RP characters vs. fan fiction protagonists

90 Night Elf Hunter
4265
This thread is not a duel to the death between RP characters and fan fiction protagonists -- as interesting as that might be.

Instead, I would like to open a discussion about the similarities and differences in RP and fan fic character development processes.

We tend to think of RP as immersive and interactive storytelling, so we might assume it would follow the same general trends as fan fic writing, but this is not so. The way we write characters and the way we RP them require slightly different areas of focus.

Let me explain...

In a fan fic, the protagonist is generally the star and center of attention. The plot unfolds as a vehicle for advancing this characters development --indeed, the plot is frequently there only to address points of character development. The story serves to highlight what we wish to show of the character and we excise scenes that have no bearing on the life of the protagonist.

In RP, the character is part of a cast or ensemble. He or she is not always the center of attention, though a personal storyline may take precedence from time to time. Sometimes the character exists on the fringes of someone else's story and is regulated to a support or observer role. Because the story arc is not obliged to drive character development for our individual creations, and because there may not be a script that will offer us an opportunity to get some good character growth in, RP character development is more a reactive than proactive process.

What I mean by that is when writing a fan fic I plan ahead when and where and how my character will develop, while in RP I react to things around me over which I may have little control. If your character punches mine, the next time we meet I will probably be a little wary of you -- that is reactive character development. The character develops through the accumulation of informative interactions rather than being written on a certain arc. This process can lead the character to go in directions that the player never intended (which should be kept to a minimum when writing fics).

Let us say that I am playing a happy-go-lucky rogue, and one day, through no fault of his own he gets wrapped up in an OHNOORPHANAGEFIRE! After dusting the soot from his clothes, he may be permanently changed by watching all those toddlers go up in smoke. If this was a fic, then this is something I planned for and furthers development in the direction I wanted to go.... If this is RP, I might never have wanted my character to deal with such issues but the deed is done. I react and carry on.

Another difference I see pertains to the "specialness" of the character. As the star of a fic you can get away with a level of specialness that makes people nervous in RP. I think this is a product of two pressures...
the ensemble feel: you don't want to outshine the other cast members with your super powers
"special snowflakism": I really hate that term and people who use it, but I'm sure you have seen it before -- it refers to the fear that a character will seem too special and therefore will be made fun of or labelled uncool

These pressures are not as strong in fic writing, but become amplified by the semi-competitive nature of RP.
There is a tendency among some RPers to wear normalness and un-specialness as a badge of honor -- my character repairs garden hoses! Now, any character can be interesting, but being a nobody is not inherently more interesting than insisting you are a somebody. Most people don't have time either for the "son of the secret blood-heart of the universe" or "3rd best garden hose repairer on Azeroth." Averageness is not a virtue.
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90 Night Elf Hunter
4265
This leads me to my last point: balancing powers with weaknesses...

I see this as originating in RP and moving into fic writing. I believe it comes from the old pen and paper character creation systems in which you had a certain amount of points or slots and needed to offset powers with weaknesses.
In RP, this can have a place, because, as I mentioned, we are a tad competitive. It might be nice sometimes to have something that limits the overall power of one character in the ensemble.
In fic writing though, you don't need to worry about one player becoming the king of the world and taking over or eating the galaxy -- the writer is in total control of his/her characters. One should not feel that, as a writer, he or she must add a weakness to a character to make it more believable -- it is either written believably or it is not. If you write unbelievably, giving your character "situational snow blindness" will not help you.

The true downside of the weakness balancing, in both fic writing and in RP, is that it leads to the creation of an unbelievable character who is then justified because he has a weakness. Yes, it is true I am the best swordsman on Azeroth but I am allergic to goose feathers.

The addition of weaknesses to balance a character might make sense in some RP contexts but it should not be considered mandatory in all instances of character construction. The addition of weakness and the playing of non-special characters does not make anyone a better RPer or make characters more interesting.

Now, some areas of similarity...

Character backstories are equally valuable in both RP and fic writing. Personally, I find them to be equally useless, but I know some people have had great success with them. The use of backstory and its application to character development is pretty much the same in both RP and fic writing. In the end you must decide if it helps or if it doesn't. Once more, in neither field should it be considered mandatory to have a backstory. The backstory is a tool for getting into character -- nothing more.

In both RP and fic writing, characters need to seem natural, real and life-like (unless they are none of those things). They should speak like people might speak and react like people might react. For me, this is the heart of verisimilitude --maintaining the realness of interactions.

Finally, Nelves should always have top hats in both fic writing and RP.

So, you have heard some of my thoughts on the subject, I would like to hear some of yours... especially if you write fics and RP. Do you see any differences in character development and creation in the two media?

PS: You may notice I didn't mention Gary Stus, Mary Sues, self-insertions or any of those other over-cited boogeymen of RP and fic writing. The terms are rarely meaningful and do nothing to promote real discussion. If possible, I would ask you to avoid them.

[[This post was originally written by Darth Slaine for SWTOR and is reproduced and tweaked with his permission.]]
Edited by Pylsur on 12/5/2012 11:12 AM PST
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90 Orc Warrior
3680
I personally think too many people try resolve themselves around the role of "main lead" or the center stage. I meet far too many people who play their character as if they're in their own fan-fiction, handing all their traits over to their character and looking at everything through their eyes rather than their characters. The main characters of Warcraft are the canons, all of our roles are supporting ones. I think that is something we need to remember, we may have our own personal story-lines? But none of us are canons, we are not the King, Warchief, etc.
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88 Human Warrior
8085
I just like having my unremarkable characters and staying at the edge of the spotlight. I am easy to please. I'm a supporter, I guess.

