1. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Character Development Clinic

    Discussion in 'Writing Prompts' started by Mallory, Feb 16, 2011.

    The forum member Yandos, and his thread here, http://www.writingforums.org/showthread.php?t=38458, inspired this thread.

    Basically, a Character Clinic is to help people flesh out their characters. You post a brief summary of what you have of your character -- name, occupation, age, what is their primary goal and motivation in the story, and what are their fears/threats/setbacks -- and say what you'd like help fleshing out. Then, other members can use the Socratic Method to ask your character lots of questions that you answer in their voice - basically to help you develop your character further.

    This holds similarities with the "What would your MC do?" game, but that thread is often filled with vague questions and one-word answers that don't do much good. I mean, that thread is a fun game and a great idea, but can't be relied on to deeply flesh out a character because the undeveloped nature of most of the questions/answers there. Besides, on there -- while it's a fun thread -- you're limited to one question to answer, and sometimes that question doesn't apply to your character at all. Here, you get several questions designed with your MC in mind that will specifically help you expand on him/her where you want expansion.

    Enjoy!

    Oh, and please keep questions specific and tailored, and answers open-ended and substantial. This will keep it moving along.

    It's easiest to give relevant and helpful questions custom-suited to your character if you give some specific info about what you're stuck on and what in the story you need help with - otherwise it's just "getting to know you" type interviews and that's not really the purpose of a clinic. :)

    You're not limited to only the person posting right before you. Anyone can "doctor" anyone's character. :)
     
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  2. Holden
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    Holden Senior Member

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    I'll begin by posting one of my characters.

    Name: Charles Hartford
    Age: 62
    Occupation: Retired, previously employed in Pharmaceuticals.

    Relation to story: Charles is the patriarch of my main family in the story. He has several childrens and is a bit power-hungry. He has strong political motives (he campaigns vigorously for Republican candidates) and influences his children, although they are adults, to think the same.

    His fear is losing control over his family. He isn't a typical power-hungry father. Rather, he uses methods to influence subtle power of his children. Of course, he rationalizes by telling himself it is the father's job to provide guidance to his family.

    He is increasinly challenged by his renegage son, Thomas (Age 32). They disagree over almost anything, and their conflicts polarize every member of the family.
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I'd love some questions for my character.
     
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  3. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    1. What would Charles do if his wife had a differing opinion than him on a hot political topic (i.e. a new tax cut/hike, a controversial bill in the Senate) and all of his children openly agreed with his wife about it?

    2. The Democrat candidate wins. How does Charles react? How do his interactions with his family differ - does he rant about it a lot? Does he let it slide? Does he take further political advocacy action?

    3. Similar to question 2, but Charles' candidate gets beaten by another Repub in the primaries. How does he react here?

    4. How will Charles deal with his oldest child moving out and going into the world on his/her own?

    5. Thomas comes out of the closet (if that were the case; this is hypothetical) - how does Charles react?


    ------------------

    I hope these helped at all.

    Remember, the more specifically you say what you need, the more tailored the help will be.

    If you're at a writer's block moment not knowing what should happen next, that type of dilemma is excellent for this.
     
  4. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    1) How would he react if Thomas has a fiance who is a die-hard Democrat, and he slowly realizes Thomas is turning into a Democrat supporter? Or in other words, how would he react finding out that she has the influence he never had over his son?

    2) How would Charles react if another son who has always followed his advice blames him for his(son's) failed career/marriage/life....?

    3) To what extant does he go to defend Republican's policies? Is there anything he secretly doesn't like about the Republicans?

    4) what are the things he liked about Thomas but never expressed?

    P.S. Please remove the line of dashes after your post or make it shorter. It's messing with the display of posts
     
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  5. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Questions for Charles:

    1. What is Charles relationship like with his own father?
    2. Was he good at school ?
    3. How does he get along with his wife?
    4. Has he ever had an affair with another man or woman ?
    *********

    Mine is a character I am hoping to use as my narrator and MC more often: Nathaniel Smith - I don't have a specific problem with him but with him being a spy he can be hard to nail down. Just want to understand him better.

