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 Writing Character Profiles with Merra

Discussion in 'Writing Guides' started by Merra, Mar 22, 2020.

  1. Merra

    Merra Very Soft Assistant

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    How to write a too long and way too in depth character profile


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    First of all, I want to point out that all that will be written here, will be my personal opinions, and should be taken as such! I’m pulling this all straight out of my ass, this is what I’ve noticed during the years I’ve done roleplaying, characters -I- personally feel most compelling and most fun to play, and none of this is any real information. This is not any solid truth. But if this helps any of you, I’m glad. -That’s- my aim.

    So I’m super into writing character profiles, so much so that at times, I write them not only to the main characters, but to the side characters, or even NPCs. They aren’t there just to be a cheat sheet in case I forget something while doing the roleplaying - which happens a lot, obviously, you can’t remember everything and when you do have multiple scenes going, that shouldn’t be expected either - they are also there to give both me a feel of the character we’re dealing with, and the other player. Not everyone feels these are necessary, and I respect that, it’s part of what’s fun about RP; we all have our own ways of going around to it. And while roleplaying is fun, coming up with all kinds of shenanigans the characters will get up to, creating the world, all that jam is so interesting, I feel the base on top of all this will be built on, is the character. Even below the world - in my opinion.

    I think a good thing to think about here, though, is if you want to reveal this all to your writing partner. You can, or you can write whatever you feel they need to know, and keep some to yourself. While IC (in character) and OOC (out of character) should, in my opinion, be kept separate, with some players you can share all things about yours and trust that none of that will seep into their own character. And even if you aren’t afraid of any metagaming happening, it’s sometimes fun to find out things about the other writer’s character in the scene, get surprised. Not everything has to be things you find out right away, it can be a gradual thing.

    Also good thing to keep in mind is that you should always be open minded about your own creations, let them change if they feel like it. There are always things you can’t plan for in RP, and that’s part of the fun!

    If you have a good character base, you can pretty much throw them into any sort of scene. Their race can change, even their gender can change in some instances, they can go from being a goblin to an elf, and they will still work. In some instances, I feel it even might make it more interesting - a greedy, selfish elf or vain, proud goblin. Still, I like to know the scene before making the character - only the bare bones though.

    Let’s say the example scene will be a bank robbery, and both the players will be playing the robbers. Now, we know that the characters in scene would have to be some people who would get into such situation, but that can also mean a lot of thing - for example, are they great at what they’re doing or not? I could imagine two teenagers robbing a bank, and they probably wouldn’t be amazing at it. Or maybe elderly, struggling to carry all that sweet, sweet cash to the escape mobile outside. But then we could look at what we want from the scene, do we -want- the robbery to go smoothly, or do we want to make it so that it would get a little tricky. What are the motives of the characters to get there? Would a rich, couple of moguls even -need- to rob the bank?

    What I tend to see a lot in RP, both on forums and in MMORPGs, is that the characters are far too perfect. I make my characters with the scene in mind, but that doesn’t mean that I make a character that I think would best pull it off. Like here, I wouldn’t make a perfect thief, I think it would make the scene more interesting if it was someone who had never held a gun before. How would they react? Would they be able to scare people where it would matter the most? Is the most perfect character, the most perfect person the most interesting thing to happen for this roleplay? And I don’t mean that the characters have to be super quirky and forcedly interesting, no, but I think often it’s helpful to look at people around us. There are no two people in this world who are exactly alike. It’s good to inspect, what makes us unique?

    Sometimes it’s helpful to build the character around a trait. Now, I don’t mean that will have to be the -only- thing they are, but as a base. Say you want a character that’s very naïve. Perhaps you can add that it means that they are easy to persuade, maybe they are slightly younger - or twist it, they might be older, but just have managed to live their life in safe, up to a point. What makes them so naïve then? Have they lived in a closed community, or perhaps their lives have just been pretty easy so far? Are they just a kind and trusting soul, that wants to believe the best of people? Interesting character doesn’t have to be the most perfect one, that’s the point I’m trying to make here. The more human they feel, the easier it is for them to feel real.

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    Should we get to the character sheets then? There are thousands on thousands of different types of character sheets to use. Some write their own, some borrow them from others, some match them with their partners - I’ve done all of these. But they all have things in common.

    Name: This part explains itself, I’d say. Personally, I like to use sites like behindthename.com and surnames.behindthename.com, where you can choose the names according to countries, religions and continents. Sometimes you can think about their names a little deeper too, like do they have a meaning? Do they have a nickname, perhaps they’ve earned it for some reason? Is there a story behind the name, did their parents or grandparents share the name?

    DoB/Date of birth: When was your character born, and how old are they? Can always add their zodiac here too, if you’re so inclined. Just remember here the rules of the site, what you can or cannot do with a character under the age of 18!

    Race: If you’re writing a fantasy scene, adding what race your character is can be helpful.

    Occupation: Are they a student, or do they work somewhere? You can get creative here too. They might not have to do the job in your scene, this could just be a behind the scenes kind of thing. Still, it tells a lot about the character.

    Sexuality: This isn’t added here just for the erotic type of scenes, but for all. Your sexuality isn’t all you are, and neither is it so for the characters, but it’s something that’s interesting to know. Is there a chance for the two of your characters to get together, or are they differently aligned? When the scene is set in different time periods too, this is good to know; are they part of the mass, or a minority that can’t love who they wish? Could they perhaps be even killed if they fell in love with a “wrong” person?

