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Creating Characters (W.I.P)

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1 Creating Characters (W.I.P) on Tue Jan 05, 2016 3:35 am

Syrenrei's Less-than-Stellar Guide at Making a Character!

Hey everyone, I was on an informative role-play site called Role-Play Nation (RPN). The work i'm about to show you comes from the user Syrenrei's, it's a great how to guide so for those of you struggling with making characters, I hope this will help.

Step 1
Pick a word (or a couple of words) of what you want to play. Wait, what? That's right, I start with a very simple concept of what I want to play. You can be as vague or precise as you like, but it should be the core of what's going to make this fun for you. It's always possible to branch out, refine, and build upon your initial idea, but I usually just start with a word or two. It can be an adjective or noun- whatever you like!

Examples: Ill-tempered, widow, pessimistic, excitable, righteous, idiot savant, oblivious, innocent, compassionate, elegant, mercenary, etc.

Step 2
Pick some quirks. Now, you might be asking yourself what exactly I mean when I say "quirk." Most of the time I pick some strange faults before anything else- something that balances out the good stuff my character can do with the bad. No one likes a character that is beautiful and awesome in every way. It's too boring and it's hard to empathize with since everyone has faults! This is admittedly a harder part of process, but it can really help you solidify your concept. On the reverse side, if your starting word is already negative, you need to add something redeeming or positive for your character.

Examples: an ill-tempered swordsman with a heart of gold and afraid of heights, a pessimistic superhero with strong morals, a compassionate healer oblivious to the workings of the world, etc.

Try to pick at least a couple negative and positive traits for your character. It's okay if they don't necessarily fit with your starting word yet- so long as they aren't completely contrary. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself: What do I want to have them really bad at? Do I want them to be afraid of anything? Are they really good at anything? Do they have any unusual traits/skills? Don't be afraid to be different! Have a missing limb, bad vision, a fear or water, or make them talk incessantly about a tea obsession. Be fun!

IMPORTANT! There are some things you should avoid. This doesn't mean you can never do these things, but you should proceed with extreme caution!
Psychological Conditions: If your character has a mental illness, make certain you have done research on it to play it properly. What TV calls "Multiple Personality Disorder" is really "Dissociative Identity Disorder." You don't have just "a little OCD." If you can't play a condition convincingly, fellow players will get frustrated with you and it will reflect poorly on a character that may otherwise be awesome!
Being a Loner or Wallflower: Role-playing requires more than one person, obviously, and it's really important for characters to interact. Making a loner or wallflower character makes it harder to interact with others and for them to interact with you. If you make this sort of character, you should create a reason they would seek out and interact with others. If you make them too distant then other characters and players won't chase after you forever!
Being Antagonistic: Lots of people enjoy playing bad guys, but if your guy or gal is a jerk, other characters are going to notice. And since characters generally don't like hanging out with jerks, those characters might avoid you like the plague. Realize once you make that transition to jerkface you might have to write some solo posts or spend quality time alone depending on the plot. The best way to avoid this is to make a jerk that has a redeeming quality or skill that make others want or need you around despite the jerk trait(s).
Going God-Mode: I will be the first to admit I fell in this trap when I first got started. My first character, Jenna, was super awesome at water magic and healing, she was the absolute best with her staff, etc. I've also had a friend who couldn't have his character lose any fight- ever. Your character shouldn't be about beating up everyone in a RP, or being prettier, or anything like that. They should have flaws and weaknesses and, most importantly, be someone that is interesting when they are by themselves.

Step 3
Background time! Wait, what? This is the THIRD step and not the first or second? Are you kidding me? Nope! For me sometimes doing a background first paints me into the proverbial corner and I end up developing this character with traits I don't like. It's always been easier for me to first define who they are now and then figure out how they got there! Here are some easy questions to get their background started:
Who are their parents and what are they like? When they were born did they already have siblings? What sort of situation surrounded their birth (if any)?
What was their life like as small child. Any siblings born after them? Did their parents split or stay together? Did they move?
What was their life like as a pre-teen? Did they go to school or train in any profession? Did they have a good relationship with their family or caretakers?
How are/were the teenage years? Did they rebel or were they a dutiful child? Do/did they live alone or with others? Why?
What sort of experiences in their life might have shaped them into having the traits we already outlined?
Remember characters can change throughout their history in terms of personality. Some are drawn down by their circumstances and others rise above it. My ill-tempered swordsman with a heart of gold was raised in an abusive household but had a brother and sister that helped guide her morally and she rose above it. My widow was arrogant, self-assured, and enthusiastic when she got married, but when her husband died she became more melancholy, distant, and was more daring with her life.

IMPORTANT! The most common trap to fall into here is making someone overly traumatized. Yeah, I fell into that trap too. Not everyone is an orphan, or has neglectful parents, or an abusive childhood, or did drugs when they were younger, etc. If you make a character whose past is too much of a sob story you risk alienating people who will roll their eyes at how unrealistic the series of events are. Temper the tragedies in your character's life with successes and boons! The ill-tempered swordsman had a great brother and sister she's close to and became a successful mercenary in control of her life. The melancholy widow is incredibly affluent and had a great childhood. You can have a boring past and still have a great, interesting character.

Step 4
What is their goal? A lot of people in life have some sort of dream or goal they are trying to achieve. Your character should have something that drives them too. Are they trying to save someone from the threat of evil? Are they looking for love so they can settle down and start a family? Are they on a path of vengeance or redemption? Having a goal can really help drive you in posts when you aren't sure what you want to do next!

Examples: Become the high priest of their deity, get married and have three kids, become a master alchemist, convince their sister to leave the hero league, become a doctor, etc.

Step 5
Tie-ins! This is completely optional but it can really help a lot. So you've made this fantastic character you are really, really proud of. What more can you do? Well, you can reach out to fellow players and plot, plot, plot! Maybe you are friends, distant relatives, enemies, or something in-between. You can make them know each other from a NPC or just plot ahead an opportunity for them to meet. Finding someone to interact with more intimately can help you really involve yourself in the plot. PM your fellow players or post in the OOC and see if someone wants to beat you up in combat, become your new BFF, or be the boyfriend of your sister that you always crushed on. Just remember that not everyone is going to be able to merge into your history and concept and that's okay- but maybe you can inspire each other and find something exciting to look forward to!

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