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On Making Distinct Characters

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Old 03-01-2011, 07:24 PM
Ris (Offline)
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Default On Making Distinct Characters


I do a lot of play-by-post roleplaying, and despite the hobby's image of being a place to hog attention and create Mary Sues, I find it a great way to work on characterization. Many of the sites I roleplay at require detailed profiles and even character weaknesses, so it I believe it helps. There is, though, something that has been bothering me for a while.

I despise characters with no weaknesses and don't want all my characters to act and think the same, so often I give my characters major weaknesses or a bunch of minor ones, and make those his/her defining traits. Often times (always, now), though, I find that I exaggerate that defining trait, whether it be a weakness or not, in order to differentiate him/her from my other characters. I didn't really find a problem with it before, but looking back at my older characters, subtlety was what what I went with. Probably because I didn't really have many characters and didn't have to differentiate them so much. And I found that while I like some of my exaggerated characters, I like the subtle ones more.

So I ask, where does the line between unlikeable caricatures and distinct characters lie?

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Old 03-02-2011, 05:20 PM
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First: Your confession is a little disquieting. As if the internet wasn't anonymous enough? Jeez....

As far as characters go, I tend to treat them like people. Some I like, some I don't. Some of the ones I like have habits that I don't. Some of the ones I don't like, I respect anyway (in spite of myself). I don't believe I've ever met someone with no weaknesses. That's probably why you despise those characters.

As for your actual question: Many writers--particularly inexperienced writers--will write caricatures. Not because they're trying to, but because that's the 'what' that they want you to see. Distinct characters are like real people: Flawed, opinionated, too weak, too strong, too smelly, great hair/bad breath, etc, etc, etc. The thing that defines a great character is character. They know who they are and they stay who they are.
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Old 03-02-2011, 08:59 PM
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Thanks for replying, Karl. And...Uh. Sorry. Internet anynonimity makes me give more information than I need to without realizing it.

If I understand correctly, you're saying that caricatures are basic impressions of the characters (what is obvious), but what makes good, distinct characters is what is beyond that? ...Makes sense.
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