On Character Development and Conflict

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Red Garland
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On Character Development and Conflict

Post by Red Garland » Mon Jul 13, 2015 10:08 pm

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Introduction


Think of LS-RP.

LS-RP is an immersive world we all escape into from our good/bad, boring/exciting lives for a thrill we wouldn’t get anywhere else. The immersion of the world we enter comes from us assuming characters we aren’t in the real life. Roleplaying has a lot in common with other escapist, mimesis-like media that came before it. In a way, roleplaying is drama. You get a similar premise: various characters (character) overcoming obstacles (conflict) keeping them from achieving their goals (resolution). This similarity is convenient to us, as we can use various writings on drama from the past and examine them for our purpose. As an aspiring screenwriter I’ve done some (not nearly enough) homework on character, conflict and storytelling and I can share with you some of the stuff I’ve found useful in my roleplaying.

The information I got for this guide comes mainly from two books I’ve read: Lajos Egri’s The Art of Dramatic Writing and Aristotle’s Poetics. Both are pretty damn good for screenwriting, roleplaying and hell, living a more conscious life. I recommend them to you for reading in your spare time.

Back to drama. In it, you see, you, the author, are the sole creator of the world you’re presenting; you’re out to prove a point, or you wish to deliver aesthetic awe to the audience. Whatever your premise might be, you handpick your characters, your conflict and your environment according to one criterion: driving the plot to the resolution you’ve chosen. Roleplaying challenges this. You only select your character. The environment, plot and conflict (for the one which you don’t initiate; more on that later) are given to you and you’re expected to react. Here is where the importance of properly developing your character lies.

Your character is the only contribution to the world you enter. If you want to be successful in it and enjoy it to the fullest, you better make sure that your contribution is a worthwhile one.

Part I: Developing a Believable Character


I’m sure you’re aware of this idea, that when you start a new character you need to have a plan for him. It’s elementary, isn’t it? Even the LS-RP User Control Panel requires you to write a background story for your new Los Santos resident. So from the get-go you’re familiarized with this idea, that whatever it is that you want to do with your character, you need to create for him a story. A background. Something that lasts and defines him. You need to create for him a personality. But what exactly is a personality? What makes us who we are? That’s a question many have been debating for a long time and we won’t delve into that. What we’re after is a way to create a personality that by all accounts seems real. It’s not real - we know it very well. But that's not what we're after. We want a character who only seems like a real, living and breathing human being and we merely want to avoid anything that might break this illusion.

You might have some idea of how a proper character is made. You want your character to be realistic and to achieve that, you think, you need him to have flaws. So you go about creating your Johnny DiScarpio and in a moment of insight, you decide him to be a drug addict. You want this to be his edge: he’s a loose cannon, he’s unpredictable and a total fuck-up without his dose. There’s no error in your thinking so far, but then comes the execution. You want to introduce others to this idea of what your character really is and so what do you do? You take screenshots of him taking his shots and put them up on the forum. You show him going through the horror of withdrawing. The problem with that, though, is that nobody cares. Look: I don’t care what you want me to think of your character. I’ll scroll right through your screenshots without paying them much mind. Yet still, as a roleplayer, you are a storyteller. As that, it is your duty to know these things about your character despite the fact, that I’ll promptly ignore you telling me about them. You know why? Here’s a quote that has changed my approach to screenwriting, storytelling and roleplaying dramatically. It goes like this:

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Character. Incident. Two such important concepts in roleplaying. You have your character and his existence is defined by incidents, as in things that happen to him, the way he responds to them and the things he makes happen. Now we see a clear connection between the two and the answer to our initial question of "what is character?" is right in front of us. Character, or personality is what defines the incidents your character creates. Incident is what illuminates your character’s personality to others. I see incidents. Through incidents I shape my own vision of your character and it’s the outside observer’s vision, that matters - not yours.

To apply it to the Johnny DiScarpio example from above: I don’t want you to tell me that your character is a drug addict. I want to deduct it myself from the actions he shows me. I want the incidents he creates to illuminate that part of his character for me. See the difference? I want LS-RP to be an open book for me, with as much space for personal observations and conclusions as possible. That’s the fun stuff about playing with strong, rich characters: the fascination, the discovery.

