Support for Aspiring Fantasy Authors : Forum : Plot/Character Development/For..


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Plot/Character Development/Formation Aid

11 Years Ago


For anyone who needs help with character development or plot formation, I urge you to not be shy, and to post your dilemmas here. I for one don't care whether your difficulty spans from a lack of research of a problem with connecting with your individual character. In point, it doesn't matter, and I will do my very best to help you regardless of your writing style. I WILL however tell you if the style you are using is wrong-fit for the type of creative writing you are attempting - first person for a hardcore classic fantasy - for example. I hope others can aid too with this attempt, and so without further ado... continue from here.
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Re: Plot/Character Development/Formation Aid

11 Years Ago


Here's a question:  In a first-person story, how do you give information about the narrating character - appearance, age and gender, for example - without resorting to clunky techniques such as having the character look at themself in a mirror, etc.?
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Re: Plot/Character Development/Formation Aid

11 Years Ago


Originally posted by Weaver
Here's a question:  In a first-person story, how do you give information about the narrating character - appearance, age and gender, for example - without resorting to clunky techniques such as having the character look at themself in a mirror, etc.?

The easiest way would be to use a mirror, but that doesn't always work out well because it's such an overused technique at this point. Now, I don't do a lot of first-person writing, but I think the easiest method would be to use elements like 'wind' or 'running' in conjunction. That way, it seems as though there is a purpose in describing your characters hair color (if the wind is blowing through her umber hair). Another technique I've used before is a connection to a sibling. (We shared the same basic facial features, brown eyes and rather large front teeth).

You could always just ease into it like in more classic narrations, but I wouldn't suggest that, and if you do end up using it, try to avoid descriptions like "I had ivory skin and curves in all the right places" pretty sure I ripped that right out of Twilight, but basically, that's what not-to-do, especially if you follow with something like "I was fairly normal looking." Such an oxymoron, and although it does depend on a person's view of beauty, the classic American version wouldn't be considered normal in a Western setting. As well, it can make your character come off as shallow, and I have a very hard time connecting with narcissistic narrators.
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Re: Plot/Character Development/Formation Aid

11 Years Ago


Originally posted by Willow
Originally posted by Weaver
Here's a question:  In a first-person story, how do you give information about the narrating character - appearance, age and gender, for example - without resorting to clunky techniques such as having the character look at themself in a mirror, etc.?

The easiest way would be to use a mirror, but that doesn't always work out well because it's such an overused technique at this point. Now, I don't do a lot of first-person writing, but I think the easiest method would be to use elements like 'wind' or 'running' in conjunction. That way, it seems as though there is a purpose in describing your characters hair color (if the wind is blowing through her umber hair). Another technique I've used before is a connection to a sibling. (We shared the same basic facial features, brown eyes and rather large front teeth).

You could always just ease into it like in more classic narrations, but I wouldn't suggest that, and if you do end up using it, try to avoid descriptions like "I had ivory skin and curves in all the right places" pretty sure I ripped that right out of Twilight, but basically, that's what not-to-do, especially if you follow with something like "I was fairly normal looking." Such an oxymoron, and although it does depend on a person's view of beauty, the classic American version wouldn't be considered normal in a Western setting. As well, it can make your character come off as shallow, and I have a very hard time connecting with narcissistic narrators.

Hair color wasn't the problem (although your suggestion for how to work that in is a good one) - the character gets mistaken for someone she's not because of her hair and eye color, so it was not only easy but inevitable to describe.  The real problem with this one story is that every now and then, someone thinks that, since the author is male, the protagonist must be, too.  I had hoped that the feminine name of the narrator would be enough to make it clear that Alandra is a woman, but apparently not.   I've seen the "mirror" technique indirectly used to good effect:  The narrating character has just seen a portrait of himself in a place he didn't expect, and says something like, "I knew the me I shaved and this was the guy behind the mirror.  Green eyes, black hair, dressed in black and silver, yes."
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Re: Plot/Character Development/Formation Aid

11 Years Ago


Originally posted by Weaver
Originally posted by Willow
Originally posted by Weaver
Here's a question:  In a first-person story, how do you give information about the narrating character - appearance, age and gender, for example - without resorting to clunky techniques such as having the character look at themself in a mirror, etc.?

The easiest way would be to use a mirror, but that doesn't always work out well because it's such an overused technique at this point. Now, I don't do a lot of first-person writing, but I think the easiest method would be to use elements like 'wind' or 'running' in conjunction. That way, it seems as though there is a purpose in describing your characters hair color (if the wind is blowing through her umber hair). Another technique I've used before is a connection to a sibling. (We shared the same basic facial features, brown eyes and rather large front teeth).

