Articles from May 2010



Cultures and Cues

Yesterday, I talked about visual cues—simple parts of a character’s physical appearance that hint at her job, skills, background or other salient details. Most of us have a mess of visual cues trained into us, but when we’re creating worlds, what’s the fun in only using the kinds of cues we’re trained to see? Why [...]

Visual Cues and Characterization

The robe and wizard hat. Guns and black leather. White labcoats and peculiar equipment. Breeches, a nice jacket and a riding crop. A military uniform and a wide-brimmed hat with a chinstrap. A bag of dice and a backpack that makes one’s back hurt just looking at it. What do all of these have in [...]

Researching Characters

We all know it’s a good idea to know, in general, what a character’s good and bad at, what she looks like, and what her personality’s like. Most games will let you get away with just that (all right, plus or minus a little backstory); most writing gives you a chance to fill in details [...]

A Genealogy of Stories

So you’ve got a world in which religions grow and flourish for a while, and then die down (usually, one of those places where the gods and the religions aren’t joined at the hip). And you have to wonder, just what happens to the gods of the religions that are left behind? Are they remembered [...]

The Name: It’s How You Use It

It sometimes seems like a character’s name (or occasionally lack thereof) is one of her most important features; not only can it occasionally serve as a hint about the character’s purpose, background or abilities, but it’s also the fastest, most concise way to sum up a whole mess of qualities in as few syllables as [...]

The Generic Villain Amid the Protagonists: What Can Go Wrong?

Last week, I talked about advantages to going in and infiltrating the protagonists’ organizations, travel-groups, social circles or other effective units. That’s not to say that there aren’t downsides; that kind of infiltration can endanger your life, your plans, and your standing as a Hand of Darkness, and even your image beyond the Wall.
So what [...]

Impractical Applications (Conflict Without Combat)

As you’ve probably guessed, conflict without combat is one of my favorite story elements to play with (probably in part because creating characters whose primary skills are in combat, and fight scenes in general, just don’t appeal to me. It’s hard for me to visualize them without going a little too over-the-top epic.)
I thought of [...]

Conflict Without Requiring Combat

Any time you’ve got two characters opposing each other, there’s bound to be some sort of conflict. How else do you reach a resolution? The thing is, most people think of conflict, and their thoughts immediately flit to physical conflict and the crash of weapon on shield. To quote Flanders and Swann’s Reluctant Cannibal, “Don’t [...]

A Dose of Perspective

I read a lot about perspective and alternate points of view, but reading it is never quite the same as living it. Today gave me a chance to experience one for a few minutes, to a minor extent. It was quite an education.
So what happened?
My trolley’s late, but the one I’m supposed to connect to [...]

Characterization Exercise Followup: Waiting in Groups

While yesterday’s writing exercise can say interesting things about a character, why stop at just one character waiting? One interesting way to extend the exercise is to, instead of looking at a single character sitting and marking time, look at a small group instead.
What’s a group waiting do for descriptive and characterization purposes that a [...]