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 Character Building 101, Who is my character?
Dusty
 Posted: Aug 27 2016, 12:07 AM
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Character Building

W ho is your character?

Some of you may know your character inside and out, but some of you may be surprised at how much a character might be holding out on you. It's from an old topic I used to write back in the infancy of about.com titled: Written Roleplay 101.

Do the questionnaire and see how much you really know about them http://files.b1.jcink.com/html/emoticons/smile.gif

Character building isn't essential in RPG, however if you wish to write a full and well rounded character, you should think about who your character is as a person and what made them that way.

The challenge for the author/writer is to create characters that the reader and other players will care about or want to continue reading about. That means the character should be both real, so we can relate to them on a human level, and sympathetic, so we feel the time we spend in reading and writing with them in a story is worthwhile. Alternately, for a villain, you would want to make them someone we love to hate, and thus keep us interested in seeing them finally thwarted.

Writers create characters that others care about by making them a great deal like real people - a mix of good features and bad, of strengths and flaws. That mix varies, of course, with the kind of story the writer is writing within, and with the specific character.

Every character has to have good reasons for their actions, so the most important question we can ask about the character we are creating is why? But if we ask this question without a base to build on, we are almost sure to come up with a stereotypical and predictable answer. For example, We don't just ask what their name is, we ask why? Were they named after someone? Is the name meaningful in some way?

Sometimes there is a natural instinct to give our character our own list of causes, interests and hobbies. Beware of making your character look like a laundry list instead of a person by giving them too many detailed interests. Save some characteristics for another character. Most players have more than one.

There is a temptation, now we have all this information, to find places to insert it all into the story, and often all at once. Just because we know something about a character doesn't mean all other players need to know. ( We don't know everything about the people we meet or work with each day, just the things that affect our relationship with that person.) Not every fact is important for others to know. Select those which best illustrate the person and impact on the story, and leave out the rest. Sometimes this information is helpful to us as the writer to know how our character might 'react' from or because of this 'hidden' information.

Characterization Table

The table below has many questions to answer, some you may know straight away and others maybe not until your character decides to let you in on their past. Either way, you don't have to reveal all these facts when writing for your character. They are there for you as the writer to know. Everything that has happened to your character in their life, just as it would in real life, shapes their actions and decisions.

Creating your character/s:

Your character - Basics

  • Full name:
  • Address:
  • Date of birth: Place and country of birth:

  • Nationality:
  • Height:
  • Weight:
  • Eye colour:
  • Hair colour:
  • Scars or other unique physical characteristics:
  • Family of Origin

  • Mother's name:
  • Place and country of birth:
  • Nationality:
  • Profession:
  • Current residence:
  • Father's name:
  • Place and country of birth:
  • Nationality:
  • Profession:
  • Brothers and sisters:
  • Name(s), m/f, date(s) of birth
  • 1.
  • 2.
  • 3.
  • Your Family

  • Married/single/divorced:
  • Date of marriage (and divorce):
  • Current/former partner's name:
  • Date of birth:
  • Place and country of birth:
  • Nationality:
  • Children:
  • Name(s), m/f and date(s) of birth:
  • 1.
  • 2.
  • 3.
  • Formal Education
    Please list from-to dates, schools, qualifications:

  • 1.
  • 2.
  • 3.
  • 4.
  • 5.
  • Informal Education
    Please list any courses or other informal educational activities you feel may be of interest to us:

  • 1.
  • 2.
  • 3.
  • Other Information
    Is there any other information you think we might like to know?

    Employment Record
    Please list your previous jobs. Begin with your earliest employment and work toward the present day. :

  • From (date) to (date):
  • Employer / Name of company:
  • Position:
  • Reason for leaving:
  • From (date) to (date):
  • Employer / Name of company:
  • Position:
  • Reason for leaving:
  • From (date) to (date):
  • Employer / Name of company:
  • Position:
  • Reason for leaving:
  • Present employment
    Please describe your present employment in more detail.

  • From (date):
  • Employer / Name of company:
  • Position:
  • Job description:
  • Advancement prospects:
  • Current salary:
  • Character Questionnaire

    [SIZE=5]Basic Information

    Does your character like his or her name? Why? Why not?

