Character development, how in depth do you go?

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Kei.Tan
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Character development, how in depth do you go?

#1 Post by Kei.Tan » Sat Dec 05, 2015 1:05 pm

I'm use to writing novels and short stories but have been wanting to get in to otome/dating sim games. Usually when I plot out a story I try to get pretty deep character going before starting and was going to approach otome the same way. I was wondering how in depth do you personally go when write a games character, just for curiosity sake.

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Re: Character development, how in depth do you go?

#2 Post by halogen » Sat Dec 05, 2015 3:34 pm

I tend to gravitate towards the "flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants" approach to character creation in writing both novels and visual novels. I enjoy when my characters take shape organically and surprise me with their depth. It's almost like I'm viewing them through the lens of a reader even though I'm the one who is writing, haha. Having said that, I do find myself wishing I started off with a better foundation, because I think that ultimately lends itself to less rounds of editing and second-guessing (and less grief). Ultimately, my goal is to adopt an approach that is somewhere in between.

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Re: Character development, how in depth do you go?

#3 Post by firecat » Sat Dec 05, 2015 9:05 pm

i write my characters with full lives, their family ties, powers (if fantasy), clothing, who they love, and everything else that should be filled.
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Re: Character development, how in depth do you go?

#4 Post by Kumiho » Sat Dec 05, 2015 9:39 pm

I determine the extent of my characterizations primarily on the character's age and experiences. The whole premise of bildungsromans is that there are "formative years" during which a character most significantly grows and changes; while characters are far from immune to change after those years, it is afterwards that they have a foundation of sorts that anchors them to a basic mindset and personality. It's inevitable that adult characters have more depth to their personas, precisely because they have the experiences to back them up. Meanwhile, my younger characters tend to be comparatively ignorant and flimsy in their ideals, with greatly less initial development, leaving room for growth during the story itself.

edited slightly for clarity
Last edited by Kumiho on Sun Dec 06, 2015 3:34 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Character development, how in depth do you go?

#5 Post by Jae » Sun Dec 06, 2015 12:20 am

I agree with the bildungsroman approach. It might be a reason why so many of these types of games feature teens or young, young adults (say early 20s). Generally easier to mold and grow because they don't have the life experiences. Gives the writer plenty of room to throw them into different situations and have them adapt and grow.

Meanwhile adults generally have been in different situations before and can fall back on raw experience to get them through more scenarios.

But then you have to take into account baseline personalities and what becomes of them later on. A stubborn teen may not grow as much or as fast as an easily influenced teen. A "mature for his/her age" teen—say, who has been through long years of family turmoil—may grow differently than clueless one who's lived a sheltered life.

You might guess that I really value a character's background and history.

Side note: I have an issue trying to "grow" a character without constantly applying blatant personality and behavioral faults to them as an excuse to "fix" them later. It just seems like such a lame way to design and tackle them. I'm curious how others set up their characters.

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Re: Character development, how in depth do you go?

#6 Post by CSV » Sun Dec 06, 2015 12:36 am

It depends on what sort of character they are and what purpose they serve in the story. Whether I am writing a story or a game script, I usually start by giving everyone a general personality (good traits, bad traits) and a role. I suppose archetypes would also work at this point, but as a rule I dislike using archetypes.
Then, if they are minor characters or if it is a short game, maybe I just add a quirk or two to make them interesting. Whereas if it is an important character that I intend to keep and reuse, sometimes I even know what section of the newspaper they prefer to read first...
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Re: Character development, how in depth do you go?

#7 Post by HiddenCreature » Sun Dec 06, 2015 2:58 am

I tend to avoid things like their favorite food or music, as such information can't really define a person, and is more like mere trivia.

I focus on their general mood toward the world and others. What are their biggest dreams, and prime motivators? What do they really fear? How do they prefer to go about accomplishing their goals? These are what set people apart.

Information like that is vital to a story, and in the long run, makes writing the story much easier, and more immersive. Once you have a solid understanding of a person's motive, general mood, and preferences, you'll never have to ask yourself, "What would they do in this situation?" You'll just know.

And because you're only focusing on information that's truly vital to the story, you don't get hung up on the more superficial details, like their hobbies, etc. Sure, if needed, write them. But they should always come second.

If you take anything from what I said, it should be this: If everything about your character can be summed up in a Facebook bio, they need more in-depth information.

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Re: Character development, how in depth do you go?

