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Character Development

on Wed Dec 02, 2015 11:25 am
So, you've decided you want to venture into the fine art of Character Development.  Good for you!  This is by no means a guide, just some disjointed rambling on the matter.

Getting Started
So, before you begin, you need to know what character development is.  It's the way your character changes and grows throughout the game.

Logically, that means you need somewhere for your character to grow from, and to grow to.  

Mary Sues and Omnicompetent characters

In case you don't know, Mary Sue is the name we give to any character who is so "perfect", they draw all the attention from every other character in the game.  Mary Sues are usually attractive, intelligent, arse-kickers, occasionally angst filled or with a tragic backstory.  

Omnicompetent characters are those who have a lot of different skills, or who suddenly demonstrate skills there was no hint they had when those skills are most needed.  

Mary Sues and Omnicompetent characters can be annoying to RP with, it's true.  They draw attention away from everyone else, they usually provide solutions to problems too soon and too easily and the make the plots they're involved with conclude too soon.

However, what most people don't consider is that they are also dead boring to roleplay as.  If your character is already good at everything, if they already know everything or if they never fail at anything, they can never develop.  So by creating characters like this, you're doing yourself a disservice.

Finding a niche

Just because your character shouldn't be the best at everything doesn't mean they can't be very good or even the best at something.  Figure out your character's niche.  

Who do you want to RP with?  Is there a particular character you want to RP with, a faction you want to join or job you want your character to do?  How do your character's skills, personality and motivations compliment that?

Remember, your character doesn't need to be in charge or outstanding to be a great character.  Sometimes the best characters are the ones in supporting roles (because less people want to play them), and they have a lot more room for development as well.

Your Character's Worldview

Your character has their own, unique, way of seeing the world.  Figure out what that is.  

Your character's worldview is going to be affected by where and how they were raised.  So you may need to reflect on their history.

Doing this helps you empathise with your character (even if you don't agree with them) and to understand their motivations.  It is much easier to develop your character if their goals are realistic and understandable.

Your Character's Goals

As well as motivation, your character has actual things they want to achieve.  Whether it be graduating Hogwarts with straight Os or getting promoted at the Ministry of Magic.  It's much easier for character development if their motivations match up with their goals but that doesn't always have to be the case.

If your character has a large goal, you should break that down into smaller goals.  Just like in real life.  

For example, Monroe Ashcroft's ultimate goal is to become Minister for Magic.  However, he cannot just do that, both because we already have a character in that position and because he's simply too young.  Therefore, he began as a student, went into the Ministry of Magic as an intern, was promoted to the Beasts and Beings department and is currently Head of the Improper Use of Magic Office.

Play to Your Character's Weaknesses

When you created your character, you gave them strengths and weaknesses.  Strengths have their place, but if you really want your character to grow, showcase their weaknesses and foibles.

When your characters suffer or fail, that's when most of their significant growth is going to occur.  Bring in your character's worldview and use it to figure out how they would react to what they're going through.  Would they blame themselves, blame others, simply accept what has happened, and why do they do that?

Self Awareness

Okay, so we have some basic character development going on.  Now we're going to make your character self aware.  Self awareness is your knowledge of yourself as separate from your environment.  

Think back to your character's worldview again.  Your character should judge themselves against their own worldview.  In fact, they should judge everyone else against it, too.  However, how self aware a person is depends on their ability to be objective in such a judgement.

For example, several of my characters act in contradiction to their own worldview because they are not self aware enough to realise that their actions don't match up with their values.
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