Let's face it, there are a lot of bad characters, both on this site and in published books. Sometimes the character starts out good and slowly, but surely, falls apart.3/30/2007 #1
What makes a character good? Basing the character off yourself is not always the smartest idea, nor is making him/her the image of (what you see as) perfection.
So what makes a good character?
Also, I like them to be believable. Relating to them isn't really necessary. Them being consistent is important, I don't like to see it OOC.
Perfection is bad. Although I see it as a flaw and like flaws, this one is different and I just don't like to see it. Being a total cliché is boring if only because it's so overused and one-dimensional (usually).
What makes a good character?12/27/2007 #3
An interesting question. If you've ever read Ender's Game by Card, you can already guess the answer. The book won many awards, because the reader can connect so shockingly to Ender that you feel for him. You care what happens to him. How did Card give his characters depth and dimension, so they are not just cardboard cutouts but actual people that live and breathe like us?
It helps to analyze the novel: Ender is like many of us. Brilliant, young, and reckless, he is the embodiment of a genius. But that in itself doesn't get Card anything. Card presents Ender with situation after situation, hammering away and never stopping. Game after game, unfairness after unfairness is shoved at Ender. We as the reader watch him solve all of them perfectly, and FEEL for him. It is because Card presents these situations that we begin to love Ender.
So to answer your question. How do you build a character? You don't need him to say anything. Just imagine you were him. Think of ALL the unfair situations and impossible ones that you've been in. Throw them all at the character. Eventually the reader will start to grow a connection. That's the most surefire way I can think of.
First off, that is not a 'surefire' way to make a reader form a connection with your character, or build a good character for that matter. Having your character be put through grueling regimens will make the reader question the validity of the character unless you have a valid reason behind it and can back it up very, very well. In Ender's Game Ender was trying to save the world. Still, that isn't necessarily a good enough reason. But it served as a good starting point and the reasons behind Ender's suffering unfolded through his teachers, Major Anderson and Colonel Graff primarily. Graff knew that they were being unbelievably harsh to Ender but he honestly believed that by torturing Ender and breaking him he could save humanity. All the unfair situations thrown Ender's way served a purpose. Every battle he went through taught him a lesson. And I'm not going to say I started to love Ender because he was proverbially shat upon. I liked him as a character because of his philosophy, not the trials he had to endure. There, you see? You got me off on an Ender rant.12/28/2007 #4
Where was I? Validity of the character. There has to be a solid reason behind the crap you're throwing their way as well as people understanding why they need to pile crap on this unfortunate soul. In general, though, sufferers don't make good characters. They tend to be whiny and cry a lot. What makes the reader like Ender is the fact that he understands why he is being put through the paces. He understands and, on some level, agrees with it. Ender doesn't whine, he doesn't complain, he doesn't ** like the other students do, and that sets him apart from the rest of the characters. But no, throwing all the unfair situations you can think of at a character is not a good way to make a character sympathize with him or her. How about piling a little bit of crap on them, just enough that they can handle it but still strain themselves, and let the reader see how they act. Then, pile more and more on it until they can't handle the weight of the world they're holding up and see how Atlas falls. How would your character act when they couldn't handle the pressure? That in itself tends to be more interesting that seeing them overcome unsurmountable odds. Ender faces odds like that, and when he does find a way to win it burns him out almost completely.
...Alright. First off, that was just an opinion. I appreciate your kind and wonderful response but remember that I am not 'shoving crap' into anything, I merely formulated my own opinion of your puzzling question. If you want to shove my crap back at me I'd be more than grateful to take it back.12/29/2007 #5
I will admit your analysis of Enders Game is more valid and a better point than my analysis. But consider this.
Ender was torn from his childhood by Colonel Graff. That is a SITUATION. Did you not begin to feel anger at Graff and feel deep sorrow for Ender at that point? Well, maybe not then, as you barely knew him, but later at the end of the book when he mentions it briefly, you feel a pang of love for the way Card weaves his plot.
Battle School was Card's way of presenting SITUATIONS to the character (Ender) without arousing the reader's suspicions of noticing reoccuring themes, motifs, and all that crap. You contradict yourself in the second paragraph: "Ender doesn't whine, he doesn't complain, he doesn't ** like the other students do, and that sets him apart from the rest of the characters. But no, throwing all the unfair situations you can think of at a character is not a good way to make a character sympathize with him or her."
That is EXACTLY the point I wanted to say. Perhaps I should have worded it this way:
'It is the character's RESPONSE to the situations that hook the reader's attention'
Do we have a compromise?
I think a good character has to be more than someone who reacts. I think a lot of ways in which a character can start out great and then flop is that they're a reactor throughout the entire book, without reaching a point where they start to take the initiative or take chances. At least, that's a problem I've had with my writing, where I have interesting and complicated things happening to my characters, but I sometimes forget to have 'them' create the situation at some point.1/22/2008 #6
Characters dont create situations...I understand what you're trying to say, that the choices they make will open up new situations, but ultimately it is the writer that listens to the way the story's going and creates the events. Remember, a character is only limited to the writer's imagination, because it is a part of that imagination. So even IF a character could create a situation, it would mean that the writer's mind that created the character would have made that decision.1/25/2008 #7
'The girl reached forward and kissed the boy.' There, that is initative, but it still a situation. Who is the reader more interested about learning? The boy or girl? I would say the boy, because he is the direct object that it's happening to. If you can develop enough, the reader will care about him enough if that it is the boy that next time kisses the girl, they will also feel for the girl.
Remember, a character is only limited to the writer's imagination, because it is a part of that imagination. So even IF a character could create a situation, it would mean that the writer's mind that created the character would have made that decision.1/25/2008 #8
That's true, but the point isn't to let the reader know the extent of the author's imagination. Think of it this way, if the reader knows that every situation that the character is in is merely a creation of the author's fancy, then the character's actions have no effect. If the reader thinks that the situations are a result of something instead of being part of the author's over active imagination then the story and the characters become more believable.
A good character - you feel they're almost alive. Even reading about them gives you the feeling they're around you. There's a presence.1/31/2008 #9
A good character is one whom you can talk to. To put it simply, if I try to imagine a conversation between or with my characters, they have to behave realistically in that conversation. That's one of my tests for a character. As the author, I also need to understand the why's of the character. I've actually tossed and redone character's completely because one of their actions/reactions/ or even other characters' actions/reactions involving the first character didn't have a why behind it. Sometimes "they're crazy" is the only "why" you need, but... I dunno.
For example, one of my characters kept on being forgiven for actions that he had no right to take, and no reason at times for choices he made other than that it was a way to a situation I thought was needed or amusing. I sat back, though, and started a conversation with him and the other characters involved. He could not justify these choices and actions and the other characters could not figure out why they let him get away with those choices and actions. So, I tore him down to the basic facts and started again. I must say, now that he can carry on a conversation and explain himself, he's a lot more interesting.9/15/2008 . Edited 9/15/2008 #10
Simply put good characters are hard to come by.4/22/2010 #11
|Forum Moderators: Shadowhound|
|Membership Length: 2+ years 1 year 6+ months 1 month 2+ weeks new member|