- May 24, 2021
Other than the character creation chain - are there any good exercises for getting to know characters and improving dialogue?
Thanks @sule , I've a big problem with character description -it always comes out like dodgy surveillance notes and gets deleted; @Teresa Edgerton had a good thread going ...was just thinking @Mon0Zer0 , would it be worth having a sort of opposite thing going where the aim is to put together the worst attempt at description?, sorta learn from doing it badly type thing 'Garumulus was not unusual for a Phelonulong, but he was pretty tall I guess, or he might have been, it was pretty dark at the time' -just a thought, possibly bad one!
Edit: I'll kick it off later if you're up for it
Sound as a bell, my problem is the physical description (I don't care what the characters look like when I'm reading or writing, which is fine for me but useless to readers) -will plough through the 'physical description as a key to character' thread so; best of luck if ya go down the Critiques roadIt's not so much character description as exercises in getting to know a character - how they speak in particular, their mannerisms in practice - that kind of thing.
Would exercises work, though? For me a character emerges as I write him/her during the course of a story, so the verbal and physical tics arrive without conscious input from me (ie I don't think "I know, I'll have her bite her lip at this point" -- it just gets typed and I think about it afterwards) and then those tics are either consolidated or eliminated as I continue, depending on how I feel they work with the character's personality, backstory and current problems/adventures. It's a long-term relationship I'm building with the character, so I know that for me exercises wouldn't work as I wouldn't be able to invest sufficient interest in an made-for-exercise character to be able to do that.
My advice is just to write the characters and fully inhabit each of them, and let them form their own mannerisms, perhaps filched from your own tics or those of people you know. If that's not working for you within the structure of the novel, go outside it and think more about their backstory, and write scenes that simply can't be in the novel, eg a character's first day at school, or first kiss, or deathbed, and see what happens. Perhaps alongside that make a schedule of those mannerisms or speech tics, so they're all together, and just analyse if they feel right.
But if that doesn't appeal, or still isn't working for you, trying writing a short scene -- eg 600-800 words or so -- and put it up in Critiques and ask for feedback on the character alone, that is ask critiquers to say how they read the character's personality. If there's a mis-match between what they say and what you intended, ask for feedback on how best to produce what you wanted. (I'd suggest Critiques as more members visit and comment there than in Workshop, plus it gives you more than just a couple of paragraphs to play with to get the character across.)
Meanwhile, is there anything specific which you're finding difficult?
Brandon Sanderson describes an interesting exercise. First, give each of your characters a unique interest, then have each of them describe the same scene as viewed from his or her specific interest. The actual reference is at about 9:55 in. I have found this fits better with descriptive scenes rather than dialog, though.
If you have interest in character building, I recommend the entire lecture 4 from Brandon's first year: https://www.youtube.com/user/WriteAboutDragons/videos . It is from a planner's perspective, but I have found it useful when I create characters on the fly as well.
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