Writers Anonymous
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Irkala

So, I've reached a bit of an odd conundrum and I'm wondering if perhaps anyone could help me out.

It's essentially a battle of completely artificial simulation versus simulated reality.

Uh--so when writing a story, I often come across a strange moment where I try to really envision what exactly is going on inside the character's head in the middle of an intense or huge event. Now a lot of my stories or most of them really, are really internally based. I try to give a lot of thought from the inner mind of the character, mainly why there's a lot of existentialist aspects and philosophical problems that those who I write about have to face. Since I'm just a beginner I'm not the best at it yet.

The problem I come across is a problem of:

--How would this character or someone like them act according to their personality in the game game/show etc

versus

--How would this character or someone like them act in reality? Without biases or plot ties?

I know it sounds kind of ridiculous to question that but, it bugs me because sometimes, I genuinely can't decide. A lot of my stories have a horror element to them, or contain some sort of tragedy. That being said, there's a lot of tense and difficult moments I make the characters face. In those moments I have the hardest times REALLY trying to get out how they would truly, truly react.

When dealing especially with gore and violence, I have the hardest time trying to think how character x would act. It's like a battle between the plot and the character. If that makes any sense. I wrote a much more gory story than I usually do just recently and I'm beginning to wonder how efficiently I really tackled the character's reactions.

Any tips on how to reach a balance on this? I feel like it isn't super difficult, however it bugs me that I can't quite find that middle ground.

9/13/2012 . Edited 9/13/2012 #1
cathrl

Please can you read the forum rules and categorise your thread title?

--How would this character or someone like them act according to their personality in the game game/show etc

versus

--How would this character or someone like them act in reality? Without biases or plot ties?

Thing is, I don't understand how these are two different questions. Their personality is determined by how they act in the game or show. Then you take that to determine how they'd act in reality. (Or in your story).

If the game/show you're writing about doesn't have gore or violence, you just have to extrapolate based on how they deal with, say, being scared. But it isn't a contradiction of their canon personality, it's an extension of it.

In good writing, no character should ever act in a particular way because of the plot. They shouldn't know there's a plot. And yes, characters will often react in a way that doesn't best suit the plot - that's part of what makes a good plot, and is a much better way of writing a flawed, human character than making up a list of characteristics for them.

9/13/2012 #2
Irkala

Ah yeah took care of that, sorry.

Anyways, that last part really stuck with me. I guess I've always envisioned the plot being a sort of blanket force to the characters, but simultaneously--they influence it just as well. The 'extension' aspect of a reaction definitely makes a lot more sense than say a flip or contradiction of it, I don't know why I initially looked at it as such.

Either way, I'll have to consider that from now on when planning these things out. Hopefully, this little issue ought to disappear.

9/13/2012 #3
MasterFeign

One thing that can help too, is having an interview with your own character. That is to say, every question your character is asked, they'd be able to answer with their own response. An extension to that is also knowing every aspect of your character. Everything from their favourite ice cream flavour to understanding metaphysics etc. It's not to say you'd actually write that in the book, but rather in how you write your character. A quick example, say your character's favourite colour is black, but you never mentioned this in the story. Well if they were to pick a candy at a candy store, you'd know as an author that perhaps your character was more inclined to buy black licorice. Small things like that.

9/13/2012 #4
Irkala

Yeah that's a good idea.

I kind of do something 'somewhat' similar to that when I'm typing out the situation--I reference their previous reactions to things as well as their nature as a whole. It's like a quick and silent questioning like, "Well you did this once so you will probably react like this right?" or "Well you have a history of being like that so you'll probably do that too."

Something like that--going full throttle on the mental questioning could definitely save me some time beforehand.

9/13/2012 #5
Corinne Tate

There are also some things that are just human nature. Fight or flight in response to danger can be one thing you explore with the characters. I always love when characters do things different than I planned. I had a big, strong, man falter in the face of a gun aimed at him, because he wasn't always big and strong, and he remembered being in that situation as a boy. I've had timid women who chose to fight in the face of danger, when everyone expected them to flee.

I'd use those tough situations as a proving ground for your characters. I'm sure if you think about it, you can come up with a reason behind their actions. But I've found that I can come up with reasons for either choice A, B, or C. With a complex character it's not always a sure thing how they'll react, or why. In these cases, I do get to decide which direction I want to move the story, and the character's growth. Give your characters the opportunity to grow, and they'll often surprise you. I may know all there is to know about my characters, but I have to let them expand out of the box, or else they become caricatures.

9/14/2012 #6
attackamazon

If your fic base is good, then you should already have a good idea of the character's personality and how they should react. Just pay close attention to detail. If the fic's characterization is not so great or you're writing about a secondary character who was left kind of vague, look at what is there and extrapolate from there based on similar characters within the world or outside of it. For instance, I'm a psych grad student, so I "type" my characters and then think about how someone of that type would react to a particular situation, then give it a slight twist because people are different.

