Re: How do you make your characters feel consistent?

#1
I seem to be having an issue with my characters, specifically my MC, not feeling consistent. Like the characters just skew to whatever im personally feeling at the moment.

I have character sheets that remind me of their personality, likes and dislikes, relationships with other characters, and general outlook on life and even then my characters fluctuate between robotic portrayals of whats on their sheet, and flat out not themselves.

Ao without resorting to "this character is this emotion all the time" (e.g. Entrapta from she ra is always a happy go luck science dork, sauska is always melancholy and brooding, princess ponyhead is always an annoying, unbearable biznatch, ect.) How do I make my characters read as consistent

Re: How do you make your characters feel consistent?

#2
I like to have defined moments in their history that will determine how they view the world or react to certain situations. These scenes might never make it into the fiction, but if you have them written somewhere I find it helps.

If you really want to delve deep you can assign them personality types (eg Myers Briggs) which will assign them generally as extroverts/introverts, thinkers/feelers etc. But that could be considered overkill.

Re: How do you make your characters feel consistent?

#3
Imagine that they are people. Real breathing people. If your character is a cry-baby, then in a difficult situation they will cry. If they don't, it shows character growth. If a character is brave and stubborn, they will act accordingly in a difficult situation. My point is, you must understand your characters as people first. Your characters are not YOU, they should be themselves. Naturally, sometimes one can slip and write them the wrong way, but then, when reading a chapter, you can see whether or not they are acting out of character.

All this is a reason why I don't like character sheets. When I have one, I feel the need to check all the boxes when I'm writing. But not all traits are important in all situations. Let me give you an example.

My MC, Noah, is a warrior. He has been fighting all his life. Assassins have tried to kill him basically from the day he was born. He was shunned and hated by the royal court for his mixed blood. But he had loyal teachers and mother-like figures in his life. He made close friends, who were, unfortunately, killed right in front of him. He has an adopted daughter and rules over a frozen piece of land, fending off assassins, rebellions, and crazy cults. So, what is his personality? He is loyal to his friends but merciless against his enemies. He seems cold but has a soft side (can even be a bit goofy), especially with his family and friends. He is, at times, overprotective and feels responsible for his land, people, and family. He also has a dark and vengeful side when his arch-enemies are concerned and can even lose himself. BUT he is not all of this at the same time. He shows different traits depending on the situation and the people he interacts with. Here is a chapter that depicts him in different moods as a good example of character fluidity: https://www.royalroad.com/fiction/33058/the-beast-and-the-swallow/chapter/507046/6-troubles-at-sea-2

My advice would be to show bits and pieces of your characters, revealing their personality a bit at a time. Build them trait by trait and keep in mind how you've described them previously and how you intend to portray them in the future.

I hope my tips are, if not helpful, then at least inspirational.

Re: How do you make your characters feel consistent?

#4

Cinn Wrote: If you really want to delve deep you can assign them personality types (eg Myers Briggs) which will assign them generally as extroverts/introverts, thinkers/feelers etc. But that could be considered overkill.

I actual have assigned some major characters Myers Briggs personality. Even woth the A/T subtypes. Hasn't helped

  peoconfused

Re: How do you make your characters feel consistent?

#5
I’m pretty guilty of this problem. I’ve found that really sticking to a theme helps. K.M. Weilan has a book called Writing your story’s theme where they argue that character = plot = theme. In simpler terms, theme is kind of like an underlying subject that gets explored through several different angles. 

To use an example from the book, lets say the theme of A Christmas Carol is ’what determines the worth of a human life?’. Scrooge starts off thinking that it’s money that determines how much a person is worth, and then that changes as he gets visited by the ghosts of Christmas. But it’s the theme that really keeps his character consistent, because that’s the part of his character that’s gotta change. It’s always relevant to the story and it can’t really change too quickly, you can’t skip parts of a character arc and still have a cohesive story. 

Well, if you’re writing slice of life I guess this doesn’t really apply as much as characters might not be changing as quickly, if at all. But I’ve found it’s still a pretty solid anchor to use in making sure a character doesn’t change too much to my flimsy whims. 

Re: How do you make your characters feel consistent?

#6
I think that's something where experience in writing really helps. And editing.

I don't really use character sheets for my characters, and just tend to write them intuitively, going by an impression I have of them. This depends on their backstory and role in the story, and how they relate to other characters. E.g. I know that my MC's younger brother brings out her playful side, that informs how I write him as much as 'cheeky and  mischievous' in a character sheet.
It's kind of complicated in my current story since the MC is torn between two parts of her identity, conscious memories and subconsciously remembered past, so her actions and implied attitude can be pretty different depending on the situation. I've found that it really helps to ask why the character feels like this in that specific situation. Which previous experiences would they be thinking of? What parts of their personality are triggered?

