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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I often stop reading books, if by the third chapter or so, I don't have a clue about the main character. I find it hard to care about what happens to the MC when, during the beginning, it's all dialogue. Is it me or have authors stopped building charcters?


~KC
 

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I never stop reading books; I'm too stubborn. I'll persevere, even if the book sucks from the off. :D
 

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I don't think authors have stopped building characters but I seem to pick up more action led rather than character led novels at the moment, and, although I might be thrown into the story straight away - if I don't care about the main character I find I'm less likely to carry on.

I'd have to disagree on the dialogue front, though. Dialogue can be a good way to build a character if done well. :)
 

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I agree that a lot of people don't seem to put effort into building up a character. But I disagree with the dialogue being the concern. If the dialogue is working, a character unfolds. We all have different ways of speaking and this says a lot about who we are and what we really think of things. And so should characters. I think some writers forget to let their characters respond to things. In one Kindle book I am reading at the moment, there is no consequence to anything and as a result the characters are wooden.

--- edited... no self-promotion outside the Book Bazaar forum. please read our Forum Decorum thread.
 

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Unless you build really solid, interesting characters that I can relate to or find fascinating (not necessarily like), then you'd  better have great storyline and evidence, details, landscapes (civilizations), etc.

I care more for those elements than the characters unless the characters can really carry it. Some of my favorite authors have created such characters, but then over time, the characters seem to hit dead ends....and become people I dont like or they jump the shark.

And even in the best books, it's hard to enjoy them when the lead is someone I cant respect.  Guess I can be a little judgemental  ::) (I have a thing against heroines who are still desperate to find love or must have a man in their lives, for ex.).
 

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My characters seem to grown as I'm writing. I don't spend a lot of time planning, preferring to do it by the seat of my pants. Once I get to the end, I go back and put in the things I know about the characters. If I try to plan first, I lose interest in the story, and simply don't want to write it.
 

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I think it's just a different way of building a character. Some people like it, some don't. I usually leave the first couple chapters as my last to write because I will really know my MC and how to really build them up in a way that will still make sense at the end of the book. I like to pretend I know what my characters are going to be like while I'm doing an outline, but they rarely end up the way I originally intended, which is a lot of fun!
 

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I agree with gsjohnston.  You've hit the nail on the head, here.  There have to be consequences to any action and main characters have to experience these and respond to them. 

I find that my characters evolve over time and I have to go back to the beginning and 'freshen them up' to account for how and why the character has grown in this way.

I also have an annoying experience.  Minor characters keep coming onto the scene and they try to muscle in on the action by being more energetic, amusing, more powerful and exasperatingly more interesting than I had anticipated. 
 

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I think there has always been poor character writers, bad writing is not something new, but it is the success that stand the test of time (at least this is what I hope). My test is if a character can do something that is against the grain of the character ( a good guy do something bad, or vice versa) and it does not feel forced, then you have a complex and well fleshed out character.
 

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I like strong characters; I tend to get bored, too, and give up reading if I still don't feel like I know who the main character is or why I should care after a few chapters. I will persevere if it's an author I trust (authors I've loved in the past sometimes have books that start out boring but eventually wind up interesting), but not if the author hasn't won me with another book already.

Mainly, I like strong voice. All dialogue is totally okay, as long as it shows me who these characters are and why they're interesting, but all-action or all-description usually puts me to sleep. I don't care if the character's in danger if I don't even know his/her personality, and I certainly don't care about wherever he lives!
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
GS, I should have been more clear. I meant that I am discouraged to read any further when the dialogue doesn't work. For example if the writer has the character saying, "have a nice day" when it doesn't move the story forward, then I find it hard to keep reading.

For sniggles and grins this is what I might do if I started in dialogue.

"Where the heck have you been, Rachel?" Brian asks, standing at the front door with his hands on his hips.
She brushes pass him, sucking on her teeth. "Why do you care?"
"Have a nice day, too," Brian says as he slams the door.
******************************************************************************
I hope to let the reader know that Brian is mad at Rachel, but at the same time, we sense something is going on with her too.
 

