A "Living" Character

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Alexa Ray, Nov 10, 2014.

  1. My title is so unoriginal but I guess I feel it sort of describes the topic I'm about to try and bring up in the most understanding way as possible. I've always done, and always thought, that things like dislikes, fears, and deeper personality would come into play when roleplaying.

    A character would always come alive as a new person in the world, but they wouldn't be you. If someone came around asking what your character's inner desires are, what their dislikes and fears are, I wouldn't know myself. Only my character would. The character I'm playing would be themselves, not controlled by me, if that makes any sense at all.

    Sure, general personality, appearance, and history would be known, but digging deeper into your "friend" or your "character" past, learning more about them, that sort of thing comes naturally to me within the roleplay. It's my character who is alive in that specific setting, not me. I don't determine my character's fears, their innermost desires, the full extent of their personality, it is the characters themselves who determine those things amongst others.

    So, my logic leads me to wondering how everyone else deals with their character in some sort of way. Do you think that the character is just a fictional character in which you determine everything for their future, all of their likes, all of their dislikes, and everything else beforehand? Or are you the complete opposite, creating a basis and then letting the characters themselves decide what their fears are, their dislikes, and inner desires, etc. If you have another approach to this, I'd love to hear about it!
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  2. I use a deck of cards and/or a die to randomly generate a character, then fill in the blanks.
  3. I can't say I "let my characters develop themselves" because... Well, they can't, since they don't have minds of their own. But I do like to think from the perspective of Iwaku's tagline (Don't just write stories, live them), and imagine myself as the character I'm playing. I start with creating a basic skeleton, and then fill in details as I go, based on what would feel natural for me if I had my character's background and personality.
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  4. My characters do things based on whatever motivates them most. As for "living" them, that's... Generally what suspension of disbelief means for any medium. Whether I'm watching Luke Skywalker save the princess or writing about [insert Protagonst] going grocery shopping, either way, I'm emotionally involved in the story and thus directly connected to how the character is thinking and feeling. If I fail to have this connection to a character, then the character is written poorly. "Living" within a character's mind is kind of mandatory if you want to make a character that isn't some generic idea, like "terrorist" or "bandit" or "guardsman". It's the difference between Jimmy waking up, and Johnny performing his morning ritual. Jimmy doesn't give a shit, he just wakes up and does whatever makes the most sense to his sleep addled mind. Johnny has a routine and he sticks to it. Why does Jimmy not have a routine, and why does Johnny have a routine? What is the purpose, the motivation, what emotional connection can I derive from this?

    That's the epitome of basic storytelling. It's one of the two pillars: To emotionally involve, and to be informative.

    So... Yes. By your description, all of my characters who do more than just be generic throwaway antagonists to the protagonists are "living", by virtue of the fact that in constructing them I had to feel some emotional involvement with them. I had to care, to understand, in order to produce something meaningful, something worthwhile, something that I would enjoy playing as, and writing lines for. As for predetermined versus organic, a character is always naturally organic to some extent if they last long enough. Maybe Johnny has a midlife crisis and Suzanne leaves him, throwing his life into disarray, and his morning ritual is thrown into disarray as he starts to give less of a damn about living. Maybe Jimmy on the other hand has a spiritual moment and adopts an "eastern living" life style, involving consistent morning rituals.

    Just something to think about.
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  5. I usually follow a similar vague path when creating characters:
    1) Find art
    2) Think of general personality traits based on art
    3) Think of motivations that could explain said traits
    4) Dig down to two or three core driving forces
    5) Recreate motivations that stem from driving forces alongside backstory
    6) Recreate personality based on new motivations
    7) Mad profit

    Basically, I come up with core driving forces as part of the character creation process, because it helps me make sure the character feels more... unified. And thus easier for other players to intuitively grasp when they're being swarmed by a bunch of PCs at once.
  6. I can't really get behind the idea of a character "living" and discovering their own traits for themselves. That's just not living, that's just a weird way of talking about character development. They're fictional creations, not living entities. Whether you meticulously plan all the details out first or flesh them out as you're roleplaying or writing is only a change of the time at which you make things up to decide who the character is. One way you make it all up before playing them, the other way you set down some ground rules and then just make the rest up as you go along. My characters do not discover new traits of their own; sometimes I get them in situations which I think they would react to in a particular way that may not have been shown or stated before that moment, so they make use of this new (but technically retroactively always existent) facet of their personality. That's not a character having a life of it's own, that's just plain old run of the mill character development.

    As for how I make characters, I switch it up a lot. Sometimes I have a personality and situation in mind that I want to use at the present moment in a story or roleplay, so I reverse engineer it and build the character to make it to that end point. In one roleplay I wanted to play a highly delusional guy who thinks he is literally going to become god, but is also very charismatic and doesn't let on that he's totally bonkers (basically a cult leader type), so I built a character to fit the mold. Sometimes I have a basic idea for a personality or world view and I want to decide how the world might shape that character as they grow up. In another roleplay I wanted to have a total pacifist whose greatest fear is dying, so I plopped the idea down into the world and decided how that kind of person would be influenced by the society and people around them, and they ended up as a vampire (because immortality) who is exiled from her own homeland (because discrimination against supernatural creatures) and wants to make the world a nice and happy place for everyone (because more happy = less violence = less risk of death).

