Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Pages: 1 2 [All]   Go Down
Print
Author Topic: Moron Character  (Read 8740 times)
0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.
Ed
The Mastah, muahahaaaa....
Administrator
Coroner
***

Karma: +6/-1
Offline Offline

Posts: 11073


Don't look behind you!!!!!


« on: August 05, 2006, 06:59:39 PM »

Yes, mor(e) on character.  I know we've already got a few threads on the subject, but let's look closer at character development. 

Take your character -

What does that person comprise of?
How can you describe them?
How can you give another person an idea of who that character is? 
How do you avoid stereotyping? 
Should you avoid stereotyping? 
Is physical description important?

The way I see it, you can tell a lot about a person by the way they react to different situations, what they say and how they say it, and what they look like isn't important unless their appearance has a bearing on the story.  Read anything by Hemingway and you'll see his physical descriptions run somewhere between scant and nil for his characters and they're still vibrant and alive - the reader decides what they look like.

So your biggest and best tools for developing your characters are what they say (dialogue), how they say it (voice?) and how they react to various situations (show/tell), yep?

What about the stereotypes?  The dumb blond secretary.  The hooker with a heart of gold.  The washed up drunk PI.  You could go on and on - there are probably hundreds of 'stock' characters we could name.  Now, what's the difference between a stock character and an interesting individual character?  Should you avoid the stocks, or are they sometimes useful?  I think it depends upon the story, TBH.  If the story is a thoroughly plot driven event story, you are more likely to get away with stock characters, because the story is more about the situation than the characters.

The difference between stock characters and individual, real 3D characters can be seen in the following excerpt.  Read it and see if you can pick out the tools the author used to develop the character of the MC, Leonard, and how he begins on Farto.  Discuss smiley

Quote
(From 'Night They Missed the Horror Show' by Joe Lansdale)

If they’d gone to the drive-in like they’d planned, none of this would have happened. But Leonard didn’t like drive-ins when he didn’t have a date, and he’d heard about Night of the Living Dead, and he knew a nigger starred in it. He didn’t want to see no movie with a nigger star. Niggers chopped cotton, fixed flats, and pimped nigger girls, but he’d never heard of one that killed zombies. And he’d heard too that there was a white girl in the movie that let the nigger touch her, and that peeved him. Any white gal that would let a nigger touch her must be the lowest trash in the world. Probably from Hollywood, New York, or Waco, some god-forsaken place like that.

Now Steve McQueen would have been all right for zombie killing and girl handling. He would have been the ticket. But a nigger? No sir.

Boy, that Steve McQueen was one cool head. Way he said stuff in them pictures was so good you couldn’t help but think someone had written it down for him. He could sure think fast on his feet to come up with the things he said, and he had that real cool, mean look.

Leonard wished he could be Steve McQueen, or Paul Newman even. Someone like that always knew what to say, and he figured they got plenty of bush too. Certainly they didn’t get as bored as he did. He was so bored he felt as if he were going to die from it before the night was out. Bored, bored, bored. Just wasn’t nothing exciting about being in the Dairy Queen parking lot leaning on the front of his ‘64 Impala looking out at the highway. He figured maybe old crazy Harry who janitored at the high school might be right about them flying saucers. Harry was always seeing something. Bigfoot, six-legged weasels, all manner of things. But maybe he was right about the saucers. He’d said he’d seen one a couple nights back hovering over Mud Creek and it was shooting down these rays that looked like wet peppermint sticks. Leonard figured if Harry really had seen the saucers and the rays, then those rays were boredom rays. It would be a way for space critters to get at earth folks, boring them to death. Getting melted down by heat rays would have been better. That was at least quick, but being bored to death was sort of like being nibbled to death by ducks.

Leonard continued looking at the highway, trying to imagine flying saucers and boredom rays, but he couldn’t keep his mind on it. He finally focused on something in the highway. A dead dog.

Not just a dead dog. But a DEAD DOG. The mutt had been hit by a semi at least, maybe several. It looked as if it had rained dog. There were pieces of that pooch all over the concrete and one leg was lying on the curbing on the opposite side, stuck up in such a way that it seemed to be waving hello. Doctor Frankenstein with a grant from Johns Hopkins and assistance from NASA couldn’t have put that sucker together again.

