Thursday, January 24, 2013

Building Character(s)

Don't worry, this post is not about eating spinach, picking up litter, or climbing the rope in gym class.

Another caveat about this week's back to back posts. I know my posting schedule has been a bit off lately. Instead of the regular Tuesday and Friday pattern I established, starting school again has thrown off my groove. I have several scripted drafts that I need to get around to typing up and setting on an automatic calendar in an effort to avert future wonkiness and get back to a regular schedule. Thanks for reading anyway. Closing in on 6,000 views! Woot!!

I talk a lot about worldbuilding. But how bland is an empty world? Maybe what you're shooting for is a virgin world that a generation ship of space explorers is looking to colonize. Maybe your world has always existed with a lush bounty of flora and fauna, but people have only just been crafted by the gods and placed in it. However you approach it, the story is most likely about the people and their experiences in the world. I'm a big ol nerd, so yes, I would probably read an encyclopedic volume only about a world with no mention of the people in it...but invariably as I read my mind would begin to wander and weave tales about hominid creatures making this place a home for themselves. I really can't help myself.

What I'm getting at is that you can't spend all your effort on just making the world itself. You need to spend a good deal of time developing the people in it too. You can keep it pretty loose if, like me, you plan to use the world for gaming. In that case you can limit it to a few races, their look, culture, motivation, and history - just the basics so your gamers can really make a character their own. But in the end someone is going to ask a series of questions to flesh out that character.

Here are several examples of character questions that I've come across in many a web search.

Juliette Wade character interview - this one I find very fun, because she makes the poignant distinction about how to ask the right question to get a better answer. Rather than simply saying "Where are you from?" ask "When you think of home, how do you feel?" or "What do you think of when I say 'home'?" She gets even more into it with genre-specific questions.

Squidoo 101 character developement questions - this one organizes it into certain categories. I think it serves very well to break up the monotony.

Creative Writing Now fantasy character questionnaire - short, but solid. No it does not pertain only to creating dwarves ;)

Elfwood character form - this one breaks it up into categories as well, but it's still rather long/in depth. 100 character questions - this one gets really personal, but that's not such a bad thing.

Gotham Writers Workshop 2 character questionnaires - this one is in fact a two-fer, gotta love that.

Inkwell Ideas 101 character questions - It's not really another 101 questions, only 31, but many lead to more than simple answers.

That's what I'll leave you with for now to avoid inundating you with too much repetition. You don't have to take all of them - that would just burn you out and drive you away. You can glance over them and sleep on it (or not, since it may keep you lying awake thinking about it. Sorry for that). Or you can grab a notebook and answer each one and you go down the list  - skip the ones that don't immediately generate an answer, you may find yourself tying them into another answer later. For instance, I wrote about 15 pages for a ranger character going through each of the Inkwell Ideas. I had his whole family, criminal record, and reasons for wandering by the time I was done. But when we did it quickly for my wife's druid, we only had like 3 pages.

Most importantly, have fun with this exercise of meeting new people you didn't even know you shared your head with.

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