Author Topic: How to make an interesting character  (Read 5847 times)

Thunkkin

  • Posts: 1967
Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #50 on: August 27, 2010, 06:08:55 PM »
OOC they think, whatever newb and go on their merry way.

I played a character that had been castrated as a child by a band of raiders who killed half of the caravan he was in and mutilated the rest for sport.  I researched and wrote up a detailed bio entry describing the effects of this sort of castration, both on a person's long-term health if they survive as well as what happens when you are castrated before puberty.  This affected my characters mannerisms, sexuality, appearance, etc, etc.  Damn, I was such a newb.  If my PC had ever told you about his past, you would have just rolled your eyes and went on your way thinking "Newb."

And it's true, such character design leads to short-lived characters.  That one only lived for 7 RL months which is practically the same as storing after a week.  If only I wasn't a newb.

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Twists, quirks, likes, dislikes, all the other things mentioned are not personality.

Oh.

Money, contacts, skills, and in-game accomplishments are personality and all that other crap isn't.

I think I see why people seem to be talking past each other in this initially promising thread.
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X-D

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #51 on: August 27, 2010, 08:41:19 PM »
At least the rest of us ask questions to get things clarified and have a discussion rather then simply posting one bit of sarcastic anecdotal evidence in some kind of lame attempt to feel good about oneself while passing judgement on the thread and the people posting in it. Not even in the least bit on topic but oh so carefully worded so as to not get accused of flaming. Yes Thunkkin, if only you were more of a newb, at least then such a post would be forgiveable. But hey, why not piss back and forth at each other till the thread gets locked.
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a strange shadow

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #52 on: August 27, 2010, 09:25:44 PM »
For what it's worth, I agree with x-d. Add some spice and details to your character's backstory, sure, but the goal should be to make their played history the thrilling part. That's why we play the game - to live out a character's story in this sandbox of ours.

Lizzie

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #53 on: August 27, 2010, 10:39:11 PM »
I avoid going into great detail about my PC's initial backgrounds. I avoid trying to come up with detailed personalities for them. I've done that, and failed to live up to the details I created in advance. I don't come up with accents in advance - and I even try not to invent mannerisms prior to the hall of kings.

"Her mother was a poor rinthi whore who sold her to Borsail for 200 sids and a shard of flint. She was sickly as a child though so Borsail got their 200 sids worth and tossed her into the slave market, where some random trader bought her and set her out to mine sid and salt for them. Then the random trader died, and now she's grown up and has to fend for herself."

Something vague like that...and her personality will be formed while I'm playing her. I have no idea what my characters are like, until I "become" them in game. And even then sometimes it takes awhile for their personality to take shape.
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flurry

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #54 on: August 27, 2010, 11:54:08 PM »
I try to find a balance somewhere between heavily detailed preparation and completely winging it.

Too much advance preparation ends up feeling overly restrictive in my experience. I'd end up feeling a conflict between sticking with my prior planning and going with what feels authentic once I got rolling with the character.

My problem with totally making it up as I go along is that it becomes too easy to fall into old patterns. This creates this problem where new characters start to feel like minor variations on old characters.

What I tend to find helpful is to focus on one or two core traits that set that character apart from others I've played. Or maybe some simple rule(s) for how this character makes decisions. One of my characters tended to be drawn toward high risk behavior much more than would be my normal tendency with characters. So, whenever I'd start to feel uncertain about her decision-making, I kept that in mind. She also was very outgoing, which is also contrary to what is typical for my characters. So, whenever I'd find her in social situations, I'd try to play up her assertiveness. I find it helpful to decide on core traits like that ahead of time, or else my natural inclinations probably would end up leading me in another direction.
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Thunkkin

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #55 on: August 28, 2010, 12:08:12 AM »
At least the rest of us ask questions to get things clarified and have a discussion rather then simply posting one bit of sarcastic anecdotal evidence in some kind of lame attempt to feel good about oneself while passing judgement on the thread and the people posting in it. Not even in the least bit on topic but oh so carefully worded so as to not get accused of flaming. Yes Thunkkin, if only you were more of a newb, at least then such a post would be forgiveable. But hey, why not piss back and forth at each other till the thread gets locked.

I'm sorry, X-D.  From your usual posting tone, I didn't think you were one to take this sort of back and forth in a personal way.  I'll back off on the sarcasm that you detected.  Apologies.

