Character Development

One of my favourite geeky pastimes is participating in forum-based (also know as play-by-post) role-playing games. For those of you who don’t know what those are, think of it like a collaborative story. Some forum RPGs are based on existing worlds (Harry Potter or Twilight, for instance) others are completely original. Basically, you create a character (physical description, history, personality, you get the idea), and usually once a moderator approves it, you are free to add that character to the world and start making posts.

Currently, I’m only on one board, and I have about thirteen (!) characters. I usually find that they’re on a certain rotation, and sometimes I’ll want to play one, then another. Right now I’m not doing a lot of RPing, but eventually I’ll start tossing out a few posts again.

Now, you might think that since these characters are so planned out and players tend to talk about what will happen in a given thread between two (or more) characters that there wouldn’t be a lot of room for character development, and to some extent, this is true, at least if you’re the type of player who really likes to plan things in advance, but sometimes you start playing, and the character will turn out to have different ideas.

I’ll use an example of one of my characters. I decided to create a blind character because I wanted to experiment with writing a character who didn’t rely on visual stimulation. Besides his blindness, one of the things this character was really adamant about was that he was definitely, without a doubt, 100% heterosexual (in a culture where practically everyone is at least bisexual, being monosexual is a bit of an oddity).

As time went on and I started picking up more threads with other players, a funny thing happened. Despite his LOUD insistence to the contrary, he didn’t seem to have any interest in women. At first I chalked it up to this character’s inexperience, but when he just couldn’t bring himself to be with a courtesans (courtesans being a respected and normal part of any young noble’s sex life) was when I started to say: “Are you in an armored closet, by any chance?”

His reaction to this was an immediate “NO!” of course, at least, until he met his first male courtesan and felt that first rush of desire, and then, suddenly the refrain of “I like women, dammit!” became less and less so until it stopped altogether, and he said (very quietly): “Fine, maybe I like other men….a little….”

The funny thing about this whole turn of events was that I didn’t plan it. Sometimes you start writing, and it occurs to you that your character would say something different. Sometimes it’s just a matter of someone saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, a turn of phrase that they think is innocent but that your character takes in the entirely wrong direction.  Threads can start out as planned affairs and can quickly be derailed by sudden reactions from characters.

I meant to talk about my writing writing in this post, but those characters aren’t really “talking” to me right now.

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