But how does one make such characters? Let’s see.

So you’ve got your character’s story written for the LS-RP application. If you’ve put a little effort, it got accepted. If you’re ambitious, you might try to follow up on it as you’re playing and behave as you think your character would, given his background. But in doing this, you’re walking in the dark. You don’t really know what makes a character realistic and what declassifies him as such and you don't know how background governs behaviour. If you’re ambitious, you might try using a character sheet. As in, you write down key elements about your character on a delivered form.
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A character sheet
The problem with that, though is that they usually contain stuff that don’t really matter much and, most importantly, they fail to explain to you a way of how to include all that stuff in your character’s behaviour. You might write down your guy’s eye color, date of birth, height but: a) it doesn’t matter much and b) you don’t see how such details would make a difference. So in the end, you end up just waving your hand dismissively at the sheet you’ve worked hard at and just start playing by your gut. A character sheet is something I use and I’ll show you one that has continuously worked for me over time, but mine is different in the way that it is structured. Remember the quote from above: character = incident, incident = character. You need to forge a personality that will prove relevant once you’re creating or responding to an incident in-game. That’s what we will do now. I’ll show you a way in which I’ve been developing my characters for a while and that’s worked for me. I’m not promising to rediscover the wheel nor do I claim to be the nation’s expert on character, but if some two guys in Texas find this guide useful? Hey, success.

A Character Sheet That Works


Most character sheets out there seem to put too much emphasis on the cold, observable facts about a character. His height, weight, eye colour, age, etc. I'll show you another quote which makes an important distinction between the two elements of character.

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In this one, Aristotle, besides agreeing with Henry James on the character—incident dynamic, makes an important observation which can easily be lost among so many words. He describes a “living persona” as a sum of two parts: QUALITIES OF CHARACTER and QUALITIES OF THOUGHT. Further analysis of his work might explain, that by these two he means consecutively: how a person appears to others (qualities of character) and what’s going on inside his head and behind his decision-making and opinion-building (qualities of thought). We already know what character is; Mr. James had told us a few paragraphs above. Now Aristotle himself ascends from the ashes just for us and tells us how character is made. How nice is that?

Building on this idea, I've come to develop a few concepts, consideration of which is, I've noticed, crucial in building a character. The first is a no-brainer and it’s that a character is dichotomous: he consists of his physicality and his psychology. Both of these consist of traits that are either consistencies or variables. A consistency is a persistent trait that illuminates itself in every situation a character is in, every decision he makes. A variable is a trait that only has a chance (higher or lower) of affecting our actions or the way In which we’re perceived to others. Lastly, I divide the variables (not consistencies) into: positive or negative.

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1) Physicality - Psychology
You get the idea. Physicality of a character is how he appears to the outside world. Psychology is what goes on inside your character’s head and behind his decision-making process. So far it all seems like common knowledge; complications come in the following distinction.

2) Consistencies - Variables
Now here’s an important one. As I’ve said, consistencies follow your character wherever he goes. Variables only have a chance of revealing themselves. Let’s now discuss, in following order: consistencies and variables of physicality and consistencies and variables of psychology.

           a) Consistencies and variables of physicality
Consitencies are the physical traits of your character - not the whole picture of him, but what he’s given at birth or through whatever permanently alters his appearance. His height, his weight, a missing tooth, a scar on the left cheek - all the things your character can’t change about himself (or can’t easily change).

Variables, on the other hand, are his habits that have to do with his outside appearance. Your character might tend to dress well. He might have a habit of not brushing his teeth in the morning, giving him a rancid reek from his mouth. The way he talks - a cocky jerk of lip as he ends his words? Having the habit of making his questions sound like statements, or statements like questions? Does he tend to stutter? Or does he speak the Queen's English? All of these traits are variables of your character’s physicality. Your job is to make these up and assign priorities to them; how high a chance there is for each of them to manifest themselves. Your guy may only sometimes don an Armani suit or walk around in it at any given opportunity, or anything inbetween. Figure the frequency of your variables out before you get playing.

           b) Consistencies and variables of psychology
This one is new so it needs a little more explaining. See, our psychology in character development is a thing that affects your character's decision-making, the way he percieves and assigns meaning to other people and their actions and what shapes his point of view. Each of these processes are governed by traits that have developed in characters through what happened to them throughout their lives. Here lies the importance of building your character's background story. When you write your character's story you must only look at facts that have shaped him. Skip the non-important stuff. We'll scratch the surface of how background and psychology relate to each other but it's a very broad topic for a different field of expertise, which, if you're serious (or certifiably insane) enough about your character, you could research yourself. But as I've said, I'll give you the ropes later on.

