Characters vs People (12)

1 Name: ... : 2010-01-25 15:31 ID:ILazxNqc

May I introduce you to another of my threads that doesn't quite fit either board? You may shake its hand. It is sociable.

So, this thread is for the discussion of the major differences between characters and people, and the challenges writing presents with portraying said characters.

To begin...

The biggest difference I find is that people are naturally hypocritical and fluid, while, generally, only 'bad' characters are hypocrites, and few are fluid. People think one thing one hour, and the opposite the next. Their morality may be absolute for a day, and then relative later. By this, I'm not referring to gradual character arcs, but to the frequent changes in attitude etc. With people, the mood they wake up in, or a lack of sugar, or something almost-insignificant can completely alter their behaviour; with characters, this is placed within rather strict boundaries. Authors are so focused on concordancy and writing 'in character' that characters become less believable.

My second musing is that...

2 Name: ... : 2010-01-25 15:47 ID:ILazxNqc

... it is impossible to accurately convey thoughts through writing. For one, they don't progress in lines, but break of into branches, and you think multiple things at once with varying intensity. Also, thoughts cannot always be put into words- some are vague feelings, or semi-formed, or just plain ol' wordless.

I always find it sad that when thinking of a character, I can put myself in their shoes and think as they think, but when writing, I can only get a few layers across (at best). The medium doesn't suit the task, I suppose. With fanfic, I find it easier, because all my fics are shallow pieces. I only need to graze the surface as far as character analysis goes, and the pieces are straightforward and simplistic. With my original fiction, however, I am continually frustrated at the impossibility of writing characters as people.

How do other people find this? Does it vary for fanfic and original fiction?

3 Name: RayRay : 2010-01-25 15:53 ID:N8rR0l6m

I think it depends on the author, but generally in original fiction you can definately tell how much the author in question has thought of this character, by the reactions, and like you said, whether or not these reactions are consistent.

I find that a well written piece of fanfiction will have minimal mind-changing on the behalf of the character; really there is no excuse in fanfiction though - if you are going to attempt to write that character then you should know the character as well as it is possible to do so.

The morality of the 'good' characters in most novels is rarely thrown into question, which can - for me - become just a little tedious, I personally prefer a character that has a major flaw, such as being manipulative to the extent where it's not a good thing, yet it is obvious that this character is good, just flawed.

And it's the classic catch really when writing - you can play a scene in your head a thousand times, and have the idea so perfectly cemented that you could make a movie from it, but alas, when it comes to putting pen to paper - or as it were, fingers to a keyboard - then it's almost impossible to get that image from your head into words, it rarely comes out right.

It's quite sad.

4 Name: ... : 2010-01-25 16:01 ID:ILazxNqc

But that's just it- people are not consistent. As for thinking up scenes, mine vary drastically every time, because of the above, and because my own mood plays a part. I believe that people have unlimitedly faceted personalities, but try to convey this is writing, and watch it die slowly and painfully. Imagine describing a coin. Think how many (thoroughly dull) pages you could get out of that- now think of a PERSON in comparison! Even a minute, half a minute, ten seconds of a life is enormous. And we use multiple characters!

... It makes me weep.

5 Name: RayRay : 2010-01-25 16:08 ID:N8rR0l6m

I suppose, but throughout writing you have to just take some aspects of that characters personality, and emphasize those, but without forgetting the other ones which take a backseat for the duration of the story.

People are not consistent, but I don't know many people who are screaming one second and then laughing the next; obviously exclusing people with mental health problems, or people who are on drugs or alcohol.

It becomes too much stress to describe every aspect of a characters personality - which is why I find it helps to just emphasize those that are relevant to the plot at hand, whilst making it as reaslistic as possible of course.

6 Name: ... : 2010-01-25 16:21 ID:ILazxNqc

Indeed, you can't possibly chart everything, but oh, it's restrictive. And what exactly is 'personality', anyway? Afterall, a person can act so very differently depending on all a manner of different variables that they are bound to contradict themselves. In RL, that is normality, but in a fic, contradiction would have a deeper meaning attached (by the reader and/or author). You can't label a character as 'feisty' or 'logical', because people just aren't like that.

But they are in written works.

7 Name: RayRay : 2010-01-25 16:27 ID:N8rR0l6m

I know a few people who I would say are feisty, but of course there is that more indepth persona that they have - that people rarely analyse.

I suppose the classic example is asking someone the question, 'What are three words you would use to describe me?'. It's almost a guarentee that they'll flounder over it, think a little bit too much, and still come up with nothing - because as humans we don't really categorise how we act...at least, I don't do that.

I just am who I am. But when describing a character in a book, it becomes a different thing altogether - because we may know that character, we designed them; gave them the personality; decided what colour they like and what their mood in a certain situation would be. Readers don't know though.

8 Name: ... : 2010-01-25 16:51 ID:ILazxNqc

Ah, but I would say that I don't truly know my characters, in the same way that none of us will ever know ourselves. If you want to scare yourself, think about how well you truly know your friends.

9 Name: RayRay : 2010-01-25 17:18 ID:N8rR0l6m

Of course, it's physically impossible to know someone completely, even yourself, friends, even the person that you yourself imagine - there's too many possibilities in life for us to be able to determine everything about someone.

10 Name: eeyop1428 : 2010-01-25 17:55 ID:yHEHBCr7

Hi there :) Of course, one of the most important things in a story are the characters as they may partly or wholly make up the story. The story can also make up the characters too.

The interesting question is how fictional characters can be related to real-life people, or the other way round sometimes. Another question is 'what is character'?, raised by '...' Real people are definitely not simply two-sided like a coin; they have multiple personalities, mentalities, feelings and ideas. It's impossible to take someone apart and examine every aspect of them because new personalities can be created, new insights can be gotten which change a person.
Plus, some of their personality is repressed and subconscious, so we don't fully know who we are ourselves. Which is quite weird. But true.

Characters in fiction can't be like real people. They have to be more coherent or else we would never get a good (enough) understanding of them. Real people are just too complicated to copy. That's an issue with the reality of fiction, a paradoxical one because fiction tells stories about real life and people, yet the world and characters in them are not.

I think the most features of a character that are most interesting are the negatives of them; what angers them or what bad habits they've got. Bad things about a person start the story, really. It's always the dark side of people that is focused on as well as the good side. 'Bad guys' are always more interesting after all.

11 Name: RayRay : 2010-01-26 13:17 ID:XhVuU4OW

Real people are also too complicated to even bother trying to understand.

I gave up on trying to understand myself years ago - so I don't even bother with people that aren't me.

I like to think I can write a character quite well though; I hate contradictions unless they're justified.

12 Name: ... : 2010-01-26 15:11 ID:ILazxNqc

@Eeyop- Very nicely put!

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