    Height/Weight: Some like to add these, some don’t. You can always just describe the character’s appearance in its own section and drop these off.

    Appearance: Here’s where you can get to the fun stuff; what does your character look like? Again, I would try to hold off from making them conveniently attractive. We all have different taste, sure, but it does get rather boring when all your male characters are tall, bronzed, fit and have dark eyes. Or the usual big tiddy blonde girl. I know, we all have our taste, I know most of my characters have freckles, but I try to hold off from making the rest of the traits so similar. Like your guys with big guns? Perhaps they can be of different skin colour, maybe they have blue eyes for the change, or maybe they are to the shorter side? Like the girls with big booty? Balance it out with big hair, or maybe they are more pear shaped?

    Things I see important to state at this section, would be the general shape of them, are they tall or short, curvy or lean, perhaps how they hold themselves too. Are they proud of their curves, or constantly trying to hide them under loose clothes? Are they feminine men or masculine women? Do they walk with their back straight or slouch?

    Some, perhaps most people use face claims, pictures of people who they feel have the general look they are going for their character. If you like drawn characters or photos of real people, it’s up to a preference, but I feel face claims help when describing the characters too. You don’t have to go into awful lot of detail about their faces if you have a photo for that, unless there’s things that you imagine differently from the photo.

    About face claims; if you asked me, I wouldn’t go for the biggest stars of Hollywood for these - at least not for all of your characters. At times it can be very fitting, but if all of yours are straight from the top 10 most gorgeous male actors every single time, I’d say go for something new! I like to look for face claims from Pinterest, but googling around helps too - if I need a face of someone from the 1920’s, for example, I might google “women’s style in 1920’s” or go to wikipedia and search for a list of actresses from that time period.

    Personality: This is one of those that I don’t always go for, if I’m making a simple character sheet. You can also just show your character’s personality in the play itself, but I think writing up some ideas for the personality does help if you’re trying to get a feel of a brand new toon. There are multiple resources for finding personality traits, and sometimes that can help - I’m not saying you need to add a list of personality traits for each character, that might become a little overwhelming, but for some inspiration it can be helpful.

    Positive traits:
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    Negative traits:
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    Just like we talked about earlier, to make your character interesting and more believable, make sure there are both positive and negative traits mixed up. Even the worst of the worst villain does have some positive traits too - perhaps them having those might make them even more villainous? And adding some flaws to your hero makes them more relatable, even the best goody two shoes does have some character flaws, and it adds layers.

    Background: This is one of those things that you might want to have a general idea of this, even if you never add it to the character sheet others can see. Most characters have been born somewhere to some circumstances, and if you look at real people, that might affect how they are now. A trauma experienced in childhood can be very scarring, they might have never had a security of a normal home and never learned to trust, or they might have had such a kind and warm childhood that it has made them slightly naïve to hardships of life. Even if your character has experienced complete amnesia - to which I would say, use this sparingly! - it deepens the character to have some idea of where they grew up.

    Long or short, there are certain parts of background story I like to have stated, depending on the scene:
    • Where were they born, what was their family like, and what was their childhood like.
    • How did they grow up, as in were they good students, did they have friends, what kind of place was it.
    • When they grew up, when did they move to their own place, did they have to grow up fast, or did they stay with their parents for a while longer. Did they have a job, did they study, what were their first relationships like - were there any.
    • Into adulthood, what are they doing in their life - jobs, family, relationships, home, etc.
    This is just the bare bones, but this is also where the motivation stems. If we use the bank robbing scene again, what would have made the character want to rob this bank? Had they always been poor, or were they always going for danger? Did they get up to some mischief in childhood and always were up for the challenge? Or were they the good kid who just ended up in the wrong place, the wrong time? Our backgrounds make us who we are now, no denying that, so keep that in mind when writing the background story!

    I think these are the most important parts, but depending on the RP you are making the character for, you can add all sorts of details!

    Special skills: For fantasy settings and others too! Do they know magic, perhaps, or maybe they know how to make real mean cheesecake?

    Tattoos/scars: These tell their story too, and you can get creative!

    Weapons: This, too, could be used for fantasy and action scenes, these can vary from big guns to huge anime swords, and you can add pictures too.

    Habits/quirks: Does your character constantly tug at their earlobe? Or sway from side to side as they stand? Do they have a certain tic?

    Motto/saying: This can be a good taste for your character too, if wanted.

    Pictures of home/office/workplace: Not all are super into flavour pictures, but I really do like them! I’d say, though, that keep these behind spoilers to keep the character bio from getting insanely long. On top of pictures, you can always have a little description too, even if you’ll most likely get to describe these in the scene also.

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    Again, this is my way of doing this, and there are multiple great resources in character building like this one.

    And for the actual character sheet, you can either just have things as a list, make a code for it, or borrow some already made. Candi has made this great sheet code that you can borrow, as long as you don’t claim it as your own!


    Is there anything missing here? Would you add something yourself? Or perhaps do you feel there's something off? Let me know! ^^ I'm still just another roleplayer, and these are just my own tips and tricks to how make the character sheets more informative.
     
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