Sunday, May 18, 2014

Where do you put Character Flaws?

-----Original Message -----
Characters have to have flaws, but sometimes it's a bit hard to add those flaws in.
 -- Concerned About Characters
First of all...
What is a character Flaw?

Well, a character's Flaw is a crack in their personality and/or talent. Something that both helps them AND harms them. Kind of the way true artists (and brilliant nerds) tend to also be serious flakes, and really socially awkward. 'K?

Now then...

Where do you Put a Character's Flaws?

A character's greatest strength should appear in the first scene that character occupies. The character's Flaw makes its first appearance at the end of that scene -- but only a hint of it.

Scene One: If the opening scene features the main character, I show that character In Action showing off their greatest strength. To close that scene I show a small portion of that same strength's crippling weakness, but without exposing that it's a weakness.
In The Hobbit:
 -- Bilbo Baggins's greatest Flaw is that's he's 'nice' and 'polite'. In other words, he has Good Character. Not something one would generally think of as being a weakness.

Scene Two: As the story progresses that strength (and their dependence on it,) devolves openly into a crippling weakness that nearly destroys what's most important to them. 
In The Hobbit:
 -- Bilbo Baggins's  Good Character is what allows Gandalf and the dwarves to take advantage of his home to get a free dinner -- for 14 people!-- and take advantage of his person. He is quite literally managed into signing a contract to go on an Adventure he doesn't want, and in fact something Hobbits do not do. 
Later in the story, Bilbo Baggins's Flaw of Good Character nearly gets him eaten by trolls because he's too polite to attack them.

Scene Three: At the center of the story The Worst Thing That Could Possibly Happen occurs. The character becomes utterly helpless and sunk deep in depression. That weakness they'd originally depended on as their strength is what they must overcome to find a new source of strength to proceed.
In The Hobbit:
 -- At the center of the story, Bilbo falls into a deep, dark pit. Faced with Gollum, who tells Bilbo point-blank that he intends to Eat Bilbo, Bilbo once again is too polite. He refuses to see Gollum as a the deadly threat he is, and bargains with Gollum, fully expecting the creature to keep his word and let him go should Bilbo win their little contest.
Once Gollum reveals that he has no intention of honoring his word, what saves Bilbo isn't Bilbo's sword, but a single moment of Bad Character; Theft. Bilbo keeps a gold ring that he knows belongs to Gollum. This one act of Bad Character ends up being his salvation against Gollum because the ring is Magical.

Scene Four: Validation; when the Flaw proves to be an actual strength.
In The Hobbit:
-- The ring that Bilbo stole allows Bilbo to save the dwarves when they're attacked by Spiders, then again when the dwarves are captured by the wood elves, then Bilbo himself when he is faced with a fire-breathing dragon, and so on and so forth... 
By the end of the story, Bilbo has finally learned that Not being Polite has it's uses too, such as when demanding back all his belonging that had been stolen from his home during his long absence -- and actually getting them all back because everyone else is too polite to refuse him

How to use this in Writing.

Example: A Romance Story
The Main Character's (MC) greatest strength is he's The Perfect Gentleman; he knows exactly the right thing to do and say no matter the circumstances. He's honest, trustworthy, and kind.

The flaw that comes with this talent is that Everyone Knows exactly what kind of man he is. (It's not like he can hide it.)
Scene One: MC interacts with 3 females; an office lady, his childhood playmate, and the girl he actually likes. To each of them he is The Perfect Gentleman; he says and does exactly the right thing each time.

Scene Two: He becomes the guy to go to when their heart is broken because he always knows what to say to make a someone feel better. The guys envy him, and the girls adore him.
During this time, he begins to court the girl he likes: flowers, gifts, dates... At the end of the scene, he finally gets up the courage to confess his love. She smiles and Refuses to take him seriously. Why? Because he ALWAYS says and does the right thing, no matter who they are; he treats Every girl the same way. She doesn't feel special; she doesn't feel loved.

Scene Three: He continues to pursue her, and confess his feelings, but the more he talks, the less she believes him. Even worse, none of the girls believe that he's even capable of having feelings for only one girl -- after all, he's the Perfect Gentleman to everyone he meets.

