Title: Crafting Original Characters
Jesina Dreis - October 9, 2006 03:50 PM (GMT)
I don't believe we have a topic on this yet, though I could have missed it when I searched through the forum.
I know a number of people here write OCs, either as additions to fics or the center of their stories. I also know that some have written completely original fiction.
For me, the hardest part of writing original is developing their characters. With people like Wedge and Tycho, we have a pretty solid background to incorporate, though there are definitely holes to fill in if we so choose. Hobbie and Wes have character to build on, even if we don't know their history. But an OC is a blank slate, and I struggle with giving them characterization so that they aren't as flat as the paper sitting in my printer.
Sooo... those who write OCs, either in an existing fandom or in original work, how do you start? :confused: I know Nanner has a great list (in the "Future Famous Authors" thread in the Bar, if you'd like to look at it) of things to define for your characters as you create them, to give them a life and a background and character, but how do you go from "Joe Character is a cold, calculating person who tries to keep walls around him because he's been hurt too many times in the past" to actually writing the character so that people actually give a damn about Joe and want to see someone try to crack open the walls and get past his cold exterior?
frustratedstudent - October 10, 2006 08:05 AM (GMT)
My current method to creating OCs is to first, create a basic character bio, and then write a few short stories/ snippets featuring that character. Usually, several days or weeks in the writing process, I start putting my OCs through other situations that help me figure out how they would actually react in a lightfight/emergency/tense moment/happy moment.
Then I sometimes create timelines, so I can imagine in what direction I want my OC to develop. Then I have a better idea of how he/she gets there.
LaneWinree - October 16, 2006 10:47 PM (GMT)
The hardest thing without a doubt is to create an OC that isn't a perfect character.
Let's take a look at one of my OCs, Dap Zorvan.
First, lets start by listing what could make him a Gary Stu:
Top-ranked student at the Starfighter Academy
First post-graduation assignment with Rogue Squadron
Given Executive Officer status with Wraith Squadron
And, of course, is Force Sensitive.
Just by looking at that, you would say that Dap is doomed to be a Gary Stu. Here's what I've done to counter that:
Visually impaired (Rise of a Rogue series)
Drug addict (Redemption of the Exiles)
Washes out of both Rogue and Wraith Squadrons respectively
Forced to resign his commission to Starfighter Command
Suffers from obsessive-compulsive tendencies
Just a few misc notes from me.
Mia Tiska - October 17, 2006 02:58 AM (GMT)
I know I've never posted any fics here (I have no pilot fics), but I do enjoy the fics here very much. :) Thought I'd throw my two cents in here since I enjoy the discussions about writing here too.
I love OC's, though they often take a bad rep in fanfiction. (Sometimes I'm more comfortable rp'ing OC's than I am rp'ing canon characters, but that's a different story.)
For me I write OC's the same way I write canon characters. They get loud in my head and won't shut up. ;) OC's even more so. I find it nearly impossible to create any sort of bio about them before I've already written them in something. I can maybe sketch out a simple background thing about them. Maybe. And obviously, I have in mind their physical appearance, and their main occupation, and that's usually about it.
The character tells me how they'd react, what they want to say -- I usually don't find out why until later; sometimes, it's years after I've been writing them. That's how I find out their background, why so and so has a deathly fear of anything remotely addicting, and why so and so has such a poor self-image. If I try to come up with much before I write them in anything, it seems contrived and forced and they tell me "no no no, that's not right". ;) I'm still finding out new things about my OC's every day and developing more and more backstory as I write (or rp) them.
So, basically, I just listen to the voices in my head. ;)
Jesina Dreis - October 17, 2006 11:32 PM (GMT)
By all means, join the discussions, Mia. The more voices the better. :)
FS, I've never thought of writing vigs. That's a neat idea, actually.
One thing I noticed helped me with one of my most recent characters - the "hero" of my original WIP - was actually advice from the book I bought. It said to take a personal hero of yours (I picked Bobby Kennedy, and yes, I am aware I'm the biggest dork alive) and to examine what characteristic of him/her made you admire them (for RFK, it was the fact that he was determined to do what he thought was right, no matter what the consequences - his campaign agasint organized crime as Attorney General) and give that characteristic to your hero.
I just opened a notebook and started writing about my character, whatever came to mind. It was surprisingly easy.
Lane, I've done things that with my characters as well. I find that in crafting a character, the characteristics I come up with first tend to be the positives, and I have to put more conscious thought into giving them faults.