Leonard leaned over to his faithful, drunk companion, Billy––known among the gang as Farto, because he was fart-lighting champion of Mud Creek––and said, "See that dog there?"
Logged

Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]
Ed
The Mastah, muahahaaaa....
Administrator
Coroner
***

Karma: +6/-1
Offline Offline

Posts: 11073


Don't look behind you!!!!!


« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2006, 06:41:20 PM »

Good chat afro  We must do it again sometime grin
Logged

Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]
Prabe
Coffin Maker
***

Karma: +0/-0
Offline Offline

Posts: 118


There is no delight the equal of dread.


« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2006, 09:03:51 PM »

I've been busy, so I missed this before. 

Some more or less random thoughts on the topic:

Stereotypes are occasionally useful, especially if you twist them a little and surprise the reader.

It's probably possible to reveal as much about characters by what they DON'T say or do.

In first person, you can reveal aspects of (at least the narrator's) character by what the narrator leaves out.

It's kinda non-responsive in re:  Landsdale's story, but I can come back to that later, now that I know this thread's here.
Logged

pleading and needing and breeding and bleeding and feedling exceeding
where is everybody?
trying and lying defying denying crying and dying
where is everybody?

Nine Inch Nails
"Where is Everybody?"
The Fragile
SharonBell
Critter
Coroner
***

Karma: +0/-0
Offline Offline

Posts: 3033



WWW
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2006, 10:42:52 PM »

Good chat afro  We must do it again sometime grin

LOL!!  grin grin Thanks for the laugh, Blunt! I often feel like I'm talking to myself!
Logged

"Be good and you'll be lonesome." Mark Twain

www.sharonbuchbinder.com
Geoff_N
Critter
Coroner
***

Karma: +3/-1
Offline Offline

Posts: 2733



WWW
« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2006, 03:17:57 AM »

I missed it too. Thanks for the prompt, Ed!

Excellent thinking points too. Especially on should we always avoid stereotype. In a complex story it sometimes helps and comforts the reader to encounter that safe dumb blonde (in real life too  bleh) or bumbling incompetent policeman.

In designing your character, at the one-day science fiction course I attended, we were encouraged to list aspects like their flaws as well as strengths. I admit I hadn't consciously thought of my hero(ine) as having flaws, but I do now. It gives them more realism.

Geoff
Logged

SharonBell
Critter
Coroner
***

Karma: +0/-0
Offline Offline

Posts: 3033



WWW
« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2006, 10:43:23 AM »

Borderlands Boot Camp also reinforced that the writer shouldn't reduce the villain to mustache-twirling cartoon. Villains have mothers, too. How would their mother see them, what positive attributes should your villain have, too? Does he like dogs? (When he's not torturing cats?) Does he help old ladies cross the street (an example from BBC). See him/her from the eyes of a mother.  Cheesy
Logged

"Be good and you'll be lonesome." Mark Twain

www.sharonbuchbinder.com
Ed
The Mastah, muahahaaaa....
Administrator
Coroner
***

Karma: +6/-1
Offline Offline

Posts: 11073


Don't look behind you!!!!!


« Reply #6 on: August 11, 2006, 06:43:01 PM »

Borderlands Boot Camp also reinforced that the writer shouldn't reduce the villain to mustache-twirling cartoon.

Oh, I don't know - I quite like Dick Dastardly grin

I'm nearing the end of Bram Stoker's Dracula at the moment - about 50 pages to go of 521.  His characters are good.  Each of them is distinct and you know exactly who's who all the time, and that's pretty good when you consider there are about seven or eight of them in play for most of the book, and sometimes more.  My favourite character has to be Renfield, the madman and the zoophage.  He attracts flies to his windowsill with the sugar from his tea, and then he uses the flies to attract and fatten spiders, and then he feeds the spiders to sparrows and asks for a cat to feed the sparrows to.  One day he's told he is to have guests, so he clears up quickly - stuffs all his flies and spiders into his mouth and swallows them alive.  Yuk.