  • - If your character changed their name, ask the same questions for the new name.
  • - Did your character have a nickname or pet name as a child?
  • - What was it? Did he or she like it?
  • - When (if at all) did people stop using it and why?
  • - Does your character have a nickname or pet name now?
  • - What is it? Does he or she like it?
  • Does you character like where he or she lives? Why? Why not? - Where (else) would your character choose to live?
  • - What kind of house or apartment does your character live in?
  • - How many rooms?
  • How is it decorated?
  • Does it have a garden?
  • How did your character celebrate his or her last birthday?
  • How does he or she plan to spend their next birthday?
  • Which birthday gift would he or she most like to receive?
  • What starsign is your character?
  • Has the character experienced any gender, nationality or ethnicity issues? Describe.
  • How does your character feel about his or her height, weight, hair and eye color?
  • - How does he or she feel about the way they look?
  • Has/does he or she had/have accidents, operations, illnesses, disabilities? - Which and at what age? Consequences?
  • Current Family and Relationships

  • Is he or she happy about his or her current relationship status? Why? Why not?
  • Is he or she happy about his or her past relationship(s)? Why? Why not?
  • How did your character meet his or her partner? When? Where?
  • Who chose the engagement/wedding/divorce date and why?
  • Describe the engagement/wedding/divorce, if any.
  • Who chose the names of any children your character may have?
  • Why these names?
  • Describe the children's appearance and characters.
  • Family of origin

  • - How would your character's mother describe her a: as a child and b: now?
  • - What does his or her mother most admire and dislike about him or her?
  • - How did your character experience her mother a: as a child and b: now?
  • - What does he or she most admire and dislike about his or her mother?
  • - How would your character's father describe him or her a: as a child and b: now?
  • - What does his or her father most admire and dislike about him or her?
  • - How did your character experience his or her father a: as a child and b: now?
  • - What does he or she most admire and dislike about his or her father?
  • - How would his or her brothers and sisters describe him or her a: as a child and b: now?
  • - What do his or her brothers and sisters most admire and dislike about him or her? - How did your character experience his or her brothers and sisters a: as a child and b: now?
  • - What does he or she most admire and dislike about his or her brothers and sisters?
  • - What do mother, father and siblings do for a living?
  • - Where do they live?
  • - How often do they see each other?
  • - Which of them, if any, was their parents' favourite and why? How did that feel?
  • - Which toys and activities did your character enjoy most / least as a child? Why?

    Formal education

  • - Did he or she like school? College? Why? Why not?
  • - How was his or her academic performance?
  • - Which role or function did he or she have in class?
  • - Who was his or her best friend / worst enemy and why?
  • - What was his or her best / worst / favourite subject and why?
  • - Describe your character's most prominent school/college memory

    Employment / Career

  • - What influenced your character's career choices?
  • - Would he or she rather have done something else? What? Why? Why not?
  • - Describe his or her first day 'on the job'.
  • - Describe a day in your character's working life.
  • - What does he or she wear to work? At home?
  • - What are your character's professional aims?
  • Values and preferences

  • Which hobbies does he or she enjoy?
  • Is there anything he or she would like to try out? What? Why? Why not?
  • - Most / least favourite food?
  • Music?
  • Movies?
  • Books?
  • Magazines?
  • Celebrities?
  • Art?
  • - What does he or she think about God?
  • Religion in general?
  • Abortion?
  • The death penalty?
  • Sex before marriage?
  • Why?
  • - How does your character vote and why?
  • - Your character's favourite place?
  • - If your character was invited to take part in a "Your Dream Comes True" type TV show, what would they hope for? What would they dread? Why?
  • What makes your character happy?
  • Sad?
  • Angry?
  • Satisfied?
  • Embarrassed?
  • - What is his or her most secret personal wish or dream?
  • - His or her greatest fear? Is there a reason? Describe.
  • - His or her greatest failure?
  • - Darkest secret?
  • - If your character became terminally ill, what might he or she place in a "memory box" for a partner or child?
  • - Which possessions might he or she dispose of so they would not be found?
  • Is your character optimistic or pessimistic? Why?
  • Is your character introverted or extroverted? Why?
  • Does your character feel competent and successful? Why? Why not?
  • Is your character patient or impatient? Why?
  • What does your character have on his or her bedside table?
  • - What does your character have in his or her bathroom cabinet?
  • What does your character have for breakfast? Lunch? Dinner?
  • - Which brands of make up, after shave, perfume, soap etc. does he or she use?
  • I have personally found my best characters to be the ones I know as well as I know myself. I wish you all the very best when creating characters of your own.

  • #1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
  • #2: You gotta keep in mind what's interesting to you as an audience, not what's fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.
  • #3: Trying for theme is important, but you won't see what the story is actually about til you're at the end of it. Now rewrite.
  • #4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
  • #5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You'll feel like you're losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
  • #6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
  • #7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
  • #8: Finish your story, let go even if it's not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
  • #9: When you're stuck, make a list of what WOULDN'T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
  • #10: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you've got to recognize it before you can use it.
  • #11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you'll never share it with anyone.
  • #12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
  • #13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it's poison to the audience.
  • #14: Why must you tell THIS story? What's the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That's the heart of it.
  • #15: If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
  • #16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don't succeed? Stack the odds against.
  • #17: No work is ever wasted. If it's not working, let go and move on - it'll come back around to be useful later.
  • #18: You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
  • #19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
  • #20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d'you rearrange them into what you DO like?
  • #21: You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can't just write ‘cool'. What would make YOU act that way?
  • #22: What's the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.
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