And, I feel, faults are hard, because the ones I can usually come up with are all the same - drug addict or alcoholic, closed off, acts without thinking, etc. - and no one cares.
What are some good flaws you guys have given your characters?
Mia, there have definitely been times when I wrote something into a fic about a character that I just felt was a good thing to write. For example, I had a character who wanted her boss to stand up to someone else. I couldn't have him stand up to the other person, and I had an allusion that there was some significant reason. Had no clue what at the time :p but it came to me eventually and it worked out really well. No way I would have thought of it in just planning out the character.
One of the points that the book I have made is that you have to give characters ways to grow - give an alcoholic the chance to get sober. Give a character who's afraid to talk to the guy of her dreams the courage to say hello. That sort of thing - doesn't have to be something hugely significant to the world, just significant to the character.
Mia Tiska - October 18, 2006 07:23 AM (GMT)
|QUOTE (Jesina Dreis @ Oct 17 2006, 05:32 PM)|
| And, I feel, faults are hard, because the ones I can usually come up with are all the same - drug addict or alcoholic, closed off, acts without thinking, etc. - and no one cares.|
What are some good flaws you guys have given your characters?
Oy. That's always hard. I'm deathly afraid of creating Mary Sues. I really try not to give them all the strengths I have or that I want. Some characters are good at killing, for example, that's something I don't think I ever want to be good at. ;)
One thing I've always tried to be conscious of is not giving them my faults. That's too easy. So it's made me more aware of my faults and strengths as a person, and I've done a lot of self-analysis and self-realization. Like how I take criticism vs. how a character does, for example.
Besides that, I just try to let them be them, and let them do things even if I think it's the stupidest thing in the world. Even if I think it's going to completely screw over their life and make them miserable and unhappy.
Since characters are a reflection of ourselves and come from within us, for me it can be fascinating to see what flaws come out in OC's. For me I have to be brave enough to put them out there. Writing the flaws in canon characters is easy - everyone knows they have them. Giving your OC flaws can be scary since it's more "you", but it's more necessary I think and gives the character depth.
Only 'interesting' flaw I can think of right off the top of my head, one character tends to be overprotective sometimes. It's gotten him into trouble with a relative and nearly destroyed their relationship. I had absolutely no idea he was going to react that way and it took me forever to sort out why, let alone him. ;)
I really love this thread, I love reading how other people approach OC's.
Durell - October 20, 2006 10:18 PM (GMT)
My OC's act mostly alike as Mia's does. They just pop up and beg to be written. I mostly know most of their background and that's why i know how they react. Writing a Gary Stue or a Mary Sue would be just plain boring to me. There is nothing interesting in that ones, only very very seldom.
My OC's often have characteristics of me, although they are certainly not me or even a better version of me.
Mia Tiska - October 21, 2006 10:52 PM (GMT)
I'm paranoid that my OC's will end up too much like me. Most of the time I'll actually go out of my way to make sure they have characteristics that are totally different from mine, just to be sure. ;) This means that I try to study people's habits and behaviors and be aware of them, plus their motivations for what those behaviors might be so that I can use them in characters. ;)
SCStarPilot - February 19, 2007 04:32 PM (GMT)
One of my original characters is an Imperial from a world that is devoted to the Empire. However, he isn't like other Imperials. He has a code of honor and strong sense of ethics. While he does admit that the Empire had problems, under the rule of the New Republic and Galactic Alliance, things have gotten worse. He also has a strong dislike towards Bothans because he blames them for the Fall of the Empire. BTW, the Imperial is from a planet on the Outer Rim.
Another OC is a Bothan pilot who happens to be a descendent of two Bothan Jedis (quess who those two are ;) ).
frustratedstudent - February 20, 2007 01:35 PM (GMT)
When I turn to writing my original fiction, I usually end up drawing inspiration from existing characters in my notes, or from characters in other novels that have been in similar situations.
For my current novel in progress, I rifled through all my journals that had segments to do with tossed-out yet similar plotlines. Then I picked which characters I liked from the older plots and revised them a bit. Then as I slowly began writing their respective bios, I drew inspirations/references from real life, and sometimes other favorite works that have similar themes with what I want to write.
But it sometimes happens that when I'm in the middle of my creative wading, a completely new character walks in, and pulls the rest of the story in his or her wake. Sometimes too, it happens that other books or movies that I've read have an undue influence on my characterization and plotlines. Usually, if I want a character to withstand the tides of my various experiences and fixations, I spend several weeks to even half a year (in one case when I was fourteen), to 'evolve' the character to become a relatively stable and well-defined personality on his or her own.
