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.

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Character Creator’s Log -Character Blueprint-

This is probably the easiest ‘class’ I’ve ever run.
No grades, no essays, no deadlines, no set schedules, no firm outlines…

Actually… that last one is probably why it’s faltering.
Here one day and then weeks, months of solace silence.

Which is generally why the crafting of an outline is item one on any list.
Well, once you get past the initial, simplistic, “I want ____ !” thought that spawns it.

I know that there are a LOT of Character Outlines, Templates, Fill-ins, Forms, Worksheets, Questionnaires, the list goes on… an inexhaustible and exhausting supply.

Google any of those phrases and you’ll get the phone-book of Character-How-To.
90% of them have one thing in common, they’re boring, tedious and time-consuming.
You feel every second and sigh though every question, flipping pages ahead trying to figure out, “How long is this thing?” and start giving blithe, one word answers instead of flushing out a structured story.
Or you’ll get stuck.  You’ll ponder a question too long or too well, completely unwilling to accept that, “I don’t know” is itself an answer and then fail to complete the damn thing.  Sure, you keep meaning to come back, but that promise only matters until you forget about it completely and move on.

So how do YOU make a well-rounded character without them?
Well frankly, I don’t know. I only know what works for me.
So if you want to give this a try, here’s hoping you might find the same.

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Homework:
View your Character’s blueprint as the crafting of one perfect sentence.

Noun. Pick a trope, a stereotype.
Depending on your game and whatever it considers cisnormative, this is usually as easy as pointing to a class, gender or race that’s simply tickles your fancy.
The Brute, The Healer, The Scholar, The Bard, The Magician, The Thief, The Beast,  etc…

Adjective. Flavor with an adjective, one adjective only.
Reluctant, Terrible, Foolish, Brave, Noble, Giggling, Battered, Wandering, etc…

Stop.
Reexamine the two choices you have currently and think. Really think about that adjective. For instance, terrible can also mean feared.  So is your adjective something your character does/is, or something they cause or bring out in others?
Are you happy with any of your thoughts so far?
If the answer is already ‘No’ or even ‘Meh’.
Start over.
Keep pairing until you are at least amused.

Where? Give them a backdrop, set them in a scene.
A Cabin, A School, A Playground, A Store, A Tavern, A Cave, A Theater, etc.

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Completed Example:
A battered bard sat slumped in the corner of the mahogany stage.

Okay, it’s not perfect.
But it should give you an idea about how you may want to introduce your character in-game. What is the pervasive feeling as they enter, or as someone stumbles across them. Is it a trait that people can use to point them out?
But most importantly. Does it make people, make YOU, want to know more?
Because if the character can’t even interest you, how will they be able to draw in anyone else?
That said… How battered is this bard? How do we know that this person is even a bard? Did someone beat them up? Are they drunk or just down on their luck? Are they waiting on someone, or is this where they slept? Why are we paying special attention to the material of the stage? So many questions.
All natural, all stemming from this one sentence.
So keep in mind your personality head shot and don’t be afraid to roll with them.
You’ll have a paragraph(or several) in no time.

Character Creator’s Log – Cottleston Pie –

Today, we’re going to review our homework from last ‘week’.

No worries, you don’t have to show your work unless you want to.
Honesty’s much harder when you’re forced to share and the goal here above all else, is honesty. Because if you can’t be fully honest with yourself about your limitations…
Well… That’s going to be a trouble.

But all those pointless questions? What were they for?
If it helps, think of them like a personality litmus test.
It provides a basis for your reaction to ____conditions.
After you answered several, you might have noticed a reoccurring answer.
Or you might have noticed a severe lack of cohesion.
The latter means your reactions are more mailable and dependent/reliant on mitigating factors.

Instances of the former however, are what we’re currently looking for…
My constant: What this list tells me about myself for instance, is that I’m a talker. I talk when I’m nervous, I talk when I’m pissed, I try to trick-talk people into paying mind to the random string of words coming out of my mouth on the off chance that they find me interesting enough to keep around, or at least more amusing alive then dead.  I WILL talk until my tongue is numb, my lips sag and my head falls off.  Even then, you’d have to bury it in the sand, far away from the rest of my body…

I think you get the picture.

