My characters don't listen to me

Forums Fiction Characters My characters don't listen to me

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    KR LaLonde

    I try very hard to figure out my characters before writing the story. But often – and mostly because of my TBI at age 18 – I forget things. I try writing them down but that doesn’t always work. :'(


    KR LaLonde

    Does anyone have a suggestion about how to flesh out my characters without taking so much time the Lord returns first?



    Well, I have a couple ideas, and a couple questions, for that… seeing as im only 16 myself, they might not be useful, but I’ll give it a shot.

    So, do you plan your story and characters first and then start writing, or do you write and learn who the character is as you go?

    If the former  more fits you, I might think about how they relate to the story itself and to the reader, and then dedicate a notebook or just a page to that character. I tend to use people that I know well as models for my characters, especially pertaining to their role in the story – if I have a guy in my story who is not actually the hero but a loyal sidekick, but he makes the moral point, I would look for someone in my life who isn’t a front and center stage person but does have the right ideas and is an excellent cheering squad, be the person male or female.

    If you’re more of the latter type of writer, (I am) I might suggest writing several different scenes with the characters, some scenes with them interacting together and other scenes with each character without the other major characters, like with their family, roommate, at the grocery store, or something else that removes them from the overall story but really sheds some light on who they are.

    Personally, I am super disorganized in my own writing and just learn about them as I go for the most part. I do plan them out somewhat, but only with the help of my writing buddies. We always brainstorm stuff together, and so we might all use the same model for a character in each of our different writings. For instance, X, Y, and I always work on stuff together, and if we’re all looking for a good model for a big-headed hero, we might look at Iron Man… or Y’s younger brother(nothing against him – he’s just a great character model).

    So I guess that my point is that there are a number of ways to do it, but without knowing how you roll I really don’t know how best to advise you. I’ll ask X and Y what they think about this and get back to you soon, @kr-lalaonde!

    What do you guys think? @gabriellepollack, @jenwriter17, @libby, @dekreel, @dakota, @fawxofthecomics, @martina, @dragongeek, @sleepwalkingmk, @sam-kowal, @christianna-hellwig, @natalie-marie, @gabrielle @law0413 @child-of-god, @katherineh @brookewolf, @millennium-m, @miriam-smith, @anna_b_cole, @kay, @storyseeker, @h-jones, @storyjoy, @bookcrazygirl

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 9 months ago by Serenity.

    lover of our Lord, words, and music as his writing tools

    KR LaLonde

    #1: Wow! That’s a lot of writing buddies! I’m feeling a little lonesome over here. ^_^

    #2: I’m a mix of pantser vs planner. I plan at the beginning (a more general plotting that kind of gets pushed to the side as I get into the story. I try to plan at least near the beginning when I have a story, but it’s like my most recent novella (which was a novel when I first started it, and it continued getting shorter and shorter 🙁 ) the main protagonists’ names both were changed, as was the antagonist’s. Some other things about the story itself were changed.

    This is why I sometimes get the feeling that writing just isn’t my thing. 🙁


    Katherine Baker


    How much do you feel you actually know your characters before you start writing? I’ve found that, even if I have a pretty good idea of who my characters are before I start, they usually come out and surprise me by proving one of my original ideas about them false (which I usually only realize on a re-read).

    I don’t think that’s a bad thing, per say. I think, no matter how much planning you do, it’s hard to get a gauge on things before actually “meeting” them in writing (or maybe that’s just me). Your “problem” of trying to remember things might be resolved simply by writing what comes and editing out contradictions later. That’s how I tend to do it.

    As for remembering what you do, I tend to find it like remembering how a friend would react. Typically I can make a pretty good guess as to what they would do because I know them well. I try to do the same for my characters; I may write a few big details written down somewhere else (like backstory, allergies, the name of the school they attended, random childhood friends, etc), but mostly I get to know them well enough that I don’t need to document them.

    A great way to do that is to write or plan out what they’d do in scenarios unrelated to the story (like @serenity said). What would they do if they were responsible for watching a little kid who “disappears”? How would they react to something unrealistic (at least unrealistic to their world)?

    Also, have the characters interact with people. Seeing how they deal with each other can be helpful.


    Of course, this is how I process things. I know it’s not the only way to do it; I just thought it might be helpful to see how someone else does it (that, and I have no idea how to deal with character development any other way). 🙂 Hope this helps!

    Always remember you're unique...
    ...Just like everyone else

    KR LaLonde

    If you’d like, we could exchange emails.

    And don’t feel inferior or anything because of your age. At all. I’m 33 physically. I had a health issue at 18 that set me back a few years.


    KR LaLonde

    Whew! That’s a lot of info! But I assure you: I will take it and run with it!


    Jenna Terese


    I personally feel most connected with my characters and find out more about them faster when I play some scenes from my book in movie-form in my mind. I imagine what my character is going through, put myself into their shoes, and try to predict how they’d feel, think, and act in different situations. Even going about in real life, I sometimes wonder during certain situation, “How would [this character] react?”