To clarify for you, you have stepped into a thread about how to design interesting characters and made statements diminishing the efforts of players who spend time on a character's backstory by asserting that such backstories make you think "whatever newb," that such backstories don't add true interest to the character, and that such characters don't live long.  Other than attempting to discourage the people who spend time designing their backstories, your goal in this thread is unclear to me.  Of course, players who prefer to play with a "blank slate" character shouldn't feel bad either.  I've played plenty of those myself and it's a perfectly fine way to play the game.  And yes, my evidence is anecdotal, but then so is yours (welcome to the internet). 

I guess your point of view on this particular issue (I agree with you on plenty of others) is just so alien to me that I'm not sure how to respond.  So, to ask for clarification...

1.  If "Twists, quirks, likes, dislikes, all the other things mentioned are not personality" -- What is your definition of personality?

2.  Since you are absolutely correct that nothing is more pathetic than people who swagger on the internet about how awesome, skilled, and badass they are - and I certainly wasn't attempting to do that - let's take a totally fictitious background that isn't from any character that I know of.  Amos' family was all sickened by a terrible pox of which only he and his mother survived, their skin deeply marked.  The harrowing experience sparked Amos' interest in herbalism and medicine and, at least publicly, he claims that he's dedicating his life to finding cures to battle such terrible diseases.  In truth, however, his experience with the disease addled his brain slightly and he now suffers from terrible nightmares and panic attacks from his fears of "miasma."  He is so terrified of death now that he would be willing to turn to magickal or sinister means if it offered him a promise of keeping safe from disease or perhaps even eternal life.  Ok, that might be a lame backstory, might not.  But your claim is that such a backstory would be meaningless to you if you encountered a character with it, because you'd know that OOC that the family who died was virtual?  And this would not add interest to the character but would just make you think "newb?"
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X-D

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #56 on: August 28, 2010, 12:46:22 AM »
I love when people state tone when dealing in print.

There was no tone.

Of course I could post with Tone, Maybe Mali style posting so you fucking know when I am trying to give a fucking tone to my fucking post.

But no, It just is not in me.

As to the questions.

Personality is a matter of perception, these perceptions in turn influence reactions to things that happen to the person.

Now, we might just call some things by different names here, and I tend to think that is the case. But when I see somebody say quirks, flaws etc, I do not take that as personality but outward sign of past experiance. The basics of a personality might be that the person is bold, everything that the person experiances is then colored from that. They might be more outspoken, they will play down fear and other vulnerabilities, they will step into situations and take action. Sure, these things might show up as strengths and weaknesses but not personality....make any sense?

I am also not playing down somebodies backstory, even though I don't agree with having a backstory that is much more detailed then "Joe was born to a family, he likes doing these things, he was raised normaly/abnormally, we commence his story now."

I could write up a backround that my guy is the bastard son of Lord FancyPants the 3rd, that he spent his early life surrounded by concubines and later was disowned and tossed into the sewers where he then lived for five years before going to Tuluk to serve in the legions till he outed a rogue mage also in the legions but that mage managed to get him exiled as well so he lived in the pah for he next five years spending time with the Arabet. All of this explains how he learned bendune and has tribal accent, learned to be stealthy and some combat. And it is a great story that never happened, nobody ever heard of him, etc etc as I stated before.

And does that backstory and everything I put in it along with whatever quirks I throw in about hating mages and Tuluk and not minding the sewers while spending most his time trying to get laid make him an interesting PC or is it the way I play him?

And could I play him the same way without the long backstory? And which is really better, one that forces you, the player to keep to a very specific style for that PC from the beginning or one that allows you to gain it all through play? I don't know, but I prefer the second one.

This is why I posted to begin with, because nobody was posting the more open option of how to create an interesting PC that becomes even more interesting as he goes.

So I also added in how some people might feel on the matter OOCly, so what? It is something you might want to think about, if you like to write up elaberate back stories and personalities, it might attract certain players and might repel others. Something that newer players should know. I assume such threads are aimed at newer players because older players will not change the way they do things simply because a bunch of us posted methods.

To paraphrase, my point to posting was simply to offer up another style that had not been added in yet.

Not my fault people asked questions or made comments.