    He is part sparrow, part pre-mortal man. Which makes him pre-mortal himself so he will only begin to die when he has a child. His mother was Maggie May sort of prostitute sparrow and hi father one of the Lord's of Evil. His mother decided to kick him out of the nest when he was a few months old and he was brought up in foster care by Damocles and Lilac Sorenson (pre-mortal earth elementals sort of my version of ogres they are large and colourful). His foster brother is Mark - they don't get on Nate calls him 'self-righteous prick'

    At seven he met his best friend Crown Prince Socrates. They sat next to each other at school. At fifteen he was beaten up and temporarily lost sight in one of his eyes. Socrates rescued him. At seventeen he and Socrates became lovers. Until an event in my first book he thought he and Socrates would have to split up when Socrates got married. However life goes in a different direction and at twenty-eight they get to move in together.

    He is brilliant mentally and excitable. In some situations loving and kind. Other times he will slit a man's throat without thinking twice- he became head of the Secret Service at twenty-five. He has an ability to project and image and his birdform is the White Peacock Tarquil - however unlike most people who only have one bird form he can change into any bird he likes.

    Physically he is tall, dark, has intense eyes birdlike features, and wears glasses in private, he usually chooses comfort over style with his clothes. He loves to dance and sing - his voice is good however when he wakes to do his 'dawn chorus' at 4.45am every morning he sings loudly out of tune and turns cartwheels round the bed.
     
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  6. Terri
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    Terri Senior Member

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    Question for Charles since he seems like such a strong, confident man:

    What is his greatest shame? Is there something in his past that he wouldn't like to become public knowledge? What's that downfall he doesn't like about himself?
     
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  7. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    Questions for Nathaniel Smith:

    1) How does he feel about his biological parents?

    2) Does he ever feel that he doesn't belong in the world he was in and wonder what could have been if his mother never kicked him out of the nest?

    3) Is there selfish motives (he doesn't want to have a child and he doesn't want to end up alone) behind his moving in with Socrates? Is he really gay?

    4) Why White Peacock Tarquil when he can change into any bird?

    5) Will he still slit a man's throat if he had a choice in a given situation?

    6) Will he kill Mark if Mark joins hands with his enemy?

    7) What will he do if his foster parents doesn't like the idea of him moving in with Socrates?
     
  8. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Questions for Nathanial Smith:

    1. Nate is sent on a spy mission that makes him feel ethically uncomfortable. He really, really wishes he didn't have to do the mission, to the point where he considers getting out of it. The case gives him conflict-of-interest issues because he can relate more to the group/person he's sent to spy on than to the boss who sent him to spy. What type of mission assignment might this be?

    2. Nate is missing for a year. When he finally returns, he's obviously traumatized -- thin, dark circles under his eyes, skittish, etc. What might have happened to him?

    3. Something happens that makes Nate feel angry at and betrayed by Soc - what caused the conflict?

    4. Vice versa - what type of actions taken by a lover would make Nate feel hurt/angry/betrayed?

    Hope these help.
     
  9. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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  10. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    1. Nate is sent on a spy mission that makes him feel ethically uncomfortable. He really, really wishes he didn't have to do the mission, to the point where he considers getting out of it. The case gives him conflict-of-interest issues because he can relate more to the group/person he's sent to spy on than to the boss who sent him to spy. What type of mission assignment might this be?

    Scotia - before my first book the fire elementals of Scotia overthrew and exiled their king. They installed a democracy that was working well - the only one on the planet. The people were happy and secure. However his sister is engaged to the Crown Prince, and the Fire King and Fire Abbot need to be back in place. He is sent to corrupt the youth of the country to the point the people ask the King and Abbot back. He has to use Angus's teenage son Lorenzo (Oren).

    2. Nate is missing for a year. When he finally returns, he's obviously traumatized -- thin, dark circles under his eyes, skittish, etc. What might have happened to him?

    The combination (evil society) kidnap and set me to work in the dai-ore mines. My birth father kept my mind under tight control without Soc's help I couldn't fight him off, I was left vulnerable to him. Only the actions of the RAT (Resistence Against Tyranny) Fighters saved me they searched every mine with the help of Blayze Sawyl of the fire people. He used his powers and burned out my mind to get rid of my father.

    3. Something happens that makes Nate feel angry at and betrayed by Soc - what caused the conflict?

    The only things I can't take is the idea of Socrates betraying me with another man. I can take him going mad, getting violent with me etc It was so hard when I came out of stasis to discover not only had he got together with a handsome man called Fyren he cheated on Fyren with Charles.

