What makes a poor character and a good one (in your opinion)

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Rikisya, Sep 21, 2015.

  1. Just a thing I've been thinking about for a while now.

    In your own personal view, what makes a badly written character (such as a Mary Sue) and a good character?

    Who knows maybe you can help other people create better characters.
  2. Honestly, it mostly comes down to context and the general skill of the writer. A mary sue can actually be a great character in the right circumstances, such as in a non-serious roleplay where they tropes and cliches are played completely straight for the sake of humor; alternatively, a mary sue in a serious roleplay being written by someone who doesn't understand how characters work is going to suck every time. A gruff brooding badass loner written into something that requires teamwork (say a roleplay where player characters are meant to work toward some goal) is probably going to suck in the context of the story regardless of the writer's skill; on the other hand, make that gruff brooding badass loner a sole protagonist and you could have a great anti-hero character on your hands.

    There are some basics that you require to make a decent character, such as having more than one or two dimensions and giving them actual motivations, desires, and fears to work with, but other than that it's all up in the air. There's no list of traits that you can point to and say "these things make a good character" or "these things make a bad character." Any trait you might want to name for either list is one that I guarantee you can be used to make a character good or bad in certain stories. This is further exacerbated by the fact that character quality is a purely personal and subjective thing: no matter how well the character fits into the story, no matter how well written they are, no matter what traits they have, somebody is going to think it's a bad character because of some reason or another. The opposite is also true: someone out there probably loves that character you think is poorly written and ruins the story they're in.

    The way to create better characters, for roleplaying specifically, is to strive to make characters that actually fit into the world around them and are suitable for whatever your purpose is. Don't bother trying to cater to other people's preferences for what makes a good or bad character, do what you think is good so long as you're not breaking consistency with the world or the plot by being an impediment to its progress. So long as your character fits into the world and doesn't kill the plot, it's good enough for roleplaying.
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  3. Everything I wanna say... Jorick said them already. :P

    So, 2nd-ed!

    Well if I wanna add something, a personal opinion, a character who never makes the wrong decisions, never have doubts (not even the tiniest bit), and the universe around him (made so by the character's writer) just all around supports them by making their every decision is the right one, is just bad. <- Is this a bad Mary Sue? I think it is.
  4. I think that's four of the other billion, but I think that right.
  5. I agree with what's already been posted, but there's also another piece I'd like to add.

    This is something I found more from tabletop RP's than forum RP's, but just have the character be memorable.

    Like, is there a moment you can look back on said character and go "I love the way they go _______" such as a clever come back? A line they use often? A certain hand trick they tend to do?
    Just some small token in their character that add's a level of uniqueness and charm to them.

    Then there's the moments you can look back on said character and go "You remember that time when they _______?".

    For a personal example, in a semi-serious D&D campaign our group was tried to rob a Vault.
    My character Urik was a Orc Fighter/Barbarian with a shit ton of Strength so they decided to cast invisibility on me and essentially have me rip into the bank... Overestimating Urik's intelligence. So what ended up happening as he approached the Vault door, and then simply ripped it off (with guards nearby by the way) and then fit the vault door back into place... with the Guards still watching. Now, Urik was at least bright enough to recognize that this was witnessed. So he said from the other side of the door as loud as he could "It was the wind!", thinking that he could bluff the guards into thinking the wind simply ripped apart a Vault door.

    Now, something like that obviously isn't something you want in a rather serious campaign. But the basic idea is that it's something that creates a memory among the players, something they can point back to and remember about the character.
  6. To add to most of what Jorick said, is when creating a character for a roleplay, you want to give them a motivation. A reason to answer the call to adventure, because without that there's no raison d'être for them to be in the RP. If your character has goals of their own, they become more dynamic and have more opportunity to be played proactive as opposed to primarily reactive.
  7. For me it's all about putting some thought in to it. o__o When someone is just playing a character based on their mood/whim of the moment, it shows. The character has no consistency or real personality. Their history or behavior won't match what makes sense in the bigger picture.

    If you say at the start of the roleplay that your character is supposed to be a talented swords-woman and huntress who has prior to the roleplay been killing vampires for a living, but then spend the whole roleplay with her being inept and stupid and in constant situations of "lol she needs to be rescued again even though she is supposed to be a badass!" then I'm going to get annoyed.

    Or if you're playing a guy with wields a katana as his weapon. But can't explain how her got that katana and how he learned to use that katana and actually be good at it. He's a 15 year old American kid with no family and no money and for no reason whatsoever he is the KATANA MASTER and knows karate and fights like a beast. WTF is that shit.

    Even if you are starting out a roleplay just with your character name and a basic concept you're going for, as you play you should be thinking about "Will this make sense. Is it possible?" "I want to do ___. How did my character learn to do that?" "They are behaving ____, why are they reacting this way?" and keeping TRACK so your character is growing and developing in to a real believable person.
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  8. To me it's about balance and about the writer's skill in maintaining that balance.

