the mess inside, sunny side
December 7, 2018 7:58 PM   Subscribe

How do I develop a character I wrote for a story RPG when I won't actually be playing the RPG? Or in other words, how do you indulge in getting to know a character just for the sake of knowing them?

My medium of choice growing up was always writing, but I was never very good at characters or plot (so, uh, the vast majority of writing). In particular, I've never had a great process in place for getting to know a character through writing exercises, or sketching (also not strong drawing skills!) etc.

But! A few weeks ago, with the help of a friend, I developed a character that I hoped to play in the RPG Blades in the Dark. It was the most fun I've ever had inventing a character, possibly because of the effectiveness of the character creation prompts. It looks like I won't be able to join the gaming group after all, which is a bummer.

I was thinking of my character tonight with a flash of "oh! I really want to get to know them better!" and so I'd love to indulge in that a bit. Any ideas, in terms of writing or drawing or visual collage assembling or something?

If it's relevant, the character I imagined was a nonbinary line cook named Sunny (or, occasionally, "Sunny Side"). Sunny learned to be a sharpshooter from their older sister, an exacting but kind-hearted general in a rebel faction with lots of hometown prestige and respect. Sunny feigns annoyance at their older sister's stiff and routine ways, and themselves live life on the messy/sleepy side, but deep down they desire that clarity of duty and excellence. Sunny gets along okay with others, in that others find their eccentricity at least vaguely charming, and the various kitchens they work at briefly make for excellent intel gathering in the area. Sunny likes to pick drunken fist fights with fascists when they come to town - fist fights they always lose, but that draw a sizable (and profitable) enough crowd to convince the barkeeps to look the other way. Sunny leans to the "unkempt femme" side of nonbinary - i.e. goes around town with overalls or an apron with a spatula sticking out the back, but layered on top with a colorful cloak.

Any sources of inspiration welcome! Thanks for indulging me!
posted by elephantsvanish to Writing & Language (4 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
My favorite way of developing characters and just having fun is taking any piece of media I've consumed lately (books, movies, TV shows, podcasts) and sticking my character into it and sketching out how they would act in that situation. It's even more fun if you have multiple characters (and great for establishing relationships!).

I usually put my character in the role of the main character but it works sticking them in as a side character too. It's the most fun if you can go back and forth with someone else who is also sticking their character into that situation, which is what my partner and I do (i. e., roleplaying). But we do it super loosely all lower case with abbreviations and terrible punctuation, it's all about throwing around the characters rather than about the technical writing.
posted by brook horse at 8:18 PM on December 7, 2018

My fairly random suggestion is a brief 'day in the life' story cycle: some modest number of ~10-15 sentence episodes of ordinary life, each occurring shortly after a clock tower bell rings in the gothic/Victorian city and each developed just enough to achieve the very basic abstract, orientation, complication, evaluation, resolution, and coda (more info on this) that people typically cover in tiny little stories they tell about their day anyway. Bonus points if they're interlinked and add up somehow.
posted by Wobbuffet at 8:48 PM on December 7, 2018

Sunny is looking for work. They walk into a restaurant. The manager is out but the kitchen staff invites them to come back into the kitchen and hang out. The cook asks about their most recent position and why they left.

Sunny's sister has a caper planned and wants them to participate. What kind of caper? What is Sunny's role?

Sharpshooting is the sort of thing you need to practice consistently to be good at. Describe Sunny at practice.
posted by irisclara at 10:04 PM on December 7, 2018

I have read, run and played many RPGs and I consider the hobby as much a book/art/document format as a story telling game. My favorite things in these books are frequently the blocks of character description of the kind that you just wrote. As if Sunny has her own page in your GM notes. It's totally okay to just, write more of that down. I'd read that! You just had some fun describing Sunny in third person present tense, it really brings 'em to life.

I have a lot of thoughts about RPGs as books, for example they are often full of descriptive/narrative voice like an almanac or atlas, but remain fictional. That's just scratching the surface. As a text, your average RPG volume is an odd duck.
posted by panhopticon at 11:41 PM on December 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

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