Arin Atona - February 20, 2007 04:11 PM (GMT)
|QUOTE (Jesina Dreis)|
|how do you go from "Joe Character is a cold, calculating person who tries to keep walls around him because he's been hurt too many times in the past" to actually writing the character so that people actually give a damn about Joe and want to see someone try to crack open the walls and get past his cold exterior?|
I wrestled with this for a while - both with fanfic and original work. Then I finally came to the realization that it really doesn't matter if the reader identifies with or even cares about my character. I can't make them like my characters, because they'll have preconceptions.
Let's say Joe is a pilot. The reader already has pre-conceived notions about the character just from knowing he's a pilot - but we don't know what those notions are. They may see pilots as cool, as or arrogant attention-whores. We just don't know.
Joe is a Jedi. Oh, great - more stereotyping. If your story begins with a guy with a lightsaber in an X-Wing, your character has just become all sorts of different things to a lot of readers.
Introduction is key. The objective, IMO, is not to make the character likable, but make them different. All of the cliché weaknesses can work, because you don't have to lead off with the weaknesses. You don't have to answer the question "who is this character?" because the reader will do that for themselves. Just provide a hook to raise a question in the reader's mind and let their imagination answer the questions for you.
Wipe Joe's slate clean now.
Joe is in a TIE fighter. Okay, that's different - is he an Imperial? Is he a spy? Is he a plumber that got really lost? That kind of introduction puts interest in the character before the reader even knows anything about them. As you tell the story, you can let their personality answer the questions of who they are.
I've tried exposition and prologues before, but I seem to have much better responses to characters when I don't reveal everything about them. Introduce them in a way that makes the reader want to have questions answered. Even the cliché weaknesses can work at that point.
|QUOTE (Jesina Dreis)|
|It said to take a personal hero of yours ... and to examine what characteristic of him/her made you admire them ... and give that characteristic to your hero.|
I did that a few times. What I found was that characters I modeled after people I know tend to be more well-received. Not only are you familiar with how they would behave and react to situations, but you have a good idea of what may have happened in their life to make them think or act the way they do.
Just my 2 creds.
Jesina Dreis - February 20, 2007 10:29 PM (GMT)
Oooh, that's a good point.
Corellia's Dream - February 21, 2007 02:41 AM (GMT)
I've quite often based something of a character on people I know - not trying to copy them exactly, but taking perhaps a cliche about my friend, and using it as a hook for the character.
The main protagonist of 'Two-Gun Trouble' was based on a friend called John. He's very handsome, vain, and yet can laugh at his own vanity. And while he likes to flirt and openly admire women, he's also protective towards them. So those became the central characteristics of Jonah Durrell, bounty hunter.
Likewise, in 'Cullen's Quest', I borrowed Rory's abilities at telling funny stories for Cullen. The villainess in 'Darrow's Word' was inspired by a woman I knew, who liked to manipulate men, getting them to buy her things and run around after her.
There's all sorts of things you can borrow from those you know. A nervous habit like constantly fiddling with objects, a fondness for bad puns, a deceptive appearence (like Dave, who looks scary but isn't), a particular taste in books/music, or something else. A friend of mine (male) buys clothes that are only either black, white, grey or blue, because then everything goes with everything else. On the same lines, Yul Brynner wore only black because it made choosing what to wear much easier.
These sorts of things can be established about a character early on, repeated a couple or more times, and so the reader has a hook which helps identify that character and plants an impression of them in their minds.
Jesina Dreis - February 21, 2007 03:11 AM (GMT)
I think that's really what I struggle with; displaying aspects of the character enough but not too much...
Arin Atona - February 21, 2007 04:30 AM (GMT)
|QUOTE (Corellia's Dream @ Feb 20 2007, 09:41 PM)|
| I've quite often based something of a character on people I know - not trying to copy them exactly, but taking perhaps a cliche about my friend, and using it as a hook for the character. |
Fictional characters are also much less "dense" than the people you know. Me personally, I've got four very difference OCs based off the same friend. You can adopt certain aspects of them, and leave the other aspects out for use somewhere else.
SCStarPilot - February 25, 2007 07:47 PM (GMT)
Another way to craft characters is to use RPGs, like the Star Wars d20 game. It can help you figure out a character's strengths, skills, abilities, and powers. Believe it is helpful.
