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Writers > Writers, let's talk Characters

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message 1: by Hazel (new)

Hazel West | 816 comments Mod
I decided that to keep the thread "The Coffee Table" based around writing quandaries in general, that I would post this other section devoted just to the discussion of our characters, whether we want to talk about how they keep us up at night, throw some names around at each other, whose villain is badder, and stuff like that. Got any problems with stubborn characters? Let's see if we can all beat them back into submission! (Just kidding guys, really.)


message 2: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Ottalini (dottalini) | 23 comments I have a problem with one of the characters in my 2nd novel. I can't decide if I want to kill her, then introduce her crippled sister as a main character that will stick around the rest of the series. Alternatively, my other plan was to simply cripple the current character. Part of me feels lazy and just wants to cripple her because I've already put in effort to develop her. THe other half wants me to kill her, cause I have a great death scene!

What do you think?


message 3: by Hazel (new)

Hazel West | 816 comments Mod
I completely understand the dilemma. Sometimes characters need to die, but if her death is not going to accomplish anything, then killing her off might not be the best road to take. Also take into consideration though, that since she is already a developed character, there is always a risk introducing another in her place because it always seems-to me- that the second one never turns out as good. This is a ploy they use on tv series a lot when they drag seasons on and on and it gets tedious sometimes. My best advice is to just let it brew for a while, eventually you'll figure out the best course of action. It might take putting the story aside, but eventually it will just be a natural decision for you for what is best for the story.


message 4: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Ottalini (dottalini) | 23 comments Hazel wrote: "I completely understand the dilemma. Sometimes characters need to die, but if her death is not going to accomplish anything, then killing her off might not be the best road to take. Also take into ..."

Hmm, good point. Especially since the other character would be her sister. I don't want to make them clones of each other in terms of personality wise, but I would want the main characters doing the 'comparison' actions a lot. gah!

Also, I killed off my main female character (bad guy) in the last novel. Perhaps I need to stop killing females?


message 5: by Mara (new)

Mara (maraanne) | 118 comments Mod
Have you written the death scene at all? Sometimes when I making difficult character choices like this, I just write the ideas I'm toying with out, just to see how it looks. Then I let it sit for a while and contemplate which idea helps the story along the most. Or I see if any of my other characters rebel and threaten to chop my fingers off if I don't change my mind. ;)


message 6: by Hazel (new)

Hazel West | 816 comments Mod
Mara has a great point there. Sometimes characters will just put their foot down on certain things. If they don't want to be killed then that's probably a good clue that they shouldn't be ;)


message 7: by Mara (new)

Mara (maraanne) | 118 comments Mod
Definitely. Killing an unwilling character is never good . . . ;)


message 8: by Hazel (new)

Hazel West | 816 comments Mod
And then sometimes you'll find out in the middle of the book that someone needs to go. Then the characters start to get scared :P I try to let them know who's up for torture sessions, wounds, or epic death scenes before I get too far into the story, haha ;P


message 9: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Ottalini (dottalini) | 23 comments Yea, I'm thinking long, drawn out, chase through the freezing woods battle scene a la The Grey or Legion or any other movie with that...


message 10: by Hazel (new)

Hazel West | 816 comments Mod
Those are always awesome =) Though a bit hard to transcribe to paper. Whenever I write a full army-against-army battle scene, I always have to watch Lord of the Rings or other epic battle movies to get the feel of battle before I write it. As with everything, it only gets easier the more you write it.


message 11: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Ottalini (dottalini) | 23 comments I think one thing to think about with the battle scenes is that unless you are writing as a character above the battlefield, you generally don't have the whole picture. I know that I'm going to be focusing on this one area where my main characters are. They may be dominating, but while the rest of the army dissolves, they won't know until they find themselves flanked.


message 12: by Mara (new)

Mara (maraanne) | 118 comments Mod
My favorite type of battle-scene-writing is when the Author goes for an ariel view, because then things don't feel muddled. But it sounds like for your story, following the main characters will work best. :)

