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lack of character interaction diversity (phrases and behaviors)

sunkuwan

reading very long stories makes flaws in the diversity of character behaviors, spoken phrases and other individual written character flaws or quirks more apparent.

Having multiple different characters act and feel differently is hard for the writer. It is harder for the reader if from-the-norm-behavior is multiplied to most of the individual characters and the lack of diversity in in character interaction responses is equally bad.

some examples:

1.
A set of characters changes a spoken word that is not normally used in everyday interaction.
When a set of characters use the made up word "goddongit" instead of "goddammit" I can maybe interpret it as a reader, that the family has a rule to use that word or it is a local slang. But if every character uses that word even if they never met the family and are in a different state than it's grating.
Could be that the author uses it to censor swear words but I don't see the point in a story about sex, rape and murder.
(and overall cant wrap my head around why US people have issues with harmless words like "damn it" or "oh god")

2.
When the characters only have singular interaction responses.
I was shaking my head after the hundredth use of "flipped the bird to xyz" in one story about teenagers. Yes, teenagers are prone to "flip the bird", but as the ONLY response? From every character?
No "rolling eyes", "snarls", witty responses? Although, "rolling eyes" is another candidate for overuse in stories. If every character has the same response to interactions than they feel more like clones.

3.
Character descriptive phrases.
In one story I read the phrase "Thinks of himself as god's gift to woman" from 3 or 4 different characters describe a dozen different male assholes as "thinks himself of gods gift to woman".
I can understand if it is only 1 character who uses the phrase, thats their character quirk etc. But when 3 or 4 different character uses the phrase (who didnt even met at that point) it is jarring.
Maybe use other descriptions, i.e. "misogynistic asshole" or something.

What are other examples?

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@sunkuwan

It's very difficult to make characters unique, both their dialogue and actions.

I use the method acting technique. I try to become the character. However, that's easier to do with the POV character than the other characters in the scene.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
REP

@sunkuwan

use the made up word "goddongit" instead of "goddammit" I can maybe interpret it as a reader


I happen to be one of those people who sometimes uses goddongit instead of goddammit. I have also heard others use the word.

As to why authors use words other than swear words where you seem to think they would be more appropriate, authors try to replicate the way real people speak, and real people don't swear all the time.

When the characters only have singular interaction responses.


If you haven't noticed, a lot of people in our society have a one word vocabulary when it comes to expressing their feelings.

Thinks of himself as god's gift to woman" from 3 or 4 different characters describe a dozen different male assholes as "thinks himself of gods gift to woman.


If you haven't noticed, that is a very common expression in our society for a man who seems to think that women all want him to go to bed with him, and there are a lot of men with that attitude. I have heard men say the same thing about other men's attitude.

Overall, We Authors write the way we do because that is how we perceive our society and the members who make up that society.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I use the method acting technique. I try to become the character.

Sometimes that can be the problem, as if you are the character, you're more likely to use the same terminology. In these instances, you'd have to give the character new characteristics (a tendency to swear, or a witty repertoire).

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@REP

As to why authors use words other than swear words where you seem to think they would be more appropriate, authors try to replicate the way real people speak, and real people don't swear all the time.

Sunkuwan never insisted they would, only that not everyone would use the same unlikely phrase as everyone else. It isn't the word itself--or even then tendency to disguise swear words, but the lack of diversity in characters.

Overall, We Authors write the way we do because that is how we perceive our society and the members who make up that society.

It's okay to think that way, or to reflect it, but it's important to ensure that each character is different than the others and not just cardboard cutouts of the same generic character. Giving one cardboard cutout a 12" dick and another 40" GG breasts don't make them unique characters. Instead, you've got to think of them as entirely different people.

Treat all your secondary characters like they think the book's about them.

~ Jocelyn Hughes

Replies:   REP
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


Sometimes that can be the problem, as if you are the character, you're more likely to use the same terminology.


The terminology that character would use, not what I would use.

But the problem is with the non-POV characters. I'm living the scene through the POV character and act and speak the way he does, but that character interacts with other characters. Where it comes natural for the POV character (since I am that character), it's not so easy for the other characters. Using the method acting technique, I can't jump back and forth. I remember Marlon Brando (who was a method actor) say he stayed in character even during lunch breaks. He didn't even want to revert back to himself let alone another character.

docholladay

@sunkuwan

As a child I often heard my Grandfather use the phrase: "God Bless a milk cow" when he got mad. I never heard him use any cuss word or even heard of him using one.

Heck sometimes I even get a laugh out of the substitutions.

I think those substitutions reflect a writer's real life experiences or habits. But I don't worry about them if the story is good enough to enjoy. Its the little things which make the characters come to life.

Replies:   sunkuwan  Crumbly Writer
sunkuwan

@docholladay

But isn't it a point of fiction to NOT be like yourself? We would only get wish-fulfillment stories if that was the case. And if the Author has more than 1 story, all of his stories and characters would feel the same.

All of the examples I did are from stories I enjoyed but that doesn't take away from the critique, that there could be improvements.

If an Author can only draw from real life experiences than that would seriously restrict the type of situations and character differences.

But you can't use the draw from experiences argument for all of the secondary characters, they would all be clones.

One advice a writer friend once told me for aspiring new authors was to make your secondary characters a template from the persons and friends you know in real life. You know how they would react, what their quirks are and so on.