So. Consistencies and variables. Consistencies are the traits that make up your character's permanent worldview. These are the general guidelines for you to consider in the day-to-day activities of your character and that you should always keep in mind. Let's say you're roleplaying a white supremacist - one of his consistencies is that all races are inferior to his and it'll almost always show through his interactions with other people. A young kid from the ghetto might take in a quote uttered by Al Pacino in Brian DePalma's Scarface as his motto: "In this country, first you get the money. Then you get the power and THEN you get the women." He'll strive for money and power, he'll seek respect and demand it to be given to him. This need will govern most of his actions and serve as a point of reference in the dilemmas he will be facing: "will this drive my closer to money? Will it give me power and respect?"

Can consistencies change in your character's lifetime? Maybe. It's up to you to decide how very deep-rooted your character’s consistencies are. A consistency of your character might change through long-term transformation. A path he walks in his life might turn his attention to the perils of his ways. Take Matteo Garrone’s Gomorrah and the transformation of the Roberto character (left on the photo). A psychological consistency may suddenly break under a highly intensive and insightful situation a character is placed in - take Edward Norton in Tony Kaye’s American History X. Sometimes a single situation might show to your character, that what he took as his core belief wasn’t a consistency after all: a pick-up artist falls for a girl so bad, that he suddenly imagines himself being the responsible head of the family for her. A change of consistencies is often a theme for more mature works of entertainment, such as drama or film. Think such character arc is beyond your scope? Aim high. Who knows where developing your character might take you.

And now the variables. Psychological variables of your characters are the things that aren't as deep rooted as consistencies. They can be the little quirks of your character: like how he sometimes might feel a slight anxiety around a large group of people and this discomfort might cloud his judgement to the point where he may attribute absurd meaning to people's gestures and it'll affect his behaviour - "fuck's this guy laughing about? I'll wipe that smirk off his face". Not all the times - some times. They can also be deep-rooted parts of his personality, but such that only manifest themselves when they are randomly triggered in a particular situation. Like a mob guy, who tends to be a friendly and out-going sort of man but can turn sadistic at an almost random moment and completely contradict the image he normally sends across. Ever heard a serial killer being being described as a "nice, quiet man" by his neighbours? We are all full of contradictions, and it's not an empty phrase; embrace it.

During the situations you take part in while roleplaying, it's up to your decision which variable of your character might get triggered. On one occasion, you'll be faced with an insubordinate soldier of your gang and act easy on him and at another, that same soldier will trigger a sadist in your character and all hell will break loose on him. And it's okay, as long as the tendency to blow up sometimes for obscure reasons is a variable planned by you for your character. Check this for how a trivial situation triggered a variable in a person.

3) Positive variables - negative variables
This last distinction is made for your ease. You should consider your character's variables as negative or positive depending on the outcome of them appearing. Not brushing your teeth is certainly a negative variable, as people will avoid speaking to you (or rather, listening to you talk). Feeling charitable from time to time and giving away a few bucks for a homeless guy is a rather positive variable for your character. The reason for which I've made this distinction is so that you get the idea, that you need both of these for your character. A character with nothing but positive habits is dull. Make sure you work both into him.