It seems like... you know, this is a lot like what I said about adverbs the other day. At some point it seems like things were oversimplified to some hard rule like "don't be special" rather than sharing a more nuanced advisory on the matter in whole, and that rule became misused for blanket shunning and elitism.
Edited by Lito on 12/5/2012 11:25 AM PST
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90 Orc Warrior
3680
I just like having my unremarkable characters and staying at the edge of the spotlight. I am easy to please. I'm a supporter, I guess.

It seems like... you know, this is a lot like what I said about adverbs the other day. At some point it seems like things were oversimplified to some hard rule like "don't be special" rather than sharing a more nuanced advisory on the matter in whole, and that rule became misused for blanket shunning and elitism.


There's nothing wrong with having a special character to slide in uniqueness among the masses. The problem is when people over do the special to a great extent and get over attached to their characters because of it. I know I get irritated when someone over salts my food.
Edited by Waraxe on 12/5/2012 11:29 AM PST
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RP and writing fanfics are two entirely different mediums, so character development is affected in different ways.
 
RP is unpredictable, and character development is based on your interactions with the other characters. The outcome isn't pre-meditated.
 
Fan-fics on the other-hand always have a pre-meditated outcome, and the writer has complete control over character development.
 
I'm finding that writing about your character on occasion is just as important as the RP itself. I would recommend that people who want to get better at RP to start writing, even if it's just a biography or a short story. The more you write, the better you will become at it.
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90 Night Elf Hunter
4265
12/05/2012 11:43 AMPosted by Verdantclaw
I'm finding that writing about your character on occasion is just as important as the RP itself. I would recommend that people who want to get better at RP to start writing, even if it's just a biography or a short story. The more you write, the better you will become at it.


This is true as long as, just like you said, people keep in mind that each medium requires a different approach to writing. Short stories that get written like roleplay are not good short stories.
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90 Dwarf Rogue
9500
I just like having my unremarkable characters and staying at the edge of the spotlight. I am easy to please. I'm a supporter, I guess.

It seems like... you know, this is a lot like what I said about adverbs the other day. At some point it seems like things were oversimplified to some hard rule like "don't be special" rather than sharing a more nuanced advisory on the matter in whole, and that rule became misused for blanket shunning and elitism.


this is generally how i feel about it

i don't care so much about being the center of the action, just more about being a part of the action. I like participating in big plots or story arcs, but I don't feel the need to make myself out as a main character -- simply just having a part in the fun is good enough for me.
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100 Night Elf Hunter
4370
I just like having my unremarkable characters and staying at the edge of the spotlight. I am easy to please. I'm a supporter, I guess.

It seems like... you know, this is a lot like what I said about adverbs the other day. At some point it seems like things were oversimplified to some hard rule like "don't be special" rather than sharing a more nuanced advisory on the matter in whole, and that rule became misused for blanket shunning and elitism.


I have to agree with your sentiment here. I have always approached my characters in a way inspired by 19th century British lit. They are graven in quite a bit of detail but are more symbolic or anecdotal and not, in my opinion "protagonist material". I tend to shy away from center stage-- too much pressure and not my area of experience. Also, secondary characters have always drawn my interest when reading. This must explain my fear of writing fanfic!
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90 Night Elf Hunter
4265
12/05/2012 12:44 PMPosted by Shennae
inspired by 19th century British lit


Regency lit, I'm sure.
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100 Human Paladin
14610
Character development is always a process I find much more interesting in rp than in stories, simply because so many people start with only the most base frame, and use their interactions with others to begin defining things. Not just using experiences to determine a character's story as it develops, but to reach back as well in terms of backstory and even mannerisms. Learning about others helps you define your own character in relation to them, and it's an interesting process to watch.

Another interesting thing is in regard to attachments. Many people tend to stick to their rp characters, even in the wake of things a normal character would be discarded over in fanfics. They get involved in situations with other people, where things like death and violence occur, and often don't drop the character for it. Sometimes hand-waving or game-mechanics are used to justify it, or even just a flat-out retcon. I don't think this is a bad thing at all, as it's part of applying experience to your perception of the character, though I empathize with the people that can carry through and outright drop a character they've spent months and years developing.

All in all, this is a very fun subject that I admittedly know very little about, and will certainly enjoy reading more of.
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100 Dwarf Paladin
16650
The way I see it:

Fanfiction protagonist: "I" write the story, "I" decide what happens, "I" am in the spotlight, and other players are there to provide the secondary/extras roles.
RP character: Everyone contributes to an evolving story, and sometimes they understand they have to go with someone else's opinion/idea, reach a compromise, or even lose in a situation.
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100 Night Elf Hunter
4370
12/05/2012 02:56 PMPosted by Pylsur
inspired by 19th century British lit


Regency lit, I'm sure.


Oh Pylsur, it's so refreshing to talk to a guy who remembers my favorite books.
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100 Human Warrior
9430
12/05/2012 05:04 PMPosted by Kimchi
It's the big D to the little s.


are u sayin madenylene has big Ds

plural D

as in

DD

double D

hurhhhhhh
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80 Human Warlock
1095
12/05/2012 06:01 PMPosted by Kimchi
DDD, actually. But entirely different story.


So. We finally get the true reason why Lordaeron fell. It was top heavy.
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100 Tauren Warrior
17115
12/05/2012 07:21 PMPosted by Kharnis
DDD, actually. But entirely different story.


So. We finally get the true reason why Lordaeron fell. It was top heavy.


Ugly laughter.

I'm not sure I have much to contribute to the discussion, but I'd be interested in hearing if anyone has any tips or resources on how to make people care about their stories.
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