Hi folks. I’m Ila, and I’m occasionally batshit insane. This must be why Anna’s asked me to take her blog hostage write a guest post for her on the subject of writing and RPing other batshit people.
It has a wonderful ring to it. It goes snap. Batshit! If for no other reason than this, it’s worth it to play a character that might be described as… eccentric… No. Who are we kidding?
That character is utterly —ing*I batshit insane.
Yeah… that felt good to type. But it’s not just for the privilege of using the word “batshit” that we create characters who are out of touch with the rational parts of their brains. Flirting with madness is appealing– no. Beguiling, especially for those of us who might easily be accused of it ourselves. It’s also difficult to do well, so without further batshit rambling…
How To Be Utterly —Ing Batshit Insane: Things To Keep In Mind For Good Crazy RP
Step 1: Never ever write in sentences with every word capitalized.
Step 1: What Does Insane Mean?
It’s easy to say “this character is crazy!” and in most cases just as easy to get away with it. We all have at least a vague idea of what crazy is. But you won’t get very far that way. It’s important to understand what crazy is in order to properly write it, which is really too bad, since crazy by definition defies understanding.
…Ooh, we found it!
That’s crazy. It comes in two parts: crazy people 1) see the world differently from sane people to the point of their actions not making any sense, and 2) their different world view can’t be understood.
The former is why it’s easy to call the very brilliant and the very creative crazy. When your sister the aspiring artist stops and stares at a rock on the ground and calls it a flower, or when The Doctor takes a flying leap off a tall building– seems insane, right? But it’s actually the case that, because they’re gifted, they’re just able to see the world more accurately. Your sister is observing the beauty in the geometry of that rock, and how it does in fact resemble the outline of a flower. The Doctor is leaping off that tall building because, unknown to us, he’s got a teleporter hidden in the pocket of his very fine coat. They have reasons that make sense and can be explained and understood, and that’s why the latter part of the definition of crazy is so important. Actual crazy people don’t have reasons that make sense, they can’t explain why they think and do the things they do or if they do their explanation will be lacking. The way they see the world can’t be understood.
Keep this in mind. Use it as a check. If your character’s actions are logical in some way, then your character isn’t actually crazy, they’re just coming from a different place than the people around them. Write for nonsense instead. Take glee in it. It’s one of the perks.
Thingy 2: Why Are You Crazy?
You don’t get to be crazy just for the sake of being crazy, sorry. Everyone has a reason or at least a cause, and sooner or later you’ll have to figure out what it is. With a character who’s crazy, it’s often the only insight into their motivations you’re going to get.
So sit down and figure it out. Was your character born imbalanced in the brainmeats, have they always been this way? Does it run in the family? Were they an average-every-day citizen who got trod on one too many times? Were they the victim of some great tragedy, or cursed, or subjected to longterm traumatic stress, or got on the bad side of a malicious shadow priest? Or – and this is my own pet variety – did they simply stray too close to the Genius/Madness Line, and cross? When you’re already used to no one ever understanding you, it’s so easy not to realize it when your reasons stop making any sense at all…
Special extra bonus points if you start combining multiple reasons. Gotta be careful with that, though– if you’re not, you might end up with some people who’re really —ing messed up.
Figure out why your character is crazy. Not only will it make the character easier for you to understand as the writer, it will often give you an excellent source of Crazy Fuel™. More on that down below.
Item 3: How Crazy Are You?
Very straightforward. Now that you’ve worked out what crazy is and why it is, how much of it do you actually want? Or: how much time on, average, do you want your character to spend nonsensical vs. lucid, and how bad do you want it to be? A little bit of nonsense sprinkled carefully on an otherwise normal character can add a whole lot of depth. We call that “personally quirks,” and everyone should have at least a few. Everyone does have a few, which is why if you go too light on the wonky your character will only end up looking eccentric or a bit odd. If you’re looking for crazy crazy, you’re going to want a heavier dose. But on the other side of that coin, make it too big a dose and you run the risk of your character being incapable of interacting with other people, thus RPless– or worse, the risk of your character being annoying.
It’s best to find someplace in-between; where that place lies is a matter purely of preference, so ask yourself the question: How much time do you want to spend writing a crazy person? Be prepared for it to change, too, because it’s also subject to character development. Ilanna, my rogue, was once prone to violent hallucinations in the middle of the pub every night, but these days she only spends about a tenth of her time talking to giant chartreuse gerbils and shadows on the wall. Meanwhile, her twin sister (the evil twin, naturally), wears her crazy hat a good 80% of the time.
Don’t forget severity, measured here in terms of “How likely is this going to be to make my character unplayable”. If your character makes a point of always wearing only all-natural wooden sneakers so the Hairy Elbow People won’t smell her coming, that isn’t going to be quite the same as if she carries a hat filled with grenades and randomly throws them at passersby in case of disguised Hairy Elbow People. If you find that you’re drifting toward the latter, make sure you’re ready to deal with consequences. If you’re not, you may find it better to tone things down a little, or at least throw grenades a bit less often.
Doohickey 4: What Kind Of Crazy Are You?
