Subtle Character Development

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Thread: Subtle Character Development

  1. #1
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    Default Subtle Character Development

    Some character development isn't always about self discovery where it's spelled out for the viewers on what the character is going through in his/her internal struggle. It's sometimes barely noticeable but it comes together in the end.

    What are some good examples on this kind of writing? And what do you think of it compared to other forms of character development?

  2. #2
    Wordsmith unrepentantAuthor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Subtle Character Development

    Generally speaking, I find subtle character development to be infinitely more gratifying - and palatable - than development that is 'spelled out'. After all, isn't this a microcosm of the old "show, don't tell" rule? In a way, it's better for the reader to infer the state and change of a character's persona rather than be told it, and subtlety is more satisfying than bluntness in most cases.

    Subtle character development isn't really something I could 'find good examples of,' but I'll give you a pair of contrasted summations:
    -A character, after the death of a friend, starts bawling, probably with a cry of "noooo," and immediately produces several chapters of solid wangst.
    -A character, after the death of a friend, retreats into themselves, ceases formerly ubiquitous habits, rarely enjoys themself or smiles, and is constantly apprehensive.
    I hope you get the general idea - it should be pretty obvious which one I'd be more interested to read.

    If you want a full analysis of 'other forms of character development,' you're gonna have to more precisely categorise what those forms might be. I'm of the view that any given 'field' of writing is contiguous, rather than discrete, and I'm only contrasting subtle/not-subtle here because they're on either end of a field.

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    Reality is a dream TheLlama's Avatar
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    Default Re: Subtle Character Development

    Also, the "slowly maturing during the course of a journey" development is central for a pokemon fanfic. Whatever they meet on the journey and how they react defines who they were and who they will become. The trick to doing this slow maturing is to know who they are when you start, and who they will be when you end. Then sort of find several natural steps inbetween, tie them in with your plot, and change your characters according to these. The more subtle and small the steps, the better they are. The more sudden, the worse.

    That latter point has its exceptions, though, as there are cases of events, often of the traumatic kind, that changes behaviour very suddenly rather than slowly and gradually. Imagine a rock, that's usually eroded gradually by wind and weather. This would be the above kind of subtle development. Sometimes, humans pick out rocks, and start chiseling away at them. This would be the sudden kind of change - both are possible and can happen to the rock, and both change how it looks, how it behaves and how others see it.

    Example: A risk-taker who breaks a leg during some extreme activity might find they abruptly shut themselves out from such activity, for example. Like uA says, this does not come about through any large amount of drama however, as much as it is just a sudden change in behaviour that is reflected in the small bits, what you see between the lines. They will not necessarily have directly traumatic memories (though this may be present) and often deny, both unto themselves and others, the existence of any such change, depending on the gravity and appearance of whichever event triggered the change.

    What I'm getting at is that there's two types of discernible "subtle development" - subtle phrasing and portrayal of a sudden change in person; a chiseling away at the person, or subtle development, over time, as the result a journey in which events and people, both major and minor, affect the person; a weathering away, erosion, of the character
    "People like you and me overcame the Neanderthals. People like you and me overcame the Ice Age"

    "You can hold [the brain] in the palm of your hands - and it can contemplate the vastness of interstellar space"

    "Along some paths of cosmic discovery there are times when, at least for now, one must be content to love the questions themselves"

    The Symphony of Science; a tribute to the marvels of science and nature.


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    Default Re: Subtle Character Development

    Quote Originally Posted by Llama_Guy View Post
    Imagine a rock, that's usually eroded gradually by wind and weather. This would be the above kind of subtle development. Sometimes, humans pick out rocks, and start chiseling away at them. This would be the sudden kind of change - both are possible and can happen to the rock, and both change how it looks, how it behaves and how others see it.
    You know, I thought of that comparison once before but I forgot about it until now.

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