I wouldn't say any of his characters are stock, except maybe Mina Harker - she's really beginning to bug me now.  Everybody keeps banging on about how very good and noble she is - her what suckled blood from the count's breast!  Poppycock I say.

Van Helsing's dialogue is really annoying, too, because it's written phonetically and with him being Dutch it gets a little difficult to follow at times, and tiresome to read.  That's the sort of thing where you could do with a taste of the accent to get the flavour and hear him correctly, but then it should be dropped, or dramatically toned down, IMO.

Back to the subject of stereotype - what is the difference between the construction of a stock character and an individual, original character?  I'm interested to see different people's takes on this issue.  At another place I was often hammered for having cliched characters, but I didn't think they were.
Logged

Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]
SharonBell
Critter
Coroner
***

Karma: +0/-0
Offline Offline

Posts: 3033



WWW
« Reply #7 on: August 11, 2006, 11:06:45 PM »

How long do you have? I'm too tired at the mo, but happy to wax on this topic (my personal problem) when I'm not 3 sheets to the wind. HIC. tongue
Logged

"Be good and you'll be lonesome." Mark Twain

www.sharonbuchbinder.com
SharonBell
Critter
Coroner
***

Karma: +0/-0
Offline Offline

Posts: 3033



WWW
« Reply #8 on: August 13, 2006, 12:53:47 PM »

I guess I'd have to ask, "Why do I need a stock character?" Does the plot require a dumb blonde or a resistant cop? Should an alcoholic detective lead the way? If that's the case, then maybe it's the plot that's driving the story and not the characters.

When I first wrote my novel (still in rewrite hell), I used my mother-in-law as a character, and promptly got trounced upon because she was a stereotypical, cliched NYC Jew. I was floored. No, I said, this is my MOTHER-IN-LAW, she's not a stock character. I went back to the drawing board, and tried to see why they saw her that way. Then I realized I hadn't gone deep enough in my descriptions and of her deeds. She WAS 2-D, not 3-D. I hadn't done a good enough job on my character. So, shame on me for using short-cuts. Next time, I'll do better--I hope!

So, Mr B, that's my sober 2 cents plain.
Logged

"Be good and you'll be lonesome." Mark Twain

www.sharonbuchbinder.com
Ed
The Mastah, muahahaaaa....
Administrator
Coroner
***

Karma: +6/-1
Offline Offline

Posts: 11073


Don't look behind you!!!!!


« Reply #9 on: August 13, 2006, 01:30:43 PM »

I guess I'd have to ask, "Why do I need a stock character?" Does the plot require a dumb blonde or a resistant cop? Should an alcoholic detective lead the way? If that's the case, then maybe it's the plot that's driving the story and not the characters.

True, but I would also argue that we all know several stock characters in real life - some people really are stereotypes.  I know a guy who's a used car salesman - he's short, arrogant, would sell his granny to turn a penny, he lies and smarms and then brags about who he's ripped-off lately and how much for.  I know a woman who's a hairdresser - she's dim, shallow and has one haircut that she makes everybody have.  It varies slightly in length and colour, but every customer whose hair she cuts ends up with that damn haircut.  I know engineers who are meticulous people and fret over the slightest discrepancy.  All quite stereotypical people - not everybody can be sufficiently different (or wants to be) that you can't pigeonhole them on one level or another. 

I could be wrong, but I think sometimes readers like to have somebody they can identify with.  Readers of thrillers probably like the washed-up PI characters, maybe they think they're cool, or something.  Maybe a character goes into a pub and chats-up the busty, brassy barmaid, and she plays to type - does she cease to be stock when it turns out she has a degree in aeronautical engineering, or not?

Quote
Then I realized I hadn't gone deep enough in my descriptions and of her deeds. She WAS 2-D, not 3-D. I hadn't done a good enough job on my character. So, shame on me for using short-cuts. Next time, I'll do better--I hope!