You could always just ease into it like in more classic narrations, but I wouldn't suggest that, and if you do end up using it, try to avoid descriptions like "I had ivory skin and curves in all the right places" pretty sure I ripped that right out of Twilight, but basically, that's what not-to-do, especially if you follow with something like "I was fairly normal looking." Such an oxymoron, and although it does depend on a person's view of beauty, the classic American version wouldn't be considered normal in a Western setting. As well, it can make your character come off as shallow, and I have a very hard time connecting with narcissistic narrators.

Hair color wasn't the problem (although your suggestion for how to work that in is a good one) - the character gets mistaken for someone she's not because of her hair and eye color, so it was not only easy but inevitable to describe.  The real problem with this one story is that every now and then, someone thinks that, since the author is male, the protagonist must be, too.  I had hoped that the feminine name of the narrator would be enough to make it clear that Alandra is a woman, but apparently not.   I've seen the "mirror" technique indirectly used to good effect:  The narrating character has just seen a portrait of himself in a place he didn't expect, and says something like, "I knew the me I shaved and this was the guy behind the mirror.  Green eyes, black hair, dressed in black and silver, yes."

I see, well that makes sense then, excellent descriptions by the way. In all honesty, I might have mistook Alendra for a man, but like you said, because you yourself are a man. That's a tough one to answer..., but I'll do my best. Also, I don't know her personality, so it will be difficult. Correct me if I do this wrong.

First off, don't change Alandra's name, I quite like it. When a reader can feel a character's personality from their name alone, you know you've done your job correctly. Her name is fairly androgynous if you ask me, but that is besides the point. Now, if she has a very strong or (typical masculine) personalty, then that may be the actual problem. Again, don't alter it simply because of that, instead, try to portray some of her thoughts in a feminine way. For example, she could be more of a multitasker, or she could enjoy something like lilies. That way, you can assert her gender while keeping her core personality, and it may even add some depth to her character, underlining her hard outercore with something softer. I'd like to have the paragraph with her original description if you don't mind. I'm a girl, and I may be able to help with that alone.

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Re: Plot/Character Development/Formation Aid

11 Years Ago


"For example, she could be more of a multitasker, or she could enjoy something like lilies."   Hmmm... Violets.  People in Anglin grow violets like the Dutch grow tulips... It's a tradition thing.  (They could grow trillium instead, but who wants flowers that smell like wet dog?)  I can work with that... Thanks muchly for the suggestion.   (Being a multitasker is considered a female thing?  How strange.)   "I'd like to have the paragraph with her original description if you don't mind."   The physical description is given indirectly:  "It’s the hair, mostly.  Add flame-bright hair to fire-green eyes and pointed ears, and your average Terran-in-the-street is gonna think, Dragon-kin."      
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Re: Plot/Character Development/Formation Aid

11 Years Ago


Originally posted by Weaver
"For example, she could be more of a multitasker, or she could enjoy something like lilies."   Hmmm... Violets.  People in Anglin grow violets like the Dutch grow tulips... It's a tradition thing.  (They could grow trillium instead, but who wants flowers that smell like wet dog?)  I can work with that... Thanks muchly for the suggestion.   (Being a multitasker is considered a female thing?  How strange.)   "I'd like to have the paragraph with her original description if you don't mind."   The physical description is given indirectly:  "It’s the hair, mostly.  Add flame-bright hair to fire-green eyes and pointed ears, and your average Terran-in-the-street is gonna think, Dragon-kin."      

Oh yes, being a multitasker is a female thing. It's a span from ancient times, a well known theory that woman are able to keep several thing on their minds, while men had to focus on only one thing. I always found that interesting, though I personally dislike extreme feminism. Violets are are an excellent choice.
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Re: Plot/Character Development/Formation Aid

11 Years Ago


I think the problem is that I don't accept ANY all-or-nothing generalizations concerning gender in regards to personailty or cognition, so I don't write characters who follow the stereotypes or 'well-known theories' that go against my own real-life observations.  (I know several men who are good at multitasking, and several women who can't do it at all, so I can't see that showing a character multitasking would make the reader think "This person is a woman" based on that detail alone.)  I thought the idea of showing Alandra liking flowers would work all right, but does that mean that a male character wouldn't like them?    There has to be a better way to deal with the problem of showing a character's gender without being clunky about it (the looks-at-self-in-mirror thing, etc.)  It only happens with first-person narratives, where the pronoun used to refer to the protagonist is "I" rather than "he" or "she."  I suppose the obvious solution is not to write anything in first person, but that isn't a viable option - some stories NEED to be written that way.   I don't mean to hog the thread.  Please, someone else ask about character development, plot issues, something.  We've got a good group here if we can keep it active, with everyone participating.