Sometimes people ask me how to create characters. Well, here’s how to do it! First, you get out a pen and paper. Then, you decide if your character is going to be a wizard, or a paladin, or a thief, or a warrior, et al. Then, you roll for your abilities. After you’ve done that…
I’m joking to illustrate a point—actually creating a character is so much easier than creating a character to role-play with in some Dungeons & Dragons campaign with your friends. Which is weird, because that means that the thing that is harder to do has the least impact on society, whereas the thing that is easier to do can have the maximum impact on society—no one is ever going to care about your D&D game in your basement besides you and your friends (not to downplay the fun you might have) whereas you can make a movie with your friends that could end up being someone halfway across the world’s favorite movie. And it can take the same time and energy—or even way less. Why, then, don’t more people do it? Why is playing a role-playing game in your home so relatively popular compared to doing so homegrown, bonafide moviemaking?
I think it’s that geeks tend to overthink shit. Part of being a dork is being paralyzed by your mind that keeps worrying and worrying, analyzing every little thing such that you can’t make a move in any one direction with any confidence except if it come as a result of a dice roll. And so, the thought of making a movie seems so difficult then—it’s the unknown, it’s not as regimented and safe as sitting around a table in a basement creating sandcastles in the minds of you and your friends, ephemera to be washed away over and over. Plus, there’s a whole subculture surrounding that form of character creation—it gives a loser something immediately to belong to and feel a part of, whereas moviemaking, and any lasting art creation, is a very naked thing—it’s you and the blank page. It’s all possibility—it’s the opposite of safe.
It’s no coincidence by the way that geekdom is so firmly sanctioned and endorsed by the cultural overlords. In a secular society full of factory filmmaking, geeks are the intended perfect audience. They eat junk and show up to everything pertaining to their thing that they’re into. They feel like without it, they’d be lost—somehow more geeky, more depressed (as though that were even possible). And the only art creation they can conceive of is art made out of reverence and ode to the sanctioned characters of geekdom. There are nerds who have spent more time and energy and money making a five-minute Star Wars fan film than I’ve spent making entire two-hour, wholly original feature-length films. The authoritarians love the rarity of me and ubiquitousness of dorks—because people doing what I do is a threat, and people doing what they do only increases overlords’ power.
But I digress. Back to character creation. If you want to create a character, do everything the opposite of what you’d do if you were doing it in the man-made, role-playing way. Let the character tell you what it is, and really listen. Don’t arbitrarily choose anything, either by random chance of dice or by your own weird pre-conceived notions of what you want the character to be. You will never meet a person in your life that you can dictate the entire life and behaviors and peculiarities of, so it’s counter-intuitive to do that when writing a character in whatever sort of story you’re trying to tell. It will feel realer, more believable, the less control you exert—because exerting control on another person is unnatural. You’re not trying to make a slave, you’re trying to make someone with free will, so treat them as though they have that. That’s it. Easy, right?
So why don’t more people do it?
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Welcome back Cody! I always had trouble writing any kind of story because of character creation (so far the poems and short stories I wrote have only myriads of 'personality traits' personified) and not exactly whole characters. This one inspired me to create more whole characters.