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How Do You Keep Your Charaters Human?

(9 Posts)
TheObligatoryNotQuiteSoNewGirl Mon 03-Nov-14 21:01:24

...providing they are human, and not aliens, of course :-)

My current WIP has four main characters (two couples), and one of them is wonderfully flawed - recently bereaved, cynical, possibly about to embark on a (mostly) one-sided emotional affair with her son's teacher, prone to sticking her kids in front of cartoons because she just doesn't have the emotional energy to deal with them after school, etc. The other three, to greater or lesser extents, suffer from being "too perfect".

Has anyone else had this problem, and how did you deal with it? I guess I'm just trying to keep them human, without losing the integrity of who they are...

ClawHandsIfYouBelieveInFreaks Tue 04-Nov-14 10:29:12

Well perhaps you're struggling because all three of the other characters suffer from being "too perfect" at least on the outside.

Perhaps only one of them needs this trait. It sounds rather as though you've put more energy into the character of your main role and not enough into the supporting?

MizLizLemon Tue 04-Nov-14 10:37:21

Create a character backstory file on them. You need to know them inside and out, what their childhoods were like, where they come from, what events have shaped them into the people they are. None of this needs to appear in your writing unless you want it to, but by making sure that all of your characters are real, living breathing people then you can always know how they will behave and respond in any given situation.

BigPawsBrown Tue 04-Nov-14 17:51:03

What does each of them want most in the world? Figure that out, and centre their actions around it.

TunipTheUnconquerable Tue 04-Nov-14 17:54:05

I don't so much do the character file business but I might mess around writing snatches of dialogue between them and other characters until they say something that snaps them into life.
I'd agree with BigPaws about 'what do they want?'; also 'what are they conflicted about?' Once you have conflict, they stop being 2-D.

tenderbuttons Wed 05-Nov-14 14:52:54

Google the Snowflake Technique. The character questions in there are really useful, and you can find them online for free.

TheObligatoryNotQuiteSoNewGirl Wed 05-Nov-14 17:40:54

Thanks for the advice everyone :-) Since starting this thread I've discovered that although one of my main characters has never been afraid to ask for help or be upfront about practical matters, when it comes to emotional matters, that's another story.

I think I have it figured out what each one wants most in the world:

Imogen - her daughter back
Mark - things to just go back to normal
Eddie - her baby to be born safely and without complication
Warren - to be able to bring his baby home to somewhere more permanent than a friend's spare room.

I guess those are all short term goals, though; I suppose I need to have some sort of idea of their longer term goals too, don't I?

Thanks, tenderbuttons , I've had a look at the snowflake technique, and I think I'll give it a go if I can ever find time to write anything other than University essays

tenderbuttons Fri 07-Nov-14 08:51:40

I've discovered I need to make one of my characters more interesting, so I've dug out the questions. Here you go:

The character’s name
A one-sentence summary of the character’s storyline
The character’s motivation (what does he/she want abstractly?)
The character’s goal (what does he/she want concretely?)
The character’s conflict (what prevents him/her from reaching this goal?)
The character’s epiphany (what will he/she learn, how will he/she change?
A one-paragraph summary of the character’s storyline

Which makes me realise that this particular character has no storyline at all, and might as well be a bit of furniture as far as the book is concerned. Back to the drawing board.

Mmmicecream Wed 12-Nov-14 23:45:10

I read something once about having a think about your characters in terms of what their fave music would be, what would they read, what sort of car would they buy, how would they vote? It's not something that would be in the story itself, but might give you a good idea about how they'd react in certain situations and what would be important to them

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