Posts tagged characters
Posts tagged characters
Character Motivation and Consistency:
So lets take a moment to talk about character consistency. This is something that I find a lot of people have a hard time with and a lot of it has to do with the actual development of the character in itself. When making a character, we pick out traits and experiences that define our character. All of these things including flaws and talents are important but something that people tend to forget with picking out a character is what their motivation is.
Author Orson Scott Card reminds us “We never fully understand other people’s motivations in real life. In fiction, however, we can help our readers understand our characters’ motivations with clarity, sometimes even certainty. This is one of the reasons why people read fiction—to come to some understanding of why other people act the way they do.”
Why is Knowing Motivation Important in Writing?:
This essentially, explains to us why characters act the way they do. Choices are determined by the motivation of the character. They are a guide in the choices they make because where they want to go or what they want determines what choices they are going to make. Very very VERY seldom does anyone make a choice at random. By knowing your characters primary motivation, the choices that they make will remain consistent (Even if they are not the ‘right’ choices.
Basic External and Internal Motivations:
Bold-face is obverse aspect (stuff in parens = goals, effects, or other association)
- Survival/safety; Fear of the world (food, water, escape from danger)
- Physical comfort; gluttony (shelter, warmth, good food, health)
- Pleasure; hedonism (sex, great food, culture, games)
- Dominance; tyranny (power, social standing, competition, respect)
- Acquisitiveness; greed (wealth, materialism, collecting, excellence)
- Curiosity; voyeurism (learning, searching, investigating)
- Mastery; perfectionism (excellence, conquest, discipline, achievement)
- Reproduction; profligacy (children, creativity, family-building)
- Autonomy; isolation (self-sufficiency, freedom, non-confinement)
- Affiliation; conformity (security, cooperation, loyalty, clan)
- Love; lust/ownership (connection, passion, sex, mirroring, approval, giving)
- Revenge; justice (righting wrongs, recognition of grievance, vengeance)
- Guilt; denial of guilt (responsibility, shame, punishment, redemption, forgiveness)
- Identity; self-centeredness (self-esteem, self-knowledge, self-protection)
- Surcease; conflict avoidance (peace, escape from anxiety, death)
- Spirituality; fetishism (religion, transcendence, transformation)
- Growth; decay, aging (learning, maturation, wisdom)
- Ambition; insecurity/anxiety (fear of failure, inferiority, stress)
- Vindication; rationalization (success, proving self, apology)
The Difference in between a Goal and Motivation:
The goal is like the flower… the motivation is the roots.
The goal is the outward manifestation of the motivation. It is concrete, measurable, and specific.
You don’t know when you’ve fulfilled the motivation: “I want success” isn’t measurable– what’s success? But you know when you’ve achieved a goal: ”I want to be on the New York Times bestseller list–” That’s measurable. You’ll know when you reach it.
Just keep in mind that while the goal is the external manifestation of the motivation, the connection is not always a straight or clear one. You can have a goal that is destructive and against your true motivation– “looking for love in all the wrong places” is an example.
Or you can have a laudatory goal for a selfish or twisted motivation– “I want to be first in my class to show my father up!”
Motivation is the past; Goal is the future; Conflict is the present.
Distinguish between MOTIVATION and ACTION:
Remember that motivation exists to inspire the character to make choices and take actions. If you’ve been told your protagonist is “too passive”, it’s likely what’s lacking is motivation that leads to action.
Every action, however small, should be motivated. If the motivation is obvious, then you might not have to show it (we assume that she’s running from that tiger for survival).
Compare the external (obvious) motivation to the goal and/or actions. If they don’t match, an internal motivation is probably in force. What hidden desire or fear is influencing actions?
An alternative reason for motivation/action mismatch: You’re trying to make an original character act in stereotypical ways.
And keep this in mind:
Heroism and villainy are in the action, not the motivation. Heroes do heroic things, they don’t just intend to do them. And villains do bad things even if they have the best of intentions.
Taking all of these things into account, here are three exercises that I found a while back and use to help figure out character motivations:
1. Real People as a template:
Make a list of 5 people you know really well. Beside each, make notes about how they:
- react to stress
- experience happiness,
- treat other people.
After that, list what motivates each of these behaviors. Try to be as factual as possible, drawing from things you know; for things you’re unsure of, use common sense to hypothesize.
A person might make it their goal to treat others with respect because of religious beliefs, or maybe because they were disrespected in the past. Someone might react poorly to stressful situations because they have a deep-seated fear of failure, stemming from a past experience.