You might want to practice getting into the shoes of your characters. For example, writing an 'interview' where you have them answer questions about their past, likes and dislikes, etc. Or just write snippets from their perspective talking about themselves, or what's important to them. Or take a scene you've already written and see what it looks like from another character's perspective.

Re: How do you make your characters feel consistent?

#7
Zelda_Anne_Link Wrote: I actual have assigned some major characters Myers Briggs personality. Even woth the A/T subtypes. Hasn't helped.

This might just be the way you used the word assigned, but did you decide they were a personality type or did you work out why they were a personality type?

In my opinion the why is critical. If you understand what has made a character a certain way then it's easier to use that to remember how they'll act going forward. It can be a simple as they're shy because they always worry they'll say the wrong thing and offend someone, but that's different to a character being shy because they're nervous of their environment. (I'm using an over simplified example.)

Re: How do you make your characters feel consistent?

#8
Sometimes I think my characters have theme music.  That can change based on scene.  I do character profiles that give backstory, high points that define their personalities.  Pivot points in the plot go there, too, when a character changes based on actions taken in-story.  Once they get more fully fleshed out, they *can* be described by, say Meyers-Briggs or the Jungian Archetypes.  That's more situational, though, so I don't do it often.

Some characters take on a life of their own.  Side characters can scene steal.  One of them just did on the WIP.  Sneaky, sneaky side characters.

Re: How do you make your characters feel consistent?

#9
Probably depends on what vehicle in the writing you're using to use to portray their character. What are they doing that's supposed to reflect their personality. I feel like a lot of my characters are most defined in how they talk, and how they move.

So, for me its mostly maintaining speech patterns: This person starts with yeah a lot - this person doesn't use contractions - this one chuckles and is kind of gregarious - this person is boisterous and prone to interrupt people - this one is curt and uses short, terse, cutting expressions.

People tend to also have little ticks, that show up over and over again across time, so maybe that can help ground them at a point? Maybe this guy tends to fidget, maybe he's impatient and ends up tapping on things, maybe really lethargic so tends to progress from sitting, to laying down when possible? Maybe he's tightly wound so he can't sit comfortably for long and ends up standing. It all comes down to what you're calling attention to and as long as kind of showing off the same core two or three things?

Re: How do you make your characters feel consistent?

#10
This is where you have to start thinking from other people's perspectives.  Let's say the character is a loner, what would he do if he was invited to a dance party?  Probably not go.  Maybe even make a rude remark to the person who invited him.  

I think the main problem is likely a lack of planning.  You don't have a clear outline of what your characters are supposed to be like.  Nothing is written down and so you don't even remember half of what you've told your readers.  However, THEY DO. People are smarter than you realize and plans make a bigger difference than you realize.  

Re: How do you make your characters feel consistent?

#11

DarkD Wrote: You don't have a clear outline of what your characters are supposed to be like.  Nothing is written down and so you don't even remember half of what you've told your readers.


But I do. I've written most of my what they are like, and have done down...

I think my main issue is just not being able to relate to or understand other perspectives

Re: How do you make your characters feel consistent?

#12

Zelda_Anne_Link Wrote: I think my main issue is just not being able to relate to or understand other perspectives

I that case, I have a suggestion. Just to be clear, I personally never do it since I don't feel the need to, but I've heard it works. My suggestion is - base your characters on real-life people you know - friends, family, enemies, lovers, you name it. If you do that, and you know those people well from your everyday interactions, all you do, in the end, is describing them under a different name and in a different (fantasy) setting. This is a good start if you have difficulties relating to your characters' personality

Re: How do you make your characters feel consistent?

#13

Zelda_Anne_LinK Wrote: I think my main issue is just not being able to relate to or understand other perspectives



Then I'd suggest a way to practice that. The first find a way to practice acting. Now finding opportunities can be difficult, but I'd say get some friends together and get a tabletop game like DnD or even some of the more rules light ones going, and play. Pretend to be other people, for hours on end. I'd say my time as a DnD Player has really helped sculpt my ability to write, from a couple of different angles. So, I'd say its worth trying if you can get it setup.