@ Hazel: that's awesome, you give your characters an update on whose going into the torture chamber next! ;) I always have to do a one-on-one discussion with whatever character I'm about to do something mean to. They're either like, "Awesome; that's how it's supposed to go, so have fun!" or I get the sarcastic little laugh and the "Oh, really? You're going to do that to me, are you? Maybe I should just hand in my resignation" response. ;)


message 13: by Hazel (new)

Hazel West | 816 comments Mod
@Daniel: I usually write from the POV of one character during a battle (like in the book I'm working on now) but some things I have written I have multiple main characters there at the same time so you can see all aspects of it. I love to see how writers handle all kinds of fight scenes. Ariel views are cool, but yet, not quite as personal espicially if it's your character's first battle. You'll want to be seeing their reaction.

@Mara: Yep, that's pretty much how it goes ;) I treat them all like a troop of actors (though they have to sign waivers) :P And yes, some characters complain so much more than others. My poor Roster is always complaining about something that's why I had to give him pretty much the lead roll in the Highwayman sequel ;)


message 14: by Mara (new)

Mara (maraanne) | 118 comments Mod
Here's an interesting question: what does one do with a villain that is too good to kill? And yes, I am facing this problem. No death suits him; it would be an insult to his intelligence to kill him. He's just too good at what he does to die; he would never get caught, and he would never commit suicide.


message 15: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Ottalini (dottalini) | 23 comments Mara wrote: "Here's an interesting question: what does one do with a villain that is too good to kill? And yes, I am facing this problem. No death suits him; it would be an insult to his intelligence to kill hi..."

Exile. Alternatively, he can 'succumb' to his good side and join the good guys, while still being mischievous and slightly evil. He may not be killed, but the fact that his opponents can trap him and force him out may be a big enough 'insult' to his intelligence that he surrenders. Or you could go all Deus ex Machina on him and comet or asteroid him!


message 16: by Hazel (new)

Hazel West | 816 comments Mod
That's a great question, Mara, I see where you're coming from. Some baddies just really can't be killed off. (Unless he's the kind of guy who might commit suicide instead of getting caught?) I always kind of like the "you think you saw them get killed, but yet, you're not really sure" thing. Then there is still that air of mystery and the reader really knows that he didn't die. But that doesn't mean he has to cause trouble for your hero anymore either.


message 17: by Mara (new)

Mara (maraanne) | 118 comments Mod
@ David: If only Antonio had a good side of succumb to. But he doesn't. This I know for certain.

@ Hazel: Right now, I am considering that he just disappears; no one finds out what happens to him and the characters of this story never hear from him in any form again. A fake death is an interesting prospect, though . . . But I do already have one fake death in the story; two might be overdoing it. What do you think?


message 18: by Hazel (new)

Hazel West | 816 comments Mod
Hmm, I suppose it all depends on the circumstances, but I wouldn't normally suggest doing two faked deaths in one book. Those kinds of things have more impact when only used once.


message 19: by Hazel (new)

Hazel West | 816 comments Mod
@Daniel: Actually, you could do the same, write your death scene, and then have it to where your character doesn't actually die and comes back at just the opportune moment ;) (As long as you don't have her dismembered or her head cut off or anything too damaging ;)


message 20: by Mara (new)

Mara (maraanne) | 118 comments Mod
Hazel wrote: "Hmm, I suppose it all depends on the circumstances, but I wouldn't normally suggest doing two faked deaths in one book. Those kinds of things have more impact when only used once."

