I hope I'm not bothering you, but I'm in serious need of advice. So, I've been struggling to make new characters. How do you ever come up with such great characters?? Seriously, I've tried everything to come up with one, but I never find very unique advice that tells me what I don't already know. Please help!
Whuh huh whoa this took me by surprise! It’s not a bother at all, I’m just not sure of how much help I can be. I don’t know if my characters are particularly innovative, nor I do think I really go into much depth about them (especially on this blog.) Still, I’m glad they seem successful somehow?! I struggle making new characters, too— I mean all the ones active right now have been restructured over and over so they are kind of new characters, but their basic forms have been around for a long time. Cathexis has been around since 2001 but I think it only left its primordial hideaway sometime in the last two-ish years. Its cast was pretty different then, and the traits, goals, etc., that inhabited the cast, were different. As a junior high student, my worldview had, at that point, not matured past a junior high student, so my characters, too, were underdeveloped. (Not at all saying everyone has the same views at the same ages, I just know that for this story and its cast, what I was trying to tackle then was comparably shallow, because I was much less informed.)
I’m not sure what I could tell you that you wouldn’t already know or haven’t already heard— the best way to make up new characters is to study people, both people in real life and the way people are portrayed in media. Of course, you probably know how imperative it is to study real humans, how the speak and interact etc., so I don’t really need to go into much detail there. Now you need to figure out how to write a person with a realistic (maybe a better word is relatable? intriguing?) but in a fictional(??? I’m assuming) setting.
I personally am a huge (though quiet) film buff and I find it pleasing and educational to watch movies that not only do a good job of character introduction/development, but ones that do a reeeeally bad job. Why do I find this dialogue so bland, why am I not riveted by the conflict, what about the pacing is weird, etc. I really like seeing what other creative types think humans are like (especially in film, when you are actually using real, living people to portray your idea of people. When it’s bad, the viewer knows it’s bad, even if they don’t have the vocabulary to explain why!) I like to find out how much I can relate to a made-up person that may share no similar beliefs with me, and pick apart what makes them compelling. Film is often my go-to because I can multitask while watching without losing my grip on it, and I currently have very little time to set aside to read. But of course it’s the same with written material— observing what choices the author makes in order to get you to like or dislike their character enough to follow them around. As you know, a character can be despicable but still likable. And a character written with the intent of being likable can be the worst goddamn thing ever.
And of course it depends on the quality/thoughtfulness of writing/language… sometimes even the most mundane-seeming characters can, with the help of the author’s voice, be the most exciting! Shit, I’ve read YA books about high school dweebs that have excited me way more than many tales of epic fantasy, no matter how grand. So while it is very much about solidifying an interesting character, it’s also about how you choose to write them. I think that’s something people often overlook. It’s not just what you’re writing, it’s how you’re writing it. People are interesting. Events grounded in our reality are interesting. A flimsy character is generally easy to spot regardless of the type of story, but in order to solidify a character you don’t necessarily have to fortify their story with immense tragedy or pseudo-russkii space elves (ha, ha.)
What kind of stories, things, characters do you like to make up? What sort of areas have you yet to study and implement for your work? Are there subjects or traits you’ve avoided? Why have you avoided it? Or why do you frequent the same themes? Are your characters primarily proactive, or do they solely react to circumstance? (That’s something I’m currently working on, hhh.) Being conscious of your choices is always advisable. Seeking education about things you haven’t experienced is advisable. It’s okay to say “I like to do this because I like to do it”— we should all make things we like to do, haha! But it’s important to know why. Like I said, I attempt to absorb things I’m not even that crazy about, so that I can break them down— why don’t I like it? Would it be wise or self-improving to write a character like this, or is it better to steer clear of it entirely?
We all have tropes we enjoy and even repeat, and if you have one you like, it’s okay to use that as basic framework. Anything can happen later. Having a basic archetype to expand off of is totally okay. At the same time, I may even suggest avoiding thought processes like “I need a protagonist/antagonist/etc.” because as you develop them, your characters may shift from their designated positions. You don’t want to box yourself in. It’s really about what works best for you— I have a sort of roundabout way of coming up with characters which might be why I am always reconfiguring them. I’m assuming you’re not on a deadline, so take as much time as you need. Don’t tie yourself down to your characters’ preconceived responsibilities— you can alter those over and over again if you need/want to.
