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Building a Character - Seven steps to get started!
by Triskele, Contributor — Category: Editorials
Post #85494
Hey everyone!

Lately, I have been receiving a lot of private messages about creating characters. Most were from people who want to dip their toes into roleplay, and the entire process of building a credible, original character, but have simply no idea where to begin. If you've been around the site for a while, you might know that I, for one, love building characters, and it's something I'm always working on. To answer all of your messages, I've decided to write the article below.

Before I begin, a disclaimer: please keep in mind that all this is optional. You don't need to do all of the following, it's a choice you make, a process you decide to go through for fun. If you're interested in roleplay and creating a character that fits you (and the world of Tamriel!) like a glove, keep on reading!

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1. Know your universe

Where are you?

Seriously, everybody should start off with that question. For what world are you creating your character? What universe are we talking about, what lore, which setting? You might sit there rolling your eyes now, since it seems to be a given that everybody knows this to start with, but you'd be surprised. A lot of aspiring roleplayers make the common mistake to implement something from one universe into the other, something that won't work out in the end.

For example: someone who may not know much about TES-lore, but simply knows there are Elves in Tamriel, might create a Tolkienesque Elven character – beautiful, fair, wise, pure good, and all that jazz. By doing that, that person would defy the entire fact that TES-Elves such as the Altmer tend to be pretty mean, manipulative, calculating, and actually not so fair at all.

So yes, before you start shaping something, make sure you at least have a basic idea of the universe. If you've already settled on race, read up a little bit on the race's basics and their most common lore. You don't need to become an expert in one day's time, just make sure you've covered the common grounds. You will go from there!

2. The Basics

Rome was not built in a day; always start off with the very basics. Choose your race, gender and approximate age first. Don't drown yourself in details just yet, there will be plenty of time for that! Also get a basic idea of what your character does in his or her everyday life. Is he a priest, a farmer, a soldier? Again, details come later!


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3. Shaping up

Now you can allow yourself a wider circle and start thinking about some details in your character's appearance. Start considering possible scars, favoured bodypaint, usual clothing and/or armour, and so on. Don't hesitate to add flaws, either!* If your character has a slight pug's nose or maybe uneven ears, it will make him or her all the more realistic. Just look around you on the street – is every single person sheer perfection walking by? Nope! Don't be afraid to add little things here and there that make your character less than perfect, even if he or she is made out to be beautiful. Even the most beautiful people have flaws, and by implementing these, you'll see how your character becomes very credible.

*I'll say more on this matter in the last section of this article.

4. History and background

To many beginners, this is the most daunting part. To create a background for your character you, after all, need to dip into more lore and details regarding the world around you to make sure you're not putting something out there that is completely off.

The key to all this is to, once again, simply start in a small circle, and then expand. Start off with your character's closest relatives and surroundings: where did he or she grow up? Is he or she still living there? Are there parents, a spouse, siblings, children?

If you've considered your character's profession in an earlier step, then think about how he or she reached that point. Why did your character want to become a soldier, or a priest? Was it because his father insisted (soldier), or because he's now old and wants a peaceful life, attoning for past sins (priest)?

Make sure to mention any milestones, if your character has any. People have moments in their life that can be considered turning points, crossroads, whatever you want to call them. Moments that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. Marriages, the death of a loved one, a victory in battle, a near-death experience... Think of a few extraordinary things your character may have been through, but keep them realistic!


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5. The intricate stuff

You will notice that once you have broken down all these basics, there will be more room for details and little things you want to add to your character. During the process of character building you'll start thinking about that extra scar that has that extra story, a little quirk here and there, a possible fear or preference, and more. Once you've reached that point, feel free to add those (of course everything in moderation)! It will, once again, enrich and expand your character and make him or her more realistic.

A fun thing to do (completely optional, but it's an example!) is to create rumours: little statements that other people in the world may believe to be true about your character. They can be based on truth, or ripped completely from thin air. If you check out the biography of my character Sahar you can see I added the little section of rumours at the bottom. Give it a try, you'll see how it gives your character some extra flavour.

6. What to do, and what to avoid

All of the above I have deliberately kept short and to the point; I have covered very basic steps to make it (hopefully!) a bit easier for you to start off that character you will really click with. Before I wrap it up, there are some tips as to what you can do to help yourself out a little, and what to avoid.

+ One thing that often helps me a lot, is looking at artwork. Just browse around deviantArt, Google, any fansite out there. I find that looking at an awesome wallpaper or picture of a landscape often instantly gets my creativity-wheels turning. If you see something truly inspirational, it will make you want to create, since stories instantly start unfolding in your imagination.