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brytta.leofa

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #57 on: August 28, 2010, 12:59:26 AM »
And it is a great story that never happened, nobody ever heard of him, etc etc as I stated before.

I feel so judged. ;)
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Synthesis

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #58 on: August 28, 2010, 01:08:56 AM »
I don't know how many people remember Lius, but he had a shitload of totally made-up stories that took place in his background, and it was awesome.  Of course, he was played by probably one of the best roleplayers to ever log into the game, so I imagine that helped quite a bit.
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Thunkkin

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #59 on: August 28, 2010, 01:15:32 AM »
I love when people state tone when dealing in print.

I just meant that you usually don't shy away from feisty back and forth.

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Personality is a matter of perception, these perceptions in turn influence reactions to things that happen to the person.

Now, we might just call some things by different names here, and I tend to think that is the case. But when I see somebody say quirks, flaws etc, I do not take that as personality but outward sign of past experiance. The basics of a personality might be that the person is bold, everything that the person experiances is then colored from that. They might be more outspoken, they will play down fear and other vulnerabilities, they will step into situations and take action. Sure, these things might show up as strengths and weaknesses but not personality....make any sense?

Oh, OK.  I totally get where you're coming from.  I tend to see these signs/scars of past experience as ultimately inseparable from the rest of who a person is, but I completely see your point now.  I tend to focus on the "nurture" side of causation rather than the "nature" side, so when I have a character who is bold, I tend to think, "What life experiences has caused them to be such a bold person?" rather than "How will this bold person face their life experiences?"  Seems like we're just tackling the issue from two different, valid angles.

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And does that backstory and everything I put in it along with whatever quirks I throw in about hating mages and Tuluk and not minding the sewers while spending most his time trying to get laid make him an interesting PC or is it the way I play him?

Both!  The two should be mutually reinforcing.  The best back story in the world won't make a character interesting if their player is bland.  Yet, varied and interesting back stories add spice to the game and also inform a character's actions.  As a player, I find it very enjoyable to be interacting with another character and to have noticed something about them but never thought much of it ... and then one day it's explained or I figure it out and it's one of those light-bulb moments that makes me suddenly understand and appreciate that character much more deeply because I know something about their childhood, etc.

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And could I play him the same way without the long backstory?

Well, now that we've figured out what we mean by "personality" ... in your terms, yes, because (for example) you could boldly face your character's experiences because you seem to approach personality as traits inherent to a person and you're interested in seeing how those traits then interact with various situations.  For me, the answer would be "no."  I tend not to see personality traits as inherent so I would have a nagging OOC voice in the back of my head asking, "Why is he behaving this way?  Does this make sense given his childhood (or whatever)?"  I get satisfaction out of seeing how past experiences create an unique person who then interacts with various situations.  Two different styles/interests, both equally valid, both tending toward a very different approach to back story.  (Though, of course, between my long lived characters, I love to play characters with a few strong personality traits and I just have a few sentences of back story in my head.  I find I lose interest in these characters quickly, though.  My long-term characters need much more).

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This is why I posted to begin with, because nobody was posting the more open option of how to create an interesting PC that becomes even more interesting as he goes.

That's clearer now, thanks.

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So I also added in how some people might feel on the matter OOCly, so what? It is something you might want to think about, if you like to write up elaberate back stories and personalities, it might attract certain players and might repel others. Something that newer players should know. I assume such threads are aimed at newer players because older players will not change the way they do things simply because a bunch of us posted methods.

Well, I know I've found posts/guides like those from Zoltan, Moe, Cutthroat, Taven's guides, etc., to be quite useful and to add grist to my imagination's mill.  I suppose I've only been playing a few years, so I feel like I have quite a bit of growing left to do as an RPer, but hopefully everyone can continue to learn.  It does make me a bit sad, though, to know that their are players who are repelled by back stories.  Yes, of course, the back story of "I am an awesome warrior ninja" or the back story you posted as an example are ridiculous but I don't think most of the people in this thread are writing that sort of back story.
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Rhyden

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #60 on: August 28, 2010, 01:32:30 AM »
Interesting topic. On one end of the spectrum, for lack of a better word, you have your "2-d" character with absolutely no personality or character traits. On the other hand, is it possible to have a character with too much personality? It's definitely not easy to find the perfect mix between the two, and it's not like there's a "right way" to create and maintain an interesting character. Sure, there can be characters who seem to have 0 personality or quirks like most people, but how do you really know? Maybe they're just acting super dull all the time but thinking zany, insane thoughts, or doing random, mischievous acts when nobody else is around.

