Character Creation

Matt here with another Friday installment. I've finally rolled out of bed and wiped away the food coma from Thanksgiving the day before. Today we're going to discuss Character Creation in both writing and in Tabletop gaming.

I am not going to teach you how to fill out a character sheet, that is what the Core Book is for. The Game Master can help you take care of that process. What I want to discuss is the character's life. 

Why is this important? Because each character should be thought of as a living, breathing person. They had a life before the story or campaign began, and hopefully they will continue to have one once the story is done. We are either playing or reading this person because they are going to experience something awesome and we want to be along for the adventure. But we can't immerse ourselves in the character if we cannot put ourselves in their shoes, if we cannot believe this character could be a real person.

When creating a character, you need to think of three main things: how are they sympathetic, what are their problems, and what do they aspire to be?

By sympathetic I don't mean why are they likable. What I mean is how can you the player or the reader of your story relate to the character? What is it about them that establishes a connection?

As a PC there should be something that draws you to this idea of a character. Say for example you want to play a rogue. Are you playing this character because you want to RP a thief or because you have a  great idea for a background story? Were they an orphan that overcame life on the streets by joining a Guild? This character may be a scoundrel, but they can be sympathetic if there is that relatability. Something about this character drew you to them, and the same should be said about the character in your story, for writing characters. 

Everyone wants to be the hero of their own story, the same can be said of your characters if they are living and breathing. Sympathy for the character is the most important aspect of any story. People read stories for the characters. They want to see what that person does, they want to immerse themselves. You can have a great setting or a cool plot, but if the main character is a dud. That scenery isn't going to save the story.

In order to make a character sympathetic, the next two points need to be fully fleshed out. 

You need to ask yourself, "What are some problems for this character?" and "What does this character want to be?" Both of these ideas will inform the character and how they interact with the world and others, and  make them come across as three dimensional rather than two dimensional.

Let's stick with this rouge idea. What is his problem? 

He has no money, which is why he is a rogue, a thief. Ok, but why? Take this one step further, why does he have no money? Is it because he owe a large debt to a nobleman and he is working to pay it off? Is it because he has a gambling problem? Both of these reasons are valid, but both would have very different reaction come from the character once presented with an opportunity. They inform his actions.

(Owes a large debt) - Flinn saw the large stack of gold laying atop the bar table. The drunken adventurer had passed out in the corner of the lodge. His gold purse was out upon the table as he boasted about his latest treasure haul. In his merriment, he had been buying drinks for everyone and shouting for the Bard to play his favorite songs. Now, his gold lay unguarded.

Flinn felt a knot form in the pit of his stomach. "That guy doesn't need the gold. He spent it on stupid things like beer and mutton." The debt was nearly paid off. But he needed to get more gold quick or else he would miss his next payment. ]If that happened, there would be terrible consequences for his family.

(Gambling addiction) - Flinn eagerly watched the gold spill upon the table, the adventurer passing out in his chair. Finn eyed up the shimmering gold like a man in the desert staring into an oasis. If he could be quick enough, he could sneak away to Bam's backroom and get a hand of cards in. He needed to get his money back from the table. The lost money had been not just been his life savings. It had been his ticket out of this sink hole of a village.

Both of these instances, a drunk adventurer with excess gold, had a very different feel to them. Both were the same situation goal of Finn grabbing the gold, but how we felt about Finn taking it in each situation were much different. And these reasons helped play into point two, "What do they want to become?"

As I mentioned, these characters have lives before our story begins. And they have their problems and flaws as we just demonstrated. They also have dreams. They want to grow and develop into something, and as a writer we need to bring this to the page.

In the first situation of Finn owing a debt. He has a family that he wants to protect, but he owes this debt that has put them in danger. He wants to be a family man and do right by his wife and kids. He wants a nice house on a hill where they can live out their lives peacefully, and so he took on his large debt in order to make that dream a reality. But That is his inspiration for why he steals. But something went awry and now that dream now seems impossible, coupled with the fact that he owes this money. 

This would be an interesting character to read and follow. Rather than just having a man who steals things, we have a three dimensional character that had depth and reasoning behind why he does what he does. If you do this, it will bring the reader along more easily for the ride. They will want to see what happens to this character and if they overcome their problems to fulfill that dream.

I hope that this has been illuminating. If you think I'm wrong or have a better idea, please let us know. Happy Reading

- Matt

Matthew SaddorisComment