As for being able to relate to other perspectives, There's a real world exercise you can do. Think of any argument, political or otherwise. Figure out what your stance on it is, then sit down, and write a two page or so persuasive essay making your best case for the other side of the argument. If you know what the other side will say, dig down on why they'd say that. Be honest, and be generous. Don't just assume they're stupid, or evil. They might be, but be generous any way.

I argue politics a lot, but if you assume the other side is after something good, which most people are, even if they can't properly articulate it. And if you keep digging through their argument you'll hit a kind of rock bottom belief that the rest of their ideas stack up on. I've found finding that bottom piece the best thing, but its takes a lot of thinking to get there.

Re: How do you make your characters feel consistent?

#14

Highlord_of_Iron Wrote: get some friends together and get a tabletop game like DnD

I actually do play DnD but my characters are usually self-insert, me X 2, or a past version of myself. Often either with an aspect of myself I want to explore but cant (such as crafting, stabbing things/people, or military strategy) or with a thing or two I have no IRL interest in like eating every monster I kill.


As for politics, I do keep up with it, but I am extremely opinionated. (warning, I'm about to get a bit political for the sake of example) Like I can understand why billionaires don't want to pay higher taxes even if it would help literally everyone since I have a firm grasp on the concept of realploitik, but I can't understand why (aside from corruption) politicians don't force them to anyways.

Re: How do you make your characters feel consistent?

#15

Zelda_Anne_Link Wrote: I actually do play DnD but my characters are usually self-insert, me X 2, or a past version of myself. Often either with an aspect of myself I want to explore but cant (such as crafting, stabbing things/people, or military strategy) or with a thing or two I have no IRL interest in like eating every monster I kill.


As for politics, I do keep up with it, but I am extremely opinionated. (warning, I'm about to get a bit political for the sake of example) Like I can understand why billionaires don't want to pay higher taxes even if it would help literally everyone since I have a firm grasp on the concept of realploitik, but I can't understand why (aside from corruption) politicians don't force them to anyways.



When I first played, I played a lot like that. The charters were, small deviations on what I thought of as me at the time. There's a lot of details that make up a person that you can switch wise. I mean, stop and think about just how complex a being you are. Starting at an archetype and see where you can invert, or amplify it might be a thing to help? There's religions, values, habits, ideas, focuses, and so on. Hell I'd argue if you put a detective and an architect in the same room they don't even see the same things. The first, thinking of hiding places, or potential weapons, or exist, the latter the design decisions, considering where the joists that hold up the floor are, why they picked a high ceiling and so on.

In summary, Inventory as much detail you can on you, and think about where those might deviate then push it harder next time. That's really the best practical advice I can offer there.

*squeeing internally* yes! delicious politics. I can always appreciate some one who is opinionated, as I am guilty of much the same. But I also love to play devil's advocate.
So, let me try to mount a case here. You've pointed out the practical argument already, considering most politicians end up millionares (and I definitly have no opinions on how that happens.) so they don't want people taking their own stuff.

Moral: Unless you think I earned this money unfairly, what makes you think you have a right to put a gun to my head and take it? how is that not stealing? Cause that is what taxes are, at the bottom. Highway robbery by the gang with the most guns. Classic Taxation is Theft libertarian argument.

Economic: Taxes discourage trying. Why would anyone work for for anything more than a million dollars (or wherever the cutoff is) if you'll just take 80, or 90% of it? So that just means you'll get people going right up to that line, and just stopping. Imagine how different amazon would be if it was just capped out value wise somewhere? And thats all without touching the pareto distribution. Which...just makes it wonky.

And those are just two (admittedly very surface level) versions of the argument I think you can mount. My main thing here, is that anything, gets more complex, and more working parts, as you increase the level of detail you look at. The more details, the more angles you can view the idea from. And most systems fit into larger systems, and so on and so on. A desert as simple, until you add its ecology, and the weather, and people that are trying to live there, and the cultures  they created to adapt...and so on.

Re: How do you make your characters feel consistent?

#16
And, Just as a side note, I had another thought occur I thought I'd lay out here.

What is the test you can perform to show that you know a character (or a real person for that matter) really well?

When you can ask questions about hypothetical situations and accurately answer them.

Just asking and answering the more and more questions about a character can kind of establish baselines.

Would character cheat on their significant other? What would the circumstances have to be? Would they feel guilty if they would, and did? If their SO was thought dead, would they look for someone new? If they did, and their old SO showed up some time way later, a few years, would they abandon their new SO? Would they want their SO to date if they themselves died?  How would they respond to their SO cheating? Would they be suspicious? Their best friend shows up and tells them SO is cheating, what's their response?

