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LeonDaydreamer
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« on: February 20, 2015, 11:00:17 AM »

The most exciting thing for me in a story-driven game is interacting with well defined, interesting characters that have a personality you can really feel. The first thing to turn me off is if I hear the writer's voice coming from a character (that is if they are talking or behaving out of character), nothing ruins a story for me like that. I know creating a unique and believable character is something everyone struggles with, so I thought you guys could share where you get your inspiration/what influences you in writing your characters.

I guess I'll go first:

To start, I'll have a basic framework in mind for my story which gets populated and fleshed out with characters as I go along. So when coming up with a character, I have a pretty good idea of the role I would like for them to play. However, a role does not a character make and often their roles will evolve as I try to make sure my characters' behaviour and decisions are informed by their personality, not what I want them to do/be. By that I mean, it is most important that their motives propel the events of the story, not the other way around.

Often time I'll just get an idea that sums up a character, like 'He doesn't like talking. Gets straight to the point and is done with it.' Which pretty much tells me exactly how all their conversations will go. And once I know a character's interests, I know the kinds of things they would be thinking about. Also, what helps me in figuring out a personality is to think of someone in the real world similar to what I have in mind, either a friend or someone I met, or an actor's portrayal in a film. I might decide I want them to behave like this, or I might draw bits and pieces from multiple sources, which gives me a very good starting point. Then I'll say they should be more temperamental or more charming, etc, and go from there.

Lastly, I think it's very important to put yourself in the character's shoes, my main characters tend to have personalities that stem from elements of my own, so that makes writing them easier. I'm always digging into the back of my mind, into all those odd things I wish I could say in a given situation but never do, so I wind up living vicariously through my characters.  :-)

How do you guys do it?
« Last Edit: February 20, 2015, 11:12:34 AM by LeonDaydreamer » Logged

Prinsessa
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« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2015, 12:01:34 PM »

According to FARTRON on IRC today: don't.

According to me: if you want a charismatic character don't make them kill a bunch of people or creatures as part of regular gameplay and have the game and character and NPC's act like it's normal and not a horrible thing.
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~Tidal
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« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2015, 12:10:29 PM »

According to FARTRON on IRC today: don't.

According to me: if you want a charismatic character don't make them kill a bunch of people or creatures as part of regular gameplay and have the game and character and NPC's act like it's normal and not a horrible thing.
I mean, you are free to don't like games with violence, but sometimes it could be perfectly in contest.
If you are survivor in a post-apocalyptic world, after a nuclear holocaust, and the fauna and flora of that world heavily mutated so you have abominations looking for you as a prey, WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
For example, Fallout gives a good example of it. If a fire cockroach is attacking you, I'll better fight it or fly away. And If I fight it I have something that can satisfy my hunger. If you'll kill people, that faction will hate you.
Don't be too harsh with videogames violence :|

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autumnspark
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« Reply #3 on: February 20, 2015, 12:48:17 PM »

I'm gonna skirt the violence issue. Anyway, something that I think helps is to imagine having a conversation with the character completely out of context from the game. Imagine talking to them about the stuff going on around you; if you're on a walk, imagine asking your character about that Dad who almost dropped his baby on its head in a public park. Doing stuff like that sort of lets you see the weird facets of your character that real and relatable. Do this enough and your imagination will automatically come up with their responses (and maybe even questions for you) so fast it's like you don't even have control of it.
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Prinsessa
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« Reply #4 on: February 20, 2015, 01:56:25 PM »

According to FARTRON on IRC today: don't.

According to me: if you want a charismatic character don't make them kill a bunch of people or creatures as part of regular gameplay and have the game and character and NPC's act like it's normal and not a horrible thing.
I mean, you are free to don't like games with violence, but sometimes it could be perfectly in contest.
If you are survivor in a post-apocalyptic world, after a nuclear holocaust, and the fauna and flora of that world heavily mutated so you have abominations looking for you as a prey, WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
Sounds awful, so I'd probably just kill myself.

Anyway, I just mean that it should be considered thoroughly. It's overused as a default where it doesn't make sense and characters are always cheered upon for slaughter. How about the opposite for a twist?

Depends on your game and your vision. What you wish to convey. Just consider it thoroughly, that's all I'm saying.
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LeonDaydreamer
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« Reply #5 on: February 20, 2015, 02:49:00 PM »

Anyway, something that I think helps is to imagine having a conversation with the character completely out of context from the game. Imagine talking to them about the stuff going on around you...

That's a good idea, autumnspark. It's a great way to really get to know your characters, imagining how they'd react to a typical situation to get an all-round picture about them. I remember someone once suggested to me to take personality tests as your different characters to get a better sense of them as well.

Princessa, yours seems to be an example of what not to do. I agree with you about senseless violence in a lot of games, but that's more of a genre thing, and there are plenty of story-driven games that don't go that route at all.
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Prinsessa
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« Reply #6 on: February 20, 2015, 02:59:23 PM »

I just needed to get that out. c;

And why does everybody aaalways misspell my name with a <c>? Cry

Aaaanyway, leaving my bitter bias aside, even a murderous psychopath can of course be a well-written character albeit not very charismatic. The keyword I think would be backstory. Write more about the character than you might necessarily expose directly in the game. It'll give you a better idea of who they are and enable you to make a much more consistent presentation of their persona.

You seem to have gotten that clear already, OP.

However, inconsistency may too arise without being a bad thing. Lack of character development might be dull. It doesn't have to be positive development. It doesn't have to start one way and end up another but may well be a bit of a roller-coaster. It all boils down to the forces driving this development and the psyche of this character. Backstory plays its part in this as do events playing out during the actual game.

