This first post in my week of Guest Posts is brought to you by Haemon Shadowind, known generally as Shad: tree healer extraordinaire, occasional tank, distributor of <3s, and always awesome. Enjoy!
Hi, Anna’s other readers! I’m Shad, and this is my first blog post ever. Anna asked nothing at all of me, and I wrote this anyway. Let’s see if she notices.
On to the meat (or delicious baked goods) of the post.
How to start a character can be a conundrum. Some people have the fortune of having a character walk into their head, fully formed, introduce themselves, and demand to be played. Mostly, though, folk start with something a bit more bare-bones. Do you roll the toon first, and let the personality naturally build itself? Do you sit and write out a huge backstory before you ever even see if the name you want is taken? Do you start with a few ideas and roll with the punches?
The Gimmick is a common basis for a new character, for both new and old RPers. Particularly for the new, there is great appeal in implanting an RP hook in your character’s backstory: something to make you stand out from the crowd, a shiny facet of your gem of a character about which people will ask and gasp and be struck with awe.
What is a gimmick? To apply a fairly broad definition, it’s the end to the sentence “I think I’ll make a character who…” That next phrase can be just about anything, from “is a vampire” or “lost her parents in a horrific fire” to “is a human with a dwarven accent” or “is absolutely perfectly normal in every way, shape, and form.”
The term “gimmick,” of course, brings with it a lot of negative connotations, but to make it clear I don’t think of this as a bad thing, I’m going to begin an extended similie.
Character gimmicks are like homemade cookies.
Fun: Both gimmicks and cookies are pure fun, from beginning to end; fun to create and fun to enjoy, unless you’ve really botched them up. It’s a fine line to walk between leaving them half-baked and burning them, but you’ll probably get a good feeling for it after a few tries.
You are not inventing the cookie: You are also not reinventing it. You are not even inventing a new flavor. Your gimmick has almost certainly been done before, be it the tortured death knight or the gleeful death knight, and I promise there are thousands of secret worgen from Darkshire out there. To quote many a more cynical blogger, You Are Not A Special Snowflake, and neither is your character trait.
Your flair makes it awesome: On the other hand, just because it’s not new, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it well. Like with recipes, it’s okay to steal so long as a) you’re not feeding it to the person from whom you stole it, and b) you add a little something of your own to it. What can you do to play it better than you’ve seen it played before? Make sure you’ve got an answer to that before anything else, because it’s your treatment rather than the trait itself that really makes the mark.
Some cookies were never meant to exist: Okay, so you could invent a new one. Some people enjoy the taste of bologna, Swiss, and mayo. No one, however, would like that taste in a cookie*. For a taste like that, you go to sandwiches. Likewise, not all plotpoints mesh with every universe. Night elves are not Drow, no matter how much you want them to be. Arthas has no sons. Or daughters. So you’re not one. If you go about making a cookie that does not belong in the cookie realm, expect to find yourself limited to interaction with people who have very eccentric tastes.
Man cannot live by cookies alone: This, in mine opinion, is the most important point in my ridiculous comparison. So you’ve got a great cookie. You’ve done some awesome piping work with the icing. It looks amazing. But it’s not a meal. If you eat just the cookie, you’ll be hungry. If you make a bunch of cookies, and eat them all, you’ll feel downright ill. So it goes with a character. You can build a character around a gimmick, yes, but you have to actually build the character. Leave it as a gimmick, and it’ll feel empty; fill it with multiple gimmicks, and it’ll go bad fast. Make your character a meal–a whole person–and your gimmick will be a delicious dessert.
So the questions go to you: Have you ever seen a gimmick or cliché done well? Or have you seen one done poorly, and thought about how you might do it better? If you’ve got a gimmick character, how much have they grown? Do they still retain their original gimmick?
Are you hungry now?
*I realize that making a blanket statement such as this one merely invites contradiction. Should you think I am wrong here, I challenge you to eat such a cookie.
- Godmodding and Griefing (116)
- On Privacy, Real ID’s and Roleplay (49)
- XX and XY in RP (47)
- Population Disparity (34)
- Tanking Perceptions (33)