Archive for July 17th, 2007

Writing Tips ~ Part Two :: Character Development

July 17th, 2007 | Category: Star Wars Role Playing,Writing Tips

“Your thoughts betray you, father. I feel the good in you … the conflict.”
“There is … no … conflict!”

But that lends great depth to a character. Conflict. Whether internal, against another person, against an entire planet, against his or her siblings … according to cinematic and theatric tradition, development comes fundamentally from conflict, and the resolution of that conflict. Consider Revenge of the Sith (Episode III) and the aftermath of Anakin’s slaughter on Mustafar. We have these horrific scenes, bodies lying everywhere, and then we move to Anakin, looking out over a sea of lava, his eyes full of rage, a triumphant master of evil … and then that wonderful, wonderful slight movement of his head which reveals the glint of tears on his cheeks. Look at Return of the Jedi (Episode VI) — Vader after he meets Luke again, outside the AT-AT. Think of Vader’s slouched, helpless stance as he says that melancholic, almost wistful line”

“Obi-Wan once thought as you do … “

then clenching his posture again, and that bitter, agonised line

“You don’t know the power of the Dark Side … I must obey my master!”

This is not necessarily a call to make your characters angsty or constantly bewail their existence; it’s simply an indication that with conflict there is usually a desire, or at least an impetus, to resolve that conflict. Luke, innocent farmboy, the epitome of “The Good Guy,” is in conflict pretty much throughout all three films, too: In A New Hope (Episode IV) he’s in conflict against the Empire. He’s also in conflict with Han — a conflict which is resolved in spectacular fashion by Han saving his and the Rebellion’s collective butts! In Empire Strikes Back (Episode V) he’s in conflict with his own loyalties: does he complete his training, or does he save his friends — which brings him into conflict with Yoda, his own teacher. In Return of the Jedi (Episode VI), he’s obviously in conflict with himself — can he kill his own father (which brings him, interestingly, into conflict with the ghostly Obi-Wan on that.)

So my point is: Look for conflicts!

What’s your character’s relationship with his or her parents? Brothers or sisters? Squad? Friends?

How do your character’s goals fit in or cross paths with other characters?

And most importantly, look for conflicts not just for the sake of having them, but as wheels upon which to drive your characters forward.

Remember, the purpose of the development is the resolution of conflict, not the conflict itself!

Another method of development can be your character’s personality. What sets two gamblers, thugs, or other more-or-less identical character types apart and makes them individuals are their personalities? Even little details about appearance and mannerisms can help your players not only to visualize two otherwise identical characters but also distinguish between them- even though two characters may have exactly in anyother perspective.

The three basic tools for individualizing personalities are appearance, mannerisms, and motivations. if you even assign one distinct quality from each of these categories, and then play these characteristics up in your portrayal of the character, you can bring a character alive in the readers’ minds. Fortunately, it doesn’t take any preparation- improvisational comedians have been doing this sort of thing for years 😉 In fact, the only tough part is remember how you portrayed a character previously, but with a few quick notes, you’ll have enough of a memory jog that you can quickly recall the character and play him again at almost a moment’s notice. (The wiki is most excellent for this)

It can be as simple as a few quick notes:
(“basso voice, acts superior, cracks knuckles when angry”)

Or some short headings:
(“Appearance: basso voice; Personality Traits: acts superior; Mannerisms: cracks knuckles when angry”)

With these simple tips, you will be on your way to better writing in no time at all!


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