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CN"S Guide to Writing
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Chilari
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 25, 2009 10:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Characters are something I've always had trouble with. There's always something lacking in them, no matter how long I spend working on them. Perhaps I'm expecting too much of my writing - thinking in terms of films and TV shows instead of the written word, where, or so I have come to believe, it is harder to create a character because you're relying only on descriptions of actions (and dialogue) rather than someone actually acting the character out. It's easier to add inobtrusive little nuances on screen than in writing without sounding repetitive.

Or maybe I'm just not particularly good at writing good solid characters. I reckon at the moment they're like those posters you can get where from one angle it's one thing and from another it's alightly different. They're slightly more than 2D but far from being 3D.
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Lavenderbard
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2009 3:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Casual Notice wrote:
You, however should know, or easily be able to know, everything that any character will do at any given moment. If a grenade is tossed into a group of your characters, you need to know exactly which ones will jump aside, which will jump on the grenade, and which will throw someone else on it—even if that information is a surprise to your readers.


I frequently don't know what Prince Asond will do until he does it. Its one of the things that makes writing him so fun. I didn't know he'd leave in the middle of the night trying to leave Samanth behind. I had a pretty good idea that Samanth would hit him when she finally caught up to him, but I didn't know he'd avoid her like the plague afterwards... well it wasn't really because she hit him, (although he SAYS that's why), it's because he didn't know the answer to her question about whether he would have left that little problem on the road for someone else to take care of if he had realized she would be following him. I didn't know she was going to ask him that, and I didn't know that he wouldn't be able to answer. I didn't even know that he was going to leave that problem for someone else, until the time arrived and he said, 'sorry, can't stop, other duties more pressing'.

Lots of writers (yes, including commercially successful pros) find that when they have a fully realized and self-willed character that their carefully preprepared plot gets tossed to the dogs when the character absolutely refuses to do something that they thought the character would do, or insists on doing something they didn't realize the character would insist on.

This is one of the reasons why people need to be warned that outlines don't work for all writers: self-willed characters are a good thing, in general, it means your character is truely a character, and not just a puppet -- but if you force them to follow a plot outline when they are telling you they want to do something different, you are failing to be true to that character and your story ceases to work right.


My characters are certainly self-willed, but they never seem to screw up my plots somehow, no matter how often they surprise me. I guess I'm just lucky? (Either that or it's that by plotting via key events, I'm left with a lot of fudge space for character agency?)
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2009 5:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lavenderbard wrote:
I frequently don't know what Prince Asond will do until he does it. Its one of the things that makes writing him so fun.


Hmm, I just realized that I could have used an example that is available here on the TWCL. When we did the characters asking each other questions thread, one of the questions was "what is your favorite color" and Blood startled me by refusing to answer. I knew what his favorite color was -- its listed in his character listing on my site. But when some impertinent snoop asked him the question, he refused to answer, even though I had bribed him with beer, and he was generally in a pretty mellow mood. (I had to bribe him, or he never would have answered any questions in the first place -- and Silver didn't appear in that thread at all because there wasn't anything I could think of that would make him willing to answer questions.)

When I thought about it, I figured out why he snapped instead of responding, but that was afterwards. When I sat down to write Blood's answers I was thinking, 'just one favorite color or both?' I had no idea I was going to end up typing "None of your business!"
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Lavenderbard
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2009 6:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

anezka wrote:
Characters are something I've always had trouble with. There's always something lacking in them, no matter how long I spend working on them.


I always thought it was easier to do a character with the written word, because you aren't stuck with only what's on the surface. (And then I went and decided to have two of my most complex characters portrayed in a way that only does show the surface... I'm just masochistic I guess?)

Is your problem that your characters aren't 3D to YOU, or is it that all three dimensions aren't getting onto the page? Those a frequently two very different problems.

If your characters feel flat to you, there's a good chance that you are working on them in the wrong way. Some writers pour everything they can in the character as he/she shows up in the story, forgetting that the character needs to come from somewhere... the effect is rather like those mythological creatures that look like a beautiful woman from the front, but from the back can be seen to be an empty shell. Other writers build detailed characters histories and/or fill out complex character sheets, but those histories are just dead facts, nothing grows out of them and the character arrives on the page lifeless (and the writer frequently forgets what all those dead facts were, and has a supposed vegitarian spend a page describing a delicious steak dinner).

One technique to get around both these problems is to write a "defining moment" for your character. Write an actual scene of something vitally important that happened to your character BEFORE your story begins. Something that doesn't belong IN your story, that you intend to never use as a story, but that belongs to the character. (I, um, never use this technique, because, well... it's too easy for me. That's usually a good sign that a writing exercise is a useless waste of time, and they need to try something else.)

Another reason some writers can't seem to come up with fully real characters is the observation problem Casual mentioned... they can't write people, because they never really paid that much attention to people around them and have no idea what people are really like.


The full three dimensions not showing up on the page can frequently be one of two problems. Firstly, that the writer just doesn't have the chops yet, and needs to put in the practice and mature and grow as a writer. Depicting characters is a complex art that makes use of every writing technique there is. Your ability to depict character will suffer, if your descriptive skills are weak, if you dialog skills are weak if your narrative skills are weak, if your ability to write action is weak, etc, etc, etc.

The second is actually a plotting problem, the character that never shows up in all three dimensions, because the writer never lets the audience see that character from more than one angle.

And there are probably lots of other problems and solutions I didn't think of, of course.
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Lavenderbard
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 26, 2009 10:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Casual Notice wrote:
I would submit that the fact that you can rationalize the reponse suggests that you did know, at least on some level, how the character would respond.


Technically speaking, I agree with that.

But you know, what it sounds like you said is not what it FEELS like I did.

And, therefore, even though I agree totally that you have to know your characters, I think that it helps to mention that knowing one's characters doesn't always mean what it sounds like it ought to mean.
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Chilari
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PostPosted: Fri May 01, 2009 4:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dorkness wrote:
I guess my biggest problem is trying not to write in all the details and such. It's tough trying to condense a page of plot into 8 - 10 panels and art.


QFT. I have trouble keeping dialogue concise. It's well documented that overly wordy comics come under fire a lot. In my prose writing, I'm used to long speeches and discussions in which not much actually happens beyond the talking. In fact, one project I'm working on focuses almost entirely on the interactions between two characters, and most of the scenes take place in one room. So writing for comics is quite a change for me. In a script I'm working on, I was reading through it the other day and took out one word - "probably" - because it was the least needed word in a too-long sentence.

My descriptions, however, have improved since I started working on webcomic scripts. Since I don't know who's going to draw them, or when (if at all), I'm writing very in-depth descriptions for each panel, including notes on the camera angle, clothing, hair, setting and even colour. I still struggle to get descriptions into prose without it sounding awkward, but when I do, I think they're better.
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Chilari
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 31, 2010 4:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow, a year already? Doesn't feel like it was that long ago.
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 25, 2010 12:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ooh I didn't know that about the Claremont/Byrne Phoenix re-write thing.
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