LaneWinree - December 22, 2007 01:02 AM (GMT)
I'm about to introduce a 13 year old character into RotE on a permanent basis. Anyone have any suggestions as to how I should attack this new OC?
Warrax - December 22, 2007 08:09 PM (GMT)
|QUOTE (LaneWinree @ Dec 21 2007, 08:02 PM)|
| I'm about to introduce a 13 year old character into RotE on a permanent basis. Anyone have any suggestions as to how I should attack this new OC? |
Well, what is it you're looking for?
If the char is to be permanent, you want to have a grasp on their basic personality... but should also be prepared to note that s/he's going to have some clear adolescent tendencies and traits that will change over time (some/all, depends).
Given that the char's history is so short, you can look to dealing with the family and friends and see how those are influencing the char...
Standard sort of stuff might be "born under the Empire/NR/free system/Corporate Sector, etc", notes about the quality of his family life, any kind of traumatic experience that might have changed the char, that type of stuff.
It really all depends on the telos of the character.
Jesina Dreis - April 13, 2008 03:39 PM (GMT)
Does anyone know of anyplace online you can create images of characters?
Mirax_Corran - April 13, 2008 05:10 PM (GMT)
... I used to. I'll see if I can find it.
Roses - May 2, 2008 09:29 PM (GMT)
Let's see, for making pictures/avatars/etc of your characters, I've always found this site to be quite useful:http://elouai.com/doll-makers/new-dollmaker.php
And, more recently, I've been having a lot of fun with this one:http://www.meez.com
Don't know if either of those are what you're after, but I thought they couldn't hurt, at least.
As to the process of creating original characters, well, I realise I may well be a little late coming in to that conversation, but I thought I may share a few thoughts on it anyway.
As someone who tends to write more original fiction than fanfiction, I can certainly tell you the way I go about creating characters of my own, as well as the process I think a lot of other writers use to make them.
I think the biggest issue with this is that people approach original characters thinking that they're supposed to magic these wonderful, rich, fully-formed individuals out of thin air though some sort of alchemical mixture of creativity and inspiration.
In my experience, that really isn't how people do it, and it certainly isn't how I go about it. It is a secret that's very well kept by a lot of writers of original fiction that they are, in fact, terrible, irrepressible creative plagiarists. Sort of like buccaneers with inky fingers.
The way it worked for me, at least, is like this: I love writing. A lot. I like having the time to write, and what I'd like even more than having the time to write as much as I want, is to get paid to do it. Unfortunately, one of the facts of the writing business is that you're far more likely to be able to make a living if you write original fiction, which would be fine were it not for two unavoidable truths: firstly, I am always
seeing things in books, in films, or on TV that make me want to write for them, and secondly, that magicing completely original ideas out of thin air is bloody difficult
Fortunately, there is a very interesting fact about human nature that makes both of these problems disappear: people will accept a character that is almost identical to another character somewhere else as a different person, given nothing more than a change of name. Most people won't even notice the similarities between two different characters with two different names and very similar personalties. So really, rather than creating your own characters out of thin air, all you need to do is steal them from somewhere else.
I'm not talking about stealing someone else's work line for line or plagiarising a character wholesale, more just... using other characters as starting points to give you a creative leg-up.
Of course, in practice it usually works a bit differently, and you become less like a pirate, and more like a magpie. Most of my characters pull together slowly over the process of a few weeks as I pick up various quirks of personality and appearance that appeal to me. Things I collect from the people I meet on the street, at home, or in the office, or characters I see on the television, or read about in books.
In the end, everything, and everyone
is just material for you to exploi... I mean use
Anyway, I have gone on far too long now and will promptly stop rambling on, but that is how I go about creating my own original characters, and I hope that I've entertained you a little, even if I haven't helped at all.
Warrax - May 2, 2008 11:00 PM (GMT)
That's actually a good point.
A great example would be Shakespeare, who is widely accepted as having "adapted" components of the characters and plots of others but worked into them some kind of creative genius that turned them about in some different perspective or emphasized a different aspect or whatever.
Finding a character is about defining it through concept, fleshing it out, trying to keep it consistent, maybe modeling it after something else...
There's a great book called "The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes and Heroines" written by three ladies that goes over the sort of basic archetypes under which pretty much all characters fall (if you account for layered examples of character evolution and for mixtures). It does a great job of explaining how basic concepts can turn out so different and it's invaluable to me as far as crafting characters that make sense and onto which readers can latch and go "Hey, I know where this is going" to some degree, since familiarity of a sort if a valuable tool.