OngoingWorlds blog

News & articles about play-by-post games, for roleplayers & writers


A character does not breathe until that first post

many individual roleplay characters

A few weeks ago I posted an article about creating believable characters, and using the 2:1 rule for flaws vs awesome. Johnny wrote this great comment which I wanted to highlight:

Writing fiction interactively, or cooperatively, allows us many advantages and serves many needs. It is social and draws together creators of common tastes. It provides a vicarious outlet to express the dreams that are born in our hearts, designed by our imaginations, and communicated in our words. Again, to be shared with those with similar dreams. It is a forum that exposes us to useful criticism and, more importantly for me, validation, whether that be in the form of praise, or in the simple fact that someone else enjoys my contributions enough to continue collaborating with me.

I offer this as proof of the value I just ascribed: Have you ever started a story with someone(s), and when things seemed to be going real well, it suddenly dies off? Of course, you have.

Do you remember how that made you feel? Of course, you do. And just as much as you’ll miss that delicious anticipation of `the next post’ or that next reply, you’ll mourn as deeply an unfinished tale. You might even feel that the months of daydreaming dedicated to the climax that was never achieved were, in fact, a terrible waste of time. That, for me, is the worst feeling.

Have you ever felt that? Well, THAT is how you know it had value. You feel it’s loss.

So, why does this… what we are doing… writing together… have ANY emotional impact, at all? Because rejection is rejection, no matter the forum, whether we be anonymous or named. We’re creative. We’re artists. We want to be appreciated and… included [see: social].

I needed to explain all that to address the concerns of this article, and those like it.

No one creates a character to be flawed.

Even if they do, those flaws are romanticized to the point of virtues. When a character is created, it is a schematic. It does not breathe until that first post. And anything you may have envisioned for this character goes right out the window, this new life now being molded by the circumstances it now lives in… after that first post. And it does live, in our imaginations, shaped by ourselves, as well as our collaborators, whose contributions we will come to value as the tale becomes enriched by other perspectives.

Our characters flaws are rarely designed. However, they are exposed, revealed, and realized as the story goes.

And once they are exposed, revealed, and realized? Well, THEN we romanticize them. : )

But, at least, then, they are `earned’ by the character and not assigned before they are even `born’.

I will close by quoting Dennis Miller: `Of course, that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.’


If you want more writing tips, we’ve got a list of the best we’ve ever posted (including many about Mary Sue characters and godmodding).