PDA

View Full Version : Character Traits



Craig Wallwork
07-02-2011, 07:25 PM
Itís only occurred to me recently that nearly all of the characters that I have committed to paper have no interest in smoking, a preclusion based on the fact, I assume, that I am not a smoker. So it seems, on a subconscious level, while I am eager to instil theories/methodologies/opinions that I hold, I am also keen on excluding those that I donít practice or have no interest in.

So I was wondering; how similar is the fictional character we write, compared to the author who writes them? Are the characters you write just different facets of your personality, or are they completely different from you? Do they smoke, when you are not a smoker? Are they racist, when the hand who breathed life into their bigoted bones is pro-diversity?

Curious. :)

C.W. LaSart
07-02-2011, 08:02 PM
My characters bear absolutely no resemblance to me. I have written stories about drug addicts, cons, hookers, rich assholes and the list goes on, but they never have anything to do with me. What I do, however, is often include snippets of real conversations I have had with people, or sayings that my friends use. I also, name the characters after friends a lot, which never fails to amuse them. I just killed my sister off in a story and I hope she is flattered rather than irritated ;)

Craig Wallwork
07-02-2011, 08:29 PM
Haha. Love the fact you use names of people you know. I once had a character named after my boss that came to nasty end. :D

I’m going to throw something out, and I’m not trying to offend or doubt what you’ve told me, but maybe there's a part of you that craves certain aspects of the character’s lives you portray, for example - the escapism of the drug addict, the scheming mind of the confidence person, the casualness and randomness of the hooker (not sex you understand, just the fredom of doing something :)) and the freedom that money brings the rich arseholes. While we are able to detach ourselves from the character’s we write, the darker part of us, the person submerged under the blanket of social etiquette, manners, morals, is allowed to come to the fore and breath, wipe its brow and stick its sweaty crotch in the face of saints and priests without fear of repercussion. That we have the freedom to write and create characters that can be the most obnoxious people that have ever walked the earth could be a way to vent the darker sides of our lives. At the end of the day, it has come from our minds, which is to say, while the allotment of the imagination is fertile, we still need to the seeds to sew, and these seeds are rooted in emotion.

I want to add, before you beat me up CW, I don’t see you are a crack addicted hooker who cons people out of money. You’re way too nice. :)

C.W. LaSart
07-02-2011, 09:10 PM
LMAO! Craig, I think I adore you (don't take that the wrong way, I know you are married and I am blissfully happy with my boyfriend of five years!). I suppose you could be onto something there, and I will not completely dispute it. I will add though, that if I harbor such longings, they are certainly subconscious since my writing is wholly dependent on Muse. I don't seek out stories, they just pop into my head, mostly complete and itching to be written. When I am writing, my characters stray so far and fast that it often feels like I am reading something that another has written, rather than creating my own world. There is always talk in the writing world of "pantsters" and "plotsters" and I am most definitely a pantster. I rarely feel personal pride in the stuff I write because I feel like a fraud-like someone else wrote it through me if that makes sense. The stories are written on autopilot and if I consciously add anything to them, it is during the edit. So maybe you are right my friend, but I hope I never have to confront the dark and evil woman inside me! LOL! I am so glad to have met you! I would wish you a happy holiday, but I suppose the 4th of July is far from a holiday there! I have always wondered if you guys get irritated when we celebrate it ;) Just kidding, we are allies now and that's all that matters! I am secretly quite tickled to have so many new British friends.

Draven Ames
07-03-2011, 01:05 AM
My characters are so far away from myself. I will note that a main character in my novel smoked, and I smoked at the time. I spent time carefully evaluating the smell and taste of smoking, so I could accurately describe the sensations. The point? I quit smoking after writing the book.

Turns out, once I paid attention to it, I realized how much I hated smoking. My wife quit smoking two weeks after I did.

the_last_gunslinger
07-03-2011, 02:40 AM
For the most part, I feel as though my characters are derivatives of myself, with some embellishments to make them a touch more interesting. Perhaps I adhere too literally to the old adage that a writer should write what he knows, and I do know myself better than just about anything.