That's also why Fanfiction has such a following and so many authors. The characters are already drawn, their behavior and background is known and if you don't alter it in a big way, your audience already fills in the blanks how the character should act.

@REP

If you haven't noticed, that is a very common expression in our society for a man who seems to think that women all want him to go to bed with him, and there are a lot of men with that attitude. I have heard men say the same thing about other men's attitude.

Overall, We Authors write the way we do because that is how we perceive our society and the members who make up that society.


But not everyone is the same. One female coworker of mine would say "gods gift to woman", the second wouldn't care and the third would never diss a person behind their back and would find excuses for said asshole.
The same phrase used over and over from different characters is repetitive. Even if all 4 of those woman are from the same character type that would utter those phrases, must it be always the same phrase? Even a little variation like "he is an asshole that thinks all woman should be kneel before him" would say the same thing while being not repetitive.
If the author only ever uses the same phrases to describe other things or characters it looks like he just learned a new cool phrase and plays it like a broken record.

We don't perceive society in onedimensional phrases.

docholladay

@sunkuwan

The point is that life experiences effect writing. Its not copying those events however, but it does give an impression to the writer sometimes minor other times major ones. The real interesting affects are the minor ones which slip through unnoticed. Major ones tend to come through as part of the MC but minor ones can appear with any character. I am not sure which ones really create the biggest effects. Some of the minor ones steal the show. Those one liners which everyone quotes, usually by a minor character.

REP

@Crumbly Writer

I was addressing Sunkuwan's comment about:

(and overall cant wrap my head around why US people have issues with harmless words like "damn it" or "oh god")


Our story's narrative reflects what we think a real person might say in a situation. It's not that we have a problem with harmless words and phrases. I doubt the average person who hits his thumb with a hammer is just going to say Oh god in a mild meek voice.

I agree with you about not creating cardboard cutouts, but that is not what I intended by my comment.

REP

@sunkuwan

But not everyone is the same.

I agree we aren't the same. However, put a group of people together, and over time, they tend to act, speak, dress, and adopt the same viewpoints. When they are part of the herd, they tend to act the same. Take them out of the herd, and they become individuals.

The same phrase used over and over from different characters is repetitive.


I know what you mean about repetitive phrases, but the appropriateness in a story can depend on what phrase and the circumstances in which it is used. Words and phrases can easily become overused; especially in a shorter story. Longer stories give the authors more time in which to develop the character.

In real life, repetitive words and phrases are a common trait. That is especially true when the speakers thinks it is a neat way of expressing themselves. I've lost count of the number of conversations, I've had with people who tell me what they think and end almost every sentence of their comment with the question You know what I mean? Sometimes authors try to recreate that trait.

When an author writes a story, it is sometimes necessary to over do certain aspects of their dialog. If you want to create a secondary character who appears to be an idiot, you can't do it by having them express themselves like a intelligent person. It is necessary to emphasize that they are slightly more intelligent than a rock, and one of the way this can be done is to have them repeat the same idiotic statement. If all the characters are making the same comment all the time, then there is a problem.

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@docholladay


As a child I often heard my Grandfather use the phrase: "God Bless a milk cow" when he got mad. I never heard him use any cuss word or even heard of him using one.

I think those substitutions reflect a writer's real life experiences or habits.


Those corny expressions can work wonderfully when applied properly, but that's very different from using the same term for everyone, regardless of their backgrounds.

The other problem is that it's often hard to even remember which expressions each character uses, so it's difficult to catch yourself repeating them.

P.S. I may have to steal that phrase in one of my stories, though I'll admit, I heard it a few times in my youth.

Crumbly Writer

@sunkuwan

One advice a writer friend once told me for aspiring new authors was to make your secondary characters a template from the persons and friends you know in real life. You know how they would react, what their quirks are and so on.

After 16 published books, some with hundreds of characters in them, that quickly become unrealistic. Also, that's how we tend to breathe life into our primary or secondary characters, not our minor characters. Frankly, few of us invest that much into someone who'll be around for a page or two.

Replies:   sunkuwan
sunkuwan
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

Of course, there is a limit to that. But it is a start, especially if the author writes his first Novel. To get a feeling of different character traits, quirks, manner of speaking etc. To remember to file them correctly.

If you start with cardboard cutouts, it is not easy for some to blow light into characters later.

Not_a_ID
Updated:

@sunkuwan

reading very long stories makes flaws in the diversity of character behaviors, spoken phrases and other individual written character flaws or quirks more apparent.

Having multiple different characters act and feel differently is hard for the writer. It is harder for the reader if from-the-norm-behavior is multiplied to most of the individual characters and the lack of diversity in in character interaction responses is equally bad.


When you really start to pay attention, you'll start to notice the same problem with "commercial authors" as well, assuming they don't either:

1) Have someone else doing a lot of the writing for them.

2) Have editors/"others" who are providing significant and actionable feedback about specific characters.

This is a case where TV programs and to a lesser extent Movies (unless they become a franchise) have significant advantages for character development for a number of reasons.

1) There usually are teams of writers involved. So more than one voice is routinely heard as to what given characters would or would not do, or say, and how they'd do so.

2) There (eventually) is an Actor/Actress associated with the character. Said actors and actresses will tend to ask questions regarding what the character is doing and "why?" and if its a character they've been portraying for some time, they themselves are likely going to some degree of "insight" as well which they're undoubtedly going to share. (Although self-serving interests need to be watched out for, they may try to push for something THEY want, rather than the character)

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