Why we love flashbacks

Flashback week write and roleplay about your character's pastIf you’ve not heard about Flashback week, see the details here and remember to enter the competition here.

In my last article I explained that flashbacks are great ways to help build your character, and they’re also really great fun to write because it gives you a totally open canvas to put your character anywhere and in any situation. If you’re writing about them with others as part of a roleplaying game, this can sometimes be quite a difficult thing to do, because you’ll have to get everyone else to agree that the story is taking a turn in the direction you want it to. But as anyone who’s ever done collaborative writing knows, the story won’t always go in that direction!

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Flashbacks help character building

someone sleeping on bench

Only a few days to go now until the start of Flashback week, and already the response has been positive! I’ve chatted to a few GMs of roleplaying games, who’ve told me they’ve spread word to their members about the Flashback week competition, and even planned their own smaller, in-game competitions. A great way to do this is if your game is on OngoingWorlds is to use the awards, that’s what they were created for!

But Flashback week isn’t just about winning the competition, there’s also a decent reason for using flashbacks in your story; it helps develop your character.

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Give your characters flaws

The weakest link

Most of us want the character that we roleplay to be badass. It’s our childhood fantasy to be the hero of the story, to be the person who helps rescue everyone else from danger, to defeat the badguys, and for everyone else to look up to. But be careful you’re not making your character too perfect, or they might turn into a Mary Sue.

I’ve been creating a Rolemaster character recently, and they have a great system that allows you to pick special abilities for your character (they call them ‘talents’), and you have a limited number of points to spend on these talents. To gain more talents you need more points, and to get these you have to choose the equal number of points worth in ‘flaws’. You can choose these talents and flaws from the book, and there’s many of each, and it’s the flaws which really inspired me.

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Create a character you're proud of

This post was ritten by Lt. Alleran Tan, Helm Officer of the USS Independence-A in the UFOP: StarBase 118

Character development pyramidCentral to any roleplaying experience is designing a character to play. Essentially, in play-by-email groups there are two main types of roleplaying: roleplaying with games mechanics, or roleplaying without game mechanics (known as ‘freeform’ style). But irrespective of if you have to build your character to rules, or simply so that she fits in the world, it’s important to know a bit about making a character that’s fun for you and everyone who plays with you.

No matter the roleplaying system, the character you play should be interesting. This means that the character should have something that distinguishes them from the ordinary, and this reflects the theme of most roleplaying games. You play a Starfleet Officer, or a were-wolf hunter, or a mutant (or vampire or a space ranger or whatever). Your character should be, well, special! They should have something that makes them a little better than most people, even if that’s just a skill, or a talent, or a special gift.

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9 Reasons why Baby Doll from Sucker Punch is a Mary Sue

Poster for the film Sucker Punch

The film Sucker Punch is a fantasy feast for your eyes. A girl is locked away in a mental asylum by her abusive stepfather where she repeatedly retreats to a fantastical world in her imagination where she and four other female inmates battle monsters, soldiers, dragons, and robots. I couldn’t help watch the film without thinking of the main character (called ‘Baby Doll’) of a Mary Sue character. Here’s my reasons why.

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The many different types of Mary Sue

Mary Sues in multiple genres

Mary Sue characters are common in roleplaying and fanfiction, especially if the writer is an amateur and doesn’t yet know the error of their ways. Mary Sue characters are perfect in every way, they’re written so that everyone likes them, they’re smart, incredibly beautiful, incredibly useful, and can do just about anything. They don’t have any character flaws so can tackle any situation in their stride. After a while this behaviour becomes very boring and we’re reminded why decent stories have characters with just the right amount of interesting traits to add realism.

We call these types of characters “Mary Sue” after a Star Trek parody of a fanfiction story (see here for the origins of Mary Sue), but it’s not just females that make Mary Sues, the same annoying qualities can be given to males.

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Make sure your character acts their age

Child Trekkies

When you’re creating a new character you need to think about their age. Are they young or old? There are many different ways characters will act depending on their age, so it’s crucial you get it right for your character to be realistic.

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