So. Now knowing that, we can more then assume that it would be a terrible idea for me to try and create a long standing character who is mute or non-gregarious.

There are other things of course that this list doesn’t tell us. Things like your own physical limits. But those are either already known to you or will become readily apparent as you sort out your game. Luckily, unlike ‘unrepairable’ personality constants, most of those can be worked on and improved with time.

This run down merely marks out our personality head shot.  Something that we can reference when creating a character, so that we don’t cast so far from type that the you that is always you, can be seen wiggling in irritation inside the character you’re trying to portray. Because in larp, there are no second takes.

Character Creator’s Log – Creation Casting –

Today, we’re going to focus on basics of Casting.
IE Knowing who you are in real life in order to recognize your character limits.

Before you click away, let me assure you… I can hear that voice in your head saying, “Whose this jerk trying to tell me what I can & can’t do?” Me? I’m nobody, just one voice on the internet. But yourself? Now, that’s your huckleberry.  That’s everything.
It’s best to know yourself before you start trying to dance around wearing other people’s skins. Everything else with fall into place much quicker when you already know your ‘size’.

Required Reading:
How To Get Into Character: Tara M. Clapper
You can do the exercises that Tara suggests or not, completely up to you.
Consider them extra credit.

So. What can we take away from that article?
Basically that we’re all actors. All situationalists… That our behavior can and is dictated by the groups and situations in which we willingly or not, expose ourselves. That circumstances surrounding us, especially whether or not we have any authority, familiarity or bonds in place, affects how we act around others and the roles we’re expected to play.

However, I hold(and it seems Tara agrees) that there are certain core basics to our personalities that cannot be repressed or overcome, regardless of what may or may not be going on around us at the time.

Now the similar trait(s) that Tara pointed out for Harrison Ford are…well, a little vague as far as I’m concerned and more then mailable given time, experience or a fresh edit of the script.  I could be wrong, I don’t know the man personally, but I digress.
Conversely when preforming a role already written, many of these types of things can be quashed or played up for the sake of the character.  In those cases it’s extremely easy because all the actors involved already know the script, have been assigned roles, know every twist or turn the story is going to throw at them and most importantly, have a director who will yell at them to do it again until the get the character ‘right’.
They’re comfortable and relatively safe.
In larp, the you that is always there beneath is still very clearly pulling the strings. So when something unexpected, hilarious, horrible or wonderful happens, the first honest reaction will always be your own. Given that, a good place to start is to examine what varying levels of uncertainty bring out in yourself.

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Homework:
Part One: Imagine that you’re alone and then finish the sentences below.
Answer each as many times as you’d like from 0 – ∞.  So long as all variations are honest.

When I’m lost I _______

When I meet someone new I _______

When I am confronted with violence I _______

When I disagree with someone I _______

When I’m angry I _______

If I see someone in trouble I _______

If I’m confused by something I _______

If I’m uncomfortable I _______

If I’m scared I _______

If I’m bored I _______

If I want someone to like me I _______

Part Two: Now imagine that you’re with a peer and repeat the exercise.
Part Three: Now imagine that you’re in a group and go through it again.

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Next Week: Analyzing the Data.

Character Creator’s Log -StarDate-

So you want to larp.  Lovely.
Obviously, your first stop (after finding out about a group/system you might enjoy) should be at character creation station. But stop. Think. Don’t just browse the departure/event times and take off running.  Grab a map, pull up a bench.  Breathe a moment.

You’re not just playing/creating a character here.

You’re also playing at being a(n):
~Actor
~Casting Director (Related Posts: 1, 2)
~Costume Designer
~Hair Stylist
~Makeup Artist
~Props Master
~Writer (Related Posts: 1)

And I’m sure I’m even missing a few roles in there… But this list is just to get you actively thinking before you’d have to be faced with the fact that you’ve bitten off more then you can comfortably chew.