Archive for September 9th, 2007

Effective NPCs: A Suggestive Guide

September 09th, 2007 | Category: Star Wars Role Playing,Writing Tips

Before beginning your post or story, you have to take some time to create your necessary NPCs if they are not already provided, unless you get lucky and don’t need a single one. You’ve thought about that post/story a great deal. So get a wiki page running and flesh out all your NPCs. The more your characters are developed as real people, the more your story quality will improve and the more story arcs you can expand upon.

Firstly, names. Choose names for your characters that should be easy to remember, and ones that your squadmates won’t have a hard time with. If you name your ally Xrtjamon it will stall the readers and they make just get frustrated everytime they see the name. Pick names that you like and are easy to work with. If the name is catchy, so much the better! (‘Cartwheel’ McCarthy for example.) In the wiki, make a page for each character with all of their traits and idiosyncrasies such as:

Physical Traits – use your imagination. There is an endless array of physical characteristics in the world. Make your characters different from each other. What color of hair do they have? Are they short, fat, skinny, tall, buckteeth, or bald? Does one have a speech impediment, a limp, a scar?

Habits – both good and bad for no one is perfect. At least one character should have some kind of quirky habit. Readers will remember.

Speech – Vary your characters’ speech as no one talks exactly like another. A character that is college educated speaks one way, and a character who has a speech impediment speaks differently. The more you vary your characters’ manner of speaking, the more interesting they will be. But don’t overdo it or the reader won’t be able to keep track. Having at least one character that stands out as a little backward or “different” will add a great deal of dimension to your story. Dialogue is what moves the story along, so vary it.

For example – Assume we have an uneducated young man, rough, with a mental disorder. Which dialogue should you use to bring this character to life?

“I wont do it, no matter how you try to convince me. In fact, you are causing me great turmoil.” Joey sat down, crossed his legs, and sighed.

Or –

“Hell no I ain’t gonna do dat! No way, man. What, yous think I’m a freakin idiot? You really on my nerves, man. Hey man, I gotta a gun that’ll fit in yer fat mouth real good, if yous don’t shut up.” Joey paced back and forth, mumbling to himself, picking something off his shirt that wasn’t there.

The first example is not true to the ‘Joey’ character at all. He sounds like any other person on the streets of Cephany, giving you no clues to his real personality. However, the second example tells you a few things about him; the manner in which he speaks shows that he is uneducated, angry, and rude. His actions tell the reader that he is seeing things that are not there, showing – not telling – that he has a problem with reality. In just a few sentences of dialogue, you have given the reader valuable information about ‘Joey’ that would take an entire page to tell in narrative form.

Moral/ethical/political/religious beliefs – Do not make all your characters with high standards. There has to be an guy who is dishonest, immoral, maybe a religious fanatic, and just an all around bad person or there won’t be any conflict between characters.

Hobbies – Does one of your characters love to paint and gets a lot of peace from it?
Does another like to watch holomovies and quotes from them? Or maybe a character just likes to be a couch potato and watch the latest holo flick. The sky is the limit here. Remember to write in their hobby as a means to further the story.

Like/Dislikes – What does your character dislike the most? Snakes? Space travel because of the helplessness feeling? The dark? What does he/she like best, what makes her/him happiest?

Your NPC must still be at least likeable in some sense from a writer’s perspective, but the glaring weakness has to form the underlying tension that drives his or her behavior.

You are free to make up people who are all your own in every way that makes a person human. The more your characters are developed, the more your squadmates and any other readers of your posts will come away from your story remembering them forever. Characters are what drive a story, and why should just your squadron lead the push? There is an endless variety of people you can imagine in this universe. Some even seem inhuman. Be brave. Lose yourself in creating characters that are unforgettable. The imagination is a wonderful thing.

Sample NPC 1 Kent ‘Goblin’ Barlow

Goblin is an irascible oddball bringing new meaning to the word ‘weird.’ He enjoys a bit of a reputation as a fierce infighter. His loyalty to the Empire and peculiar enthusiasm are well worth his eccentricies.

A former comedian that was thrown out of the Tadath night clubs for his unusual brand of humor. Forced to find another source of income, he became a bouncer for a rather seedy nightclub in Tadath’s red light district, where he was fired due to his agressiveness against the people he was asked to remove.

Goblin tries to bring a smile to his fellow Stormtroopers, although these efforts usually result in a disturbed gaze. Occasionally he does actually make a joke that everyone laughs at, but those moments are few and far between.

Originally placed into Sceptre Squad, he was transferred to the Black Rose Squad due to the Squad Leader lashing out physically at Goblin for unspecified reasons. In what is declared ‘self defense’ in the official report of the incident, Goblin broke both of the man’s wrists and neck.

He spent his four months in the Black Rose Squad trying to gain the attention of his Assistant Squad Leader without success before he was reassigned with his surviving squadmates to Eclipse, where he still continues his advances.

Sample NPC 2 Peter ‘Cartwheel’ McCarthy

Originally a TIE fighter pilot for the Vast Empire Navy, he quickly earned the handle ‘Cartwheel’ for his favorite maneuvers. Peter McCarthy has an attitude that frequently gets him in trouble with superiors, which explains how he was assigned as a pilot to the Stormtrooper Corps. The Navy did not desire him very much, but did not have the necessary grounds to discharge him; and the Army required pilots to fly the squads into action. Naturally the Navy assigned their least favorite pilot to the Army.

Extremely skilled, his rank suggests a far lower talent and experience than he actually has. McCarthy, assigned to Eclipse Squad at this time, is greatly satisfying the Stormtroopers that are thrill seekers when he pilots their shuttles. Those that don’t appreciate a beautiful, perfectly executed triple-dive with a 720 degree barrel roll and reverse tail flip in a standard Imperial Shuttle generally don’t complain because their mouths are busy expelling their last meal.

Sample NPC 3Katrina Canters

Although rather young to actually be in the military, Katrina Canters excelled at her studies in school and entered Tadath Institute of Technology early as an engineering major. Rising to the top of her class, she caught the eye of the Vast Empire’s Engineering Corps, who offered to pay her college expenses if she would enter herself into the service of the Imperial Military’s Engineering Corps. Accepting, she was assigned to Eclipse Squad as a technician working under Andrew Hawkins while still studying to complete her college studies.

An extremely creative problem solver, Canters worked with Riqimo Pershaw to improve the prototype EAST suits, as well as create some other devices for the squad to use. Although she is rather stubborn in believing her methods and designs are better than others, she is easily befriended, provided that you are not a complete technological idiot.

Should you break something in the field that she worked on, Canters might refuse to talk to you for a few days, but will then flood you questions about the circumstances that caused it to fall apart, melt, or explode. (Her inventions tend to do the later when they have a serious flaw.) On the other hand, if the device worked perfectly, you will be bombarded with questions stating there has to be something she could improve on, and there is a slight chance that the next time you use the ‘re-perfected’ device, you will have a nice scar or cybernetic replacement to remember the occasion by.

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