    It's all the same basic process of fabricating all the bits and pieces of a personality, no matter how you rearrange it. The only true difference between one character and the next is how much actual development was done before they're thrown into the world, and how much comes after the fact in the way of further character development.
  7. My characters do tend to develop more over time. I love to give them a very solid personality and a thought out history, but once I start to play them, a lot of times they do change due to their experiences with others, and just how they tend to naturally end up responding to things over time.

    One of my longest-living characters is my jaguar Camilla (after which my persona is named), and she is the one who has grown the most over the years. I think if you keep a character in a particular universe but give them different stories, they will invariably grow and develop.
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  8. I conjure a voice from the void and interview them personally. The ones that come forth fit a basic profile I am looking for. Eventually they start to speak for themselves, defining their traits, justifying them through recounting their lives as I ask the questions. Ultimately, I am their sole author, but the process makes them feel more alive to me than other methods.
  9. I do know that my characters are made from my imagination and that I have full control over them, but it has never felt like that. Every time I play my characters it feels as if they have a life of their own. I can't control their decisions, they do. I don't know which actions they will take in different situations, only they do. I do not decide how they develop, it just happens naturally.

    For example:

    In one of my current roleplays, my characters friend (whom he has known for 1½ week) has just disappeared. I thought that when the time came he would accept that she didn't want to be with him anymore and he wouldn't chase after her.

    But once I wrote the post, it suddenly felt impossible to take him in that direction. It felt as if my character screamed at me that he had to chase after her, and try to convince her to come back. And that's what happened. I tried to write a different scene, but for as long as I wrote it with that character, I couldn't do it in any other way than make him run after her.

    I only know my characters while I'm playing them, because it's only during those times that I am them. Once I leave their world and become myself, I have no idea what they would do in certain situations. If someone were to ask me "would Anya offer her life for Ronin if he was in danger?" Right now when I'm not in game I would say yes, because I think she is the kind of person that would do something like that. But if a situation like that actually showed itself in the roleplay, I'm not completely sure what would happen. Maybe in reality she would be too shocked to move. Maybe he would say something that made her unable to do it. Maybe she would try to find another way that didn't cost any of them their life, etc.

    I do not know their pasts before they reveal it to me, I do not know their personality before they reveal it to me. My characters are born and develops in the roleplay, and while I know I have control over it, I still do feel as if my character has a life of their own and makes their own choices.
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  10. @redblood Oh my god, someone who understands! Not that anyone else here doesn't understand... I have that same thing going on for me; it's your character, you think you have full control, but when you start roleplaying it's like they're all on their own, doing their own things!
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  11. This whole topic is sort of why I find filling out character bios tricky at times. I can lay down objective things like their appearance and history, but no matter how much effort I invest into their personalities, they're just different every time they actually enter the roleplay. Almost as if they have minds of their own.

    I know that isn't the case, of course, but it can feel like it.
  12. I'm an actor and liar by nature.

    I play my characters by the same way that I get in character before a show. I try to force myself into the mindset of the character. The script is simply what actions I expect the character to take beforehand, but if something goes amiss or not according to plan, I just have to improvise at times. Just like when you're in a play.

    Each of my characters are different, even if it's only by slight variations since the idea of reusing characters has never appealed to me. Once a character has been used, the RP becomes their story and they seem out of place in another RP.
  13. When I am getting into a roleplay I like to get into the mindset of my character. If my character is a kind person than I will act as a kind person, a kind person who thinks about the things of life and all sorts of things. What if the character is a cold-hearted person who doesn't understand the natural 'feelings' others have? I will allow myself to not care about a thing, only think about the best how something would affect me and not anyone else. I enjoy going deep with my characters sometimes but there are a lot of times when, if the rp isn't serious, I don't go too deep at all.
  14. My characters aren't really mapped out when I begin. I start with just a couple of "fixed" points, then expand on those points with questions. I'll write down a couple dozen of these questions about relevant things, such as the character's stance on combat, whether they are morally-inclined or whether their desires are more important than the rights of others...things like that. More often than not, I don't even have to think about the answers; they just come to me. In that sense, it's not that I'm writing the character, but that the character is writing itself. Sometimes a picture is all I need.

    When I am asked about the thoughts and desires of a character, it really isn't me answering. The best way to get an accurate answer is to go in-character and answer. I don't know what you would call that, but it's what works for me. Sometimes I've been genuinely surprised by the answers I get, and many times I've ended up thinking about issues that would never have arisen, had I not been asked that one question.

    I think that a sufficiently detailed character really is alive. When you hit that equilibrium where you're totally comfortable playing as that character, the responses are just there.