Another important step. The Most Important Step, except the last one. What kind of crazy are you? At this point it helps to demonstrate the endless available options with an example set of basic types/traits, so that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
Type Lawless, Mr. Chaotic Neutral
Mr. Chaotic Neutral is incapable of valuing or obeying most laws or standards set by the rest of society. This is the guy who will refuse to wear pants because he finds them to be itchy, or the archburglar who looks surprised when you slap her in handcuffs for stealing that vase from the Royal Museum. “Oh, it was just lying there, so I picked it up. They weren’t hardly using it, that’s alright, isn’t it? It’s holding some lovely good flowers now.” A character with this trait will do anything they feel like for the simple reason that they don’t see why they ought not to; this produces some very successful villains and politicians.
Type Violent, The Fellow Carrying That Bloody Big Axe There
Exactly what it sounds like, the violent type crazy person often isn’t going to understand why tearing someone’s arm off and concussing them with it shouldn’t be a socially accepted method of resolving an argument. They may not see any value to human life (or elf life, or dwarf life, or tauren life; undead life doesn’t count nearly as much, especially if it’s of the Reg Shoe*VI pick-it-up-and-sew-it-back-on-again variety), and if they feel any remorse at all it still certainly won’t stop them from taking a carving knife to the next poor bastard who comes along at the wrong time. Often these people will stem from also being a Type Lawless, but sometimes not– sometimes they’re perfectly calm and normal and reasonable in all regards, except if you should happen to ask to borrow their pencil, at which point they may say something like… “Wanna see a magic trick?”*VII And like The Joker himself, the most terrifying nutcase you’ll ever meet is the one who takes pleasure in what they do to other people. This type tends to be very common in RPGs, especially as characters capable of mass and/or bloody gorey destruction. Many berserker warriors are like this, and so are a surprising number of wizards, and if a character’s alignment happens to be Chaotic Evil the trait is practically built in.
Type Liar, With The Pants On Fire
“Did you steal that vase there?” “No.” “Well what’s that in your hand there?” “…This is a sock.” “It’s a vase, chum.” They don’t think they’re lying. To them, it is a sock. Oh dear.
Type Creepy, Who Says The Strangest Things And Whose Last Name May Be Tam
Sometimes the strange girl with the vacant eyes will pop up behind you and say, “Hi Sally,” and you will scream like the bajeebus and nearly wet yourself because you were alone a minute ago and you could have SWORN you locked the door and anyway why is she in the shower with you? And incidentally, your name isn’t Sally. And then she’ll apologize and wander along off to wherever it is she goes when she’s alone, and then do the same thing tomorrow but only if you aren’t expecting it. Or maybe she’ll stop and she’ll say to herself, “The human body can be drained of blood in 8.6 seconds, given adequate vacuuming systems.”*VIII Or maybe she’ll know things she shouldn’t, or start sobbing and screaming in the middle of the night for no reason. She’ll often inspire pity, but she’ll also —ing creep you out, and she’ll make you start jumping at shadows just like she does. Often combined with Type Violent for an effective slasher movie, but like the delightfully morbid and creepifying River Tam, this type is also frequently successfully combined with:
Type Hallucinations, Who Has To Do What The Giant Rabbit Says To, or The Great Big Cliché
Common and stereotypical yes, but not worthless. Many of the all time great basket cases have been subject to this trait, because it is so very versatile. You will hear voices. You will definitely see things that other people don’t. You’ll believe reality is happening in a different way from how it is, and depending on the severity of your condition you may even get the privilege of watching in horror as your grasp of what’s real and what isn’t goes increasingly bye bye. A character can be motivated to do anything when he starts seeing things, especially when it’s a giant asparagus holding a cleaver and threating to take his head off with it.
Type Obsessive, Who Vacuums At Strange Hours And Can’t Use Other People’s Showers
Germs. Oh god*IX, the germs! They’re EVERYWHERE, AHHHHHH, AHHHHHHHH, AAAHHHHHHHH… ahhhhhh… ahhh….. *thud*
Type Multiple Personalities, Who-
Yes, yes they know already, honestly, get to the point would you? You always do this! And give me my fingers back, they’re- No! Mine! AHAHAHA!!!!!
Mix, match, make up your own. This is the fun part, and so is:
The Header-Shaped Whassit That Doesn’t Get A Number: How Do We Know You Are Crazy?
Once again we’ll divide into types, only this time there’s only just the two of them: Mr. Hidden, and Ms. Obvious. Do you wear extra shoes on your ears to help you walk better? Yes? Well done! You’re Ms. Obvious. This is not the same thing as Item 3. Item 3 was about how crazy you are and how often you get to be lucid. This is about whether we can actually tell you’re crazy, and when.
Maybe your character only has one single little character wonk, it doesn’t come up very often, really they’re very sweet most of the time, only whatever you do don’t mention the drapes, she’ll tear your head off, man! She owns a —ing flamethrower, what kind of person owns a —ing flamethrower?! Don’t mention the drapes!
