Wednesday, April 24, 2013

04/24/2013 Writing Wednesday!

Hello everyone! I hope the week is treating you all very well. For me, while Monday was very nice, yesterday was a kick in the teeth that involved some mild food poisoning. It's happened before, but this time the dizziness was so bad combined with the nausea that I was forced to remain in bed for a majority of the day. I felt really bad for missing work, especially with me having today off too, but I understand that sometimes it's just necessary to let your body recover. I feel pretty much 100% today though, so I'm going to call this a win.

As you all know my trips into editing are always one of wishing it was completed yesterday. Which is why I decided it wouldn't be my topic for today. I actually decided to take a few steps back and look at main character development. When you first come up with the concept of your character, most of the time you have what they look like and their job, and depending on what genre you're working with, maybe some powers or abilities or skills and such. You might even have a name, but sometimes that comes closer to the end, because let's face it; naming is hard! While having a concept is fantastic, one of the things you need to think about is the fact that just having a concept doesn't make them a full person; in order to achieve this you also need aspects and flaws as well as motivations for them to do what they're doing.

Now, my time in table-top gaming has made it so that making a character means that, if needed, I can make a version of them in whatever game I'm in. Character creation always starts of the basic concept, then if it's a point-buy system (where rather than roll dice and hope your starting attributes don't suck, you have a starting pool of points to spread between them), you put those points where they seem appropriate for the person. This give you an idea of what they're actually capable of. For example, someone can say they're a champion swashbuckler, but the skill level they would end up having in that actual skill might not be that great, however they do have a fantastic ability to deceive people. At that point you know that the character is likely going to be charismatic, but at some point will be in way over their head, which will hopefully be at least entertaining when that happens.

Once you know what they're able to do physically, it's time to look at what they're actually good at. Do they have a job, or a future job, or something that might be considered an occupation in any sense? This is where deciding what they can do with the traits you've given them will come in handy. Let's say they're super smart, not very strong, and living in a world where aliens exist. Your character is part of a secret government organization that's working to protect the world from this threat, but let's say that the person that you had in mind isn't so much of a fighter. One thing that you might be able to do is make them a computer specialist, and because that organization only recruits the best of the best, they are ridiculously good at it. The downside to this is that their non-combatant part of them is strong enough that they are actually a pacifist; something that is considered a huge drawback in what would be considered a war. So you make sure they have all of the tech skills to justify their recruitment, but never forget that this person will never carry a gun, isn't really able to fight back if cornered, and in some cases not even able to watch violence of any kind. This person will need to be clever, quick on their feet and also in the brain, so you can work that into their skills as well.

We're getting a bit closer to having a real person...well ok, not real, but you get the point. Something to remember is that people are not going to be good at 100% of everything. Just like the example above there are going to be things that will be considered a drawback or flaw to the person. This will make them seem more believable to the reader and also help you as an author work more dramatic situations. Even Superman, who's pretty much all powerful and good at everything is going to panic a little when he finds out the person he's about to throw down with is actually a wizard. You thought I was going to use Kryptonite as my example didn't you? HA! MAGIC! My point is there needs to be something the character is going to have some kind of quandary about. They need to, and this can even be as simple as some kind of addiction, for example the techy in the previous paragraph was addicted to caffeine and also had insomnia, which the two played off of each other rather nicely. This could even be a secret that they keep so close to them because if anyone ever found out their life would be in ruins. Anything that makes it seem like the character has a reason for acting the way they do.

Finally, and I'm so sorry this is so long, you need to figure out their motivation. What does this person strive to do? It could be as simple of wanting to experience everything the world has to offer. In one of the games I'm currently in that's something I'm actually playing with. The girl was basically raised by the secret government organization, and her view regarding things in the world is a little biased and skewed. Now that she's surrounded by people who have come from "normal" society she's starting to learn little by little the things she's missed out on and is dealing with discovering what that's done to her while also becoming determined to integrate a bit more, all the while never turning her back on the organization that protected her. The way you figure out the little pieces of the character's motivations is simply by figuring out how they'd react to certain situations. For instance, the girl I was just talking about asked every person in her cell what school was like for them, because she was essentially home-schooled, and in that moment she realized she'd never been around people her own age, from childhood until recently. Even something like that can be a crushing blow to a character, especially if they were sheltered. Work with it, because it is seriously a lot of fun.

Thanks everyone so much for stopping by today. I apologize for the longer post, but you know how I get sometimes when I don't need to worry so much about time limits. I'll be back on Friday with the regularly scheduled review. I hope the week treats you all well though! Have fun!

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