+ The same thing goes for music. Music can be a huge inspirational boost. Just YouTube some soundtracks from movies, try and find stuff that stimulates your imagination. If you want to know an artist or two I swear by, you can always PM me.

+ Read. Other books, stories and biographies can be inspirational, you can see how other writers go about treating their characters, and you can pick up ideas you may not have thought of before. As a side effect, you can read about what has already been done, so you won't blatantly copy something without even realising it.

Lastly, here is some stuff you want to avoid as you create your character:

- There are theories about there only being seven plots in total for every story ever written. If that is true, none of us is original. That said, you should always try to stay as original as you can. Try and avoid the cliché. A bit here and there can't be avoided at all times, but try to not make it blatant.

- Going further into the former, there is something in the world of roleplay that is dreadfully referred to as The Mary Sue. The Mary Sue is a character who is the embodiement of cliché; he or she is utterly, flawlessly beautiful, is fluent in twenty-seven languages, in fact, he or she is fluent in everything. He or she had a very hard life because his or her parents were murdered and ever since he or she has been on a vendetta against the world and turned into Superman. He or she has battled every single god and bad guy out there, and returned victoriously. He or she is always right, so never question them. They also have a habit to overcome any problem or obstacle with the biggest ease. Out of food? Mary Sue will conjure a meal. A villain speeds away on a horse? Mary Sue runs faster than that horse.

If you read the above, you will notice how said Mary Sue is insufferable and an utter cliché. Luckily, complete Mary Sues are rare, but a lot of beginning roleplayers sneak in a MS-habit here and there without intending to do so. There is of course the arguement that RP is about freedom and that "everybody is free to create whatever they want". To a degree, this is of course true. Just keep in mind that if you create a Mary Sue'ish character, the feedback from your roleplay community might not be positive and/or pleasant, since the Mary Sue is generally no fun and quite insufferable to roleplay with. Just to be safe, try and avoid making your character too beautiful, too powerful, and too awesome. Where is the fun in that, anyway?

7. Examples

I think that covers a fair chunk of ground, all in all. Always remember you're doing all of the above for fun; enjoy the experience and enjoy the process! Below you can read some biographies that have been in the weekly Spotlight; these people are doing it right!

Endaros Ilmori (by @"Horizon Seeker")
Ferroc the Redguard (by @Ferroc)
Do'Shanji the Bulwark (by @"Grape Drank")

If you ever feel stuck or unsure about something, you can always PM me or another member you have seen frequently in the RP-section here on TESOF. Everybody will be happy to help, you'll see!



Good luck, and have fun!

-Tris
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Comments on Building a Character - Seven steps to get started!
Post #85539
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Lovely article, Tris! I've been tempted to create an RP character for a while now and I could use the info!
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Post #85543
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(August 6th 2013, 01:55 PM)Sienna Wrote: Lovely article, Tris! I've been tempted to create an RP character for a while now and I could use the info!

Thanks Sienna! *cue epic music* Now is the time! I'd love to read your bio when it's done :)
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Post #85712
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Mine will be work in progress for quite a while longer, but I will definitely be coming back to this article when the time comes! Thanks Tris!
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Triskele
Post #85775
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Thanks for the shout out Trisk! Very good advice here for anyone wanting to make a new character. If you want to read for some inspiration, I would suggest looking at some of the Bios/Stories in the RP section here, there are a lot of talented writers here. You can pick up cool things to add here and there to your own bio as you read samplings from different authors.
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Post #86526
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Spot on, good job!

Maybe I should direct my recruits to this article, haha!
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Triskele
Post #86539
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(August 9th 2013, 02:15 PM)Beor of Skyrim Wrote: Spot on, good job!

Maybe I should direct my recruits to this article, haha!

Feel free, it's meant to help! :)
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Post #100954
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Hey Triskele, I really love this article and am going to put a link to it on my guild forums so that my recruits who are new to role playing will have something to look at.

Thanks a lot for all of this wonderful stuff you put out!!
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Triskele
Post #100957
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(September 27th 2013, 12:53 PM)Archmage Rythis Wrote: Hey Triskele, I really love this article and am going to put a link to it on my guild forums so that my recruits who are new to role playing will have something to look at.

Thanks a lot for all of this wonderful stuff you put out!!

You're welcome, Rythis, and of course you're free to link this around! Thank you for your kind words! :)
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Post #114579
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Excellent work. Character creation is one of my favourite aspects of ES games. I spend hours tinkering!
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