|becky has a neg 4 to stealth checks (clank) wrote,|
@ 2018-11-30 21:01:00
|Entry tags:||essay, rp writing|
Troubleshooting Your Character, Part One
Bringing Zombie Characters Back from the Dead
Zombie characters can happen to anyone. I don't mean literally, though I suppose depending on the game they could. No, in this case I'm talking metaphorically. You have a character but they spend their time shambling through the game in search of
brainssomething to do, unable to create connections with other characters.
It's a sad, unfulfilling experience trying to write a character stuck in zombie mode. But never fear! You can bring that character back from the dead. To help me demonstrate, I want to bring up a movie that illustrates my point pretty beautifully. You may have heard of it? It's called Warm Bodies.
Maybe it was great at first. You brought in some characters, you were getting interaction, but then things quickly started to go stale. You found yourself posting the same kinds of things, struggling to meet activity checks, feeling uninspired and uncertain about what to do with your characters.
That's the situation our protagonist R finds himself in at the start of our story. He's a zombie who lives at the airport. He walks down the same halls, makes the same sort of grunting noises at the same people without ever striking up a real or meaningful conversation. He feels trapped inside himself and he isn't sure how to get out. Why does his existence feel so empty?
It's because he's dead, man.
Well, actually there's a little more to it than that. R doesn't remember his own name. He doesn't remember the things he likes. He doesn't have any goals. I don't remember how exactly the zombie virus works in this movie but that's not the important part. The zombies are humans who have lost their drive and have no discernible heartbeat. Chances are your zombie character suffers from the exact same things: (1) forgetting who they are and (2) having no discernible heartbeat.
Now to fix that!
If your character is dead, the following things will not bring them back to life:
Number 1: Don't go to the OOC board asking for plot from other players.Why? Because your character is dead. Interacting with a dead character is boring. Trust me. If you don't have any ideas for your character, if you haven't seen how to bring them back to life yet, no one else is going to be able to plot your character for you. To tie this back to my zombie metaphor, when living humans come across an undead character their first instinct is to run away screaming.
Instead: Bring your character back to life yourself. The plot will happen and people will naturally want to develop lines and scenarios again. Don't worry, we're going to get into that later on.
Number 2: Don't copy what other characters are doing.I know it's tempting. You see a post that worked for someone else, a line idea that went over really well! Surely, if you do that too, you're character will come back to life!
Except, they won't. In the movie Warm Bodies the character R literally tries to do this. The brain eating is explained as something that the undead do because it makes them feel alive for a tiny fleeting moment, getting memories and experiences from living humans.
Remember how I said other characters in an RP game will flee from a zombie character in game? Well, muching on other people's
brainsideas isn't going to get you interaction, it's going to scare them off. It will convince exactly no one that your character is alive and has desires of their own.
Instead: If you're stuck on ideas it's probably because you're focused on your OOC desires for the character. Forget that you're in a bind. Forget that you have a super rad character. Instead focus on who the character is. What is it that the character wants? We'll get into this in the "Dos" section.
Number 3: Speaking of OOC desires, don't try to force your character in unnatural interactions with other characters.You will be creepy.
And it seems contradictory, right? If your character is boring, the answer is to talk to other characters, right? Wrong. And there's two reasons for that.
Reason One: It's the IC equivalent of asking other players for help coming up with plot for you. With a living character, random interaction is no problem. With a dead character, it's not interaction, it's trying to leach life from the other characters around you. You know your character is a zombie when you try to have them talk to other characters and the conversation isn't that interesting or it dies.
Reason Two: Let's get to the why it doesn't lead to anything. Zombie characters have a lot of things in common with the zombies of Warm Bodies. They've typically forgotten who they are and their actions aren't grounded in their own wants or desires. It's for this reason they're unable to make meaningful connections.
But I promise you, it isn't all dire. You've identified the problem, you know what not to do. Now let's look at steps I recommend to fix the problem.
I'm going to give you some writing homework. I know what you're thinking, "But I wrote an application (probably) to get into the game! I practically wrote a doctoral thesis on the psychology of my character. I know their history. I know them blindfolded. Why do you want me to write mooooore?"
