One of the big problems with doing a project like this one is that I rarely seem to think about things in the same way that other people do. Creating Eme was an interesting experience, because even though I knew I was going to have to write a post explaining how I went about it, I can’t honestly say where a lot of my ideas came from.
In essence, I suppose, characterisation for me comes from creating a basic concept and working my way out from there – starting with the skeleton and building up around it, as it were. Unlike Sean, I think a basic knowledge of the background from the beginning is as important as the personality. Certainly, the personality is going to be most prominent thing in your roleplay, but an understanding of the background is essential to playing well, and especially to playing consistently.
That’s not to say you have to know every detail of your character’s past; things like that can easily be invented on the fly. An understanding of the basic points of their life, the things that actively shaped them into what they are today, however, I think is essential to a well-written and -played character. Important details about their history cannot just be invented on the fly while maintaining any semblance of consistency. People have things in their pasts which shape who they are as much as anything else.
I have to confess, though, when it comes to World of Warcraft, I had to start in the obvious place: class and race. I decided to go with a gnome primarily because I think they’re cute and sweet, and a warlock because I like to play warlocks. Alright, so it’s far from a deep start for a concept, but it makes sense; I didn’t want to play a character that I felt like I couldn’t play, not without some good reason. I’m not good enough to do that really well.
Most of my ideas came from this point onwards, asking myself questions and building up a concept around the class and race, starting from here and working outwards. The actual brainstorming session went something along the lines of:
How do I make her interesting? (aka, I suppose, finding a major quirk to riff from)
She’s a single mother.
Why is she a single mother?
Because her husband died in Gnomeregan, or in trying to retake Gnomeregan.
So, what’s with the kid?
It’s a son. He’s staying with her mother at the moment.
Why did she leave her son with her mother?
She’s grieving, she went off to study the demonic arts.
Will she come back for her son?
Probably not for a long time.
Does she think about her son?
It sounds like a shallow path to character creation, but in many ways it makes a lot of sense. By starting with an idea and following that train of thought to its logical conclusion, I can start with the bare bones of a character and build it up from the inside.
All this begged a very important question, though: does all this come across as looking a little like a Mary Sue? I have to say, looking at what I have so far, it does, a little bit. It’s far from the most gratuitous example I’ve ever seen, but it does still need work.
In part, that’s what the early days of play are for: taking a concept and trying to put it into motion in the best way, editing out the things that don’t work and enhancing the things that do, so that by the time more intense roleplay begins, the character is a workable one.
As I understand it, the next stage of the Katafray project is avatar design: stay tuned for that!