    I have no problem with Lawful Good white knights who crusade around defeating evil, rescuing damsels, opening doors for the ladies and laying their coats down over puddles for the elderly to walk on. That type of character doesn't bother me at all... IF


    They have some type of character flaw. No character is complete without a chink in the armor, a flaw, a blemish. It can be surface-level (hideous disfigurement, for example, would be interesting on a white knight character). Or it can be beneath the surface, like taking excessive blame for others' failures, being stubborn to the point of unwillingness to compromise, etc.

    It can be some mix of the two. It can be somewhere in between. But to me the most entertaining thing about characters is seeing the way they develop, the way they learn to overcome their flaws, and the way other characters interact with them given their flaws.
  9. Effort, honestly. I think a lot of conventional Mary Sue concepts aren't so much poorly-designed as they are just totally devoid of design at all. I think even an inexperienced roleplayer can design a compelling character. It's when one falls back to tropes out of what I can only presume is laziness or as a means to an end — when their character is merely a medium through which they can obtain entertainment — that I start to feel uncomfortable.

    There's a difference between somebody who wants to write a generic Karate Kid and somebody who just wants to join the roleplay, so they write a generic Karate Kid. I don't know if it's clear when I write it that way, but my point is that a character is generally as interesting to me as they are interesting to their writer. Why should I take interest in somebody's content when they haven't even put in the effort to make it their own? I'm not reading a roleplayer's writing at that point, I'm reading a TV Tropes article.

    I asked a new roleplayer to a campaign I'm running in person what sort of character they'd like to play, and their answer was something to the effect of, "A bounty hunter, like Boba Fett." So I asked them what makes this character special, and the reply I got was in essence, "That's literally it." No name, no mission, no recent backstory to justify their sudden appearance in the game, just a dude with a gun.

    And I would totally be okay if this were a character who was That Dude With A Gun, the one who nobody knows the name of and who somehow figured out who the villain was in the party and debuted by saving the PCs from a party wipe, and keeps quiet about his history but clearly has something to hide because every time we talk to fish people he gets really uncomfortable, but this isn't That Dude With A Gun, he's just some dude with a gun. And that upsets me, because I feel like they're so disinterested in their own character that they don't even enjoy playing them.
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  10. Hmmm...

    With my own characters, I like to think what makes them good is in the details, and in how I play the details... focus on character development. Because I care about my characters. I've invested time and energy into their creation, in building them an RP history. Even with a new character... even when I've had that character inspired by an RP... I don't look at that character as a "throwaway". In my RP experience, I've seen everything from carefully constructed characters with well thought out backgrounds... histories... to, well, heh, one liner "floating heads". Let's just say, to be good, a character must have a Soul. Must be someone/something a reader can form feelings for. Laugh with them. Cry with them. Make friends with them. Even though they are not "real".

    "Live and Breathe."
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  11. I've heard it said once, a lot like Samsterious is saying...

    When people create a character in their mind- and if all you come out with is a picture (in your head, or a literal picture you found on deviantart or google images).. You're going to be a gimmick. Not a character.

    You want a character to be a good fighter, go right ahead. But give it purpose, and experiences, and have those experiences shape your character.

    Give them fears. Like fears that actually matter in the world of the role play. Afraid of fire, drowning... Doesn't like loud noises... Something.

    Give them flaws. Maybe they are a great speaker, but are really cowards at heart, and don't want to fight. Maybe the sniper is afraid of tight spaces. Maybe your wizard is out of shape from too much study time. Maybe your star athelete is really self conscious and dimwitted. Just a few examples. I just hate seeing characters written that don't have flaws- and if they do- its something that doesn't have much of a chance to happen. Like afraid of snakes when they're in a tundra or something. Lol. Or they are bad at math but are artists or something. I think you get what I mean. If something comes up where they have to face that fear- have them show that inner struggle. Have them bail. Or have them overcome that fear, walk away a little scathed, but have a respect for that fear.. Get it? :)

    You want your character to look awesome, or you want to be like the "man with no name"... Take it deeper than surface level. Give your character realistic (or as realistic to the genre) flaws and goals. Set boundaries and guidelines. If there is no reason for your character to be there doing whatever it is they are doing... You are playing a gimmick. Not a character. You're writing a doll that dresses nice, has a pretty face, and is awesome at stuff. That's where it began, and that's where it ends.

    It shows. I think good characters... To me- are normally the underwhelming ones at first. Characters who start small, and live up to a potential. They go after goals, and grow. They get stressed out, and fail at tasks. Failure doesn't make a character bad, and constant success doesn't make a character great. It's how the character gets to the success, and what they learn from their failures. They should reflect and evolve. Not just be stoic and hardass all the time. It just seems immature and one dimensional.

    Give the character dimensions!

    A lot of people are hitting on making the characters more dynamic or 'real' and I think it can certainly ring true. Everybody is interested in different things, so different things and traits will appeal to different people. That's obvious. I also tend to agree with that thought process, though. Because I don't find things interesting if things are way too out there, or way too one dimensional.

    My thoughts at least :) I'm on my phone and my eyes hurt so ill stop there xD
    #11 Spectre, Oct 26, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2015
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