#8 Post by Kumiho » Sun Dec 06, 2015 3:32 am

Jae wrote:But then you have to take into account baseline personalities and what becomes of them later on. A stubborn teen may not grow as much or as fast as an easily influenced teen. A "mature for his/her age" teen—say, who has been through long years of family turmoil—may grow differently than clueless one who's lived a sheltered life.
I definitely agree with this. The personalities and mindsets of youth are much less fixed/anchored than those of adults, but—in conjunction with past experiences—they still serve as filters for further growth and change.
Jae wrote:Side note: I have an issue trying to "grow" a character without constantly applying blatant personality and behavioral faults to them as an excuse to "fix" them later. It just seems like such a lame way to design and tackle them. I'm curious how others set up their characters.
Well, "flaws" are necessary in order for character development to occur, although it's important to note that "flaws" may consist of viewpoints, ideals, etc. that the author disagrees with either generally or for the furtherance of the plot/plot theme, as opposed to solely those that are inherently bad. Also, while it's easy to write personality flaws that feel histrionic at best, this doesn't have to be the case. I feel like Urasawa Naoki does a really good job of having his character flaws be simultaneously overt and realistic/relatable. Speaking of Urasawa Naoki, his character development is also amazing, too, and so, so, so subtle in its growth, yet so consistent that by the end of the stories, his characters have very noticeably changed and just ;akljsdf if you haven't read his works, you need to.
HiddenCreature wrote:I focus on their general mood toward the world and others. What are their biggest dreams, and prime motivators? What do they really fear? How do they prefer to go about accomplishing their goals? These are what set people apart.... If you take anything from what I said, it should be this: If everything about your character can be summed up in a Facebook bio, they need more in-depth information.
Haha, the last bit made me laugh:) Agreed, and this is also crucial for plot building imo. Your characters lack motivation, and your plot falls apart pretty dang quickly.

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Re: Character development, how in depth do you go?

#9 Post by Parataxis » Sun Dec 06, 2015 1:33 pm

I tend to have a full rough cut idea of who the character is and where they're going before I start writing. Not necessarily a "deep" one, but a solid working dynamic that I can use to dictate how they fit into the story. Then as I write I get a firmer sense of what's going on with them. (I had one character who picked up the habit of silly fortune cookie style aphorisms within a page of their first appearance and it just stuck until it became their "thing")

One of the cool things about Otomes is that since it's more of a plot structure than a genre, there's already an easy way to hack out the main characters systematically. First, pic your shtick--like for instance, I have a back burner idea about having an Otome about dating holidays. Next, pick the main character's situation and her WANT. This can be anything from your character is a Princess of a kingdom on the brink of war trying to bring peace through political marriage to your character is working her first job and wants to succeed at it. In my case, the main character is a new minor holiday who wants to establish herself in Calender City before being forgotten.

With the main character out of the way, each of the Love interests can follow the same basic pattern: Shtick -> Personality -> twist -> arc.
So for our Holiday Otome:
Chris "Christmas" -> Overly cheerful and slightly overbearing -> "Blue Christmas": is secretly sad and insecure about his position and the grief he can cause, which causes him to force joy onto others to compensate -> Through interacting with the main character rediscovers himself and becomes genuinely emotional again.
Jack "Halloween" -> Super Dramatic with Gothic Sensibilities -> "Unscary Jack": has no close friends because he always scares people away, so he tries to tone himself down to appeal to others-> Through interacting with the main character discovers that people enjoy him for being scary and over the top and he can make friends while being himself
Trix "April Fool's Day" -> Incorrigible Prankster, a Bit of a Jerk ->"A trick too far" his BIGGEST TRICK YET hurts some one or causes a bunch of property damage gets in a bunch of trouble -> Through interaction with the main character he realizes the difference between hurtful pranks and fun pranks and decides to face the consequences of his actions.

You get the idea.
Now none of these are really mindblowing plots with a ton of twists and turns--but you get the idea. Obviously, when outlining the route plots I would probably add a few more bells and whistle to the characters Like, "oh Chris is really super nice to everyone, until you put him in a room with his brother Han, when they fight constantly about everything and nothing." But this generates the really simple core aspect of the character in an easy to communicate package, which gives me a solid foundation. At any point if my plot just isn't working, I can always come back to these basics and try again.

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Re: Character development, how in depth do you go?

#10 Post by Eyzi » Wed Dec 09, 2015 12:00 pm

Most of the things I wanted to say has been mentioned already, but I'm throwing my 2 cents anyway.

For me, it depends on how much I want to expand my story, but I limit it to what is necessary. I try to make it just enough to explain the character's actions and decisions throughout the story. Though, when it comes to dialogue-heavy visual novels rather than mostly narrative ones, there will be times when I have to provide trivial information just to keep the conversation natural, but even then, I try to associate symbolism or foreshadowing with the trivial things as much as I can to keep them relevant.
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