And that's just farming questions from a very narrow lane of the human experience. By the time you answer enough, you should probably have a pretty strong sense of who they are, because frankly that's how we know actual people.

Re: How do you make your characters feel consistent?

#18

Highlord_of_Iron Wrote: Probably depends on what vehicle in the writing you're using to use to portray their character. What are they doing that's supposed to reflect their personality. I feel like a lot of my characters are most defined in how they talk, and how they move.

So, for me its mostly maintaining speech patterns: This person starts with yeah a lot - this person doesn't use contractions - this one chuckles and is kind of gregarious - this person is boisterous and prone to interrupt people - this one is curt and uses short, terse, cutting expressions.

People tend to also have little ticks, that show up over and over again across time, so maybe that can help ground them at a point? Maybe this guy tends to fidget, maybe he's impatient and ends up tapping on things, maybe really lethargic so tends to progress from sitting, to laying down when possible? Maybe he's tightly wound so he can't sit comfortably for long and ends up standing. It all comes down to what you're calling attention to and as long as kind of showing off the same core two or three things?




This exactly.  Turns of phrase they commonly use, things they often do as physical fidgets. 

That said, I dont think that answers your DEEPER question, which is, the personality and emotional state is mimicking your own. 

If you're in an emotional place that is not where the character you are writing is at, you need to work to alter your emotional state, even if temporarily. I have had conversations that were supposed to be friendly convos between two characters that like each other.  But I was in a bad, combative mood, and the scene ended up being a snarkfest that nearly ended in a fight. I had to scrap it completely and rewrite it. 

Work on some visualization exercises, pretending to be them, feeling the way they feel at the moment.  (I should write up a full meditation excercise for that... hmmm. )

Also, reread some of their dialouge.  I have, with one project, copied every line of dialouge written for a character into a single document for each one. that way, if I feel that taste of them slipping, i can dive in and reread, and get it back. 

Re: How do you make your characters feel consistent?

#19
This is actually a really, really good question, and something I've thought about.... a lot. 

I think that sometimes my characters all seem like the same person- different versions of myself. It's something that I actively try to avoid, but I don't want to do it in a one dimensional way. It's easy to make characters super distinguishable if you just add some super one dimensional characteristics to them, but that makes them flat as characters. 

I'll take black clover as an example. Some of you may have seen it, some may not. But I can't help but feel that almost everything each character says is completely based off a single trait about said character, with very little depth. 

Characters deserve more than to be defined by a single trait. 

But how do we make them complex people while keeping them completely unique from one another? Well, giving them some traits and quirks and desires is one part, but I think it's really really important to be inside the mind of a character every time you write them. 

What does this person want? How would this person react? How does this person speak? How do they carry themselves? All these things. The amount of thought that goes into even the most basic interactions.... is a lot. 

With that being said, characters are also defined by how they react to the situations they've been in. One way to distinguish them is by putting them through different scenarios and characterizing through their reactions to these different scenarios. Where someone is from, how they were raised, their level of common sense, their view on other people, their view on society, their place in society, all these things define a character, and so much more. 

Re: How do you make your characters feel consistent?

#20
obligatory disclaimer: I am not a writer, but I have read a fair few books. My main qualification would be a high school education

with that out of the way.

It seems like you have found something to try for a solution and if that works then great. But if I were you I would try to focus less on the emotional side of the characters and figure out their logical side, not to say you should write them as robots of course. While emotions will always influence how our decisions are made, there is always an underlying logic to how we conduct ourselves, it doesn't even have to be logical. Some people in the pursuit of laziness will put more thought into a problem than someone who is hardworking. there are also people who use logic to reign in their emotions. People can look for solutions to a problem that will benefit themselves most, some will look for everyone to benefit equally, and some will look for everyone else to be happy regardless of their own benefit from the solution. A personal philosophy of mine is that not everyone is cut out to be a leader, yeah I know that's pretty obvious, but some people also would rather serve people than lead others, and some might find that hard to grasp. 

Like others in the thread have said, but I will reiterate. The "why" is very often more important than the "how". "why" did they do that, instead of "how" could they do that. why did you assign the characters myers briggs personality tests? how well do you truly understand you own characters? have you been with them since they took their first steps? did you see their major life events and decide that they must act a certain way, all the time, without differing? Of course that is a very absurd standard to hold a simple character to, only if you wanted then to feel like an actual person would you meed to take steps like that. but still, sometimes the logical "why" is more telling than the emotional "how"