Yeah. And the fake death I have right now must be kept. It's either that or actually kill the character, and I just can't do it. The story has agreed to this "compromise," so it works. Antonio's sudden disappearance, though, for some reason is giving me some trouble.


message 21: by Hazel (new)

Hazel West | 816 comments Mod
Well, I'm sure you'll work it out. Is the whole story done? Because if it is, you should try reading it cover to cover and see what you are missing, or get another writer to read it for you. I know it always helps me to seek outside help when I can't figure out what is wrong with something.


message 22: by Mara (new)

Mara (maraanne) | 118 comments Mod
I don't have the whole story done yet. While I'm taking a break from physical writing, I'm doing lots of plotting and planning and knot-untyping, as it were.


message 23: by Hazel (new)

Hazel West | 816 comments Mod
You definitely need times like that. I sometimes go weeks without writing anything and just plotting. I feel so devious at those times ;) Right now, I'm plotting for another book while I'm writing the one I'm working on. I'm rather interested to see what I'll feel like writing once I'm done with this project.


message 24: by Mara (new)

Mara (maraanne) | 118 comments Mod
Writers are definitely devious. ;) And now I'm wondering if I should delete one of my other characters . . . I like her and I like her being one of my characters' twin sister (and I like that he doesn't know she exists, and I like how he finds out that they are related). But I'm struggling with her introduction and how to write her "stage exit," as it were.


message 25: by Hazel (new)

Hazel West | 816 comments Mod
Hmm, yes, I have had characters like that.

I just realized writing the book I'm working on now that there are going to be more death scenes involved than I thought. But I can't really do anything about it because that is the history! And I do rather enjoy writing a good death scene (there goes my characters out the door...)


message 26: by Mara (new)

Mara (maraanne) | 118 comments Mod
History stories need a high number of deaths - especially history stories set in certain eras. One cannot write an Elizabeth story without some good plague deaths, right? Or the French Revolution without some rolling heads. ;)


message 27: by Hazel (new)

Hazel West | 816 comments Mod
Oh yes, definitely. And mine is medieval with lots of battles, so you get the picture ;) And seriously, I don't know how many times I have both read and written Wallace's death. It's rather morbid if you think about it :P


message 28: by Mara (new)

Mara (maraanne) | 118 comments Mod
Rather morbid, yes, but a morbid sense is needed in Authors. ;)


message 29: by Hazel (new)

Hazel West | 816 comments Mod
Yes, I tell myself that anyway ;) I really can't wait to get into research for my Victorian/steampunk novel because I am planning on doing research on criminals any suggestions, besides that Jack the Ripper book you put up on the recommendations?


message 30: by Mara (new)

Mara (maraanne) | 118 comments Mod
A good general book on the Victorian era is Daily Life in Victorian England by Sally Mitchell It talks about everything, from card games to criminals and medicine and social rituals and jobs - everything. It's a fantastic book.


message 31: by Hazel (new)

Hazel West | 816 comments Mod
Sounds great, just what I'm looking for. I found a glossary of Victorian slang on the internet the other day ;)


message 32: by Mara (new)

Mara (maraanne) | 118 comments Mod
Victorian slang is so much fun; it's amazing how much it varies depending on what part of England one is in.


message 33: by Hazel (new)

Hazel West | 816 comments Mod
I have noticed that already ;) It's my goal to learn some over the summer and then I can say things to my friends that no one will understand :P


message 34: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Ottalini (dottalini) | 23 comments In some ways, a fast and surprising death is almost preferable to a long, drawn out affair.

IE - a crossbow bolt through the heart in the moment of glorious victory is about as stunning as a three page long bleed-out :-)


message 35: by Hazel (new)

Hazel West | 816 comments Mod
Yes I agree, and so many battles in history were lost (or won, depending on the side) to deaths like that. It all just depends on the kind of thing your book needs and the kind of character you're killing off. Personally, I like to see really evil people get some kind of nasty death. I always feel cheated in book with a particularly nasty baddie just gets offed too quickly ;)


message 36: by Mara (new)

Mara (maraanne) | 118 comments Mod
If a villain is particularly nasty, then they need a fittingly nasty death. Like in "The Scorpio Races." That jerk's death was nasty, but I felt cheated because we really didn't get to read much about it. But I agree that a quick death can be much better. Like Hazel said, it depends on the book.


message 37: by Hazel (new)

