Character Evolution: The Company They Keep

Having a character built isn’t enough. It doesn’t matter how detailed the character is or how many nifty quirks she has; if she stays static, she’s still going to get boring. Fortunately, people don’t work that way, so there’s no reason not to let them change, and every reason to do so.

For a good part of this week, we’re going to be covering the kinds of forces that cause characters to grow, change, develop, and in general become more interesting.

One of the first forces to act on them once the story begins is the people around them. People can grow to be more like their role models, or find themselves disillusioned and try to distance themselves from them. They can learn to lean more on their friends, or try to strike off on their own. Rivals can cause them to dedicate themselves more firmly to an area of expertise, or to strike out in an entirely new direction. Sometimes, we even find ourselves needing to add new details to characters just to make sure they aren’t just like those around them.

Again, I’ll use our old friend Ruby as an example. When we last left her, she was the fearless bodyguard to her mentor and recruiter Lirit, but at the same time sort of the child of her group. She hadn’t quite realized what her service of death had gotten her into, or what she had originally been. And that’s about how she was when she met the protagonists, and the social dynamics began to change.

First, there were the protagonists themselves. They were what she’d been before she met Lirit, and they didn’t seem to have any problems with it. (Okay, two of them were. Make that three. No, four. No, wait—How many friends were they going to bring?) They were amusing, though, and they drove a couple of her more annoying friends crazy. Lirit seemed to approve of them as well, so Ruby decided they may as well be friends.

Then there were the further effects. There was Shadow, for instance, who seemed to have started courting Lirit, and counting himself as The Bodyguard. On the one hand, he was a good enough fighter to make a decent training partner, but on the other hand, he was competition, and his presence forced Ruby to start reevaluating her role. Her conclusion? He was okay… but if he was going to protect Lirit from outside threats, she was going to make absolutely sure that he was in no way, shape or form a threat himself.

And then there was Luath. He wasn’t the fighter the others were, but he seemed to identify well with her mixture of brute force and flashy magic, and he’d certainly done a pretty impressive job against the walking tin can the other day. And he could cook, and he liked her. This was definitely a new development; she’d never had that happen before. Maybe not being Lirit’s one and only bodyguard wasn’t so bad.

The other one who had a major impact on her was a latecomer by name of Lua, who was cute, and hyper, and had a rather childlike outlook on life, and was interested in Luath, and in short, seemed to be trying to steal her schtick. This ended up being as much a writer-side impact as a character-side. On the one hand, there was Ruby, being forced into being more direct about her own feelings on the matter because she couldn’t just stand aside trying to figure out how this stuff worked, but on the other hand, there I was, trying to find ways to make the separation between the two of them more obvious. This resulted in my playing up Ruby’s education, since Lua was utterly unlettered, and in Ruby’s interest in strategy games and similarly warlike pursuits. The result? Further characterization beyond “the hyper, energetic one”, and more obvious in-character exploration of her relationship with those around her.

The people around them aren’t the only force that affects characters. Tune in tomorrow for more ways to make them grow!

Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Character Evolution: Crisis and Internal Reaction | Exchange of Realities
  2. Impractical Applications (Ruby in Crisis) | Exchange of Realities

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