I think X-D said it best when he said play the game for yourself, or something along those lines. If you truly are playing a character with 0 personality or traits, you're probably leading a pretty boring Arm career and won't have much fun in the process. Then again, is it even POSSIBLE to have a character without ANY personality? I for one, highly doubt it. I believe every decision your character makes will shape their personality. Whether or not they have character traits, quirks, or a cool background, every choice contributes your character's...character.

Although I like to keep my backgrounds fairly simple, I do think it's important to have a good idea who your character is, where they are coming from, and why they do the things they do. I'll never draw my character's entire personality before even beginning their story because I find building character as I go along the most enjoyable part of Arm.

So my advice is: start off simple, maybe with a few quirks, then expand and grow.
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Lithium

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #61 on: August 28, 2010, 01:59:18 AM »
I avoid going into great detail about my PC's initial backgrounds. I avoid trying to come up with detailed personalities for them. I've done that, and failed to live up to the details I created in advance. I don't come up with accents in advance - and I even try not to invent mannerisms prior to the hall of kings.

Agreed

Aaron Goulet

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #62 on: August 28, 2010, 02:38:29 AM »
I just lost my long-ass response, so I'll try to summarize:

From what I have read, people seem to be under the impression that having a detailed background makes for a rigid character and that "winging it" results in a fluid character, but the truth is that the two are not mutually exclusive; it depends entirely on how willing players are to let their characters react and adapt when faced with new circumstances.  A problem usually only arises when someone treats their character's personality as an immutable thing, or when they are too specific when setting goals before getting into the game.  When you are creating a character, all you are doing is giving yourself a starting point.  Regardless of how you do it, all meaningful character development happens in the game (but only if you let it).

One of the concerns I have with "winging it" is that, in the beginning, the resulting characters tend to be pretty boring.  They have nothing to talk about, and they usually don't exhibit any "unique" behaviors that inspire curiosity; in short, there is no reason to get to know them.  I'm generalizing, of course, but I see it enough to think that it's worth mentioning.  Also, I've witnessed people recycle speech patterns, mannerisms, and even personalities, possibly without even realizing it.  It is human nature to gravitate toward the comfortable and the familiar, after all.

Again, this isn't the case with everyone (I've seen some amazing exceptions) and in the end, I think that both character creation methods even out after a few days' played; I'm an advocate for fleshing out your character for the sole reason that you actually have something to start with.
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jstorrie

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #63 on: August 28, 2010, 03:33:44 AM »
I always just wing it. Accordingly, I'm only ever playing one of five different characters:

- angry jstorrie
- kindly jstorrie
- stupid jstorrie
- sad jstorrie
- stoned jstorrie

However, people I play with frequently generally say they like me.

I don't bring this up to toot my own horn, but instead to suggest different strokes for different strokes, man. Most PCs will gravitate towards other characters whom their players find enjoyable, and groups of people with tastes for similar play will group together. Often, the most memorable characters for me aren't the ones who I put the most work into, but the ones who end up in a group with 3-6 other players whose playstyles I enjoy quite a lot.

This doesn't mean they're better players, and it doesn't mean the players I have less fun around are worse players. I liked Salarr Expansion Division more than I liked, say, Laila and Paryl's Jade Sabers, but neither group was made of better players or better people. Different people have different playstyles and what X-D likes doesn't have to be the same as what Thunkkin likes. There's plenty of room for everybody?

Barzalene

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #64 on: August 28, 2010, 03:57:28 AM »
In the end, you don't have to please anyone but you with your pc concept. If you don't like lengthy backgrounds, and you can fill out a vague outline, that's great. If you want to write a novel for each pc, and work from that, that's fine.
Both are EQUALLY valid. And so is everything in between.
What isn't valid is to not form any personality that isn't somehow code based.
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Aaron Goulet

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #65 on: August 28, 2010, 12:50:18 PM »
In the end, you don't have to please anyone but you with your pc concept. If you don't like lengthy backgrounds, and you can fill out a vague outline, that's great. If you want to write a novel for each pc, and work from that, that's fine.
Both are EQUALLY valid. And so is everything in between.
What isn't valid is to not form any personality that isn't somehow code based.