Part II: Roots of Psychology


Our background, things that happen to us, our upbringing influences us in very various ways and it is a topic of a heated, often self-contradictory debate among the psychological science circles. A while ago I’ve worked on this screenplay based on this very dark incident that has happened close to where I live. I was drawn to understanding the determinants of such human behavior and the premise of my screenplay was supposed to be an explanation of such happening. I remembered about the connection between character and incident, which Henry James drew so clearly and I started my research by looking at the perpetrator. I’ve been looking for a point of reference, something that would describe this person and get me started somewhere. Were they a psychopath? Most likely. A sadist? Also likely. But what was different about this particular incident were the circumstances surrounding it. Without going into much detail, I’ve found my point of reference when I stumbled upon a book on criminology by written Brunon Hołyst. In it, I’ve read a chapter on pathological narcissism. What I’ve discovered gave me some insight on how character traits are made and how self-contradictory the explanations for them may sometimes be. One view is that pathological narcissism is created through easy-going relations with one’s parents. They enforce in a young man the view, that he is the chosen one and he deserves to have all attention given to him. Any situation which might threaten this belief will trigger frustration, anger and hatred in him. Another school of thought claims the complete opposite. It’s theorists seek out the connection in how the tough, teutonic-sort of parenting can corner a kid into narcissism. According to them, you see, when a child is exposed so often to cutting criticism, feelings of worthlessness and feeling not good enough for their parents, he naturally escapes in his mind to the parts of himself that build him up. The positive aspects of himself become the metaphoric wall, with which he barricades himself away from the unbearable feelings their parents stir in him. Self-doubt and positive self-criticism become the least desired traits to have, given the amount of outside humiliation received, so they're blocked out completely resulting in a man pathologically in love with himself.

The reason for which I’m bringing this example up is to give you the idea of how complex and hard to explain the inner workings of our brain can sometimes be. So if people who’ve devoted their lifetime to studying the human mind are still baffled by the development of a person's psyche, how can we even try to wrap our heads around it? Let alone use it to our advantage.

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Dr Frankenstein, AKA Not You
Trying to describe a living person’s psychological structure is nowhere near creating a fictional character. The scope is way bigger. The dots that need connecting are way more intertwined, the relations between them of so much more variations and possible trails often become dead ends. None of these are the things you need to worry about when you're making something from scratch. When you create a character, you’re given a choice. You’re not discovering something that exists; you’re building something and it's not a living and breathing creature you're making. Your only goal is to make something that doesn’t break the illusion of being real. So much and so little, at the same time. I’ll share with you some of the things I’ve learned while doing research for my screenplays; only such that proved useful in my roleplaying.

1) Start with the personality, work the background into it
Once I got a grip on what might be the defining characteristic of my research subject above, it was easier to connect the dots of his personality into a clearer picture. I had the idea of where it will all ultimately take me - a psychopathic, pathological narcissist. If such a picture wouldn't have come out of it, I'd know to change my expected outcome. That's a simplification we can accept in this virtual reality. Paint a picture of what your character is supposed to be. If you want him to be a psychopath, do some basic research on the possible origins of the trait and work one of them into your character's story.

2) Come up with a maximum of conclusions from the minimum of observations
Don't be afraid to make far-fetched judgements on your character by analyzing the smallest of his traits. Does he bite his fingernails and flickers his eyebrow relentlessly? It might be that he's carrying an excess of energy in himself. Is he a bad teamworker? Maybe structure and hierarchy make him uneasy and he won't prove a very loyal subordinate. These can be evolved into variables of their own, consecutively: the capability to snap and a tendency to avoid subordination and loyalty.

3) Allow your character's consistencies and variables to manifest themselves throughout his background
If you want your charater to be an addict, you should work into your background story the situations where his addiction proved destructible to his life. An excess of energy from the paragraph above? Troubles at school and in relationships with peers. This little excersize allows you to get a better feel of what your character is like and lets you remember more carefully what his consistencies and variables are.

Part III: The Real Commodity of LS-RP


Why do we play LS-RP? For fun, of course. However, so far it may seem like there’s not so much fun involved in our playing, as there are duties. We are obliged to act realistically. Obliged to develop out characters properly. Obliged to provide something to other people. You might begin to wonder, where’s the fun in all that? Let’s see what the joy is in other, less complicated multiplayer games.

Call of Duty series, SAMP deathmatch and the like - the satisfaction of being at the top of your game, shooting people down before they manage to get the best of you. You play to win.