    4. Vice versa - what type of actions taken by a lover would make Nate feel hurt/angry/betrayed?

    Soc takes most things, but he can't stand me leaving him - as we are pre-mortal and never had children we don't plan to be alone.
     
  11. Honorius
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    Honorius Active Member

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    This sounds awesome! I want to try. And I love the idea of answering from the character's prospective.

    So I've got Jonathan Card (its a name in progress), he's a modern day wizard who is an Enforcer. Enforcers are sorta like detectives with a license to kill. They go out and find those who have misused their magic and punish them. There's only one sentence for misuse of magic; death, and there are no second chances. So he regularly goes out to kill people who beg that they want just one more chance, that it was just one lapse of judgment.

    John goes by the title Thresholder, due to his magic specialty. He specializes in transportation; walking through one door and coming out another somewhere else (due to my magic system, just teleporting would take a ton of magic and concentration, too much for battle situations). He generally fights as an ambusher. Show up in the targets home with a shotgun or show up on a nearby rooftop with a sniper rifle. He doesn't use any other magics except the most basic utility spells (like lighting a small fire or cooling down a beer).

    John has a fairly average build, and wears a leather coat and jeans. Carries a pistol along with a suitcase (or other bag carrying type thing) which holds a rifle or shotgun.

    John doesn't have any family anymore, single child, parents died of natural causes. No drama there. But he does have a student (all wizards are required to have at least one apprentice, cannot be a relative). His student is a pain in the rear, but he learns quickly and is a good student, despite listening problems and an attitude. Of course, John isn't a great teacher.


    So, I've got lots of background, but I'm having a bit of trouble making John come to life; giving him personality. So what I'd love are some thought provoking questions on what he would do in situations, how he would react, how would he go about doing certain things. You guys are great at thinking up these kinds of things and I'd love the help.
     
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  12. Holden
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    Holden Senior Member

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    He'd act as if he were fine with it, but slowly try and erode their support for their mother. Charles cannot let differences go unattended. But he does not stop at "converting" those around him; he must gain power from someone else. He'd find a completely unrelated event to take his children's admiration and respect away from his mother to "add" it to his own.

    On the outside, he'd act as if it is neccessary for all sides to work together. But using his considerable resources, he would do everything in his power to smear the Democratic candidate and stop any laws they try to pass.

    Charles wouldn't be too upset. He uses political candidates to achieve his own goals, and would just as easily dump one Republican for another.

    Complete shunning. His oldest, Thomas, is the complete opposite. So Charles cuts him out of his life, but acts as if he, Charles, is the victim.

    As if Thomas could be shunned anymore, Charles would completely cut him off. While Charles has some skeletons is his own closet relating to that subject, he refuses to allow anyone else to behave that way.

    They were great questions and I really appreciate it.

    Well, Thomas is the political opposite of Charles, so he already knows this. But before he was aware, and when be became aware, he pretended like it wasn't happening. He still told others that Thomas and his partner were politically active for Republicans. He can't accept something different than his own viewpoint.

    He'd throw his son under the bus and reject him, regardless of how much he loved him. To question Charles is to become an outcast in his eyes. But Charles doesn't see it that way. He sees that as blaming someone else, as throwing your problems on another person, which goes against his personal philosophy.

    He is only a Republican to protect his own power and his own lifestyle. He doesn't care much for any of their policies, nor does he care to oppose any of them. As long as his taxes are low and the "right" type of people are in power and prospering, he is fine.

    Thomas was the type of free-thinking child/adult that none of his other sons are. In his household, it can become like an echo chamber with regard to personal opinions. Thomas never fit the mold, and because Charles can see Thomas as himself (Charles) when he was young, he admires that quality.
     
  13. Holden
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    Holden Senior Member

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    Why does he do what he does? Does he believe in the system or only enforces the laws because of a misplaced sense of justice?

    Has he ever secretely misused magic? Does he hold himself to the same standards as others or does he see himself as part of an elite upper-class, free from most rules? (If not, how does he self-rationalize a misuse of magic?)
     
  14. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Holden, if Charles doesn't care much about the Republican policies, why is it that he cares so much about them getting elected? If he doesn't care about politics in the same sense others do, then how does the issue of whether a Dem or Repub is in office affect Charles' sense of personal power?

    What type of issue or incident in Charles' own life would completely shatter his power (or sense of it) outside of the political/policies/elections world?
     
