01. Creating A Character

Mr. Danya
Joined: May 28th, 2007, 12:31 pm

July 16th, 2011, 9:04 pm #1

(This was long due an update; it's based loosely off material originally written by Naki, a friend of an old member)

Creating Your Character

This is of course, the key part of any roleplay; after all, you can't play on a site if you don't have a character, can you? When it comes to Survival of the Fittest, some might suggest that you're a little restricted in what options you have for a character; they have to be somebody who could realistically be attending a high school, an 'ordinary high school student', as you'll often see us say. These people have obviously forgotten exactly what high school was like - a diverse array of different personalities, groups and motivations. That's not to say every single character has to be a special snowflake, but don't make the mistake of thinking that 'regular high school student' means that you have to write a generic, cookie cutter character.

To digress a little, whilst we consider ourselves an advanced roleplay, that does not mean that every profile has to consist of a wall of text detailing every minute aspect of a character's personality and history. Detail is good, detail is encouraged, but we are not going to ask you to fill an arbitrary 1,000 word space just because we don't like short biographies. If you're struggling to find more to write about, ask another member or heck, post the profile for a staff member to have a look at. Critiques are our job; we'll point you in the right direction.

When starting your profile, consider that this may well be the first impression the board gets of you as a writer. When your character joins a thread, you can be almost certain that the first thing your thread-mates will do is take a look at your character's profile. Whilst I'm sure that this won't need stating in the vast majority of cases, remember that this means you're best off putting your maximum effort into the profile, or at the very least enough to reflect your level of commitment to the site. It takes a lot of good roleplaying to overcome the stigma of a bad first impression.

On SOTF, two of the key aspects of a character - their history and their personality - are contained under one heading, that is 'Biography'. That means that theoretically, you could be giving an impression of how your character acts and thinks interspersed with how this has applied to their everyday life. However, there's nothing stopping you from giving a general impression of the character's personality in a separate paragraph from the outright history. If that works better for you, then go ahead and do it. We'll briefly tackle building up a personality first.

A good rule of thumb to begin with, assuming you're building a character from the ground up and don't already have one in mind, is to look at the profiles of other handlers. Given you're thinking about submitting a character, it's likely that a Pregame or main version registration is open, so you'll have plenty to choose from. Look at those characters, and think of interactions you'd like to have with them as a writer - think of how you want to play your character in the context of the group of characters that are making up the roleplay.

- Quick word of advice: There's a good reason that many handlers on SOTF roll their eyes when they see a 'Loner' archetype submitted. Unfortunately this type of character has a bit of a stigma associated with it (and sometimes we get so many loners it's like they're a group unto themselves). My advice, if you're considering a loner, is to really think hard about it, and explore some other avenues. It's much more fun to play SOTF when your character has history with the others.

Now, thinking about how you'd like to play your character, come up with a handful of quick descriptors that would summarise them. I'll pick a few broad strokes at random; "Mischievous, witty, smart, carefree'. At this point, a couple of clichéd or stereotypical characters might pop into your head - you might think of these four words and think 'Class clown' or 'Prankster', for example. That's perfectly fine, what makes a stereotype a stereotype is oversimplification, not simply shared traits. Just because it might be a cliché of a high school setting doesn't mean that there's no such thing as a class clown, where you come in is to make sure that the character isn't just a one-dimensional cut-out.

From here, you simply need to build off of your brief selection of words. What exactly does 'Mischievous' mean in relation to your character? It can have multiple meanings and connotations, elaborate on your character's very own brand of mischievousness. As an example, I'll write out two very basic personality outlines using the same four words, but with different meanings each time in the context of how that character acts.

"Jack is definitely what you'd call a 'personality', a kid that does his own thing, but does it with a smile. He's a pretty mischievous type of guy, always ready with a practical joke or with a new idea for his next 'hilarious prank', but whilst he causes trouble, Jack always acts in good fun and with a twinkle in his eye. Even when Jack isn't dreaming up elaborate ruses, he's fun to be around, as he's witty enough to get laughs seemingly at will, and smart enough to make his jokes clever as well as funny. If he took life a little more seriously, Jack would probably do a lot better at school, but he seems pretty content to just coast through without a care in the world. Carefree, relaxed and laid back, Jack is always prepared to talk about people's problems, and maybe poke a little bit of fun at them too."