World of Warcraft, SW:TOR and other MMORPG games - engaging in an alternative reality, feeling out it’s rules and prevailing under them. There’s a limited access to commodities, like gold and achievements, and you want to be the one with the lion’s share in them.

And now let’s examine the fun of something that we’ve established is similar to LS-RP.

Drama, theatre, cinema, literature - assessing the characters of the play and observing them in their pursuit of a goal, whatever it may be.

All of these have one thing in common: conflict. Conflict is something that’s easily distinguishable in the examples I've mentioned above but we need a definition. What conflict is?

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Conflict is two opposing forces clashing against each other. You and the other player are the two opposing forces in a Call of Duty match. Your guild and the other guilds are the opposing forces in World of Warcraft, competing for the limited commodities. The protagonist and the antagonist are the opposing forces of drama. The conflict might seem easy to establish in LS-RP, but what is the commodity? Is it the money? The weapons? The establishments we own? No.

The real commodity, over which we’re all clashing against each other is the conflict itself.

Once you take that sentence above into yourself as true, your approach to roleplaying will change. In order to have fun on LS-RP you don’t have to chase money or scripted possessions. You need to develop conflict for your character and treat him as a protagonist. A protagonist is the character who, by decision, initiates conflict. An antagonist is the force (a person, a circumstance, a thing) holding the protagonist back. Let’s illustrate this with an example:

1. Your character makes a decision to earn a million dollars in a month, let’s say. There goes the beginning of the conflict: the decision. Then, you work out the ways to do that. You figure that the best way is to start a gun dealing ring and establish your position on the market. The first obstacle you’re going to be faced with is finding your supply. It turns out, your prospect supplier is an egomaniacal asshole who, in exchange for supplying you with weapons, demands that you wage a war with your crew with one of his other costumers, with whom business hasn’t been going well enough. You know this war will wipe your gang off the map. The supplier becomes the opposing force to your action - he becomes an antagonist, in turn making a protagonist out of yourself. The circle is closed; conflict arises.

2. All is going well. You’ve managed to overcome the conflict above and you’re an established gun supplier in the area. One day, you get the news that an up-and-comer is now in town, laying claim on your operations. He wants you out. You are the protagonist and the antagonist in that scenario. He makes a decision to knock you off the top; you make the decision to keep your position. The circle is closed, conflict is on.

Notice how in neither of these scenarios are money, weapons or power given emphasis. You might have all you want and stay at your IG mansion, bored to death. What you really need is conflict. The hope of resolving the conflict to your advantage keeps you playing and succeeding at it gives you satisfaction. It truly bears repeating:


In LS-RP, conflict is the real commodity.

If you can create a commodity people want, you’ll reap rewards for it in any environment. Start something for the other players. Organize a drug transport on which you won't earn a single dollar, but won't lose either. Get people involved. Vince once organized a shipment of cocaine for his La Tripulación cartel faction with the use of an airplane he owned and the abandoned airstrip near Las Venturas. He took half of his faction to "secure" the deal, another to ensure it safely gets back to the headquarters. Was it real? Did somebody actually fly those drugs from some place at which they were stashed up to this point? Was there actual danger involved? Was it necessary or the most convenient way of doing it? Consecutively: 1) kind of, 2) probably not, 3) probably not, 4) hell no. Did it get people involved? Did it give them a sense of taking part in something? Was it fun for them? Consecutively: 1) yes, 2) yes, 3) my strong guess is that it was. And that's what is all about, ladies and gentlemen. That's how it's done. Here's another example, this time KEG of The Coonan Mob is doing the footwork. Ask yourself the same questions, as I did in regards to Vince's thing. I think the answers won't change. Yet another, this time a personal story of mine. Back in my days at the Valenti CF, right after I got made, my captain, Anthony Corsaro (God bless, wherever you ah') tasked me with finding out the gun supplier behind one of the street gangs. I took two associates of mine and we did find out who the contact was. But I doubt Corsaro had still been dealing weapons by the time he gave me the order. I doubt he's had any serious interest in finding it out. My strong guess is that not a single buck fattened his wallet after the whole thing was through. What was to be gained though, was what culminated in this. Hours upon hours of roleplay - stalking, observations, the attempts at kidnapping. Pure mafia roleplay fun. It's not that I couldn't have thought of that scenario on my own - I could see no way for my character to have interest in it. Corsaro, however, as a high-ranking captain of a criminal organization, could have realistically had interest in gaining that knowledge.


