can characterize multiple...um, characters at once. ;)

    -Thumper
     
  13. Jedi_NightOwlie

    Jedi_NightOwlie Jedi Youngling star 1

    Registered:
    May 8, 2000
    With myself, I try to make characterizations based on examples of the characters that I'm writing for. A mix of myself as well as I find that the easiest meathod to apply.
     
  14. Vaders_Angel

    Vaders_Angel Jedi Youngling star 3

    Registered:
    Jun 10, 2005
    Thumper09: The author would know that I act differently around Person A when Person A is happy than when he is angry, so showing my actions would also show how I interpret Person A is feeling.

    americantragedy: i try to do is think of how i would react to something if i were in said characters position

    maderic: If you have Padmé burst into tears, we don't need to be told that she's sad or upset. Likewise, if Anakin bellows out an enraged scream and cuts down someone with his lightsaber, we don't need to be told that he's angry or upset (or insane


    JediNightOwlie:With myself, I try to make characterizations based on examples of the characters that I'm writing for

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

    These are all great points, some of which I hadn't even thought of!
    Thank you guys for taking the time to post your thoughts and help out
    a newbie! I appreciate it muchly :D
     
  15. TrinityDay

    TrinityDay Jedi Youngling star 2

    Registered:
    Nov 6, 2000
    To take some of the points a bit further, you might want to consider *how* the characters do things when they are a certain emotion. How Padmé bursts out crying, for instance, would be different from how Anakin might burst out crying.

    Saying someone burst into tears tells the audience that yes, the character is sad. Having Anakin sink to the ground, turn his head to hide his tears and only reluctantly accept comfort from Padmé tells me that not only is he sad, but he's having problems accepting that he's sad and doesn't want other people to know that he's sad.

    Padmé, on the other hand, is probably not going to react in the same way. She might be more likely to burrow her head in Anakin's shoulder to sob, desperately clutching his robe.

    Similarly, people don't all get angry the same way. Anakin might draw his lightsaber and scream, as someone further up the thread has pointed out. Other people go quiet. Some make fists, having their fingernails dig into their palms. Some people go red, some people go white.

    Then when you add in other species, you have so many more types of reactions.

    Am I making sense? It all works out in my mind. Basically, how the person reacts to their emotions tells us a lot about their character and is often worth pointing out in a fic.
     
  16. Vaders_Angel

    Vaders_Angel Jedi Youngling star 3

    Registered:
    Jun 10, 2005
    Yes that makes sense, a persons actions that come as a result of the emotions they are feeling, is a way of telling to what extent they are feeling them. Like if Anakin slams his fist on a table, he's peeved, but obviously not quite as peeved as he was when he force choked Padme.
     
  17. OmnipotentSeal

    OmnipotentSeal Jedi Youngling star 1

    Registered:
    Jun 15, 2005
    The best way to give your characters personality is to always be thinking. This doesn't simply mean what a character's favorite food is or who he stands on political issues, it means a nearly completely understanding of where the person has been, who they have been with, what they have done, and so forth. What sort of events shaped this person's life? For example, in real life, we can all say that in some way events like 9/11 and the Iraq War have shaped our lives. But also we may have personal experiences, such as when a parent died or meeting your first girlfriend/boyfriend. What kind of people shaped this person's life? Parents, friends, maybe even just the way a stranger looks at you. Basically have a history, a well thoughtout history, so that way when the character reacts, he/she has a reason for his/her actions.

     
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.