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January 11, 2013
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Keeping Characters 'Streamlined'

:iconclefj:
ClefJ Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Having a rough challenge in this most recent work of mine. It's never usually been a problem, but if it has for you and you've overcome it, I'd like to hear it.

I'm working with characters who are... More or less 'hardened'. I'm having difficulty keeping them hardened yet still interesting in chapters of low-action. Introspection has helped a tad, but it's also a challenge keeping them from becoming, oh, too dejected. Emotionally unstable, y'know.

Perhaps as equally difficult is writing a female protagonist who's personality reflects Bruce Willis ala Die Hard in a good way. As he was always flung into the action while this character is not.

I suppose what I'm getting at is, would you find this a challenge to keep a character 'in character' with their base personality? Or does it help to shift their moods into unfamiliar territory?
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:iconfafenheir:
Fafenheir Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2013
I write my characters as people first. No one fights all the time. (In fact, in real life, even "hardened" warriors only ever fight a few battles on average. It is a rare soldier that manages to kill five of the enemy and live to tell about it. Forget Legolas vs Gimli style contests to see who can kill however many dozens of enemies.) And note that most famous warriors in history who went above and beyond those numbers (like Musashi, Alexander, etc.) were also intellectuals aside from being warriors or leaders. They enjoyed things that what some today would consider "unmanly", like poetry and theater.

I'm sure you've met some people in real life you would consider very tough, maybe you have a brother that is a marine or works a dangerous job. And I'll bet you see them as people with various tastes and likes. Just because someone is tough and can do what needs to be done doesn't mean they can't be emotionally available or like classical music.

And lastly: not everyone that has been through trauma or danger becomes callous and distant. Some of the most sensitive and pacifistic people I ever met fought in war. My grandfather fought in Korea, and afterward hid his medals away and refused to discuss war with his children or grandchildren, thinking that the world would be a better place if people focused more on hard work and building rather than breaking.

I hope I've helped you a little.
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:iconclefj:
ClefJ Featured By Owner Jan 13, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Sounds like a good rolemodel, that grandfather. ^^

Yes, a good time, thank you for your insight. A few interesting tangents popped up just now, but you have helped.

Heh, forgot about Alexander. Exceptional warriors are often exceptional people in other fields too, good point there.
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:iconmr-timeshadow:
Mr-Timeshadow Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2013
The late, great Theodore Sturgeon experimented with stories featuring tough-as-nails characters who still have an internal life. One thing he did was to have them vaguely aware of things they hadn't noticed before. Your choice what that is. In one story, for example, a character's personal evolution starts with the question, "Why's the wet end of a towel darker than the dry one?" He never finds out, but he slowly begins asking such questions more often, until he learns to find the answers as well.
This is only one approach, but I'd suggest the general idea would work for you. Have your character distracted by something small that we tend to overlook, and don't have them was philosophical about it; just notice it. And then another, later. Maybe the things begin to link up without being consciously related. And so on....
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:iconclefj:
ClefJ Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Hm. Hadn't thought about that. That'd be a great way to get some things rolling in a mystery setting.

Perhaps why tough-as-nails PI's were good for those stories, eh?
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:iconmr-timeshadow:
Mr-Timeshadow Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2013
Well, I think it was as much momentum in that genre as anything else, but yes: it's a solid, unobtrusive way to evolve the character and the story, as well. I'll be curious to know if the notion works for you, and if so, what you do with it...
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:iconclefj:
ClefJ Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
We'll see. I'm 170 pages into some old POS scifi that I'm trying desperately to revive. XD
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:iconcarusmm:
carusmm Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Scifi doesn't need characters, it needs people.

P.S. What is POS scifi?
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:iconclefj:
ClefJ Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Well, it's got people. Hah.