I don't believe that players expecting some initiative on their leader's behalf are "expecting to be spoonfed roleplay", as it is sometimes stated. When you think about it, roleplay is being spoonfed either way. Either the lower echelon "spoonfeeds" the upper, or the other way around and somehow, for reasons that are beyond me, the first model seems to be the only one acceptable. Lose the term "spoonfeeding" from your dictionary. Replace it with "initiating conflict": something which you're either capable of, or you're not. When you look at it this way, you'll realise that it's a responsibility that lies on all of us players and on both sides of all LS-RP agreements. Now Vince, KEG, Corsaro - those were (are) the true leaders. They understood what now seems to be forgotten: that if you aren't capable of creating roleplay using your position, you don't deserve to be a leader. What they understood, is that on LS-RP conflict is a commodity; not a problem waiting to be solved.

Conclusion


Once you've decided to try a new character playthrough, feel free to give some of these ideas of mine a go. Start by selecting the physical and psychological consistencies of your character. Then, build a background for him that will support and explain these traits. Once that is done, pick the variables and establish their chances of manifesting themselves ingame. Only then can you start pondering upon what kind of conflict(s) is your kind of character capable of. And then... you're good to go. Start playing, go get 'em.

I realize that this is a long guide to sit through. Some of you may feel discouraged to read it judging by the sheer length of it. It does, however, contain all my reflections upon roleplaying I've had up to this point packaged in a coherent and precise package. I hope this work will prove useful to some of you and I look forward even more to hear your thoughts on what I've touched upon here.

Good luck.

© Red Garland, 2015
Last edited by Red Garland on Mon Sep 07, 2015 10:31 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Pandillero
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Re: [Guide] Character Development 101 & The Fun of LS-RP

Post by Pandillero » Thu Jul 16, 2015 7:46 pm

I have never seen a guide on this subject as detailed and interesting as this one, so much that it made it difficult for me to comment on. I just tried to read and understand it to the best of my ability and it resonated with me really well.

Hats off to you Garland, what a good read.
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Re: [Guide] Character Development 101 & The Fun of LS-RP

Post by AWood » Fri Jul 17, 2015 9:58 am

Awesome job, nicely done.

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Re: [Guide] Character Development 101 & The Fun of LS-RP

Post by Ruskie » Fri Jul 17, 2015 12:13 pm

Definitely a good read.

I'll toss a ball for you, what's your opinion on, let's call them, simple characters?
I find them way easier to develop and to chisel until they become complex characters to the likes of the ones you portrayed in the guide.
Example: A dirty outlaw in his twenties. Just by putting this in an emote, it pretty much dishes out and gives the other party you're RPing with a good view of what your character is, dirty, carefree, had a rough life up to this moment and many many more other things could fall under this.
Through this 'method', I also have wiggling room, I can let him live his dirty-under-the-bridge life, or turn him one hundred eighty degrees through a series of events that might lead me and my character to another turn table.
If I give my character a complex set of traits and beliefs from the first step, I pretty much cuff myself, don't you think?
And as a fading red iron-cross shaped tail light disappeared down a bombed out highway, the only sound louder than a tricked out Shovelhead skull bound for glory, was the rusty laughter of the devil himself. His work here was finally done.

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Re: [Guide] Character Development 101 & The Fun of LS-RP

Post by Brydog » Mon Jul 20, 2015 8:37 am

Amazing guide, Garland.

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Re: [Guide] Character Development 101 & The Fun of LS-RP

Post by Hawksbee » Mon Jul 20, 2015 10:33 pm

Fuckin' bookmarked this shit. This is brilliant.
List of Characters:
[spoiler]Lucas Tobias - Freelance journalist and blogger, ALIVE AND WELL.
Akira Higashiyama - Mechanic and former Miyazaki-Kai, INACTIVE.
Adam Hawksbee - Associate of Bellomo, MISSING.
Luca Ombra - Associate of Bellomo, DEAD.[/spoiler]

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Re: [Guide] Character Development 101 & The Fun of LS-RP

Post by High Tory » Sun Jul 26, 2015 12:34 am

Excellent guide.