2. Characters from Literature:
List 5 characters from literature and what motivated their actions throughout their respective stories.
For example, Shakespeare’sHamlet. His thoughts are motivated by revenge (because his uncle secretly killed his father), along with anger, sadness and confusion (because his mother married his uncle so soon after his father’s death).
Add to this a host of other factors, and you have a well-developed character you can understand.
3. Self reflection:
Write paragraphs to describe
- your most frightening experience
- your happiest experience,
- your most stressful experience, and how you reacted to each situation.
After, list all the factors that motivated your behavior. How is your personality shaped by your motivations?
During the story (Or role play) it is important to remember these character motivations when your character makes choices. That is really what this is about; identifying the motivations that make your character act the way that they do.
During the plot, motivations may change, and should actually shift for the character to develop, but never all at once and never out of the blue. Still the back story that drives your characters motivations will always be part of them.
For instance; I write a character whose past has made her a survivalist but over the course of a year she shifts to protection of the family that she has developed. However this took a full year to happen and her motivation of survival was never put on the back burner. Instead it just expanded to protection of the group and not just herself. Her fear of lose over this new family is what really drives her.
And there you have it: Keeping your character consistent through their motivation.
Quite a few people requested some form of trait/personality generator, and here’s the result! I wanted to keep it vague enough that the options could work for any universe, be it modern, fantasy, scifi, or anything else, so these are really just the basics. Remember that a character is much more than a list of traits, and this should only be used as a starting point– I tried to include a variety of things, but further development is definitely a must.
Could pair well with the gender and sexuality generator.
To Play: Click and drag each gif, or if that isn’t working/you’re on mobile, just take a screenshot of the whole thing (multiple screenshots may be required if you want more than one trait from each category).
I’m not a big fan of adjectives, but it’s food for thought.
- Character loves adopted parents. Often, the replacement guardians are just that: replacement guardians. More often than not, they’re abusive or neglectful. A guardian/guardians that the character has come to love as their own parent(s) would be a nice change from the usual “woe is me I am abused”. And avoid comparisons with how a character’s “real parents” would do something, e.g. “Go to your room!” “My real parents wouldn’t make me do that!”
- Parents aren’t super special. A lot of dead parents eventually play into the plot. The really trite version of this is when the orphan hero learns his parents were actually the good (and murdered) king and queen, so he must retake the throne in their name. Dead or missing dads are really prone to becoming important. Let your character have parents of average importance. Status is no replacement for care: the character should probably feel more loyal to their guardian (assuming they are loving) than their parent/parent’s cause.
- Recovering from loss. Many characters lose their parents in their early childhood. They probably don’t remember much about their parents - maybe a few memories. There’s no reason for them to be crying into their pillow every night as an eighteen-year-old. If anything, they might do some genealogy projects and try to find out what their parents were like, but they won’t do it out of obsession.
might look a bit weird in your search history, but it’s the most helpful and informative site i’ve found for naming characters. search by letters, meaning, nationality, and syllables, among other things. has intriguing name lists — from harry potter names to oscar winners.
helpful especially for characters in specific era’s, or in specific demographics. holds archives of the united states’ names dating back to the late nineteenth century. also charts the popularity, and other statistics, of names.
very, very helpful for last-minute surnames. wouldn’t recommend for any important, significant, or completely solidified characters, simply because there’s no telling the nationality or origin of the name that comes up.
tracks family names as well as given names through nationality, ethnicity, origin, and popularity, shedding light on the subject of why. huge insight on the origin of naming and what it really means for the individual
some more helpful links
Writing Quote – Robert Holdstock
Was there ever a time when your antagonist would have gotten along with or liked your protagonist? Is that the case now, or could it be in the future? What does that first friendly meeting look like?
Body Language Secrets Everyone Must Know
by Aldis Kalnins
This needs to be about ten times more specific. Breaking a person can mean a multitude of things, and it depends on so much more than their age. I will go ahead and assume you mean psychological breakage, although I have difficulty thinking of a situation in which the average ten-year-old would need breaking. Consider:
- Upbringing and history. Were they raised in a loving, supportive home? Did they frequently have to do things on their own? Were/Are they bullied a lot? Perhaps your child was raised in a superspy training camp: this one will be tougher to deal with than a random child plucked off a grade school playground.