What, specifically, would you change in your descriptions that you think would make the difference? 
Logged

Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]
SharonBell
Critter
Coroner
***

Karma: +0/-0
Offline Offline

Posts: 3033



WWW
« Reply #10 on: August 13, 2006, 10:35:20 PM »

Well, in my re-writes, I will have a bit more of her kindness, and less of her abrasiveness, which although true is a NYC stereotype. Also have a bit more of a look at the kinder gentler words I use about her. She is a key character in the tale, and isn't very likable at the moment. She's loud, abrasive, and annoying as shit. Mom, is that you??  grin
Logged

"Be good and you'll be lonesome." Mark Twain

www.sharonbuchbinder.com
Ed
The Mastah, muahahaaaa....
Administrator
Coroner
***

Karma: +6/-1
Offline Offline

Posts: 11073


Don't look behind you!!!!!


« Reply #11 on: August 14, 2006, 04:35:17 AM »

Damn - I just wrote a lengthy reply, posted it and the server had a brainfart - lost the lot pissed

No time now...
Logged

Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]
SharonBell
Critter
Coroner
***

Karma: +0/-0
Offline Offline

Posts: 3033



WWW
« Reply #12 on: August 14, 2006, 08:07:47 AM »

Damn - I just wrote a lengthy reply, posted it and the server had a brainfart - lost the lot pissed

No time now...

Damn, don't you hate that!?
Logged

"Be good and you'll be lonesome." Mark Twain

www.sharonbuchbinder.com
DragonMom
Coffin Maker
***

Karma: +0/-0
Offline Offline

Posts: 108



« Reply #13 on: October 15, 2006, 08:29:00 PM »

Hope nobody minds if I put in my two cents.  bleh  On the one hand, I agree with Carlos Mencia: stereotypes persist not just because they're funny, but because they tend to be true.  Most of the people I know do indeed fall into one category or another.  But we don't want our characters to be that flat, either, right?  Dynamic, interesting characters break out of the mold.  A stereotype can be a good place to start, but then you have to eliminate some characteristics and add new ones, while keeping everything realistic.  I think White Wolf and other RPGs have the right idea: a little from column A, a little from column B, and it all must balance out.  I know that's pretty simplistic, but it always ends up in the back of my mind when I'm creating a new character - let's give him this, but then he must also have that, or he now can't possibly be these two things.  Does that make sense?  what?

I recently read Stephen King's On Writing, and I agree with his idea of just letting the characters take over the plot.  The novel I'm working on, I just found out something new about the heroine's husband that I hadn't seen coming, but is big enough that it'll possibly change the ending.  It's such a rare thrill when the story takes over and starts writing itself.   2thumbs
Logged

"When Mister Safety Catch is not on, Mister Crossbow is No Longer your Friend."  - Terry Pratchett

http://www.pretty-scary.net
SharonBell
Critter
Coroner
***

Karma: +0/-0
Offline Offline

Posts: 3033



WWW
« Reply #14 on: October 15, 2006, 09:03:08 PM »

Ahh. The fine line between "reality" and "fiction" has been crossed.  grin Good for YOU!! afro
Logged

"Be good and you'll be lonesome." Mark Twain

www.sharonbuchbinder.com
Ed
The Mastah, muahahaaaa....
Administrator
Coroner
***

Karma: +6/-1
Offline Offline

Posts: 11073


Don't look behind you!!!!!


« Reply #15 on: October 16, 2006, 03:48:19 AM »

Yep - it's good when that happens.  Sometimes you'll sit back later and think 'I know that person' and you'll find the players have re-enacted something that happened in your life (close enough to recognise anyway) and the views they express/actions they take will give you a new insight into how you feel or what you should have done.  It's amazing what comes out of your subconscious when you get into a writing dreamstate.

Kewl, though.  And it can be very cathartic. smiley
Logged

Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]
Pages: 1 2 [All]   Go Up
Print
 
Jump to:  

Powered by SMF 1.1.21 | SMF © 2015, Simple Machines
| Writer's Corner design by Bloc | XHTML | CSS
Page created in 0.097 seconds with 30 queries.
TinyPortal 1.0 RC1 | © 2005-2010 BlocWeb