"Jack really isn't the easiest person in the world to get along with; his mischievous nature is more than a little irritating to most of the people he meets, not least because his quick wit allows him to come up with mean-spirited barbs on the spot. Jack is perhaps a little bit too bright for his own good, as he loves to flaunt his intelligence by running verbal rings around anybody he's able to, and delights in poking fun at those that aren't as smart as him. Rarely considering other people's feelings, Jack has a fairly devil-may-care attitude, often not giving a fig for anybody he upsets; if there's an opening for a clever insult, then he'll take it with glee. Unsurprisingly, this hasn't endeared him to much of his peer group."

There we are, two quick and simple personalities. Of course, making a different character out of the same words isn't as simple as saying 'Nice guy' versus 'Douchebag', but you get the basic idea, and who the character is will be shaped by their history as much as their personality. History is the journey, after all.

First though, we'll tackle appearance, as I've always found it helps to visualise your character when writing them.

Detail is good here, just like everywhere. Remember that the appearance is how people will build up a mental image of your character. They don't need to be described to an absolute 'T', but you want to at least make sure your fellow handlers picture your character in a similar way to you, right?

Remember to consider proportion; that is, height, weight and build. A 5'6" male character that weighs 100 lbs. is almost certainly going to be severely underweight. A 'regular' male character of that height is liable to weigh a good thirty pounds more (BMI charts are extremely handy here; they should give you a good estimate of weight vs. height). In addition, the more in shape somebody is, the more they're likely to weigh. Muscles outweigh fat, so you need to consider your character's physique as well as their height. A football player at 6ft 1" is going to weigh more than a pianist at 6ft 1" unless said pianist is overweight.

Also remember that for female characters, they have the extra addition of breasts. These are not bags of air; they do have their own weight, and will affect how you design the character's build and height. A character that is rail thin is not going to have enormous breasts, and whilst it's possible for a girl to have a disproportionately sized bust, then it is likely to impair them and give them a lot of trouble on a day to day basis. In addition, if you are writing a female character, then I discourage you from just listing their 'measurements' - it's easy enough to describe a character's figure without using bra size, for example as 'curvaceous' or 'flat-chested'

Consider the type of character that you are creating, and then bring these factors together. A lightly-built male character is not going to have a hobby of body-building. A female character with a larger frame will be able to support being well-endowed.

Think of their face, the size of their nose, the positioning, shape and colour of their eyes, do they have bushy eyebrows? Do they tweeze their eyebrows? Do they have facial hair? Do they wear make-up? What colour is their hair, and how do they style it? Is their face full, gaunt, or somewhere in between? Do they have a square jaw? These are just a number of things you can consider when writing your character's appearance, describe their face, don't just tell us what colour hair they have.

With regards to the other piece of the puzzle, the character's clothes, my advice is not to go too overboard trying to make them look 'unique' and have their own style. It's a high school, nobody is going to be walking around dressed as a ninja or looking like they've just stepped out of an anime without A) A seriously good reason and B) Getting some weird looks and possibly reported for dress code violations. This is the place that you can be generic, relatively speaking. What would your character pick to wear, given the type of person they are?

I will now hark back to the very first thing I said at the start of this guide: Ordinary high school students. Your character can be interesting without being unrealistic, and your character can be interesting whilst still being somebody that you wouldn't be too surprised to see going around your average high school. Some of SOTF's best characters were completely ordinary, because this is the key point:

It's what they do in the game that matters, not what they did before it.

There is SO much more fun and SO much more intrigue in seeing how regular Joe from the football team reacts to being thrust into SOTF than there is in seeing Darkheart Blackstone react to the same situation. Whilst this is an exaggeration, super elaborate and dramatic backstories are overall less interesting, because nine times out of ten, they make the character predictable. That's not to say that your character should not have anything out of the ordinary happen to them EVER... but it does mean that you should go easy on the dead parents, alien abductions and traumatic car accidents. If it's important to your character, then work it into the backstory, but don't go overboard, especially when it's your first character.

What key moments affected the character in their life? If they have a major hobby, then how did they get into it in the first place, and what made them stick with it? IF something traumatic happened to them, then how did they react to it? How did they recover from it at all? Maybe they're still struggling. Remember, what is a big, significant event to one person might seem tiny to somebody on the outside looking in - it's your job to explain why it matters so much to your character. We should get the sense of growth through the history; these events are what moulded the character into the person they are today. Traits don't just come out of nowhere, they're developed, both positive and negative. How was their relationship with their family? Did that affect how they grew up and how they became the person that they are? History isn't just a series of events, it's a connected narrative that builds the character, supports, shapes and sometimes even twists their personality.

To round off: the best kinds of characters are the ones that we can look at and truly wonder what they'll get up to on the island, not the ones that we can take one look at their melodramatic backstory dedicated to numbing them to the world and say 'Right, he's going to play then.'

Ordinary is interesting.

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