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very good dialogue - and very clear.  I often forget that a reader is a very subtle being.  My first drafts are often like a sledgehammer and when I re-draft I always try to let the reader work it out.  Good and consistant dialogue is a great way of doing this.  I just read a book where the dialogue for a teenage boy and a middle aged mother were basically the same.  It was v boring. 
 

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I think the demands of pace have more or less driven books the past decade.

Look at how authors such as Peter Blauner (one of the best thriller writers in the USA IMO) has slipped by the wayside with getting published in the UK, yet authors such as James Patterson are riding high.

Even Lee Childs could be criticized for sketching only minimally his supportive characters outside of Jack Reacher. Also, dialogue if handled well can tell you a lot about characters.

A bit more flesh on the bone would help, I agree -- as long as it doesn't bog down either the plot or pace with too much detail. I suppose that's why Harlan Coben is such a master with his stand alone series. He manages to give you a feel for the characters while keeping the pace red hot.
 

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I agree with ScribeJohn, the increase in pace (in order to compete with attention spans attuned to film and tv) has meant that less coverage is devoted to developing a character. The real masters convey the character through the character's words and actions, which need not bog down the action. However this means the writer is taking care of multiple tasks at one time, and to do this well takes effort and skill, so it is no surprise that only a relative few pull it off seamlessly.
 

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Great to find a thread that touches on my favourite topic. I'm a crime writer and I spend much time on building characters with depth, not cardboard characters that are just names. I create a template that asks me detailed questions about the guy or girl and how they behave. I try to delve into their mind and find out what makes them tick. When I'm done and believe I have a real larger than life character I find an image from a newspaper or magazine and cut it out and pin it on a board with the characters name underneath. Every time I write about that person I look up at the board and my template. 
 

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Nick Wastnage said:
Great to find a thread that touches on my favourite topic. I'm a crime writer and I spend much time on building characters with depth, not cardboard characters that are just names. I create a template that asks me detailed questions about the guy or girl and how they behave. I try to delve into their mind and find out what makes them tick. When I'm done and believe I have a real larger than life character I find an image from a newspaper or magazine and cut it out and pin it on a board with the characters name underneath. Every time I write about that person I look up at the board and my template.
What a clever idea! I've seen advice like this before, but never known anyone who does it religiously. Mainly, I've done things like that when I don't feel like I know a character sufficiently, like there's something about them that's missing. It frequently makes me realize what it is that's missing.
 

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For me it's strong characterization that really helps me get into a book. I put aside a book after a chapter or two if I can't get into it, although I try to give character development a little longer if I can.
 

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kchughez said:
I often stop reading books, if by the third chapter or so, I don't have a clue about the main character. I find it hard to care about what happens to the MC when, during the beginning, it's all dialogue. Is it me or have authors stopped building charcters?
I would think you could get a great sense of a character through dialog alone. Are you looking for more narration or more action?
 

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Good discussion! I like books that begin in media res, revealing information as the story moves along. I'm not a big fan of heavy exposition up front. Introduce the characters, get me involved in the action, THEN take time to give me some background on who everyone is and why they are where they are.

That said, yes, I do want that information by the third chapter. In fact, I probably want it earlier than that or I spend all my time thinking, "Why should I care about these people?"

Just don't upload it all at once. :)

Diana
 

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Nick Wastnage said:
Great to find a thread that touches on my favourite topic. I'm a crime writer and I spend much time on building characters with depth, not cardboard characters that are just names. I create a template that asks me detailed questions about the guy or girl and how they behave. I try to delve into their mind and find out what makes them tick. When I'm done and believe I have a real larger than life character I find an image from a newspaper or magazine and cut it out and pin it on a board with the characters name underneath. Every time I write about that person I look up at the board and my template.
I take a very similar approach. I generally interview my characters before employing them: who are they? what do they want? biggest fear? Education? etc. And then add a few God Q&A's: What's in their way? what's at stake? I do this even for supporting cast. Then I pick their face (Age, sex, weight, hair/eye color have already been decided). I think I got one man's face from googling "Accountant" or something like that. LOL.

For me to continue writing, I must love my characters... even if I hate them. I have to care about their plight. They have to be people I know intimately. I think knowing them in this way helps me present them in a fair, unbiased manner--important because I often write about people on the fringe of society... what good decent folk call the dregs of humanity.
 
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