This is perfectly okay, and can make for a very effective character. My little psycho nelf priestess, the Evil Twin™ I mentioned earlier, is like this; 80% crazy, yes, but most of the time she appears simply to be a little off-kilter. Her guildmates don’t know that her shadow talks to her and occasionally hurts her when they don’t get along, and that sometimes she goes for walks at night and the next day there’ll be a mysterious disappearance of a local bishop all over the front page of the Stormwind Daily. If you have a violent character or a lawless one, you’ll probably benefit from making it not immediately obvious all the time.
Then again, maybe you’re looking for people to know you’re nuts. Shoes on your ears? Yes, you pass! Carry on! If you want to be more obvious but are having trouble with it, or don’t know how, here are some helpful examples of purely surface things you can play with:
– Clothing. What your character wears is an immediate visual cue, especially if they’re wearing it on their ears. Also relevant: Neatness, cleanliness. If you’ve got on a hundred dollar jacket but it’s missing all its buttons and has marker marks on it, that is a Clue. A great big top hat with a sign taped on saying “Free the canoes” is also a Clue. What you’re not wearing is also a Clue, especially if it’s your pants*X.
– Cleanliness, neatness. Not enough is a Clue, but so is too much of it. Ever gone into your friend’s parents’ house, and everything SPARKLED? Wasn’t it terrifying?
– Accessories. Carry, at all times, a large green parasol. Have no reason whatsoever for it. Look, a Clue.
– Hair. Hair is a big one, nearly as big as eyes. Want to make someone look crazy, or just like a complete twerp? Crazy hair, go! My rogue’s hair is, IC, a shade of pink so eye-blindingly bright it makes birds drop out of trees when she goes by, and causes traffic accidents.
– Speaking of eyes. This is essential, especially if you’ve got a hallucinating character or a creepy character. A slight unfocused look to them, or a distant stare, or simply looking in the wrong place– why are you looking at my shoes? Is something wrong with them?*XI– Eyes can do wonders.
– Smiles, strange ones, crooked ones, at all the wrong times.
– Laughter, too high or too loud or long or shrill, too often, or not enough.
– Voice. There’s not a lot you can do about what your character sounds like in a text-based medium, but you can describe it, and the mental image remains powerful. Like the laugh, is it too soft, too loud? Raspy, choked, stuttering? Do! they, have unnecessary punctuation?!?? Are therenot enough spaces inall theright places? And:
– Language, your greatest weapon. You will be using this one most, in an environment where everything is dialogue. Does not your character have any contractions? Do they speak in gibberish, or give answers to questions you didn’t ask?
Or do you ever–
In each sweet, short sentence, speak
In only haiku?
– Crazy Fuel™. Remember where we talked about your character’s carefully thought out background being useful later on? This is it. This is the chance. Were they traumatized? Tortured? Make them think they’re still there. Make them stare at the scars and whimper, and shy away from long needles. Have they spent most of their life fighting the Scourge? The original Plague is thought to be fungal in nature. Dial that germ obsession up to a 12, and give them a grain phobia. Cause, meet effect. Effect, meet the reason you sometimes wake up and scream your lungs out at 3 A.M.
And that’s how to be crazy. I’m done holding you hostage. In short form: nyerr!! flrbl, wonkit, the couch is on fire and the stars are all percolating!!!!!
In slightly less short form: Inventing proper batshit is a challenge to creativity. That’s the best part of it. You can do anything. Then again, it may seem easy to have a character who makes no sense, but even the nuttiest nut benefits from a bit of logic in application. That’s what this has been about.
And Now, The Asterisks!
*I For the benefit of Anna’s readers who may not be accustomed to it, Ila will be toning down her language a bit today. In lieu of all the —ing cursing and in keeping with the theme of being batshit —ing insane, for this article we’ll be following the Mr. Tulip school of cursing.**II ^
**II Mr. Tulip is from The Truth, a book set in The Discworld. If you don’t know what The Discworld is or haven’t ever read any of it, then get your —ing ass to a bookstore and buy a copy of Guards! Guards! right —ing now, and follow it immediately with Men at Arms, Feet of Clay, Jingo, The Fifth Elephant, Night Watch***III, and Thud!. Do that, and, congratulations, you’ll have read every book about The Official Best Characters In The Discworld*IV. The page right before the title page on any of the books above can help you further with all the rest of the series (The Truth would be a good place to go next). You want crazy? Sir Terry Pratchett can —ing write —ing crazy. Millenium hand and shrimp! ^
***III Ila’s favorite book, incidentally. ^
*IV Narrowly beating out Granny Esmerelda Weatherwax, and Death, and Death’s granddaughter. Yes, Death. The guy with the scythe and the big permanent grin. This guy*V. ^
*V Death is fond of kittens. ^
*VI Discworld again. Why haven’t you —ing got a copy of Guards! Guards! yet? This article can wait, go put your shoes on! ^
*VII Dark Knight this time. ^
*VIII You know this one. ^
*IX Pick a god, any god. ^
*X Unless it’s Wednesday. ^
*XI They’re on your ears. ^
XII Goodness that’s a lot of asterisks.
XIII How come that last one didn’t link to anything?
XIV Oh god, now they’re breeding by themselves.
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