Lately I have been talking about characterization, and writing in general, because I am a writer in addition to being interested in the geo political process around me, which I will be getting back to those blogs soon. So one might wonder, just what does Commander Shepard have to do with characterization?
For those of you who do not know Commander Shepard is the male or female protagonist of the video game series Mass Effect, a character that you can shape in every conceivable way. Gender, race, facial structure…though not height or religious orientation…ok so they might not be that diverse after all. 😛 But the point is you have a very intimate way in shaping this character, and that is just the point that I want to talk about.
For the vast majority of my life the characters that I have created, the protagonists of my stories, have been some extension of myself and my values, just what I’d do in a certain situation. An avatar. One who can be a Jedi Knight, or a Starship Commander, or a Special Forces soldier. Again by and large this has been the rule though there have been a few exceptions in some of the one shot characters that I’ve created.
But with my Commander Shepard, who is a Ruthless Earth born, is not necessarily this way.
Sure I play her and control her and her actions are my actions and she is an extension of my own morality but at the same time it is an RPG, a Role playing game. In this very specific case you are taking on the role/ character of Commander Shepard. What she would do, and what she wouldn’t do. Its shaped by the events of her life as are all of our events in our own lives.
For instance would someone who grew up in the gangs of Earth and then went on to go murder a bunch of prisoners of war be a paragon of virtue and turn out all cuddly? No matter how much she might been redeemed in her life? I don’t think so and I play the character accordingly. Through the events of her life ruthless to her enemies, supportive of her friends, and with a hard practical edge born on day-to-day necessity.
Sure this is not to say that we are slaves of our past, and nor should our characters that we create, but it does say that our events do shape our lives, and gives us some motivation for our actions. Because even if we were a lazy teenager who hardly did chores or just had their heads stuck in the clouds that could motivate them to be a better hard-working person. Or someone who has butchered surrendering aliens might see the folly of her ways and go on to become a defender of liberty and justice. And a caring momma bear to her crew.
Its called character inventory, its actions and events that help determine who your characters are as people, and distinguish them one from another.
And it is something to think about as you are going through your daily lives and planning out your characters, it means that everything they do should have some reason, and if they do something contrary to their established character there should be a reason for that as well.
Which is good advice no matter what aspect of writing you are trying to tackle, give it a reason, and then explain it to make it flow. Something to cover in the future I think.