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Introducing characters

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Dizzy
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« on: March 31, 2007, 06:27:20 pm »

This stems from a discussion I had with Mak a little while ago back on the 40kO fiction boards.
Basically it's one of the primary duties of the writer, and one that can make or break a piece.

How do you introduce characters?

I advocate that it should be done gently and subtly. You sneak a character into the plot. You grease the descriptions so they slide, effortlessly into the narrative.
Nothing is worse, in my eyes, than on the first page of a novel, three paragraphs of tall, blond, blue eyed, rippling muscles, with tight leather trousers and a bloody great big **** extension sword. By the bottom of the page you know his favourite food, his political leanings and his grandmothers birthday.

Anyway.....
I was on the loo this morning and I picked up a copy of 1984, cos I've run out of things to read at the minute. I was reading the first page and I was delighted to discover that Mr Orwell has provided a veritable masterclass in character introduction. Your task for the evening is to read it (just page 1 will do). What do you mean you don't own a copy of 1984? Mod? Ban that member immediately!
Without giving away too much, I can reveal that you learn prcisely three things about Winston Smith's physical appearance, and one of these is floated so delicately into the text that you barely even register it as such. Another is used as a narrative drive and the third is that he's got fair hair.

My intension for this thread is just to expand this topic. How do you do it? How have your favourite authors done it? Examples. etc.
You get the picture.

Dizzy
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« Reply #1 on: March 31, 2007, 07:41:53 pm »

I know what you mean, although I do find difficulty in pulling it off myself (as with the story you saw, especialyl the prologue).

One of my favourite authors pulls it off brilliantly in my favourite book of her's (Octavia Butler's Wild Seed), where it just feeds information to you without you realising it until much later on, not to mention keeps you reading when you are assulted with the likes of 'he died several times on the journey' (don't worry, that's not a spoiler, it's part of the blurb).

I would thoroughly reccomend the book, though not for those can not handle rather...twsited relationships (incest, for instance, is talked about in a very off hand way, and there are one or two other 'dodgey' parts, though it's not graphic).

My problem is that I am told I sometimes seem as if I'm writing a movie rather than a book, as I tend to try to paint my character's appearances as well as I can with the words available Tongue.

~MTWC
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« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2007, 08:35:59 pm »

I wasn't refering to your stuff in particular....but I've been thinking about it since then, certainly.
Your problem wasn't over-characterisation....it was over-adjectivisation.

Why don't you try to write film scripts or screen plays or whatever they're called?

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« Reply #3 on: March 31, 2007, 08:47:21 pm »

Why don't you try to write film scripts or screen plays or whatever they're called?

It's something I have considered, the problem is I have no idea where to start Tongue.

I may look into some introduction books, as I read one for Sci-Fi and Fantasy (I think it was written by Orson Scott Card) that was good (not to mention introduced me to the aforementioned Wild Seed), or maybe even nick a module or two of Creative Writing at Uni to have a bash at it, but for the moment I'll stick with stories.

~MTWC
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Rictiovarus
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« Reply #4 on: April 01, 2007, 12:18:01 pm »

I always think you start with the most relevant information for the 'mind-movie' rendition. So, start with basic physical features, such as stature, phenotype etcetera. When talking with someone, I always like to describe facial features as adjectives, such as:

"It smiled, revealing jagged teeth." or "his blue eyes were filled with rage"

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« Reply #5 on: April 02, 2007, 12:58:36 pm »

It depends on the character. The Stone man I had to describe very well but because he fits into the background the read only takes it as a background description (in theory)
Others like Ocea I tried to say more as it goes along but Iím not to sure it is working.
So I try to introduce characters in a way that would suit them.
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« Reply #6 on: April 03, 2007, 01:01:23 am »

it can go too far the other way too, if by the end of the first page you only know 3 or 4 things about a character thats cool but if by the end of a book you still only know 3 or 4 things about a character thats poor. sometimes you need a quick physical description in a story, it depends on the situation and the character. and as rictiovarus said it's best to just slip in bits and peices of description along with the action.

however, exceptions to every rule, animals, creatures, beasts. as they have no or little personality, i have always rushed an animal's description, even if it has a large part in the story, for example, the main characters pet or steed, this is especially true of races that have been made up for the story, has any one got a way around this?
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Dream, there is alot to be said for dreams, even if theres is no chance it will come true. There is comfort in the knowledge you can still dream of it. Nothing great was acomplished without detailed planning, no plan was ever drawn up without a dream of an acomplishment. They did not build the apollo rockets until after man dreamed of reaching out and touching the stars. How? How is irrelevant, as long as there is a why, and the why can be simply "I want to!", the how will be worked out later.
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« Reply #7 on: May 13, 2007, 08:54:25 am »

A way around having to rush into the discription of an animal?
Introduce them the same way you introduce the main character, or any other character anyway. You can describe lots of different things at different times, you can easily drop hints about them into conversation, like the colour or how big they are.
Introducing a new species, i'd do it as if everyone knows what the species looks like already. e.g. for a centaur you might mention their friendly face one sentance and then say how tall they are in hands - the typical way of measuring a horse, or mention their tail swishing from side to side.
Just introduce them how you feel comfortable doing it realy, experiment if you want and ask people to comment in the critiques corner, you're sure to get some reviews and you can figure at what works for you.
Hope this helped.
« Last Edit: May 13, 2007, 01:23:21 pm by jazen » Report Spam   Logged

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A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step,
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