I'm not a particularly vulgar person, for example, and someone reading my stories would probably pick up on my lack of profanity. Most of my characters don't use excessive language such as that. It doesn't mean I never will, but I think my personality prohibits me from writing something too profane. I also place a heavy emphasis on a college education and as such, I find that many of my main characters are educated, or aspire to be educated, and I often draw on my academic knowledge as a shared expertise between myself and the characters I create.

ozmosis7
07-03-2011, 03:10 AM
My characters certainly have pieces of me. As I used to smoke long ago, I know how it feels, what it's like to miss it, how it haunts you even now--things like that. But they also have other lives of which I have nothing in common. For instance, I have yet to skin anyone alive, and I don't plan on it any time soon unless my one neighbor complains about my bushes out back a few times more. :P

Craig Wallwork
07-03-2011, 08:12 AM
I have always wondered if you guys get irritated when we celebrate it ;)

I’m sure we’ll adopt it as a holiday soon. We tend to covet most things American here anyway :)


My characters are so far away from myself. I will note that a main character in my novel smoked, and I smoked at the time. I spent time carefully evaluating the smell and taste of smoking, so I could accurately describe the sensations. The point? I quit smoking after writing the book.

Turns out, once I paid attention to it, I realized how much I hated smoking. My wife quit smoking two weeks after I did.

Can I suggest an idea for your new book, “Quit smoking by Writing a Book About Smokers!” by Draven Ames! People spend millions of dollars trying to break the habit – you could be a wealthy man this time next year, Draven. :D


I'm not a particularly vulgar person, for example, and someone reading my stories would probably pick up on my lack of profanity. Most of my characters don't use excessive language such as that. It doesn't mean I never will, but I think my personality prohibits me from writing something too profane. I also place a heavy emphasis on a college education and as such, I find that many of my main characters are educated, or aspire to be educated, and I often draw on my academic knowledge as a shared expertise between myself and the characters I create.

What would happen if one of your characters had to verbally assault a person that required excessive profanities, while out of your comfort zone, would you attempt such a thing or steer clear?

The challenge of writing about America, and the vernacular of some regions, would be hard me for to make sound believable, yet recently I had to write a story about Venice Beach for an anthology. I’ve never been there, don’t know the area, or the people, but I circumnavigated the colloquialisms by focussing on a narrative. I side stepped the issue. Likewise, I side step smoking because, like you, my personality prohibits me from including it. And like Draven, if I did, I would need to begin to smoke to understand the sensations, the feeling etc. But all that said, if I had to write about a person with a terminal illness one day, while I may not be terminal ill myself, I think searching one’s own soul for the insecurities found in my life and mortality, and then magnifying them 10 fold, may add a little believability to the character, which is to say, anything, within reason, it possible to write.


For instance, I have yet to skin anyone alive, and I don't plan on it any time soon unless my one neighbor complains about my bushes out back a few times more. :P

Hahahaha. Let's hope the way you write about skinning someone lacks a degree of authority. If it's too accurate, or sounds too believable, I may get worried. :D

TerryE
07-03-2011, 04:05 PM
I find that there is a part of myself in most of my characters, especially while I am writing them. Even if they are the complete opposite of me in some aspects, there's something else they have in common with me.


I'm not a particularly vulgar person, for example, and someone reading my stories would probably pick up on my lack of profanity. Most of my characters don't use excessive language such as that. It doesn't mean I never will, but I think my personality prohibits me from writing something too profane.

I'm the same way, gunslinger, but I can write in ways that I would never speak in real life. I recognize that my restraint is not common in society, and you do have to reflect all aspects of society at some point or another. In fact, I have one story, told from the point of view of a demon, that was almost an exercise in profanity. I don't think I could perform it at a reading, though.

C.W. LaSart
07-03-2011, 05:14 PM
I am gleefully vulgar and profane :) I also smoke. I am a bad, bad person! When I don't know something about a habit, I try to find someone who does. I wrote a story about a meth-addicted mother, and I have never done meth, so I called a friend from High School who had and interviewed him about the taste etc. It was believeable enough that the publisher half-implied it was auto biographical! I was both flattered and offended at the same time.

