The feelings and the emotion. Still?

DLCroix

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In most of my stories my characters lose; in fact, from the first page you know that they are not going to win, they have no chance. Well, it's not like they all die; but even those who do survive do so at a high price.
Nor is it that it is a redemption, since I consider that is half trite; but rather an act of rebellion through which some manage to fulfill their duty and surpass themselves, others learn a lesson from their mistakes and well, there are also those who simply fail and create a chain that in turn puts to their sons, grandsons and in general to the rest of their offspring in the same crossroad.
I leave the topic raised. How do you create your characters? Is this kind of approach very oversentimental?
 
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I still have much to learn when it comes to the finer points of writing characters, so I don't know if this will help or not.

For me, I consider the environment that my characters either grew up or live in, and use that to influence their personality and actions initially. Then, I focus on how other characters affect them and their mindset.

I don't think the approach you mentioned is over-sentimental at all. The approach varies depending on the writer. What matters is how you want to portray your characters and what changes you want them to go through (if they change). It's your story and ideas. Whatever the reader takes away from those characters is up to them.
 

Steve Harrison

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How you approach and create your characters is a writer's personal choice, so I don't consider terms like oversentimental apply. It's just your method and if it works for you it's the perfect method.

I craft my stories in my head before I start writing and don't have any defined characters until they turn up on the page.

For example, my time travel adventure centred on a convict ship, so when I sat down to write I thought the main characters would likely be an officer, the captain and a convict. As they appeared and reacted to the story line, I got to know their personalities and history and 'backfilled' detail by constant editing to end up (hopefully) with fully rounded characters.

One of my goals - hopes - when writing a novel is to seamlessly stitch together the whole so that it's not possible to tell if the story or characters drove the work.
 

Jo Zebedee

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They just appear in my head and then they take on a voice and then I find myself sinking into them and then they become real.
i feel there is nothing not normal about any of this.
 

JNG01

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It sounds to me like a compelling conflict. The real story conflict is your characters vs. the demands of their own sense of morality or honor, in the context of opposition that puts that sense to the test. I love stories like that.
 

Astro Pen

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Only the protagonist exists in the beginning. They are not usually stereotypes or heroes. I want the reader to feel there is a bit of themselves in there to latch on to, human with a mix of strengths and weaknesses. Then when things initiate the reader can feel themselves dealing with it.
Thereafter everyone else arrives to fill a place in the plot.

So in some way the evolving plot creates 'character shaped spaces' and my imagination constructs people to fill them. Characters need to be well rounded for plausibility and, importantly, differentiated from each other. It avoids blurring, keeps things concise whilst maximising opportunities for interaction.

The characters fascinate me and if I have crafted them successfully they will often surprise me. That's when I know they have left the pen and have a separate existence. Then, like Anne Rice, I start writing each morning to find out what they do next.
 

Stephen Palmer

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A lot of people confuse sentimentality and emotion. They're not the same thing - very far from it.
What Jo said above is right. Emotion is normal.
 

tinkerdan

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I find that I have a fair idea of what the character is; however, I then have to put them into the world of the story and from there it evolves into 'how does that person work and deal with life in the universe I've just dropped them into.
 

DLCroix

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I agree with you, @Artemis Cromwell, and I think your approach is fine to begin with. Over time you will develop other techniques such as overlapping plots, parallels plots, loops, saved by the bell, etc.


my time travel adventure centred on a convict ship


@Steve Harrison, I have to say that I found it a fascinating idea, as almost all the stories on that subject have a similar focus: the scientists, the machine, the journey, so I wonder how you connected all that on board a ship. It must have been what I call a good problem.

@Jo Zebedee. Remarkable reflection, because it is often like that. As much as you have a plot well designed, the appearance of the characters that really have spark often turns out to be quite a surprise.

@JNG01. Isn't it an exciting topic? One never finishes developing all the many variants that there are to show those conflicts that explain the growth of the characters and the dilemmas they are faced with.

@Astro Pen. You couldn't be more right. Everything that belongs to the characters is something that the reader can identify with or not, depending, of course, on the ability with which the writer knows how to portray them in a way that makes them feel through those characters. And, as you say, there comes a point where they take on a life of their own, such that even one has expectations about what will happen to them. Will they be successful? Will they fail or, worse, die?

@Stephen Palmer. You have just said something very important, and it is a difference that must be clear at all times. Thanks for share it.

@tinkerdan. I think that this approach is the right one, let things happen. Because most of the time you know what is going to happen from the outline but that should only be in general terms. And oneself is excited to wonder how these things are going to happen. In fact, many of the major events happen unplanned and, in effect, end up causing changes to the initial outline.
 

Steve Harrison

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@Steve Harrison, I have to say that I found it a fascinating idea, as almost all the stories on that subject have a similar focus: the scientists, the machine, the journey, so I wonder how you connected all that on board a ship. It must have been what I call a good problem.

It was one of those rare (for me) times when a simple idea - 18th convict ship turns up in the present day - just seemed to come together organically as I wrote.

When I read threads like this it makes me realise how much of my writing is performed off the cuff, without much thought about the whys and hows. It's fascinating to hear how other writers tackle and analyse the various aspects of the craft.

I failed English at school and only stumbled into writing in my thirties and it's all been trial and error ever since. Fortunately, fiction writing is one of the few remaining skills you can teach yourself without requiring formal qualifications!
 

DLCroix

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It's fascinating to hear how other writers tackle and analyse the various aspects of the craft.

