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Legendary Biologist

I often read that what makes a fic interesting is 'characters development', but never understand the statements. Can anyone here please define what 'characters development' means? I just don't understand...

9/26/2012 #1

Very loosely, either that we see characters growing and changing through their experiences in a story, eg., their beliefs may change, or they may become able to do new things, or no longer willing to do things they have done in the past.

9/26/2012 #2
Legendary Biologist

Thanks. I get it now.

9/26/2012 #3

Character development also helps flesh out the characters so they aren't as two dimensional as the pages they are written on. Characters have multiple layers, strengths, weaknesses and forces that drive them to act a particular way. They have histories. A good way to develop a multi-layered character is to actually write a character bio or an outline (though aspects of them may only be known by the author and not included in the story).

9/29/2012 #4
Corinne Tate

If my characters don't change during a story, then I haven't done my job. Even canon characters can show a little development, and still be canon. An overprotective boyfriend can finally relent, and let his capable girlfriend do something potentially dangerous, without stepping in to do it for her. Old adversaries can come to a grudging understanding and work together. A shallow character can learn to recognize pain in someone else, and reach out to them. Characters need to be able to learn and grow. The story needs to have an affect on them.

9/29/2012 #5

Character development isn't just character change, though. It also includes things like exploring and explaining traits they have already. The overprotective boyfriend finally relenting is character development - but so is the story of how he came to be overprotective in the first place.

9/29/2012 #6
That Way

Very true. It's about depth as well as breadth, about delving into what's already there and pulling it to the surface for examination as much as building or expanding on that foundation.

And every once in a while, a static (unchanged) character can be a good thing, even satisfying to read about. Exploring why and how he doesn't chance can still constitute as character development even if he ends up the same as how he started.

9/29/2012 #7

Lol, I was about to type what That Way just said, but you got there first, lol. Yeah, basically you're just showing who someone is, either through their experiences, history, or personal growth.

9/29/2012 #8
Corinne Tate

Right as always, Cathrl. I guess I just wasn't thinking about exploring and explaining, because to me, that's just a given in any decent story.

And right also, That Way; there are just some characters that would be wrong and out of character to change. Rorschach from Watchmen is one of those. Sort of makes me wonder, are some characters just too fully fleshed, and all their growth is behind them? Can characters, like people, get set in their ways? I mean it seems that some characters are only there to impact the story, and the story doesn't touch them. Are they then characters, or plot devices?

I took a class, where we were told that no one wants to read a story about the brave king who has everything going for him. If he started out as a peasant with nothing, then that's the story to tell. The reader can then see his growth, and how he came to be on top. Then again, if you want to write about the king, you have to first take him down a few pegs, so there is some struggle there.

9/29/2012 #9

Sort of makes me wonder, are some characters just too fully fleshed, and all their growth is behind them?

No such thing. If a character has plateaued in their personal growth it's because they can't think of any other ways to grow, don't feel like growing anymore or the author can't think of any ways to grow or don't feel like doing it. Or it's a Mary Sue that's already perfect and I can't imagine too many people who'd buy that.

9/29/2012 #10
That Way

Sort of makes me wonder, are some characters just too fully fleshed, and all their growth is behind them? Can characters, like people, get set in their ways? I mean it seems that some characters are only there to impact the story, and the story doesn't touch them. Are they then characters, or plot devices?

Hmm interesting question. I don't think I like the idea that some characters are only there to impact the story and not be touched by it themselves. That indeed sounds like a plot device. Not saying it doesn't happen a lot, even with really good writers/stories (especially when some characters only make very brief appearances), but yeah, those are walking, talking plot devices, not real characters.

However, it could be very interesting to explore a character who has seemingly plateaued in development. Outside of Mary Sue's, the types of situations Darkwinter mentioned are all interesting character types to explore. I do think it's very possible for a person to reach a stage in development after which they don't really change anymore. But that doesn't mean they can't change. You can still explore how forces and people push and pull them and how they ultimately resist. That's development of a sort, even if it's not actually 'change.' And it's not often a character would be aware that they've reached any sort of pinnacle if they indeed have. The development there could be them trying to move onwards and upwards against a brick ceiling, or a backslide and subsequent attempt to reestablish their positioning, or even just a struggle to maintain their ground when the forces around them unsettle their footing.

A very interesting contrast could be the character who 'thinks' he's still changing but really has become quite set in his ways and has become static without knowing it versus a character who can't seem to make the changes he wants to because of circumstances or personality even though he's actively trying.

There are all sorts of fun things you can do with 'static' or 'fully realized' characters imo, a lot of which you don't see done too often (at least not done well).

9/29/2012 #11
Corinne Tate

I'm sorta thinking about characters that have become icons. Bond, James Bond, Conan the Barbarian, Tarzan, and Superman. I get that they're all action heroes, and maybe that's part of it. But it seems to me that these characters would be exactly the same, no matter what story they popped into. Maybe that's why there are so many reboot stories with these action types--new writers trying to breathe new life into tired old favorites?

I really do like it when someone takes on one of these icons, and writes a story that shows unexpected depth or growth in them. In the latest Avengers movie, I love how Joss Whedon saw the Incredible Hulk, not as a man with anger issues, but as a werewolf. He didn't change the character, but deepened him. Likewise, he took the potentially boring, dated character of Captain America, and made him a tactical leader. Some great writers have turned Tarzan into Lord Greystoke, and Batman into the Dark Knight. But it's certainly not easy. I see it more like chipping into a marble statue, as opposed to malleable clay.

9/29/2012 #12

I hate character development and avoid it.

In my fanfiction, all characters are made to behave according to the stereotype they fit best into.

9/30/2012 #13

Interesting @Schillinghaus. I would think such a rigid way to create characters wold cause them to be very two-dimensional. Can you explain what you mean by stereotypes? Do you use Jungian archetypes or socio, economic and ethnic stereotyping?

9/30/2012 #14

I like them as flat as possible.

They are mostly enneagram types.

9/30/2012 #15

Kind of like stock characters then; a somewhat shortened list as what was originally developed by Theophrastus.

9/30/2012 #16

But it seems to me that these characters would be exactly the same, no matter what story they popped into.

I disagree. A character can always change and grow, they just have to experience something new, and I think that's the problem you're having. Thinking of something new they haven't experienced yet, because they've been around so long that they've already been through just about all the situations you can think of. But that's what happens when the frontier gets old. No one can discover anything new unless they look really, really hard.

Shilling sounds like he's either lazy and POed that readers expect more from him or he's just trying to p*** people off here. I'm leaning toward option two since I really don't see the point in writing badly.

10/1/2012 #17

A little experiment I'm doing is doing a fully developed character (well for the most part he is) and writing them in a way that despite having some mary sue traits, that he doesn't seem that way because his reasons of being there or the way he is is explained logically, either within the story or within simple explanation in the narrative.

1: He's from another country than the canon main protagonists, however he travels to Japan intentionally (IE the plot itself doesn't bring him to japan by coincidence) to go to college there.

2: He is a strong martial artist hoping to invent a completely new style of martial arts, however he only completes this style to overcome a stronger character, but does so within reason.

3: The team of heroes is all female, although he is male he has an aversion to females (or rather coming a little close to females, or seeing parts he'd rather not see) and he doesn't join the team willingly, he joins when the plot actually forces him to do so.

10/2/2012 #18
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