As SOTF picks up the pace and kicks the intensity up a notch, we quickly find ourselves with new writers, new talent, and new characters. Today, I'm going to talk about new characters, or, more specifically, what you should and should not do when filling in the biography (read: past) section for your characters. SOTF's been around for a long time, and we've been subjected to all sorts of characters, ranging from the compelling and realistic to the completely outrageous. My job, in this guide, is to explain to you the properties and attributes that can make or break your character... and that starts with their biography.
So, you've gotten an idea for your character, filled in his or her appearance, and suddenly, you find yourself staring at that pesky little "Biography:" section that you're supposed to turn into a giant wall of text. It's a little daunting, ain't it? Well, fear not, because that's where I come in! Now obviously, I'm not gonna fill in the blanks for you. What I AM going to do is give you the knowledge, tools, and suggestions necessary to write a good (and realistic!) character biography. Below, I'll cover the do's and don'ts of writing a biography.
What to Do Edit
DO tell us about some important events in your character's life. STOP! Read the following sentence. Tell us about important events in your character's life, do NOT make up ridiculous, overdramatized events to make your character more interesting! What would I consider important events? Obviously, something like a parent/sibling passing away would be an important event, but don't spam your profiles with dead relatives, it's stupid. An "important event" in a character bio is something that makes your character who they are. For example, when they got the puppy they grew up with, or when that special someone bought them a present they've treasured ever since. They could've also broken a bone or taken an interest in athletics. An "important event" isn't always classified as something completely over-the-top, so don't make it into that.
DO write about your character's family. Unless your character is an orphan, which we don't see too often, they have at least one parent. Are their parents still together? Do they live with their mom and step-dad? Dad and step-mom? Do they have any siblings? How does your character get along with his or her parents? Where do their parents work? Naturally, if they're doctors or lawyers, it's going to make a lot more sense for your character to be upper middle-class or higher than if their mom worked at a grocery store and their dad was a dishwasher. Even a short paragraph telling about your character's relationship to their family can set the stage for how they interact in a social setting. If they're completely unsociable with their family, for example, they might find solace in the group of delinquents who continually disobey their parents too.
DO give your character relationships. Most of The other handlers on the forum don't bite. If you PM them and go "I need my new character Marten to have friends. Think you can help me out?" They're probably going to go read the biography and get back to you with "He sounds like he'd be a good match for my Phillip." We even have a board in which you can post topics like that, and people are good about responding to you. Most high school students have friends, maybe a few enemies or people that they dislike, most of them (especially at the grade we're roleplaying in) have a crush, a significant other, something to that effect. I don't know too many high schoolers who are totally asexual, myself. That's something to keep in mind as you're writing out your character bio.
DO give your character a passion. Josh loves football. Kyla desperately wants a boyfriend. Tony wants to be a firefighter. Vandy loves animals. It's part of what makes your character... your character. Everyone has aspirations, motivations, things that drive them and things that they enjoy. Your character should too. It can be anything from a desire to make good grades in school to the want to get married to the want to go to college. Some people have passions and goals that might be hard to obtain, like being an aerospace engineer, while others might be content with just finding a girlfriend. Either way, giving your character something to desire makes them all the more human, and that's the goal.
DO write about your character's strengths and weaknesses. Johnny's an A+ student in school. Unfortunately, he completely lacks a life outside of his bedroom and is all but socially-inept. Nicole's a beautiful girl. Unfortunately, she's as dumb as a post. We as humans have good and bad traits. Your character should have the same. After all, nobody's perfect in every way. And you don't have to use stereotypical combinations like the ones I listed above, either. Loni's a strong-willed and very independent girl. However, she's very indecisive. That's an example of something rather unconventional. You can some up with your own set of strengths and weaknesses for your character. Just make sure that they have some of each.
What Not to Do Edit
DON'T write an overdramatic character biography. The fact is, everyone wants their character to be an interesting, compelling, and attention-grabbing individual. To be honest, you probably aren't going to get that by having the most overdramatic, unrealistic backstory out there. Remember that SOTF is about a bunch of high school kids kidnapped and forced to fight to the death. Let the drama happen in the game, and keep it out of your character biographies. That doesn't mean you have to make your bio bland. The point of writing a biography is to convey information about the character and allow the readers to draw their conclusions about the character based on that. Overdramatic, exaggerated pasts lead to overdramatic, unfeasible characters.
DON'T use clichéd pasts. This ties in very heavily with what I said above. There are a few very common clichéd pasts that come up in every single version of SOTF. One is the atypical "Daddy beats me so I'm a delinquent" cliché. Other things that I personally don't like to see are "I've killed in the past, I can do it again!" and "I have no empathy or feeling toward other people". When you're writing a character out and coming up with these ideas, ask yourself this. Do you know anybody like that character? Anybody at all? You probably don't, and that's why I tell you to avoid these clichés. Personally? I don't know anybody that's killed anyone, and I'm willing to bet you don't either. Plus, you can be assured that somebody has already used that cliché anyway, and how many schools have you ever heard of that had a bunch of murderers in class? Exactly.
DON'T create pre-made crazies. While this is okay every once in a while (mostly depending on the skill of the writer), I don't like to see this too often. The fact is, if your character was completely out-of-control and psychotic prior to the game, they would most definitely NOT be attending a public high school, they'd be locked away and considered a hazard to society. What CAN you get away with? Once again, this really depends on your ability as a writer. There are all sorts of personality disorders out there that you can play with, and there are all sorts of them that can be curbed by the use of medication. The people that have them usually lead normal lives. But, if you're really intent on creating someone who's a total loony-toon, they can always lose that medication when they get on the island, right?
DON'T give your character traits or abilities that any normal teenage student wouldn't have. Kate isn't allowed to fly. Jacen isn't going to be a kung-fu master. Shane isn't the world's greatest guitar player. Harley can't be a swordmaster with ninja-like reflexes. Know why? Because SOTF is based on reality, and I don't know anyone who can do any of that at seventeen. Luke can't have killed twenty-three people in five minutes. Shellie isn't really a princess from Ajerbajakuristan. Rocky isn't a clone of the pope. Use common sense in your biography and don't try to put something outrageous and completely implausible in there, the staff will just call you on it and make you change it anyway.
DON'T write one thing about your character and then have them do another in-game. If Joy is quiet and shy in her biography, then she shouldn't be the biggest slut in school in-game. If Colin's bio says he's gay, he shouldn't be hitting on every woman he comes across in-game (you know, unless he's trying to cover up the fact that he's gay). These are things that should be common sense, but we see things like this happening a lot in-game. It's good to leave your character room to grow and develop, and lots of people have transitioned their character from optimistic and hopeful to broken and pessimistic by the end of the game. That's easy to do. But don't create a character who is described as being hateful and mean in her biography and make her sweet and kind in-game. Keep your character in character.