So, I'm going to admit upfront that this is my bias, but most applications don't prepare you for plot or interaction in games. You might fill out some extensive personality sections, but the way the personality sections are organized are typically generic and aren't developed towards focusing on the sorts of wants, desires and goals that will propel your character forward in a game.
Mods don't write applications to help you come up with interaction (typically). Mods write applications to (1) judge what level of writing you're capable of and (2) make sure you know your character regardless if they're fandom or original. That's it. The interaction's on you, my loves.
So if you're struggling, I want you to fill out the following application. If you like, you make even drop a link to your application in the comments and I will take a look and leave you my feedback. Deal?
APPLICATION TO BRING [CHARACTER NAME]
BACK FROM THE DEAD AT [GAME OR PSL]
character name •
character age •
time period born •
place of birth •
affect of age and time period born on the character? • I think sometimes we answer the age and date of birth questions robotically without always thinking of the implications. Is your character Gen X, Millennial or Generation Z? (Or something further back?) There are differences in attitudes, the economy at the time, affects of technology and place they were born, the cultural attitudes. Put those notes how they influence your character here that are separate from their character specific history.
friends & family influence notes • Look, if your character has spent any time with people in their past, those people have left an impact. Even if that impact was to rebel against them. What marks, influences did those friends, family, even enemies (if you want to add that) leave on your character's life? How did they change? How did they try to adjust? Or fail to adjust? Put those notes here and don't be afraid to include characters who are currently or were previously in your RP game.
most important life lessons they have learned so far • They've made mistakes, right? Did they learn from them? Where has their growth as a character come from so far?
two core contradictory beliefs • "I, [Character Name], believe [belief one goes here]." + "I, [Character Name], believe [belief two goes here]."
Ah, yes. If you read my general RP philosophy you know I'm super into character paradoxes. Look at the examples I have in the linked essay on Peter Parker and Negan. All characters should have certain core beliefs about themselves that's contradictory, giving them an uncomfortable source of angst they don't want to look too carefully at.
Your character will triumph and grow if they resolve their paradox (generally replacing it with a new one) or fail tragically (typically die horribly) if they fair to reconcile their paradox.
Stuck? That's why I had you write some notes about their age, the time and place they were born, and the influences other people and history have had on them. What beliefs did they pick up from their upbringing? Look there for a contradiction. Those contradictions can help you fuel your character's motives and actions.
what does your character desire most in life? • If you're Conan the Barbarian the answer is "To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women!" Your character should have some life goals, right? An endgame? Something?
three short term goals your character wants • Do not answer this OOCly. If your answer is "a ship" and "more friends" you are answering this OOCly and I will whack you with the noodle of shame. Get into your character's head and answer the three questions from an IC perspective.
five actions your character is going to take in game • Okay, you know their paradox, their long term goal in life, their short term goals. What actions are they going to take to make these goals happen? Are any of them self destructive? Will they cause strife for other characters or help them find common ground? The more deeply these actions are tied to who your character is as a person, the more successful taking these actions will be at generating plot.
*I know, I know. I used a table instead of a div. I'm sorry. I can write tables
in my sleep and I really have only dipped my toe in the superiority of div tags.
To make things easier, have a textbox to copy and paste my application into your CDJ or character journal.
If you can't answer what is it that your character wants, you may not be able to revive the character. If what you fill out in the application above won't work within the context of the game, it may not be a character that fits within the game.
But I do hope the application above (it's a writing exercise, really) helps you refocus your character and find their heart. If you can get your character to remember who they were and act within that context, then chances are they will live again.
But one word of caution...
A ship will not solve your problem. I know, I know. In the movie, R risks his life for the girl he loves and they fall from a height into a pool of water or something. R's love for Julie is what ultimately brings him back to life.
Look, I don't want to knock on ships. I have a weird brain and writing romance is very hard for me because I'm not a romantic person by nature. I do enjoy ships, I do. But if you bank bringing your character back to life on a ship, what happens when that character you're in a ship with gets dropped? You're fucked and you go back to being dead.
Don't use a ship to bring your character back to life, but as a healthy sign of a living character.
Thanks, all! Hit me up in the comments if you like.