Developing characters is like giving birth…
Something I’ve learned from my story surrounding Johnny is that developing characters can be a lot like giving birth to them, and watching their entire life unfold before your eyes.
I always had this misconstrued idea that developing a story meant sitting down and just writing the story. Sure, I think that can be fine in some cases, but I found that mine didn’t have any substance to it. I kept wonder things like “Why does Johnny like this cave?”. That’s when I realized I need to tell myself the story of who Johnny really is.
So far I’ve written a fair amount about all my main characters. I now know a lot about Johnny’s up bringing, and why he’s taken interest in the things he did. I understand the world I’m creating more. When creating a scene of dialogue, I have a consistent way of presenting each character, because I know what their personality is.
Plot holes have quickly filled in as well. Never do I have to go back and wonder “Why on earth did Johnny come back and get Korin?” I understand them, and their history together, and I can clearly see the reason he did. The story flows much better.
So in my novice level of story writing, I’d like to share some advice with you all.
First of all, draw out your world. Give it cities of different sizes, a population count, and a personality of its own. Is the city a mega city with 10,512 people that is mostly under rule from an evil king, or is it a nice village of 83 that is more of a family than a village. I also put seasons in my world.
After that, start placing people in various parts of the world. Give them a birth date, a personality, friends, and a biography. Tell what they do for a living, for fun, and what type of family life they have. Is he abrasive? Compassionate? Comedic?
Something I did after this was develop a history for the world. The time period they were in was especially important to me, as it tells a lot about the main plot of the game’s story. I picked a starting point for the existence of the current piece of the world, and then sectioned it off into ages, and set the currently time line accordingly.
Next I developed some key organizations, and a government. I did put a minor economy into the mix, but it won’t affect anything in my current world’s setting. It is simply not an economy driven world. Without revealing too much, it is a world with a King, but people not living in the main city really aren’t affected by his day to day rule. They respect his position, and send representatives to governmental meetings, but they run their city themselves.
Some of the organizations I established support the characters life paths. For instance, the Mage Guild was established as a basis for introducing Mages into the world. The guild doesn’t have to have an affect on the game’s story, but its a good way to introduce, or explain a character’s past, and training. Another good organization might be a Trade Federation of some sort. A group that helps products reach other cities for sale. Perhaps even a Transportation Panel for organizing mass transit type setups.
You don’t have to reveal the entire history of the world, or biography of each character in your final story, but it will help you develop your story better. Now that I have a complete understanding of what Johnny’s life was like growing up, and why he works so hard at his profession, and I can develop a good, complete story. No more guessing why he just ran into a hidden room that no one knew was there. It would be clear that he knew the room was there for a long time, and I could avoid plot holes or “what???” type questions.
One more thing I decided to do was write a short brief about other parts of the world that you do not see. Places across an ocean that cannot be reached. Or areas beyond mountains no one has returned from. While these don’t necessarily add much to the world itself, it did help me with plots and develop inner parts of my main story. For example, the trials of a soldier to venture into the mountains, if they don’t return, I know where they probably are. I at least know what their fate initially was.
Now on that point, let’s ask the question. Does it matter? Yes. Because now we understand why one of my main characters is doing what she’s doing near the opening of the game story. Sorry, can’t divulge that piece!
Again, I can’t claim to be a seasoned story writer, but I hope this helps others who want to try their hand at writing a story. It may sound like a daunting task, but once you start, you’ll find it easy. I’d really love to hear other’s opinions on this topic. Feel free to comment or contact me.
Dan Joseph is a Software Engineer/Architect. You can follow him on twitter @iamdanjoseph. If you wish to contact him, please click the contact page, and fill out the form.