  15. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    These questions are for Jonathan Card:

    1. If there was one and only one incident that would cause Jonathan to break the rules and use magic illegally himself, what would it be? And don't say something generic like "to save a loved one;" it's specificity that makes threads like this go round. ;)

    2. Is there any type of situation in which Jonathan would lie for someone or cover for them to give them the second chance they beg for?

    3. Does Jonathan ever have a twisted sense of power from his job? Like a sense of power-lording that he basks in, perhaps in a sadistic way?

    4. Has Jonathan ever acted abusively as a result of #3 (if it applies), or would he do so in the future?

    5. Jonathan is on an ambush raid when someone has used magic to get rid of all his ammo, so he's strung out to dry. How does he handle the situation from there?

    6. How would John handle his own student committing a magic misuse crime punishable by death?

    7. What makes John feel the most riled up, angry, shaken and indignant?

    8. What type of incident would shatter John; what would give him PTSD as a result?

    9. What does John get the most pumped up and excited about?


    -------------------------------------------------------

    I hope these helped. Let me know if you need more help. Thanks for stopping by the Character Clinic. ;)
     
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  16. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    I think you are kind of missing the point of this exercise. Don't tell me what you have already done in your story. Think "what if" and try to come up with an answer, which hopefully will help you understand Nate more deeply. Look at Nate and the plot, if necessary, from a different angle.
     
  17. Terri
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    Terri Senior Member

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    For Jon Card:

    1. A wizard must have confidence galore. So, what is your one vulnerability?
    2. What is your greatest fear?
    3. Are you a rule follower or free spirit?
    4. Do you trust reason or feeling?

    Sounds like a great idea you have going. I hope you get to post something soon... I'll be watching.
     
  18. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Yes, Manav is right. This shouldn't feel like you're answering a bunch of questions about yourself (or your character) for, say, the press, or a friend who's never read your book and needs explaining. If you're just giving us info that you know that we don't, that doesn't help your MC development much, so the whole purpose of this thread is to give the MCs interesting situations and stretch things a bit - look at things from different angles, perhaps figure out what they'd do if you're at a stuck moment where you're not sure of the MC's next course of action.
     
  19. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Actually that wasn't what I did - I thought I was supposed to answer it as if I was telling the story. I deliberatly with all of the questions didn't include much of the stories as they currently are (except for the odd one like about the Peacock which only had a standard answer really), I added to them and looked at questions I have with them. If I look at Nate and look at the plot including his foster parents that is what they are likely to have done. I don't see as they are pre-mortal (start to die when they have a child) they would have an issue with a same sex relationship as they probably had a few of their own.. What I have now included in my story is a scene where Damocles is annoyed with Socrates and Nate for wandering round wearing just their underwear he finds it inappropriate with his younger foster children. His foster father is getting a bit rattled with them being around as much as he loves them he wants rid of them. What I did know from my stories and the only information I had on this was that Damocles had fitted their kitchen.
     
  20. Holden
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    Holden Senior Member

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    It is a two-fold issue. He began in Republican politics, and his horror at ever losing face over a change makes it impossible for him to consider changing his public allegiance. But also, the Republican policies allow him to maintain his power and status, as their lax policies regarding his businesses were the keys to his wealth.

    If his whole family turned on him. They are symbols of his power; a whole group of people who, for the most part, would never think of truly disagreeing with him. If his wife and children left him, he would be alone and, even with his wealth, powerless.
     
  21. Anonym
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    Anonym Contributing Member

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    A character clinic... great idea. I'll try to contribute once in a while :)


    Charles: Do you covet power for appearances/ego, or as a means to an end? Do you have a goal other than the accumulation of power for its own sake?

    What would you do if the city mayor started an intiative to increase taxes on the top # percent? (The bracket you belong to)

    What would you do if Thomas ran for office as a liberal/democratic candidate?


    Jon: Do you sympathize with your victims at all?

    Do you sincerely believe that a single misuse of magic is invariably worthy of death, regardless of scale or context?

    Would you have any semblence of regret or sympathy nuetralizing a criminal if you knew they violated the laws of magic for a selfless reason, such as saving someone's life?


    Nate:You wake up from stasis to find that Socrates is in love with someone else, & unwilling to get back together with you, despite (presumably) still having feelings for you. How do you deal with that?

    Hypothetically, Soc has a impetuous one-night stand with a woman & gets her pregnant, ending his immortality. You are doomed to watch him grow older & ultimately/eventually, to an eternity without him. (Regardless of whatever rules of the universe or aspects of Soc's personality I may be violating) What would you do?

