I have a problem with my characters. In my head they are complex and interesting, but on the page they seem so flat (frankly, boring) and unrealistic! How can I make my characters really sing on the page, and how can I make them more unique/less cliche or overused? I'm finding that it's one thing to know a character's personality, desires, and background, but trying to bring out their individuality in writing has proven to be a challenge. Thoughts?
I think we all run into this problem with our characters at one point or another. It sounds like you have a good start and a great imagination. Whether you know it or not, knowing what makes your characters tick is more than half the battle. Here’s some ideas to translate the awesomeness in your head to awesomeness on the page.
- I follow one rule when I talk about my characters with other writers and creative types: I speak about them as if they are real people. It helps me get into the right mindset when I write.
- Body language. Grab a notebook and go to a coffee shop. Watch what people do with their coffee mugs, spoons, hands, etc. How does the first date to your left compare with the “Let’s be friends” chat to your right? Don’t be a creeper about it, but be aware. Jot down a few words describing what you see, then apply it to your characters as needed. It’s amazing how describing something as small can have such a large impact.
- Make them fight! Take two of your characters and make them disagree over some thing. It doesn’t have to be related to your story because this is just an exercise for you. Write your dialogue as if you were eavesdropping on their discussion. Go wild and push their buttons. If they resort to name calling and swearing, good. If one leaves in tears, even better. You’ll not only see how those traits and foibles fit together, but you’ll get insight into their emotions.
Most importantly, when you sit down to write keep your imagination wide open. Know where you need to go in your plot, but let your characters tell you how to get there. I’d also take a read through these tags here, here, and here.
I see you give all these people such great advice and I have this huge problem so I thought I'd ask you. In my novel there's this conspiracy theory that turns out to be true but I want it to sound as if this conspiracy theory is the most unbelievably, unrealistic thing possible in this universe. I want them to be utterly convinced that the believers in this theory are nut jobs well before they find out that it is indeed true. What's your advice?
To make a conspiracy theory you need the following ingredients
- An event
- Someone asking a question. Sometimes the question
- People willing to believe in a conspiracy theory
- People willing not to believe a conspiracy theory
After you’ve gathered all those ingredients, you need.
- A context
Now the recipe
- Choose your event .It can be an accident, the death of a public figure, a natural disaster, a war, a terrorist attack, something related to the food industry, or to the health system, an abandoned place, a moment in history, even dates can be a conspiracy theory.
- Show information related to your event. The what and how the information is presented is crucial for the next step. (X person died and X person was killed are not the same, just like We are eating human meat! and X industry is putting human meat in our food)
- Now the question. First, who’s asking the question (it’s not the same a respectable figure than the guy who’s always seeing conspiracy theories). Second, what kind of question the conspiracy theory wants to answer, you already have what or who (your event), you can use: how, why, who else is related, who gave the order, how they kept it hidden, who’s helping, when did it start, and the most important, why they haven’t told us everything about the event.
- On this step you have to provide evidence to support the answers to your questions. You can get evidence from everywhere and any kind of evidence can help you.
- Let your event and your questions rest for a few minutes and work on the evidence and information. For this you will need logic. Any logic that to your eyes makes sense will work. A leads to B; B leads to C, ergo A leads to C. Water contains iron, therefore any kind of beberage contains iron. Remember it has to make sense to some people.
- Don’t forget the context. A conspiracy theory about war in peacefull times is not the same than a war conspiracy theory during war times.
- Mix everything and make public your conspiracy theory. If it gets viral, even better. Some people will believe it, some other people won’t. But that’s the idea.
- Congratulations! You have a conspiracy theory to feed the hungry.
Things to keep in mind:
Many conspiracy theories are about things civilian population can’t prove true or false. How are we suppose to know our world leaders are humans and not reptilians? How can we know the meat we eat comes from cows and not from horses? How can we know, for sure, if the moon landing was real and not fake? How can we know Homer actually existed?
Some conspiracy theories have more than one event. Tesla made a machine to create earthquakes, X government stole that machine, they have kept said machine in an abandoned area or a military area and they used that machine to create the earthquake that stroke Indonesia in 2004 to warn the reptilians about a conspiracy theory related to them (I just made that up).
Some people live under the motto, everything is a conspiracy theory until proven true. The reason why they believe in conspiracy theories is one of questions you have to answer in your novel. Why they choose to believe in certain conspiracy theories while others are left behind? And how are they trying to warn the rest of the population about the event? Do they yell on the streets? Do they protest? Do they send chain emails? Do they test certain food or vaccine?
Who are the people who believe in conspiracy theories? Do they dress in a certain way? Do they carry something with them, like Homer wasn’t real? Have they modified some part of their bodies to be noticed? What are their resources? If you want people to see them nuts, show them doing unusual things to prove their theory, show mass media mocking them for believing in a different version of a story or history. How the government reacts towards them, the police, the army, the church?
Some others questions, how will be your conspiracy theory proven true? Do its believers have everything they need in order to prove it true or someone or something (like an institution or an organization) is helping them?
Here are some links that can help you to get a better idea:
Good luck with your conspiracy theory (:
@ DID anon! someone with DID here. my alters come out by triggers, normally. like one will get a certain smell or sight and we'll switch. alters can cofront, too. like we're both active. and we communicate in our head, like a brain house. alters are all very different, but if you're not doing what it's like in the head and just around other people, then basically it's just a lot of people in one body who front based on mood/senses/people around them/etc
How do I roleplay a character with a split personality?
Do you mean Dissociative Identity Disorder?
- Writing a character with DID
- Do you have any tips for writing a character with Multiple Personality Disorder?
- Guide: Dissociative Identity Disorder
- A character with Split personality/Dissociative Identity/Multiple Personality Disorder? (read: Thomas Omalley’s comment)
- Do you have any advice on writing a character with a mental illness with no firsthand experience with said illness?
- Dissociative Identity Disorder
- Dissociative Identity Disorder
- Dissociative Identity Disorder: A developmental perspective
- Can you tell me about how to write a disorder?
I am not informed enough on the topic to give you more than the information above, so I ask you to please conduct further research on your own.