- Mind. Children are smart, direct, and honest. They tend to have fantastic memories compared to their older counterparts. On the other hand, they have much less worldly wisdom and experience, and therefore less precedent for this kind of situation. Catch someone off-guard, and breaking them could well be a walk in the park.
- Strength and weakness. Children may not have as many mental barriers or breaking points as adults do. When it comes to secrets, vices, weaknesses, leverage, your average ten-year-old will probably be easier to break (however temporarily) by way of “you’re weird and no one likes you” than an adult who must be broken by leveraging their crippling self-doubt against themselves. All people have strength, but as above, catch anyone unawares and they can be broken easier and faster.
- Method of breakage. Torture? Mind control? Lecturing? The method should fit with the intended outcome as well as the character being broken. By the end of the breaking, do you want them to talk, to become a hollow shell of a person? Breaking out the big guns on a small child is probably overkill, whereas slinging schoolyard insults at an adult is ineffective at best and juvenile at worst. Some methods of breaking (such as gaslighting) take a lot of time and planning, where others (like some methods of torture) are a test of wills and/or endurance.
- Effects of breakage. What will become of them once the goal is achieved, whatever the goal is? Have they been handled in such a way that they will never return to a normal state of mind? Can they fake normality for the sake of their comrades? Will they be able to return to the task at hand, or has their breakage had such an effect on the plot/the mission/other characters that they are no longer of use to anyone?
- People talk back. Interrogation and breakage is not a one-sided affair. How will the one being scrutinized fight back? Can this backfire? Could they talk (or even fight) their way out of whatever you throw at them? Not everyone will simply sit there and take it. How will you react if your character turns the tables and starts wearing you down?
- Controlling the status quo. Do you always have the upper hand? How will you maintain it if they fight back? You cannot break someone if they turn your methods back on you. What do you have at your disposal to ensure that your character cannot do this, or to restabilize status quo if they do?
Breaking can be harder to do with young children because children frequently don’t have the same variety of (or same amount of) insecurities, fears, and weaknesses that adults do. With adults, you can play to your strengths against their weak spots.
The thing I always keep in mind when talking a character to death or breakage is how to divert their concentration and focus. What can I do or say to make them stop focusing on me, stop focusing on the danger or the circumstances and start focusing on what I am saying, on what it means to them? This can mean clever wordplay, hiding the facts, or outright lying through my teeth. What do I have to do to make them doubt themselves, to make them withdraw and reconsider? The moment I see them do this, the instant their attention goes from me to their inner demons and doubts (“what have I done, is this my fault, is this the truth, how do I fix this, can I fix this, have I failed, I have failed,” etc.), I follow them in to the center of their minds and shatter them.
Fight them. People spend their whole lives beating down and hiding things, memories, events, feelings. People wall these things off from the world and sometimes from themselves. Twist their arm, unleash these inner demons for them, and watch your target tear themselves apart.
I hope this helps somehow. Give us a shout if it doesn’t.
writer’s always have those certain characters that make an appearance in every story they write
It’s fanfiction, so it’s your world to play with. The attraction is going to be the characters, since that’s usually what the fans are reading for. That’s why AUs (Alternate Universes) are popular, because it’s about seeing a character in a completely different setting. So feel free to take it in whatever direction feels the best; different readers are there for different things and you’ll end up attracting a like-minded crowd.
Here are some resources for writing crossovers:
Writing Crossover Fanfic(This is good advice, but if you choose the more AU route, you’re welcome to. Different things for different people.)
Detailed Tips for Writing a Crossover (This one is super helpful for characterization)
Here is the masterlist on everything there is to know when writing bios! There are probably more than 100 links, organized in bio writing, traits, names, faceclaims…Everything!