If you want a specific reaction from your character, I would advise planning out your story backwards. Pick your endgame, figure out the reaction that made it happen, and then decide what stimulus is appropriate to provoke the reaction. If you just want to experiment with a situation (my favourite), write the situation and then put yourself in the character's shoes. Add in some random chance, too. People are unpredictable. Guns are allowed to jam, things are allowed to not turn out perfectly, people have bad days and say things they normally wouldn't, and that's what makes the world interesting.

9/14/2012 #7
Wildcard999

--How would this character or someone like them act according to their personality in the game game/show etc

versus

--How would this character or someone like them act in reality? Without biases or plot ties?

Well, ideally the answer would be the same if reality was just like the game/show. And this is where I come from--I assume that should the elements true of the fandom suddenly become real in our reality, everything shown in the show should be the same. If there are elements that seem like they wouldn't be the same, I'd change them. Like the gods and magic in DC comics, as well as the jacked up parallel universes thing. Oh, and the rampant retconning that now has history-less people who are no longer related to anyone. I've chucked all that. It makes no sense, so it doesn't fit into my version of the DCU.

Which makes things soooo much easier, I think. Or maybe I have no idea what you're asking because I don't understand the question. It's hard to tell...

As for plot vs. characters, I think that might be your problem. Try casting your plots instead of coming up with plots to fit your characters. That might help. When I come up with a plot I want to try, I go through all my characters, CC, OC and AU, and cast each part, regardless of fandom and mortality status. I decide if I'm writing canon, AU or a crossover later, after I've finished the fic itself. But you should not be using characters that don't fit your plot. It leads to things feeling forced and artificial.

I reference their previous reactions to things as well as their nature as a whole.

Lol, this is where I have a definite advantage in writing. I built a program in my mind a while ago that allows me to build a personality out of various traits. It acts as a filter for my reactions to anything going on in the story, so that I essentially have become the other person and make the same decisions they do. I've even fallen in love several times this way. And lust. Lol. Anyway, point is that it makes for really great, stable characterization, but I don't think just anyone can do it. It's pretty rough on your sense of self.

Fight or flight in response to danger can be one thing you explore with the characters.

There are some people who can't even decide. When courage and cowardice are in equal proportions, they may not be able to decide. Or if they're too scared, they can shut down entirely. Either way, they don't fight or flee, but just stand there, frozen.

9/21/2012 #8
Irkala

Hey thanks for the help guys, this is some good stuff.

I suppose I'll just stick to more preplanning and 'simulation,' that always seemed the most effective anyway. If anything I'll figure out how to predict reactions in tense situations at a better rate--and won't have to come to this crossroads anywhere near as much.

Hopefully. . .

9/23/2012 #9
Wildcard999

Probably your best bet if you can't do what I do. It sounds like the thing that'll yield you the best results.

9/23/2012 #10
Aspiring Hobby

If it is about reaction, may I ask a question. Sorry if I am posting in the wrong thread.

I wanted to ask if a person who by personality is aloof, does not like to share his feelings and comes out as weird to people, is secretly in love for a long time. Someone gets to know of such then would he react? Be angry? Ignore it? What would be the general reaction?

9/24/2012 #11
That Way

One thing that's important to keep in mind is that characters are allowed to act out of character at times. That's reality. Readers should never be able to predict with complete certainty what they'll do or say in any given situation. In reality, people are often confronted with things they've never had to deal with or have no experience with. We might have a general expectation of what they'll do, but they should be able to surprise us as writers if they're fully formed characters. The trick is to balance the two and make them consistently inconsistent.

The advice that characters should have as much of an effect on the plot as plot effects them is also great. Nothing exists in a vacuum and people impose on reality as much as it imposes on them.

I wanted to ask if a person who by personality is aloof, does not like to share his feelings and comes out as weird to people, is secretly in love for a long time. Someone gets to know of such then would he react? Be angry? Ignore it? What would be the general reaction?

I'm not sure I completely understand the situation. Are you saying a third party discover the aloof character is/has been in love and the aloof character realizes his feelings are no longer a secret? I suppose it depends. Inwardly I'd expect some sort of turmoil, possible anger and panic. And is the character truly aloof and weird or is that merely how he's perceived by others? If the perception is accurate, I would think he'd try to ignore it, possibly avoiding the character who's aware of his feelings as much as possible. I wouldn't expect him to instigate any sort of confrontation. If the third character confronted him however, I could see anything from denial to outrage to simply fleeing the scene so as to not deal with it.

9/24/2012 #12
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