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Re: [Guide] Character Development 101 & The Fun of LS-RP

Post by Red Garland » Sun Jul 26, 2015 1:09 am

I'd like to thank everyone for the very kind comments.

Ruskie wrote:Definitely a good read.

I'll toss a ball for you, what's your opinion on, let's call them, simple characters?
I find them way easier to develop and to chisel until they become complex characters to the likes of the ones you portrayed in the guide.
Example: A dirty outlaw in his twenties. Just by putting this in an emote, it pretty much dishes out and gives the other party you're RPing with a good view of what your character is, dirty, carefree, had a rough life up to this moment and many many more other things could fall under this.
Through this 'method', I also have wiggling room, I can let him live his dirty-under-the-bridge life, or turn him one hundred eighty degrees through a series of events that might lead me and my character to another turn table.
If I give my character a complex set of traits and beliefs from the first step, I pretty much cuff myself, don't you think?

Sorry it took me so long to reply, but I actually had to sit down and think about it. :D What you brought up is actually a good point and it might serve as a basis for another method. However, I think it can be worked into mine aswell.

I think we can safely call what you're refering to as "simple characters" as "archetypes". An archetype as in a phrase, that, when brought up, immidiately brings to mind what a character is like given just a short description. In drama (etc.) archetypes serve merely as plot devices and as such, do not need to be presented in their full light but only in terms of representing a trait that is convenient to a situation.

Let's say you're writing a scene, in which a character has just arrived in a small, rural town and you want to show a culture shock he encounters. So you make him an intellectual and you make him stumble into a local bar, only to be beaten up by somebody who doesn't appreciate his urban and cultured way of living. For this purpose, you won't care much about who the perpetrator will be - you only want to write him well enough, so as he realistically seems able to do such a thing. You settle for an "outlaw biker"; or a "small-time hustler". You don't need to know if this particular character would, given the full circumstances, actually perform such a deed. You only need it to seem plausible, so that the viewer/reader doesn't question the realism but instead focuses on the development of conflict.

In roleplaying, however, archetypes run the risk of being one-dimensional. Over here, as stated in the beginning of this guide, you are not in control of the environment and the other characters in the situation. You're given a situation and you're expected to respond. Following a simple archetype often leads you to chosing very similar reactions to the situations you encounter and as such, you risk your character becoming predictable. You can't, on the other hand, try to maneuver around it by randomly picking different outcomes to "spice things up", as then you run the risk of breaking the illusion of your characters veracity. What developing your character fully really does is it gives you a broader pick of options for him to behave, while still remaining believable.

The defining traits of archetypes can, however, be transformed into core psychological and/or physical consistencies of your character. My suggestion is to remember, that: a) these are not the sole characteristics of your character and b) to remember to work them into your character as a whole; make them compatible with the bigger picture (both of which, as explained in the guide).

E.g. of an archetype transformed into a consistency:
An outlaw biker = "My life is an open road, and there's nothing, not even the law, to stand in my way."
I punti della malavita

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MoroccanGamer
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Re: On Character Development and Conflict

Post by MoroccanGamer » Mon Aug 03, 2015 5:00 am

Speechless.
Image

Rheotic
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Re: On Character Development and Conflict

Post by Rheotic » Tue Aug 04, 2015 7:08 pm

Brilliant!
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Re: On Character Development and Conflict

Post by Ferriola » Wed Aug 05, 2015 10:08 pm

Perfect.

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Re: On Character Development and Conflict

Post by vladster1414 » Thu Aug 06, 2015 12:08 pm

You deserve a medal.

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Re: On Character Development and Conflict

Post by Anomolee » Sat Aug 08, 2015 6:56 pm

I like it. Good stuff.

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Re: On Character Development and Conflict

Post by Ev0dAK1nG » Thu Dec 10, 2015 10:54 am

Amazing post, definitely needs more attention.

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Re: On Character Development and Conflict

Post by araihm » Thu Dec 10, 2015 5:26 pm

Very interesting guide and nice image jeje
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