❆ How to Write
- Successfully Write Many Characters - And Keep Them Diverse (rphqueen)
- Writing In-depth Characters (keir-reviews)
- Guide to: Writing the Perfect Bio (struckby-therphelper)
- How to: Making a Great Bio (soatyourservice)
- Guide To Writing Character Bios (ellyhelps)
- How to: Show a Character’s Personality in 3 Paragraphs (curlyfriesrpc)
- Use Archetypes to Create Literary Characters (rphhelp-advice)
- Balance Out Your Character Types (psychrph)
- How to Write Bios ( adam-and-ian-help)
- Need Help With Character Creation? (hermajestyhelps)
- How to Create Premades That Are Effective and Have Purpose (fat-amy-rph)
- Things to Think About During RPG Character Creation ( errantdreams.com)
- How to Make Your Supernatural Characters Unique and Interesting (benedicthelps)
- Writing Character Bios (writeworld)
- Matt’s Tips → Aspects You Might Be Ignoring When Creating Your Characters (wehelprps)
- Creating Believable Characters (thewolf-rph)
- How to Write A Good Biography (georgiakincaid)
- Biographies (For Dummies) (thetrolliestcritic)
- Components of Your Character Biographies (shackleboltrps)
- How to show a character personality in 3 paragraphs (rphelper)
- How to Write Bios (roleplayrater)
- Writing Character Bios (writeworld)
- Write a Biography (And Make It Interesting) (rpcgron)
- Biographies (For Dummies) (thetrolliestcritic)
- Your Bios Could Lose a Few Inches (thegoodwitchrpc)
- Canon Character Bios Guide (mean-people-suck-rph)
- Create a Cast of Characters That is Interesting and Will Keep Your Plot Moving (rpcgron)
❆ Writing a lot
- The Bio Machine (and How to Become One) (critiqualicious)
- Writing lots of bios (acciorpc)
- Simple tips to get into that “bio monster” mode (irant-rpc)
- Character/Bio Writing Template (rptheme-helper)
- Bio Skeletons, What & Why (avandalerpg)
- Keir’s Favourite Bio Templates (keir-reviews)
- Different Bio Format Examples (nayahelps)
- Masterlist of Bio Formats (thetrolliestcritic)
- Naming Your Characters (reyesrph)
- Naming Your Characters (linderwrites)
- Tips for Writers on Naming Characters via babynames.com
- Baby Names
- Our Baby Namer
- Baby Name Genie
- Name Generator
- How to Give Your Character the Perfect Name via Writer’s Digest
- Character Name Generator
- Random Name Generator
- Rum and Monkey
- SSA: Top Names of the 1950s
- First Names Reference Database
- 1000 Most Popular Names of the 1950s
- 100 Most Popular Baby Names
- Bey Bey Name Generator
- Angel Names
- More Angel Names
- Royal Baby Name Generator
- List of Demon Names
- 20,000+ Names From Around the World
- Fantasy Name Generator
- Demon Names
- Scottish and Irish
- Victorian Era Names
- Naming Your Characters
❆ Personality traits
- List of personality traits
- 100 positive and negative traits (acciorpc)
- Positive Personality Traits (prancingloon-rph)
- Underused Personalities/Traits (grandehelper)
- Character Traits (niallrph)
- List strengths & weaknesses
- Character Traits Meme
❆ Faceclaims and diversity
- The Importance of Diversity in Faceclaims & Demographics (poshhelpers)
- RP-Helper’s FC Directory (rphelper)
- FCADVISORS: 50 FC’s who can pass as High School Students (14-18)-Male Edition (fcadvisors)
- :50 FC’s who can pass as High School Students (14-18)-Female Edition (fcadvisors)
- 50 who are 19 or younger (acciorpc)
- 100 FC’s who are 20 or younger (acciorpc)
- 100+ Males Who Can Pass For High Schoolers (poshhelpers)
- 100+ Females Who Can Pass for High Schoolers (poshhelpers)
- 50 Male POC’s who can play teens (acciorpc)
- 50 Female POC’s who can play teens (acciorpc)
- Under 18 Female Face Claim Masterlist (fchelpers)
- Under 18 Male Face Claim Masterlist (fchelpers)
- Black Female Face Claim Masterlist (fchelpers)
- Black Male Face Claim Masterlist (fchelpers)
- Hispanic Female Face Claim Masterlist (fchelpers)
- Hispanic Male Face Claim Masterlist (fchelpers)
- How To Make Your Roleplay A Safe Space for Trans* People & Characters (thetrolliestcritic)
- The Difference Between Personality and Behaviour (starksrph)
- Character Building with Tarot (morkierps)
- Masterlist of Bio Connections (reyesrph)
- How To Write A Bio Based On A Song (allisonroleplays)
- How To Determine The Age Of Your Character (rpcgron)
- Are Your Characters Well Developed? (rpcounselor)
- 12 Common Character Archetypes (hermajestyhelps)
- Masterlist of Secrets (thatfrenchhelper)
- Writing the LGBT Community (totalrewrite)
We are always told to use body language in our writing. Sometimes, it’s easier said than written. I decided to create these cheat sheets to help you show a character’s state of mind. Obviously, a character may exhibit a number of these behaviours. For example, he may be shocked and angry, or shocked and happy. Use these combinations as needed.