Interactions with other characters would be an important way to convey what this character is like. If you are more interested in presenting a character of your design and less so in allowing the player to control the flow, make sure not to put options for replies to questions that are not in line what this character by your imagination, with relation to the backstory and current state of mind, would actually be prone to say. What the character is prone to say may of course change over time as part of the character development. Depends on your narrative, of course. If it's not a game with conversations you'll have to find some other way.

As for the last thing you've said, I've often been told that writing a character based on yourself is a bad way to become a good writer. Look outside of yourself. You yourself spoke of getting in the shoes of the character, but then made it sound more like you are actually going to put the character in your shoes. You can of course do this for your main character if you really want to, but don't do it for every character and don't do it for every main character of every game you make after this one. And if you are going to base your character largely on yourself, then don't forget to make sure that the rest of this character stays consistent to that base.
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LeonDaydreamer
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« Reply #7 on: February 20, 2015, 07:58:09 PM »

The keyword I think would be backstory. Write more about the character than you might necessarily expose directly in the game. It'll give you a better idea of who they are and enable you to make a much more consistent presentation of their persona... It doesn't have to be positive development. It doesn't have to start one way and end up another but may well be a bit of a roller-coaster... Backstory plays its part in this as do events playing out during the actual game... As for the last thing you've said, I've often been told that writing a character based on yourself is a bad way to become a good writer...

You make a lot of good points, Prin<s>essa. Yeah, my mind just automatically went to 'princess' that time. :-P

Backstory is definitely essential as part of understanding the character and their motivations. I find a lot that when a film is based on a book, the characters are so much richer and deeper, because there is all this extra information the actors and directors can learn about them that never even makes it on screen.

As for basing a character on yourself, heh, Stephen King might disagree with you. Half his characters are writers.  :-P And I did read his book 'On Writing,' it's actually really good regardless of how you feel about his work. He always suggests 'writing what you know', and that often starts with yourself.

At any rate, that's not exactly what I meant. You're absolutely right, your characters shouldn't be YOU and you wouldn't want to put yourself in all of them at all, because honestly that's kind of scary. At the same time, my stories can't help but have my own brand of humour, which the main character would have to adopt in some way in order to portray. So for instance I am working on a story now and two of the characters come from different aspects of my personality. One comes from the troubled uncertain art student I once was, one comes from some tongue in cheek objectively analytic side of me. They are both much more than that, but that's the root of their personality. I didn't plan it that way, it just happened as I was writing them, because that is our common ground. I understand them, because I understand these personal experiences and parts of myself that I draw inspiration from. So far this has helped me create a character I can really connect with, and hopefully one who translates as more authentic to others. You'll have to judge one day.  :-)

And just to mention, I totally agree about looking outside of yourself for inspiration. It's good to set challenges for yourself and write a character who is completely different from anything you've done before, or who is obsessed with something you know nothing about. That means you have to learn all about it.
« Last Edit: February 20, 2015, 08:06:05 PM by LeonDaydreamer » Logged

Prinsessa
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« Reply #8 on: February 21, 2015, 02:32:09 AM »

Yeah, I don't think you'll write a bad character that way because whom do you know better than yourself? I just mean that it seems you might grow more and write other interesting characters too if you try to step out of yourself and try to imagine other people too. Perhaps base them on your idea of someone you know?

But then again, I'm only iterating what I've been told when it comes to that. I've been writing a few chapters on a short story recently and half the characters do share some traits with me altho also of others I know and at least one not similar to me or anyone I know at all. Maybe that's a good enough balance, tho. :p

Depends on your reasons to write anyway, I guess. If you want to convey your own ideas maybe your character has to be like, or become like, you. I suppose putting the differences in the other characters for contrast might be enough. Or maybe it doesn't have to be the main character who is like you, but another one somewhere who gets in contact with the main character.
« Last Edit: February 21, 2015, 02:41:37 AM by Prinsessa » Logged

~Tidal
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« Reply #9 on: February 21, 2015, 03:03:19 AM »

I'm gonna skirt the violence issue. Anyway, something that I think helps is to imagine having a conversation with the character completely out of context from the game. Imagine talking to them about the stuff going on around you; if you're on a walk, imagine asking your character about that Dad who almost dropped his baby on its head in a public park. Doing stuff like that sort of lets you see the weird facets of your character that real and relatable. Do this enough and your imagination will automatically come up with their responses (and maybe even questions for you) so fast it's like you don't even have control of it.
In this context, take in account your character could be really insufferable and still be a good character (for example, Porky Minch, best - IMHO - character of Mother Saga)
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LeonDaydreamer
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« Reply #10 on: February 21, 2015, 09:18:00 AM »

I just mean that it seems you might grow more and write other interesting characters too if you try to step out of yourself and try to imagine other people too. Perhaps base them on your idea of someone you know?... I've been writing a few chapters on a short story recently and half the characters do share some traits with me altho also of others I know and at least one not similar to me or anyone I know at all...

I can't disagree with any of the points you made, Prinsessa. You should use every outlet available to you, and stepping outside of your comfort zone is always a welcome adventure. :-)

You know, I eventually draw my characters out, and I find that I learn something new about them whenever I do. It's a good exercise, even if the work doesn't require imagery.
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autumnspark
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« Reply #11 on: February 21, 2015, 09:29:20 AM »

take in account your character could be really insufferable and still be a good character

Hell yeah! Some characters I've imagined are total a-holes. They'd talk about punting that father's baby's off the edge of the sea wall so dolphins could could play water polo with it, or worse things. Quiet characters are okay too. Sometimes word's don't have to be spoken in order to convey a thought.
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