Censored, piece of crap.
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:iconmr-timeshadow:
Mr-Timeshadow Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2013
A story (novel?) you're writing, I gather? Well, perhaps this is a great opportunity. You aren't emotionally invested in it. You think it's awful. It can do nothing but pleasantly surprise you, at this point...
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:iconclefj:
ClefJ Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Correct, a novel. Trying to be one anyways. Tis the mindset I keep with most the things I make; I enjoy having a forced modesty about things. XD Always look at the storm dreading rain, forgetting that you Like rain.
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:iconmr-timeshadow:
Mr-Timeshadow Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2013
Well, you're further along than me. I've never even concocted a novel-length plot for anything, and thus have never come close to writing one.
Exactly! Stand at the bottom of the chasm and there's nowhere to go but up!
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:iconneomerlin:
neomerlin Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2013  Student Writer
If they're not interesting in low action scenes, then I ask this: Are they interesting in action scenes or is the action interesting?

Even gruff, hard as nails manly men, have personality and opinions and - yes it's true - feelings. If their base personality isn't working then change their base personality. Round them out a little bit more, make them into people instead of archetypes.

My advice? Go watch Predator and study the interactions between characters when they are not fighting. Each one is a person and a soldier.
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:iconclefj:
ClefJ Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Ooo. Damn fine example, good idea.

Even the brief dialogue between Billy and Poncho in that movie offered some insight into the former's character before they were dropped off in that jungle. Heh, brief as he was Billy was also one of the more interesting of that cast.
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:iconneomerlin:
neomerlin Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2013  Student Writer
If all it took to make a movie memorable was good action, there would be a lot more "classics". Predator is a great action movie with a great villain but there must be something more. Predator's script says a lot about the individual characters in a very small space. Talk about making every word count!
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
I'd start with asking why they are 'hardened.' Surely it translates to other aspects of life.
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:iconclefj:
ClefJ Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Well, plenty of good reasons why they have that personality. I'm concerned though that sticking to that personality exhausts their ... interesting factor. Like, what you might do when a character simply doesn't talk a lot?
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Okay, I'm getting a bit of a contradiction here. You say there are good reasons for them to be like that, but then you say they're boring in any other setting. Is there a reason to follow them into the other setting? Presumably having a good reason would mean you had some content that you need to get across to the reader.
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:iconclefj:
ClefJ Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Oh no, I'm not saying they are boring. I'm trying to prevent them from being so.

But that's a fair question: Is there any reason to follow them to the next scene. If I recall there was a thread earlier about following the main character through most of the story? Perhaps I wonder if secondary characters 'need' to be overshadowed, or if they should instead be explored just as much as the main character.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Depends on how long the work overall is, I think. Also, if you're just exploring them for the sake of writing in some scenes, or if there will be relevance to the main plot/themes too.
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:iconclefj:
ClefJ Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Aye I'm concerned about the former, the sake of writing scenes in order to maintain the flow of the rest of the story. I'd hate to be forced to switch the pacing just because I've ran out of interesting mellow things to say. ;D

Of course, that might be necessary, perhaps?
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Perhaps!
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:iconlytrigian:
Lytrigian Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Any well constructed character should have as wide a range of moods as any real person. Their personalities may typically display a dominant note, but even a generally calm, happy person might get sad, hurt, stressed, excited, etc. depending on circumstances.

Or is this about something else? I'm not sure I understand the problem.
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:iconclefj:
ClefJ Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Nah you got it.

I wonder though how dominant that dominant note should be. Do you find it difficult to find things that help shift a character's mood?
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:iconjzlobo:
JZLobo Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
It depends on the situations you put them in.
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:iconlytrigian:
Lytrigian Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
In a moderately non-action-packed, action-packed miniature fantasy epic? Nah.
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:iconrovanna:
Rovanna Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2013   Digital Artist
I'm not entirely sure what you mean? Are you meaning you have a problem with making her seem tough in chapters where she doesn't fight?

People change their behaviors and moods all the time depending on who their with and what's going on. Even moody and broody people know how to have a good time. They must enjoy something. I personally find it pretty boring when characters only have the one mood for the entire story.
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:iconclefj:
ClefJ Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
You pretty much got it. Hmm. Give them something to enjoy in the off chapters. That's a fair idea, appreciated.
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