Home « Forum « Author Hangout

Forum: Author Hangout

A change of pace (having fun with character development).

Chris Podhola

Since my last exchange on the forum was a little nastier than I would have preferred, I thought I'd offer up something that I hope will be a little more fun.

One of the things I love about writing is taking a character and mixing it up a bit. Here is an example of something off the cuff:

He sat there, his hat slightly askew on his head, a beer drinking cap if Brian ever saw one, tilted slightly and a little forward. The cap was red with a Budweiser patch on it but the eyes that peered at him beneath that cap were much more serious than drinking beer. Brian's guilt crept up his throat, like vomit threatening to spill and he couldn't help but wonder if dear old dad's intentions could become more ominous than fishing.

"She Said ya haven't been yerself lately, Brian," he said, letting his jaw sit low. "Said ya bought her flowers for the first time since ya married 'er."

The old man lifted his cap from the top of his head, looking up to the sun. Brian found himself unable to speak. It felt like he caught a fish and swallowed it whole.

"Hope them flowers mean somethin' other than what she thinks they mean, Brian. Hope I ain't got to protect my daughter from the man I convinced her to marry. Shi'it. That'd make it as much my fault as yers, Brian. That'd make it my responsibility to fix, ya see."

His father-in-law leaned back, croaking a belch from deep within his gut, but Brian was sure it was an act because when he leaned back, the butt of the old man's gun peeked out from beneath his coveralls.

When I am writing a character, this is what I'm hoping to accomplish (most of the time). I can't always pull it off something this interesting and not all characters should be like this, but I definitely like this old man.

Replies:   Grant
Grant

@Chris Podhola

One of the things I love about writing is taking a character and mixing it up a bit.

Have you ever had characters get out of control, go where you didn't expect?

I can't remember the story, but it had an Authors note at the start.
The original premise of the story was boy meets girl, they fall in love, there's a big misunderstanding so girl dumps boy.
Boy ends up with girl from the wrong side of the tracks, lots of sex, adventures, sex with lots of other girls follow, boy matures, original girl matures, they figure out the misunderstanding & end up together.

However while writing the story the character of the girl from the wrong side of the tracks developed in such a way that the author couldn't find a credible way of breaking them up so the boy could end up with the original girl friend. Killing off the problem character was about the only way it could be done- and even then the author didn't want to do that; he just couldn't make it work. Everything he tried just came across as a lame plot device (Bobby, you're not dead!...)
So the story actually changed from what it was meant to be, because of the way one of the characters had developed, and the surrounding characters developed with them.

Replies:   Chris Podhola  invidian
Chris Podhola
Updated:

@Grant


Have you ever had characters get out of control, go where you didn't expect?


Yes. That's why I have such a difficult time trying to outline stories. Sometimes, even when I do outline, I end up throwing the outline away, because when I start writing the character, they take over and tell me what an idiot I am for thinking they would go in direction a, when their personality wants to go in direction b.

I still try to outline when I write fantasy or sci/fi, because those plot lines tend to me more difficult and I need my logical mind to weigh in to figure them out, but I am a free style writer naturally. What I enjoy about writing is letting the characters tell me what they want out of the life I try to give them.

It sounds to me like the author you are talking about is the same way. I think he's doing something right if his characters can take on that degree of livelihood.

invidian

@Grant

Have you ever had characters get out of control, go where you didn't expect?


That's half the fun of writing. You toss characters into a situation with honestly no idea of what they'll do. I'll often have someone turn out to be gay. That makes things interesting.

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

You know a story works when the characters act on their own. It's a good thing too, because they'll tell you when your plot doesn't work. I've often had characters refuse to follow a particular plot-line when it didn't mesh with their personalities.

When I first started writing ("The Catalyst"), my main strategy was introducing new characters and tossing them into the story together to see what developed.

Back to Top