Character Creator’s Log – Nevermind the Novel –

Some days it feels like I don’t even have the time to sneeze, much less map out a page turning back-story. Especially when, if what started out as a bit of fun… begins to feel like work, each sentence a strain.
The good news?
You don’t have to make the time, you don’t have to deal with any of it.

There are easier ways to flush out a character without going all David Copperfield
I Am Born
I Observe
I Have A Change
I Fall Into Disgrace
and all of its other tedious point-by… chin-nodding… plodding… points.

Besides, if you write it all out now, if you include every turn and twist, accolade and fault, where does the character have left to go/grow? Where is there room for someone new to enter their life or become a long-lost acquaintance, rekindled?
Or are you actually intent on playing out a mental-geriatric just waiting for Death to knock?

Better to recall how we all actually converse with and engage people.
Anecdotes. Tales to amuse, frighten and warn. Songs to belt out, lessons to learn, quirks to conceal and shy smiles that end in a rosy-blush.

Quick do me a favor… Find a copy of a play, a script, anything. Turn to the front.
What do you see? Probably something that looks like this?

Cast of Characters
George – 46- Member of the history department at NCU. Married to Martha.

Martha – 52- The daughter of the president of NCU. Married to George.

Nick – 28- A new member of the biology faculty at NCU. Married to Honey.

Honey – 26- Petite, bland wife of Nick.

This is where the play starts.
Whether you’re in the audience thumbing through the playbill, waiting for the lights to dim or reading through the script for the first time. This is what a Cast List gives.
Hardly anything.
An Name, Age, at least one ready Relationship with another character and a Profession.
A NARP, if you will… the absolute bottom barrel essentials of character-based larping.
This is the only OOC introduction I ever want.
How then, are we ever to get to know the character’s personalities, back-stories, where they came from or where they’re going? Or to put it another way, “What’s their deal?”
Simple. By observing. How they interact, how they speak. By what their body language is telling us. If they seem to always be lying or can’t keep a secret. Are they making others uncomfortable or welcome?

My secret key to strong RP is knowing how a character relates to others.
I firmly believe that having a working and most importantly, fluid, inner dialogue is more worthwhile then spending our time writing out an IC novel.

So stay tuned and join us as we tread down the well worn avenues of RP relationships and attempt to pry up the brickwork.


2 responses to “Character Creator’s Log – Nevermind the Novel –

  1. Well… I’ve seen awesome characters written with a lot of back-story, and those using a very simple and short story, but still a great character concept which is fun to play. I tend to switch between “simple back-story” and “complex back-story” characters myself. I agree with you – relations with others are the most important of all.

    My one-shot larp, Death of the Japanese Emperor, uses the Ball of Yarn method to create characters. They had a very simple background, but they spun wild stories together while creating their characters – and their characters pretty much ended up being about how they relate to each other, not about being part of a personal novel. It was an interesting and new concept for most people, and they liked it.

    I decided to try and apply it to a traditional fantasy larp where people write their own characters. So, last weekend on “Terra Nova: Zimograd” the players were divided into three groups, all of them Ball of Yarn-ing recent events and relationships they had (the events between two larps). It was more limited than on Death of the Japanese Emperor, but most people ended up liking it a lot (a few didn’t see the point). You might want to try it to build a story with your group 🙂

    A lot of people seem to be most at ease creating “lone wolf” characters… who usually end up being very limited in what they can play. Larp is first and foremost a group activity and a group experience.

    • Very true Ivan.
      The are so many different ways to approach the creation of a back-story and it’s all about finding what works for each person.
      ‘Course now, I feel the need to clarify that this is simply how I generally choose to attack the problem and while it might work for others, it also might fail hysterically.
      Bottom line, Larpers show up to have fun and I’m not so bloated on ego that I feel I have any right to tell anyone else that they’re personal process is ‘doing it wrong’.

      But I’ll continue to promote these ‘simplistic’ starting points since several conversations have proven to me, that some people keep themselves out of the game because of an intimidation factor. IE statements that follow, “Oh but everyone’s is/going to be a better __(actor, writer, improver)__” and then they feel they can’t compete or shouldn’t even try. Getting past that fear is the first step and it’s my hope that with each ‘stick’ I throw into the water, it will eventually create the bridge that they need to cross. So here I muddle.

      I adore the Ball of Yarn Relationship creation process.
      It’s one of the greatest general rules to ever come out of larp.

      “A lot of people seem to be most at ease creating “lone wolf” characters… who usually end up being very limited in what they can play. Larp is first and foremost a group activity and a group experience.”
      This. Oh my goodness yes.
      So I’m curious, did anyone show up to Terra Nova with this kind of character in mind, did the Ball of Yarn process help them to break out of it, or were they the ones most ‘resistant’?
      As to the few who didn’t see the point. Did they happen to articulate why?

Chime in!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s