It happens to all of us. We create our character Suzie Jones. After we give her a personality, goals, likes, and dislikes, we then drop her into a series of situations where she interacts with other characters. Sometimes the situations she encounters are major to the point of personality-changing. Sometimes they're not, but over a series of small events Suzie's behavior forms a pattern that may or may not be what we expect about her.
One of the most exciting things an experienced roleplayer looks forward to is having a character become 'real.' The character becomes its own “living” entity and over time many small changes and decisions can add up to create a picture of the character. This could prove very different from the original concept we have chosen for our roleplay. This is great! It's a goal unto itself for many of us, but how do we maintain and nurture this individual being? How do we keep Suzie internally consistent with herself as she becomes her own person instead of an extension of her player's desires and wishes?
There are undoubtedly many ways to keep Suzie in-character. However, one of the essential things that we need to do to keep Suzie as her own person and to allow her to grow and gain depth, so that she acts like a 'real person' in her version of the 'real world', is step back and really look at her with the eyes of someone who is NOT her player. This is one of the most difficult things for any roleplayer to do; after all, Suzie came into being because her player wished her to be there, and letting go of her original concept enough to let her develop can be challenging. If we can manage to let Suzie "grow up" and be her own person, we might just find that the experience of roleplay reaches a level of satisfaction which makes realizing who she IS, rather than who we thought she would be, worthwhile.
This is a list of questions that is one way of achieving this 'third person' approach to our characters. It is not, by any means, the only way of getting into this mindset, but it is one method roleplayers can use to get to that place.
NOTE: THERE ARE NO RIGHT OR WRONG ANSWERS TO THE QUESTIONS LISTED BELOW! This exercise is purely to get a three-dimensional picture and to distance yourself from your character enough so that you can evaluate who he or she is. In order to understand your character, you can NOT judge him or her. Suzie is who she is, just like a real person, and is a sum of the things that we like and don't like about her. It's what makes Suzie interesting and fun to play!
- Answer the questions below using already established roleplay as an example. Remember, there are NO right or wrong answers! This exercise is to recognize a pattern of behavior over time and learn who the character is. Be certain to answer the questions objectively. Use actual examples from past roleplay, or the entire analysis will be worthless.
- Sit on the answers to the questions for a reasonable period of time. Do not look at them immediately – this requires emotional distance from the subject to analyze.
- When several hours or a day have passed, look at the answers to these questions. Apply them to "the real world." What would the average person think about this character? How would YOU feel about this character if it was played by someone else?
- Have fun! It's fun to see how our characters have changed from when we planned them. Hopefully this exercise will help enrich future roleplay, because you will understand who your character is and how Suzie is motivated and how she reacts. In roleplay, just like in real life, all sorts of characters exist, and that is a terrific thing, so don't be disappointed in your character if he/she doesn't meet your original expectations. You may find that your new view of your character gives you opportunities for some brilliant future roleplay!
- Has the character gone through any major life events?
- Were there any choices that the character had to make which were particularly difficult? What was the choice? Why was it difficult? What was the result and how did it affect the character?
- What were some of the significant smaller, day-to-day choices the character has made? Has a pattern of behavior emerged?
- During these events, how have other players' characters reacted to this character? Has there been a pattern in how others have reacted to this character?
- Has the character decided to approach or avoid any particular situations? Why?
- Who does this character like? What brought this character to those decisions?
- Who likes this character, and why?
- Are there any rivalries/enmities that this character has formed? What are the reasons behind this, on both sides?
- Has this character formed any romantic interests? Are they reciprocated? How has that affected this character's thoughts?
- Has this character developed a favorite food? Activity? Color? Are there any of those things that this character despises?
- Does this character have a routine?
- Does this character tend to stay in one place or move around from location to location?
- Has this character picked up any mannerisms? Have planned mannerisms not happened? Are the mannerisms triggered by certain emotions, occurrences, or the like?
- How does this character decide on things? Is this character perceptive? Does the character interpret visual/aural cues as intended, or is there sometimes a disconnect between intended communications? Or, does this character not notice visual cues from others?
- What is the character's usual thought process when coming to decisions? Is the process based on logic, emotions, hunches? Are there leaps in logic, or does the character work methodically through an entire process?
- What is the biggest factor when this character decides how to react to things? Is it external cues or previous history?
- How self-involved is this character? Does this character think about personal wants and needs first? Or does this character think about others and what he/she knows are others' needs first?
- Has this character demonstrated empathy? In this case, look for numerous examples of thinking along the lines of 'Suzie could understand why Chris felt that way; after all, if Suzie was in the same position, she would react ...'
DEALING WITH OTHERS
- How does this character perceive others? Does this character tend to see more good things, bad things, or a blend of the two?
- Does this character ultimately assume others know how to do things, or is there a typical inclination to take over and show others how to perform tasks, even basic ones?
- Does this character react emotionally to things other character say? Does this character tend to shout, close down, grumble, growl or anything of the sort when presented with unpleasant news or situations?
- How do others speak to this character?
- What sorts of characters like this character? What sorts of characters don't get along well with this character? Why?
- Are there characters who are friends with this one but who have difficult relationships? Are there many situations with these characters where problems arise and need to be addressed? How have those situations affected this character?
GOALS AND PRIORITIES
- What was this character's original short term goals? Long term? Have those goals been met? What events have led to this?
- Does the character have any new goals, both short- and long-term? If not, should the character be looking forward and make new goals, or is this character happy with the way things are?
- What are this character's priorities? This should be determined by seeing how this character has chosen in situations over time. If this character always chooses, for example, to go with a loved one's wishes rather than duty, then this character's priority would be the loved one. Priorities should be determined by the character's actions, and not by the wishes of his or her player.
- If a character's priorities are different than originally intended, is there a disconnect between the character's priorities and the situation in which he finds himself? Should new goals be set or a change in life situation occur?
- What are the topics this character most commonly discusses with others? That this character thinks about?
- Does this character seem to be primarily happy? Sad? Angry? Confused?
- Does this character have things to hide? How does the character feel about that?
- Are there things that this character will not discuss or think about, such as major past traumas? How does this character react in general when major events occur?
This set of questions is not designed to be a one-time thing. As people in real life adopt different goals, priorities and mannerisms over time, so do characters. It’s a good idea to re-evaluate a character involved in active roleplay once in a while, if for no other reason than to see how the character has developed over time. Hopefully the evaluation is useful for future roleplay, and it’s fun to see our creations ‘grow up!’