    I’m in between a plotter and pantser too. It’s a hard in-between to be in. I feel like I have to have some sort of an outline or I’ll hit dead ends when writing the first draft, but yet outlining can sometimes feel like a chore. I feel like there’s not a lot of advice out there for us in-betweens. 🙂

    My brainstorming often begins with the characters. I suggest that maybe you do a simple character sheet: I like to include their name, age, personality, role in the story, lie that they believe/truth they need, thing they want/thing they need. It’s not nearly as much as those several page questionnaires that plotters use. 😉

    And sometimes, you find out a lot more about your characters when you’re actually writing about them. 🙂

    Aw, I hate to hear you say that writing may not be your thing. 🙁 I mean, first drafts were meant to be changed. It’s your book, you can change what you want. 😉 Things often change and take different forms when we’re writing and editing…

    btw, I have trouble with my books ending up waaaaay shorter than expected, so let me know if you have any questions about that too. 😉

    I hope some of this made sense. 🙂

    "If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write." -Martin Luther

    KR LaLonde

    @jenwriter, YES! The lack of helpful material for us in-betweeners is scary to consider! You have to average things out for yourself and you don’t always do it right.

    I also play them like in a movie/tv show. Or at least I try to. I keep getting all of these great suggestions/ideas from other writers and wanting to apply them but often I just can’t seem to get it right. So I end up giving up. :/


    I will come back and write more later.


    KR LaLonde


    I come up with the story idea, and I figure out what the characters should be like from that idea. And, unfortunately, I don’t plan them out as much as I know I should. I’ve been realizing that a lot recently.

    I also tend to use people I know as models. The characters aren’t exactly like them, but they reflect the same traits and mannerisms. I have tried fleshing out my characters, so to speak, but they always end up changing in the middle or something. I’m actually not certain how to explain it, and I’m sure you don’t have the same problems.

    thought I was organized. But it’s come to my attention that I’m certainly not.


    KR LaLonde

    I’ll be honest and admit that I’m not sure how to get know my characters better. After all, they’re my characters. Shouldn’t they be doing what I want when I want them to? 🙁


    PS, I would have said more in answer to all the questions/advice you’ve given, but I don’t want to overdo.


    Gabrielle Pollack

    Hey @kr-lalonde ! 😀 This is a great question that I’m afraid I don’t know the perfect answer to. 😛 The start of a character can be found anywhere. Sometimes an impression forms a personality right away and we simply have to build off it. Other times a line of dialogue or an idea starts us thinking about a potential protagonist.

    But this doesn’t always happen, and we get stuck with a vague impression of a character that we don’t know how to bring to life. It’s a rather annoying place to be. 😛 However, discovering a character’s defining moment/moments may help.

    A defining moment is an event or string of events/conditions in a character’s past that were so important they alter who a character is. The event can be negative or positive.

    For example, in the movie Tangled, Flynn Ryder’s defining moment happened in his childhood. As a poor orphan, he read a storybook about a wealthy man living a rich, adventurous life. It made him long for wealth because he thought it would make him happy. He decided stealing was the easiest way he could become rich. That became his core.

    A woman in my own story ignores her father’s advice to run after a false love. She is betrayed. This forms a defining moment in her life, and a large part of her issues that are dealt with in the story revolves around the guilt and fear resulting from her decisions. They form the core of who she is and what she must overcome.

    I hope this helps you! Good luck with getting to know your characters 🙂

    P.S. I don’t know if defining moment is the official term for what I described, so it may be called something else depending on where you read about it.

    KR LaLonde

    Just so you all can know, I’m copying and pasting your responses to a word file to review as I’m able.


    KR LaLonde

    Hello, @serena, @KatherineBaker, @Jenwrites17…

    You’ve all given some good pointers. Thank you. If I may, I’d like to share a couple of Google docs (or Word files if those are better) that contain some of my writing. It may help you to understand where I’m coming from.

    Then again, it could also give you the impression that I’m trying to show off–which I promise I’m not.


    KR LaLonde

    <span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>Escape the Storm</span>

    Introduction to:

    Ruth Elizabeth Simmons: She is a young woman who grew up in an abusive home. Her mother urges her to run away one night; she does this, reluctantly leaving her mother behind to “face the wolf”, so-to-speak.

    Cheryl Simmons Waterville: She is Ruth’s birth mother. After Ruth’s father (name undecided) dies when Ruth is just an infant, Cheryl remarries almost as soon as Peter Waterville asks. She’s somewhat subdued whenever we see her in the book, but she insists that Ruth leave when Peter isn’t around.

    Peter Waterville: He’s the antogonist. He was all sweet and loving with Cheryl and Ruth when they first met him. He would bring them gifts and shower them with “things”, but that didn’t last very long. He only asked Cheryl to marry him so he could save his own skin. And after they married, he morphed into a cruel, drug-smuggling man who takes advantage of Cheryl and Ruth.

    PS: Cheryl and Ruth don’t see his bad side until after the two are wed. Ruth is just a young girl of about 5 when they marry.

    David Richmond: He grew up in a busy city (where, I don’t know yet) but after his wife (name unknown) dies (I don’t really know how) he moves to the mountains to live alone. He has a dog, Shadow – a <span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>Burmese</span> mountain dog – who often accompanies him hunting or hiking or fishing. And he sometimes spends time alone on a high-up ledge to observe the landscape and pray to God. Angrily. He’s upset that his wife was killed and is still devastated by his loss. Even 6 years later.


    That’s pretty much all I’ve got for the characters of this novella. 🙁


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