Yes, what you also have to be careful with is not to repeat schemes that other authors have used. I mean, one can rely on the method they used, use it as idea to generate an outline, but only in general terms Ideally, it should not happen that the reader says, "Oh, but this was done by so-and-so", or "I already read this elsewhere."
It is not about plagiarizing, because then mainstream authors who are not from the genre would not have won the Hugo award and the Nebula award. Examples: Philip Roth, Michael Chabon, Cormac McCarthy.
Especially in McCarthy's case with The Road, his dystopia is nothing new; that is to say, it is the case: "Hey, but I already saw this."
Except that McCarthy does not fail where many sci-fi authors do precisely because he knows how to portray characters and build a powerful and very emotional story.
 

Steve Harrison

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I believe that once you have established (or even just recognise) your own style and voice and understand what you are doing, you are less influenced by other writers, simply because there's trust and familiarity in your own methods. And that doesn't mean complacency, but rather the confidence to tackle more complex writing and ideas.
 

DLCroix

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I believe that once you have established (or even just recognise) your own style and voice and understand what you are doing, you are less influenced by other writers, simply because there's trust and familiarity in your own methods. And that doesn't mean complacency, but rather the confidence to tackle more complex writing and ideas.

Hi! Influence is a living food of which we even have to be aware of its value as a creative and evolutionary motor. It is true that at first the influence of certain authors, those we like the most or with whom we identify, is reflected in a more or less evident way in what we write. It is an unconscious process. Then, in a second stage, we are already a little more capable of even analyzing those authors with a critical eye. Or we can think: "Oh, how creative was in the way to solved the intrigue in this or that way!"

But this happens with people who read as much as they write.

Because, as you say, there are also many who have been writing for years and, in effect, have developed their own voice and style; But, as they do not read, or only read little, they tend to repeat ideas that are already somewhat hackneyed or, worse still, if they have read little about theories and conventions, despite having that internal voice, they also tend to have various errors of coherence, lack of rhythm, ambiguity, poor character development, etc.
And there is even a third case. The mainstream. Writers who, on the contrary, even have a certain reputation, there are others even with awards in their history, and in fact they write very, very well; they obviously don't make the mistakes I mentioned earlier.
But, when these mainstream writers get down to writing sci-fi, curiously the ideas they put forth have already been covered for the most part, and quite often. Because, obviously, they are experts in the classics, in contemporary literature, in poetry, etc. There are some who even have PhDs in Literature.
But many don't know about sci-fi, they don't know its rules. That's why it's the fandom tantrum when they win an award that authors belonging to the genre are supposed to win. Of course, those who have won have done so for the unquestionable quality of their stories. Literary quality, I mean. And that is what is rewarded, quality; not so much so the supposed creativity of their ideas or approaches.

For example, this is likely to be the case if a sci-fi or fantasy writer sets out to write general literature. How many possibilities would there be that a Bolaño, a Faulkner, a Proust, a Chekhov, even an Isabel Allende would appear there?
It occurs to me that perhaps Phil K. Dick and little else.
 

Steve Harrison

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They are interesting points. Despite my two published works being SF/speculative, I've never considered myself an SF/speculative writer, as I write in other genres and contemporary fiction. I read widely and my stories pop into my head initially without any thought to the genre.

I suppose, if given a choice, I'd like to be a contemporary thriller writer, but if I manage to get a lucrative multi-book contract one day, I'd be happy to be 'trapped' in any genre.

My thoughts on influence is are that of course writers are influenced by their favourite authors, but there comes a point when writers stop asking "what would x do?" and instead ask, "what do I do?" It's a powerful moment, whatever the result.

And I can see why famous authors challenge themselves by straying into an unfamiliar genre. It's a lot of fun. But when they go in thinking they can redefine that genre, they are asking for trouble. Which can also be a lot of fun...
 

tinkerdan

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You do need to stick to your guns as much as you can.
@tinkerdan. I think that this approach is the right one, let things happen. Because most of the time you know what is going to happen from the outline but that should only be in general terms. And oneself is excited to wonder how these things are going to happen. In fact, many of the major events happen unplanned and, in effect, end up causing changes to the initial outline.
What does that mean?
Once you establish your character they react in specific ways and you want to be sure that they are keeping within their paradigm, unless there has been some dramatic change in their character for a good reason--[this is where beta readers help because some of them are pretty good at flagging things they think this character might not do].
 

Capricorn42

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You could say that the best stories have the best characters, if you accept that a character can be a thing as well as a person. Larry Niven's Ringworld has some OK characters, as in people and aliens, but the Ringworld itself is a character and the most fascinating of all of them. I could say the same for Clarke's Rama or Lem's Solaris. I could even toss in the alien, although I still have a soft spot for Ripley (or it might just be Sigourney Weaver).

I don't suppose it's possible to create a unique character, but the job gets easier the more you read (as opposed to watching TV). Even better if you read different genres as then you can soak up characters from a much wider background and cherry pick the faces and the traits you like.
 

Wayne Mack

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I find myself starting with a few scenes that I know I want to hit and then adding in character flaws and obstacles that prevent the scene from happening on page one. With the specific flaws in mind, I extrapolate how the character will act and react as the story progresses. The resolution scene then becomes an out of character moment that I hope the reader is wishing for. I view this as character growth and not overly sentimental. I suppose that a tragic character arc is possible where a good trait is destroyed leaving the character at a loss, though I have not tried this.
 

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