Tuesday, June 2, 2009

On Characterization

Today, I'm going to give away a secret that will make one a better role player and a better writer. (To my way of thinking, it may even make one a better artist--at least when it comes to storytelling art)
Here's the setup...
The Wrecker, (remember him?) is plotting revenge on Queen City for locking him away all those years. Several robberies have occurred in the past few days, completely baffling the QCPD. They've asked for some Superheroic help, and have received it in the form of Patriette.
Through her own means, Patriette has figured out the Wrecker's plan--specifically to tunnel under the Queen City depository of the Federal Reserve Bank and empty the vault of all the money. Additionally, he's planting explosive charges under the county courthouse , City Hall and Police headquarters (He's really got a bug up his butt on this one.)
The Wrecker's plans call for a specific time table, but being the careful plotter he is, he's allowed himself an additional hour before the big fireworks show begins.
As the Wrecker steps from his hideout to go to the rendezvous point, though, he's pelted by a heavy sonic barrage. Patriette has arrived, and uses her sound based energy to stun the villain. The fight becomes a hard fought battle, until the Wrecker, in a supreme effort, manages to drop a pallet of lumber onto the poor superheroine, knocking her out. The Wrecker now has less than 20 minutes to get to where he's going, and crosstown traffic is murder.
Quiz time again....What should the Wrecker do here?
a) Leave Patriette to rot under the heavy pallet--he needs to get going.
b) Tie the heroine up, throw her in the trunk and take her with him
c) Peel off her panties and have his way with her--leaving her a sobbing wreck--then go on to the redezvous.
d) take the time to rig a deathtickling involving a chicken, a pallet of bricks and tickling.
Pencils down, pass the papers forward.
As strange as it sounds--the Correct Answer to this is "A." Any villain worth his salt is going to see a heroine as a nuisance, and her interference is going to mess up his lovely timetable. Since we've established the Wrecker is a careful plotter, and obscessed with his revenge plan, he's NOT going to waste any MORE time with Patriette.
Now I hear you arguing, "but the whole purpose of this role play is to get to the 'good part.'"
Perhaps--but what if mere moments after the Wrecker leaves, a troop of Boy Scouts appears (on their anti littering day) and rescues Patriette. The recovering heroine thanks troop 1234 for their assistance, then manages to FIND the Wrecker again, shutting down his master plan. The bombs fail to go off. The city is saved. The Wrecker's men are captured. And Patriette has emerged victorious.
But in her moment of triumph, the Wrecker creeps from behind some broken control panel and in a fit of pique bends a lead pipe over Patriette's pretty blonde head. The dazed heroine crumples like a load of wet laundry.
Quiz Time again....
The Wrecker should THEN....
a) bind Patriette and take her with him so he can get revenge on SOMEBODY
b) Leave her behind and make his getaway.
c) Peel off her panties and have his way with her--leaving her a sobbing wreck
d) put her in a death trap HERE.
OK, pencils down again...the correct answer HERE is "A" again. She's messed him up, made him late and ruined his plans. Dammit, someone's gotta pay!
So what's the secret? Characterization. The better a player or character in a story stays in his or her role, the better the story becomes. Try getting inside the motives, it makes a better story.

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