Draven Ames
07-03-2011, 07:41 PM
It was believeable enough that the publisher half-implied it was auto biographical! I was both flattered and offended at the same time.

Love it. Sounds like you wrote it very well.

C.W. LaSart
07-03-2011, 08:00 PM
Love it. Sounds like you wrote it very well.

Haha! It was for SNM ;)

the_last_gunslinger
07-04-2011, 12:20 AM
I'm the same way, gunslinger, but I can write in ways that I would never speak in real life. I recognize that my restraint is not common in society, and you do have to reflect all aspects of society at some point or another. In fact, I have one story, told from the point of view of a demon, that was almost an exercise in profanity. I don't think I could perform it at a reading, though.

Yeah, I think I could write it too; the culture in which we live can become pretty vulgar. I'm not saying that's good or bad, but since I am witness to so much of it from other people, not to mention other forms of media, I think it would be all too easy to reflect that kind of language in my own work. For me though, it just doesn't occur naturally. That's not the first thing that comes to mind when I am fostering my characters. If I'm writing along and I feel as though the character would be better suited to some well-timed vulgarity, I'll definitely include it. My mind just doesn't go there automatically.

portrait in flesh
07-05-2011, 01:45 AM
I can't say the characters I write about are really reflections of me. They're more unlike me than they are like me. There is one hard limit rule I will never allow a character I write about to engage in, but other than that they kind of do what they want without being restrained by what I would do.

Craig Wallwork
07-05-2011, 05:59 AM
What can't your character's engage in?

mlouisdixon
07-05-2011, 10:08 PM
I can see where a lot of my main characters are based on me. What I've started doing though is to watch others and imagine what their experiences might be. Sometimes I will purposely take it to areas where I am uncomfortable. That discomfort is a great source of inspiration.

Vulgarity has been quite common in my life. Sometimes I have to work very hard to keep it out of my work, but then I just say Fuck It!

MLD

ozmosis7
07-05-2011, 10:49 PM
Sometimes I have to work very hard to keep it out of my work, but then I just say Fuck It!

Awesome!

portrait in flesh
07-05-2011, 11:39 PM
What can't your character's engage in?

...it's...hard to talk about.

It's...preparing taxes.

Craig Wallwork
07-06-2011, 05:52 AM
*shudders*

:D

TerryE
07-06-2011, 02:48 PM
...it's...hard to talk about.

It's...preparing taxes.

Nooooooo!!!! Please, no! Say it isn't so. The horror, the horror.

Didn't James Mitchner have an entire chapter devoted to this, in exquisite detail, in one of his books?

JJ Holden
07-07-2011, 03:08 AM
Hmm. My main characters are predominantly the opposite gender, they're men, so it's hard for me to figure out if they have any of my traits or not. :/

Nik Houser
07-07-2011, 05:20 AM
I find that many of my main characters share my sense of humor, or other minor personality traits, with the occasional one or two being thinly-veiled versions of myself. For the most part, though, they are wholly different. Nothing in my fiction is based on people I know or things they've done, which makes finding their narrative voice a challenge, at times.

I do think that folks who write fiction must pour parts of themselves into the writing. Good fiction, I think, is derived from the author living vicariously through their characters. Which isn't to say the author wants to feel what they do in real life. It simply means that they put themselves in the characters' shoes. and experience what they do. When a writer is too emotionally removed from his subject, they run the risk of the reader feeling the same way. Which isn't to say you need a sympathetic protagonist, merely one who feels real enough for us to give a rat's ass about them. If they feel wooden, I automatically don't invest myself in their exploits, and thus end up not caring where the story is going.

Which reminds me of one of the pitfalls of writing characters who don't resemble the author (not necessarily the protagonist; I'm talking about side-characters and villains, too): failing to give the voice believability. If someone writes about an addict or a bank robber or a murderer, or even a dentist who's bored with their life, I feel they should be aware that what they're doing is a challenge, and to not take it for granted. Because it's very easy for a writer to sound like they're trying too hard to sound like a type person they are not, or who has habits they don't share. It's a tough balancing act, and I admire the folks who try, whether they succeed or not. I think a lot of folks in the contest succeeded.