Exactly.
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Reiloth

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #66 on: December 15, 2016, 06:00:32 PM »
Worth a bump, motherfuckers.
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boog

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #67 on: December 15, 2016, 06:16:52 PM »
A little excessive, and I think I've posted this link before, but I love using it:

http://roleplayingtips.com/articles/character_questionnaire.php
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Akaramu

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #68 on: December 16, 2016, 11:43:29 AM »
Something I couldn't have picked up from any guide I learned from a Fathi (and a bit from Reiloth) character: how to write amazing, interesting feels. I used to have no idea that feels can express so much more than a simple emotion. But now I can be a special butterfly too!

Play a mindbender sometime and befriend interesting characters. It's like roleplaying school for experts.  ;D

Miradus

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #69 on: December 16, 2016, 11:45:46 AM »
I just recently learned how to use "think" and also how to use that "say (Looking stupid) blah blah blah" thing.

But I still forgot to do it when an active conversation is going on. :(

Riev

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #70 on: December 16, 2016, 12:14:51 PM »
my favorite feels are like

You feel like him falling down those stairs face first would make your day.
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Malken

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #71 on: December 16, 2016, 12:19:58 PM »
After 15+ years, "think" is still really hard for me because I feel like I'm explaining to myself why I'm doing/saying what I'm saying and while I understand the concept, it still feels weird.

But now that I'm knee-deep into the academia clique community and that I do love hearing the sound of my own voice, I'm hoping that think and feel will come much more easier for me.
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Reiloth

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #72 on: December 16, 2016, 12:27:26 PM »
After 15+ years, "think" is still really hard for me because I feel like I'm explaining to myself why I'm doing/saying what I'm saying and while I understand the concept, it still feels weird.

But now that I'm knee-deep into the academia clique community and that I do love hearing the sound of my own voice, I'm hoping that think and feel will come much more easier for me.

To me, it's not difficult to do thinks/feels. I quite literally wonder what my PC is thinking or feeling, and I replicate it. Once you start doing it, it's sort of addictive, and you can't stop. It really helps me get into the psyche of my PC, rather than the skin-deep motives/goals.

Maybe they say something nice to someone, but just below the surface, they hate their guts.

Maybe they are so disgusted with how someone is dressed, but they compliment them on their clothing.

Beyond the duplicity, I also use feels/thinks to re-enact memories, or sometimes psychotic breaks. The character I think Akaramu is referencing is Lantry Stetson, a Byn Sergeant who was the sole survivor of a Gith attack (background, before play). His best friend, Clay, would haunt Lantry both in his dreams and his waking life. He would see him in a mirage out on a desert training trip, or he would see him sharpening his blade at weapon maintenance. Depending on Lantry's state of mind, Clay was either infrequent or very frequent. Things like...

>feel like the image of the weathered, claw-ripped man hovers off in the mirage horizon, waving to you gently.

Feels / Thoughts are great because they give people watching your PC greater insight into a real character. I highly recommend doing them often.
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Raptor_Dan

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #73 on: December 16, 2016, 12:39:03 PM »
Sometimes it helps to explain to yourself why you're doing the things you're doing. By objectifying your internal responses, you can shed more light on the motivations for your actions, and perhaps discover that the reason you're doing something is not what you thought it was...

...though most just reinforce their own confirmation biases.

Alternatively, you're also explaining to others why you're doing what you're doing. Some may mistake your actions at face value, and believe you're acting how they would act in that situation, for the same reasons, when in reality, your motivations could be entirely different than they may seem.

I can judge you IG all day, but to assume I know your motivations and true intentions, without psionic powers, or probing further than the surface, would be just naive and put myself at a disadvantage when dealing with you.
I'm just looking for a general consensus. Or Moe's opinion. Either one generally can be accepted as canon.

Akaramu

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Re: How to make an interesting character
« Reply #74 on: December 16, 2016, 12:52:26 PM »
After 15+ years, "think" is still really hard for me because I feel like I'm explaining to myself why I'm doing/saying what I'm saying and while I understand the concept, it still feels weird.

That's how I felt for a looooong time, but eventually I started doing them more and more and now it feels weird to stop. I tone it down a lot outside of solo rp, though.