katster's guide to creating real and believable characters.

 
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katster
the so-called admin


Joined: 08 Apr 2004
Posts: 180
Location: California, the land of fruits and nuts

PostPosted: Fri Aug 06, 2004 10:32 am    Post subject: katster's guide to creating real and believable characters. Reply with quote

Alright. The following topic is going to be katster babbling on about creating characters. A character isn't just a name and a pile of traits. A character is somebody just like you and me. At least, they are if you want them to be believable and not just cardboard cutouts.

So in this topic, I plan to doodle up three characters, all of them for my big project, which is a sourcebook for the Jihad Universe about how the War is conducted in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. The rough guide to this project can be found at http://jihad.retstak.org/jbay/. With this, I will try to do as much in thinking about the process and attempting to explain that to you as I go and write it. The three characters are:

    As yet unnamed, San Francisco Supervisor, doesn't know about the war
    Nikolai Sokolov, pathologist, SF Coronor's Office, Jihad liason
    Arthur Sciles, professor, UC Berkeley, Wyrm Minion


The last two have names because I've been thinking about them for a while, but names aren't as important as you might think. That said, I tend to give characters names because it helps me keep them straight in my head. And sometimes a name will give you a clue as to what the person's like -- one of these days, I'll tell you how i went from a name to a full blown character.

So tomorrow, if I can get a moment away from my boxes and taking care of my mother, I'll start with the first guy on my list, and we'll see if we can make a believable character out of an idea.

Granted, this is a lot about creating NPCs. Other folks might have interesting things to say about creating PCs, and I'll let them have their say. But some of this is useful in creating players, and I've used some of it in coming up with Katze, who is my PC.

One last thing before we begin. I assume that you're all familiar with the main Jihad sourcebook, particularly chapters five and six. If you haven't, you might want to read it. Just a thought, I tend to refer to it a lot, to the point I have a printed copy stashed in a binder. Smile

Feel free to interrupt with questions, comments, and ideas during this process. I like people taking an interest in what I'm doing.

-kat
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the one and only truly amazing katster * the so-called admin
she who wears too many hats
"et lux in tenebris lucet et tenebrae eam non conprehenderunt" --John 1:5
"these are the days of miracle and wonder" -Paul Simon, "The Boy in the Bubble"
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katster
the so-called admin


Joined: 08 Apr 2004
Posts: 180
Location: California, the land of fruits and nuts

PostPosted: Fri Aug 06, 2004 9:06 pm    Post subject: Part the First: Sketches and Motivation Reply with quote

Alright, let's get underway.

The character under discussion is the previously as yet unnamed San Francisco supervisor. A brief note of explanation before we get started. The Board of Supervisors in San Francisco is the de facto City Council, San Francisco just happens to be the only city-county in the state of California, and so the city has both a mayor and a Board of Supervisors. Now that that oddity in San Francisco politics has been established, let's start on the character.

As funny as it sounds, you want to start with a cardboard cutout and flesh around that. Sometimes, taking a bit of a real person helps a lot. In this case, I've got a mental image somewhat along the lines of Gavin Newsome, the current mayor of San Francisco. (If you have no idea who Gavin Newsome is, here's the mayor's page on the SF City government site.)

So I have this outline of a young, vibrant, somewhat idealistic man. Probably stands about six-two, short brown hair, green eyes, mischevious smile. Not bad looking, although he wouldn't call himself handsome. It's a sketch, but it helps in getting a mental image of the character.

Let's give him a name so I don't have to refer to him as the Unknown Man. I'm sorta leaning towards Benjamin Joseph Hauptman as a given name, but everybody calls him Ben. And I'm big on birthdates, because it (a) helps me establish the age of my character and (b) people care about birthdays. So let's make his birthday January 26th, 1970. That makes him 29 in 1999, which is young enough to be idealistic and somewhat of a crusader, and yet old enough to legitimately win an election for a supervisor's seat.

(By the way, it took me about forty-five minutes googling around trying to make sure that was plausible. Luckily, it turns out one of the current supervisors was elected at 28, and Gavin himself was appointed to the Board at 29. So we'll keep it there, with one minor complication to make things interesting. However, I did want to stress the value of research as much as possible, seeing as you have an entire reference library at your fingertips with Google.)

So, so far we have Ben Hauptman, a young and idealistic supervisor in the City of San Francisco. Okay, that's great. But why the fsck is Ben a good character to put in the sourcebook I'm working on? This is where you need to establish what the character knows. First of all, does the character know about the Hidden War? And if the character does, is he allied with the Jihad, with B'harnee, or is he strictly neutral in the conflict?

In this case, Ben is on the verge of finding out about the Hidden War. Soon enough, he could become a dangerous adversary or a very good friend to the Jihad, but right now, he doesn't know yet. He is very much a mundane.

So why is Ben so close to finding out about the Hidden War? Well, remember how I mentioned there was a minor complication in his getting elected at such a young age? Well, back in 1998, San Francisco elected its supervisors on a city-wide basis as opposed to district elections. Thus, Ben's win came as a shock to the city of San Francisco, and to the Jihad as well.

Keep in mind two very important things about the City of San Francisco. The Jihad is not above buying off politicians (see pg. 63-64 in the main sourcebook) and the largest Jihad facility that is not a JAO headquarters is located in San Francisco in the form of the Doberman Empire Naval Yards San Francisco. Thus, the Jihad cares very much about its interests in San Francisco.

One of the big stories in San Francisco politics is the conflict between neighborhood community activists and downtown business interests. The Jihad, surprisingly, is on the side of the downtown business interests, because corporations happen to be a good way to funnel money to politicians. They're not *bribed*, per se, just *funded*.

Ben is very much from the neighborhood community interests. Thus, the Jihad thought it very unlikely that he would win a seat in the election and chose to ignore him, funding some of his opponents who were much more beholden to downtown interests. This is why it came as such a shock when Ben won.

There is nothing more dangerous than a politician you don't own.

And with that, I'll leave you to figure out where I'm going with it, I'll be back in a bit to work a bit more on Ben and the other characters.

-kat
_________________
the one and only truly amazing katster * the so-called admin
she who wears too many hats
"et lux in tenebris lucet et tenebrae eam non conprehenderunt" --John 1:5
"these are the days of miracle and wonder" -Paul Simon, "The Boy in the Bubble"
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