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If you could, could you please give me some ideas on how to pull this off? I'm sorry if it sounds dumb, but we could really use some help...
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Have each path have a different conflict that forces her to confront that one particular major part of her past, and in doing so, the LI finds out about it as well. If you save the major path for last it'll kind of be like watching a puzzle come together, but if you do it first you'll get the major highlights once you do the other paths. Either way you're getting a treat.
Yukionna Project Thread
1) Her father is a drug addict, and was institutionalised when Lassy was a little girl. She still visits her father every now and again, and still believes in his recovery, but no matter how much trust she's put him he has kept disappointing her by repeatedly falling back to the drugs.
2) Her mother's taking this quite hard. She's decided that the only recourse is to hate the man, and she'll project all this on Lassy. How worthless her father is, and whenever Lassy's doing anything wrong, "You're like your dad!"
These are just two, not very worked out issues: trust issues due to her father continuously disappointing her, and confidence issues due to being likened to the man who keeps failing her by the person she should trust most. Understandably, Lassy McGirl doesn't have a lot of confidence, and she probably doesn't make friends.
Let's say we have our protagonist. John McDoe. John McDoe is your fairly typical Visual Novel hero in that he has all the personality of paint drying. He's the faceless protagonist we all hate in our knockoff cheap eroge fantasies which none of us ever admit to reading.
John McDoe encounters Lassy. Understandably, Lassy thinks he's a creep: first of all, he has no eyes. A very reasonable reason to be creeped. But second of all, she's creeped, because John McDoe approached her.
This approach causes two things:
1) OHGODIMUSTGETAWAY. Lassy has no confidence. But she's a unique kind of no confidence: she's someone whose lack of confidence is borne from mental abuse by her mother. So understandably, contact with others isn't exactly her first thing on the list. In fact, maybe she has been so convinced she's worthless, that when John McDoe calls out to her, she doesn't respond: after all, who'd want to talk to her?
2) The player understands that with Lassy McGirl, not all is as it should be. Normal girls do not turn away when you talk to them. Well, okay, normal girls do, but only if they dislike you. Lassy has had no reason to dislike you, and so far she presents the stereotypical "shy" girl.
A second scene happens. John McDoe and Lassy, through herculean effort of the universe, end up being grouped together for art class. They are to make portraits of each other. John McDoe reasonably offers to paint her, but Lassy refuses: after all, she's ugly and dumb. A drawing of her could never be beautiful. Similarly she doesn't want to draw: she can't be very good at it, because she's never done it before much, after all. Everyone else's stuff looks better.
Now a reader may understand that Lassy isn't just shy: she has no confidence. You now encourage them to read on to find out just what has made her so inconfident. Continue presenting bits and pieces until it all falls together as a puzzle.
The important thing is to dissect the "problem" the character has. There is a situation, and this situation has consequences. These consequences are reflected in the character's personality. If you understand the effects such childhood problems have on your main character, you can then dissect the bits and pieces that make up 'her', and introduce those bits and pieces in measured, well, bits and pieces.
In the above example, Lassy has two situations: her disappointing father and abusive mother. I pointed out the results of having those two personalities in her life, and the result of the stance she has towards them. Lassy could hate her mother and thus reciprocate the hateful feelings, making her aggressive and with a continuous need to prove her superiority. You can begin by presenting how she bullies people. You can then further push on by showing she just needs to know she's better than others. You then further explore that she wants to be better than her mother thinks she is. You then further find out why her mother thinks so bad of her.
You suddenly have gotten to the crux of the character.
I hope that helps somewhat. I usually end up ranting and by the end of it most of the time I wonder if it's any lucid to anyone reading, or if it's something only I would understand in that mystifying way only abstractionists understand their art.
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For the Lassy McGirl example, imagine what an eye-opener it could be if, after struggling a lot with her strange personality, the MC finally has a chance to meet her parents and suddenly realizes why she is like that. Or do it indirectly - when her parents show up in a conversation with somebody else who knows them, have that person be very, very reluctant to talk about them so that it becomes clear that the parents are a major issue.
Nothing happens without a reason. Every behavioral quirk has a cause. Show the effects, and you're doing it right.
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It depends on this childhood issue you're talking about. If it's complicated, you'll be able to do it. Example - if she was beaten by her parents on one route it would show up that she's extremly afraid of agression, on the other one that she looks jealously at happy families and another one would show that for some reason she doesn't keep in touch with her family, the next one could show that her sibling is a deliquent for some reason. It all leads to one conclusion.
Anyway, good luck on your story.
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Ask me about my work in progress, The Jovian Sunsets. Not really hiring at the moment but I am always willing to share!
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