The Window
how it works
tips and tricks
a walkthrough

Tips and Tricks

The following ideas are offered to help you flesh out your character. Some might speak to your style and others might be useless to you. Scavenge whatever effective bits you can.

Specific and Original

Oftentimes, a few very specific notes about a character can say more than volumes of generalizations. One good metaphor can build a rich character image better than paragraphs of dry description. Don't use stereotypes, and don't just cobble your character together from books you've read or movies you've seen. There is nothing keeping you from creating your own character, one that has truly never existed before. If you achieve this goal, your roleplaying will be more personal and much more memorable.

This tip comes first because it can be applied to all of the others below.

Ten Big Background Questions

Here's ten questions that can give you a good start toward understanding your character's background:

  1. How old is he?
  2. Where was he born?
  3. What did his parents do for a living?
  4. What religion did his parents practice?
  5. What was his relationship with his parents like?
  6. Where did he live as a child?
  7. Was anything happening historically during his childhood?
  8. How did he spend his time as a child?
  9. Was he happy as a child?
  10. How did he decide what to be as an adult?

Ten Big Personality Questions

Here's ten questions that can help you define your character's personality:

  1. Are there any adjectives which embody his personality?
  2. Does his personality remind you of an animal or object?
  3. What are his goals and motivations?
  4. How far will he go to achieve his goals?
  5. What does he fear most?
  6. What does he love most?
  7. How competitive is your character in various aspects of his life?
  8. What are his best and worst qualities?
  9. How does he act when he first meets men? Women?
  10. How do they react to him?

Mental Picture Painting

Oftentimes, the visual image of a character can go a long way toward visualizing the whole character. If there's an artist in the troupe, convince them to make sketches of all the characters. (However, they must do this before the story begins... if you roleplay a character for a session or two then everyone will get a different mental picture in their head and the artist will never be able to satisfy them all.) If there isn't an artist in the troupe, then paint a picture in your head. Consider the following aspects of your character's appearance: height, build, eyes, hair, skin tone, and notable facial features.

How your character dresses can also reveal a great deal about them. We all wear uniforms, whether we admit it or not. The style, color, age, and associated stereotypes of a character's wardrobe can show allegiances, points of view, and personal self confidence.

Personal Connections

For each stage in your character's background (childhood, teen years, college, young adulthood, etc.), think about the people who affected her. These could be friends, relatives, teachers, enemies, lovers, or whoever. Build an image of these people, and record some details about them. Imagine how they changed your character and where their relationship lies now.

Also, define your character's relationship with the rest of the cast. Who is she close to? Who acts as her foil? Who contrasts with her? Who is similar? This is also a good opportunity to consider what is going to make the other actors like your character. What qualities make him a character they will be as interested in as you are? What qualities may make them dislike him? The answers to these questions can be pivotal in deciding how much fun you will have playing this character.

Pivotal Events

This is a game which can be played both by the actors and the Storyteller. Essentially, the idea is to build up an understanding of the pivotal events in your character's past. What was his first real encounter with death? With love? With betrayal? When and where did they happen? What people were involved? How did these events change his point of vierw? These events can also be roleplayed if the Storyteller would like. The supporting cast for each event can be played by the Storyteller or by the other members of the troupe... this helps everyone obtain an understanding for each character and gives the other actors a stake in the larger story.

The Voice

One of the most important steps in getting into character is mastering your role's particular voice. Does your character talk fast or slow? Does he talk a lot or hardly at all? Deep voice? High voice? Does he speak with any sort of accent? What phrases or figures of speech is he partial to? Does he view talking as a tool or as social interaction? Is his voice soft? Abrasive? Enthusiastic?

If every character on the troupe has a distinct and believeable voice, it makes complex dialogue scenes clear, especially if the actors are roleplaying more than one character. It also makes slipping into your role very easy once you've grown comfortable with it.

Posture and Expression

Step back and take a look at your character. How does he stand? How does he sit? How does he walk? Relaxed? Slouched? Straight? Is there a particular stance which he often falls into? If so, take a moment to assume that stance yourself and think about it. Oftentimes, putting yourself into a single pose which you associate with your character can instantly snap you into the role.

Just as a character's bodily stance can reveal truths about them, so can their facial expressions. I once saw a character played whose entire personality centered around the way the actor clenched his teeth. That one simple gesture communicated anger, impatience, and even the character's personal philosophy. It also helped the actor stay in character.

Action and Reaction Game

This game needs another person to play, preferably the Storyteller or a fellow actor. Have this other person present you with a situation and describe how your character would react to it. These situations could be actual events from your character's past or they could be purely theoretical. They should be situations which challenge the character's views of the world and their own moral code. This is also a good exercise to help you get used to playing your character.