Yeah, the best thing to do is look at people who you think do a good job at this, and figure out how they’re doing it! Make up things that you enjoy making up, and if you feel the characters are too similar to others or too shallow, immerse yourself in different forms of media (ones you like, maybe ones you’d never willingly approach on your own) and uh creepily listen in on human interactions irl. Sorry I can’t really be of much help. I don’t think my process is particularly unique, fool-proof, or concrete— I do what feels right/natural to me first, maybe working inside the ruts I’ve made from treading back and forth for so long, then I take a step back for a once-over, and proceed to tear it apart for analysation and refinement. Like making a quick wiggly sketch on a whim, and going back to resolve it.
hey, been a fan for some years. remember following your old dA account, 12th I think it was? I didn't realize you were into physics so I was curious how it effects your stories. I read some Hawking, Greene, Kaku, etc. myself, and my love of the cosmos has had a huge effect on my art and story-telling. thought we might be kindred
Oh wow, hey! I haven’t heard that name in a while but yes indeed, once upon a time I was Twelfth.
And man, that is so exciting to hear. I am under-read on the subject, but it is one that has inspired me for a long time— though really I’m only just beginning to collect reputable books on the subject, some by the authors you mentioned (also Brian Cox and Manjit Kumar, and I picked up Introducing Book’s “Graphic Guide” collection which has both quantum theory and relativity, among others— plus many documentaries I can’t recall the names of right now… I pop ‘em on while working) but I guess it could be argued that no matter how far we delve into it we might still be at the beginning. I say that to make myself feel better, haha. If I were better at math (I am truly abysmal) I would much rather have gone into astrophysics. Alas, here I am.
In my personal work I enjoy using quantum mechanics and theories of the quantum mind to explain phenomena that one might categorise as fantastical. My work is fantasy/science fiction in nature, so this gives me the freedom to construct a possibly abstract logic convention… and it does remain open and free in some regards because I think it’s important to establish a canon the reader can further imagine should they choose to, but I also like to adhere to certain rules(??) of physics, and the great thing about quantum theory is that it has all that room to explore. Quantum theory can be watered down to layman’s terms so that even I can appreciate the discussion, but its most complicated ideas can be mulled over, are being mulled over, forever. What’s most inspiring to me is how quantum theory can be attached to psychology. Ideas of perception and will, cathexis and decathexis. I think the implications about not just what the universe has in store, but what humans are capable of, are astounding, sublime.
I am also really fucked up over the many-worlds interpretation— I think it’s just awesome. My stories do deal with multiple realities, or, should I say, multiple possibilities which become realities, entire worlds built around an action/reaction/lack thereof. In earlier drafts this was not included, or at least not so integrally.
For a long time I avoided using science, or scientific thought, to back up [what was once high fantasy] because I didn’t think the two really had anything to do with each other. And sometimes they don’t, and that’s perfectly acceptable and in some cases imperative— but for my purposes I needed a slightly stronger, slightly more specific backbone to fortify the points I’m attempting to make. I didn’t realise going in that it would end up this way, but after many drafts I finally discovered I was not telling the tale I needed. My main story is fantasy in how it’s presented but it’s essentially about empowerment, development, and connection, both interpersonal and universal, relating to humans and the structure of the world(s). I’ve yet to really solidify my knowledge of quantum physics and I wouldn’t say my project is entirely about them, but I’m really interested in them and have used them, in small increments, to help tell the story.
It’s something I mostly pursue outside of the work I want to present since I don’t think anyone can learn a great deal about it from me yet, ha ha. ANYWAY, my long-windedness aside, HIGH FIVE! I’m serious when I say that’s wonderful to hear, and if you have any favourite texts/films/etc. I am always looking to immerse myself in more material on the subject.