Scene Four: Deep in despair, he sees her one more time only this time he's unprepared and a total mess; his appearance has gone to crap from depression, he hasn't eaten, he hasn't slept. He weeps angry tears while shouting in anger that no one believes him. In short: He's not a gentleman at all. This time she believes him because for the first time she can see the man hiding under the mask of 'Perfect Gentleman'.

The End


Thursday, May 01, 2014

Making Ideas into Stories

Moonfish by SnowSkadi
----- Original Message -----
How do you develop an idea? How do you come up with the details behind stories? Do you get them from reading books? Do you get them from modern concepts? Or do they just come to you (if so, lucky you XD)? How do you develop the world in which it takes place? People or settings first? Do you include cults/religions/mass groups? How do you come up with these groups?
 -- Thoughtful Game-maker

In other words, what you want to know is:

How do you build a Story
from an Idea? 
Let's begin by breaking this huge pile of questions down to smaller, bite-sized pieces...

"How do you develop an Idea?"

I start with a Climactic Event.
My ideas may originate from anything at all; from a piece of music to a picture I saw on the 'net, but to make a Story from those ideas I start with What I want to Happen at the very heart of my story -- a central Climactic/Crisis Event. I then create a Plot Concept around it to make that event happen, and tie up loose ends after the event. 

Plot concept:
Act 1: What caused the Event.
Act 2: Climactic/Crises Event.
Act 3: What happened after.

Example: What I want to Happen.
  • I want the central climactic/crisis event to be an epic space battle between a Galactic Empire and a tribe of Space Privateers, and I want the characters to carry Swords. 

"How do you come up with
the Details behind stories?"
"Do you get them from reading books? Do you get them from modern concepts? Or do they just come to you (if so, lucky you XD)?"

The Details I come up with are mainly generated by reading stories similar to what I want to write, and researching what I need to know to make such an event plausible. This tends to reveal unexpected facts which often give me MORE ideas to add to the story.

How do you make something in a story Plausible? 
You use Facts to give its existence a Good Excuse.

Examples: Facts
  • Did you know that privateers had Written Permission from their home country to attack the ships of the countries their country didn't like --especially if there was a war going on-- as long as they turned over a certain percentage of 'booty' to their home country? (Ah ha! I now have a 'good excuse' to make the privateers the Good Guys!)
  • Did you know that Empires (the British Empire in particular,) routinely hired Merchants to be Privateers when they didn't have enough ships in their fleets BECAUSE Merchant ships were extremely well-armed specifically to fight off Pirates (other Privateers)? (Ah-HA! Now I have a good excuse to have a Privateers vs. Pirates battle!)
  • Did you know that those same empires that hired Privateers would also systematically destroy their Privateers once a treaty was signed with the country they had gone to war with, mainly because this was often a condition for a treaty to be signed? (Ah-HA! Now I have a 'good excuse' for Privateers to become pissed off at an empire!)
  • Did you know that using a projectile weapon of any sort on a spaceship spelled Instant Death should that projectile shoot through the outer hull? (Ah-AH! I know have a 'good excuse' to have all my characters carry Swords!

"How do you develop
The World in which it takes place?"
"People or Settings first? Do you include cults/religions/mass groups? How do you come up with these groups?"
I begin with the World.
I always start with the SETTING, the World my characters will inhabit. I research everything to look for clues about what kind of cultures, politics, employment, social positions, religions, etc. would come into play in such a story because a character's culture and civilization will be what makes each character who they are -- the same way that your culture and civilization made you who you are.

Examples: Space, Empires, and Privateers.
  • How do Empires happen, and how are they governed?
  • Why would Privateers would be hired?
  • Under what conditions would Privateers be attacked by an Empire?
  • What are the conditions for living in space?
  • What kinds of space travel would I need, (Faster-than-light? Folding space? Jump-gates...?) and can they be adapted to what I want to do?
  • What kind of weapons would a spaceship have?
  • How would a space battle be conducted?

Then Characters.
Once I have a good grasp of the cultures my characters would inhabit, then I decide what kind of characteristics and backgrounds the Characters would need to make my Event happen -- or Not happen.

Examples: Characters.
  • Why would people (or a whole family) become privateers?
  • Why would someone hate the empire?
  • Why would someone hate privateers?
  • What kind of training would be needed to fight in space?
  • If I make the main character a neutral party, where would such a character come from, and why would they have such a mindset?

And that's how I build a Story from an Idea.