Hazel West | 816 comments Mod
I so wished we had gotten to see Mutt get eaten by the water horses :P


message 38: by Mara (new)

Mara (maraanne) | 118 comments Mod
I know! Throughout the entire book, I was just waiting for his demise, wanting savor it. And then . . . it's over. That is the one thing that the Author fell down on in the end.


message 39: by Hazel (new)

Hazel West | 816 comments Mod
I guess that's why people write fan fiction ;)


message 40: by Mara (new)

Mara (maraanne) | 118 comments Mod
*sour face* Please, don't get me started on fan fiction . . .


message 41: by Hazel (new)

Hazel West | 816 comments Mod
I agree ;) I used to write it a lot but only for my own amusement and mostly it was just spoofs.


message 42: by Mara (new)

Mara (maraanne) | 118 comments Mod
You know, my big story actually started out as a collection of short stories that were essentially a fan fiction of various novels I loved. Of course, my story doesn't resemble those sorry little stories any longer, but it's just funny how certain things that inspire so much. My lovely protagonist and heroine, Ivy, first came about in those stories. Of course, back then she was soooooo annoying that I personally wanted to kill her.


message 43: by Hazel (new)

Hazel West | 816 comments Mod
Hehe ;) Well, that's kind of what happened with my new book too. I had my original Wallace novel and now I kind of hacked out the few good bits of it and put them into this, but this book is so much better because the original had lame dialogue and they were literally always eating. I think I had two eating scenes in every chapter. (Not joking) Unless they were fighting ;)


message 44: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Ottalini (dottalini) | 23 comments Hmm - better than Robert Jordan's 'clothing' scenes - I swear to god, if I ever have to learn about what the 4th handmaiden from the right was wearing as her second noon-day dress I'm gonna torch somebody!


message 45: by Hazel (new)

Hazel West | 816 comments Mod
Haha ;) I'm not one of those people who starves their characters but too many eating scenes are too much. Especially since campaigners in the medieval days really just didn't have that much food!


message 46: by Mara (new)

Mara (maraanne) | 118 comments Mod
Well, and meals are something that the Reader can naturally assume happens along the way. With my story, I'm running the risk of Ivy getting snatched by people in dark alleys too much. ;) Daniel, you are so right about Robert Jordan. I've never read a whole one of his books, but flipping through various ones (and reading half of the first one) told me enough about his details.


message 47: by Hazel (new)

Hazel West | 816 comments Mod
It's kind of like reading Twilight (ugh) because there was this scene where they go to pick out prom dresses. Just rubbish! Still have to do my reviews.

Okay, so just a random question for an upcoming novel of mine: Do you think a Gaul or a Frank would make a better villain/bully type of character? because I'm leaning more toward the Gaul myself, with the Frank being the comrade.


message 48: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Ottalini (dottalini) | 23 comments Gauls were generally big and surly, but also rabble rousers and very passionate (about everything!) people. Gauls were bigger and more bully-like I would say. In my novel, my Gallic soldier is more comrade, but the character had to have his respect and trust earned in a sorta mano-e-mano face off.

PS I GOT A FIVE STAR REVIEW YAY! :-)


message 49: by Hazel (new)

Hazel West | 816 comments Mod
You mean Gwendyrn right, he was the Gaul? Because I thought he was a good character ;)

My Gaul would be more like the cold calculating person. All my characters for this book are just ruminating in purgatory right now since I am still working on another novel. Once I'm done with the first draft of this one though, I'm going to be doing lots of research for my Roman/Britain novel


message 50: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Ottalini (dottalini) | 23 comments Yea, I'm expanding his role in the upcomming book. He's the perfect subordinate - smart, but comic relief and captain of 'i like big things that go boom!' He also is much more intimidating than Julius or Constantine, and helps keep the boys in line. He's also comfortable in nature, which is something most of his neighbors are not. Part of the fun of using the 'barbarian' types is that you will have to take them out of their element. The okay characters react by fighting. the better ones react by adapting.


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