    For whatever reason, you are assigned to spy on Soc in an unimposing/unthreatening way. How would you feel about that?

    (Elgaisma: You clearly have a pretty contextually developed/specific story/character dynamic, so I can only hope these are vaguely applicable/thought provoking.)
     
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  22. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    That one question about Thomas running as a Dem is awesome. I love it. Rep for you.

    These are the best kinds of questions, guys, the ones that give hypotheticals and introduce ideas for potential plot conflicts.

    Anonym, would you like any character help of your own? Thank you for posting. :)
     
  23. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    (Elgaisma: You clearly have a pretty contextually developed/specific story/character dynamic, so I can only hope these are vaguely applicable/thought provoking.)

    - Yes this is more about me moving a secondary character to very much main character - Socrates was so destroyed in my latest work that Nate really is better choice for MC of the next story.

    Nate:

    You wake up from stasis to find that Socrates is in love with someone else, & unwilling to get back together with you, despite (presumably) still having feelings for you. How do you deal with that?

    I could never be the other 'woman' Soc would either have to get back with me. I'd accept a straight threesome which was open and honest but could never be the bit on the side it is unfair to everyone involved.

    My only alternative would be to go away, may even consider doing something to return me back to stasis.

    Hypothetically, Soc has a impetuous one-night stand with a woman & gets her pregnant, ending his immortality. You are doomed to watch him grow older & ultimately/eventually, to an eternity without him. (Regardless of whatever rules of the universe or aspects of Soc's personality I may be violating) What would you do?

    Socrates and I were designed to be forever, its not something I like to contemplate. I'd start by kicking the git round the place - at very least he deserves to hurt. I'd probably then get drunk and fly off for a time maybe get someone else pregnant.

    Our children would be welcome in our home anytime and we would get past it and age together I guess.

    For whatever reason, you are assigned to spy on Soc in an unimposing/unthreatening way. How would you feel about that?

    No - my first loyalty is to Soc, I would accept the assignment, then sit down with Soc and discuss how to proceed. Because we have a mind connection spying on him is easy but we have ground rules - he would also know I was spying on him.

    Unless it was Angus (Soc's brother) and it was about what to get Soc for his birthday. In which case would just do it.
     
  24. Anonym
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    Anonym Contributing Member

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    Why, thank you Mal. I thought I'd give it a try, I'm glad it seems germane. You're quite welcome.

    The zeitgeist of my WIP is so specific that I imagine I'd have to do an inordinate amount of elaboration for anyone to understand the context of my characters' personalities, conflicts, ect. Not something I'd particularly want to do in public. But if I can think of anything worth trying out, I'll come straight here. Thanks :)
     
  25. demented-tiger
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    I already have 3 main characters for my story whom I have sort of fleshed out through various role plays, but I would like to work on them more, as thier incarnations in my story have evolved since I last played them as RP characters. For this post, I would like to start with a new character I'm introducing. I hope to narrow my focus down as I get to know her better.

    Her name is Esmeralda Stellina. She is a very beautiful girl with a shapely, toned body; a large bust; long brownish-black hair; very light brown skin; and soft brown eyes. In brief, she looks the way a real-world Arab or Persian woman might look in the real world. Esmeralda was a princess of the kingdom of Marinia, a fertile land stretching between the mountains and the ocean. She is only 17, but has been frozen in crystal for a thousand years, sleeping under the spell of an evil sorceress. Esmeralda is a very strong girl in both mind and body. Along with being a very talented swordswoman and martial artist, she has the magical ability to manipulate fire, increase her size and strength, and transmute matter. She has some more exotic powers which she is not able to fully control yet, all of which have something to do with emitting beams of brilliant white light as bright or brighter than the sun. Before she became encased in crystal, Esmeralda played a pivotal - if not central - role in a quest to free the world from evil, but was imprisoned before she could complete it. Though her companions succeeded without her, thier victory was only temporary, as Esmeralda was unable to play her part to make it final. Unfortunately, much has changed since Esmeralda slept, and all her current knowlege of the world is outdated, inaccurate, or just plain wrong.

    Now I have a personality in mind for Esmeralda, which you'll see when she answers questions. I really need help exploring and testing her reactions to various situations, as well as finding and filling holes with her profile. Thank you.
     

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