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Monday, May 09, 2011

Character Diamonds

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I've started to think about my character backgrounds for Star Wars: The Old Republic. I know most people don't bother, but I always like to draw up a background for my character and indulge in some roleplaying when the opportunity arises, even when not playing on a dedicated RP server. I guess it's a legacy of my old pen-n-paper roleplaying days.

Anyway, one of the things I always try to do with my characters is to create a character diamond.

A character diamond is a tool that allows you to easily develop deep and engaging characters, either for roleplaying or for use in fiction. I tend to use them for my RP characters and also for the main characters in my roleplay stories. They are quick and simple to draw up and very effective, so I thought I'd share my method in case anyone else out there may find it useful.

I should first say that I cannot claim to have come up with the idea of character diamonds myself. I'm not sure where the idea originated, but I first came across them on the Dramatis Personae website. Some of the following is lifted from there, and you can also find lots of great examples in this thread on their forums.

Character diamonds are a quick way of illustrating the main characteristics of a character so that you can easily figure out how they might react in any given situation. They were actually developed as an aid for novelists and scriptwriters.

They are called diamonds as they are based on four character traits, like the points of a diamond.

The technique used is only one of several that can be used to create a good, rounded character diamond. You can probably find other methods via Google.

So, here's a simple set of instructions to get you started.
  1. Write down a description of your character's personality using as many adjectives as you possibly can. Write down at least twenty words, and make sure you have a decent balance of unflattering and complimentary words.
  2. Cross out any words that describe only temporary states, or traits you plan to eliminate in your character over time. Keep only those that describe your character's permanent, unchanging temperament from birth until death.
  3. Look at the words you have left and try to "sweep" them into four different "corners". Words that seem to go together, like "impulsive" and "passionate" might go in the same corner together. Words that don't have anything to do with one another, like "sociable" and "spiritual" or even seem to contradict, like "practical" and "superstitious" should go into different corners.
  4. Now look at each "corner" and try to find one word that encompasses every word in that corner. "Impulsive", "passionate" and "quick-tempered" might go under "impetuous" for example. "Spiritual" and "obedient" and "lawful" might go under "religious."
  5. Test your four final adjectives, your traits, against one another. Can a character have one trait without necessarily having the other? If so, both words belong in the diamond. If not, choose the more accurate word, eliminate the other, and come up with a fourth trait.
  6. Make sure at least one trait is negative, and at least one is positive.
  7. It's often a good idea to pick one trait that is typical of your race, one that is typical of your class and one that is unusual for your race/class.
Below are some example words to give you some ideas:
AMIABLE ARROGANT ARTISTIC BITTER BOLD BRUTAL CALLOUS CAREFREE CHATTY CHEERFUL CIVIL CLEVER CONFIDENT COUNTERPOISED DARK DECEPTIVE DELICATE DETACHED EARTHY ECCENTRIC ECOLOGICAL ELEGANT EMOTIONAL EMPATHETIC FEARLESS FIERY FRAIL FUN-LOVING GIRLY GREGARIOUS GUILEFUL HARMONIOUS HAUGHTY HONORABLE HUMOROUS IMPATIENT IMPETUOUS IMPRESSIONABLE IMPUDENT INQUISITIVE INSATIABLE INTELLIGENT INTROVERTED JADED JOCULAR JUBILANT LAWFUL LOVING MALICIOUS MANIPULATIVE MATERNAL METHODICAL MISCHIEVOUS NATURE-LOVING NOSY OBEDIENT OBSTINATE OPEN OPPORTUNISTIC OTHERWORLDLY PASTORAL PATIENT PENITENT PERCEPTIVE PHLEGMATIC POWER-HUNGRY PRAGMATIC PROPER QUIET RACIST RAGEFUL REFINED RESOURCEFUL RESPONSIBLE REVERENT RIGHTEOUS ROMANTIC SADISTIC SAVAGE SCHEMING SELF-ASSURED SELFISH SENSITIVE SENSUAL SIMPLE SOCIABLE SPIRITUAL STALWART STUBBORN SUAVE SUBTLE SURVIVALIST TACITURN TACTILE TACTLESS TENACIOUS TOUGH WARY WILD WISE WRY

Here is an example of a character diamond I created for the Merecraft I roleplayed in Lord of the Rings Online.
Merecraft - Human Minstrel of Combe

Sociable - Merecraft is happiest when amongst friends. He is keen to talk to anyone, both from a desire to find out more and to be the centre of attention. His easy-going nature and wry manner means that he makes friends easily.

Dramatic - A useful trait for a minstrel who likes to entertain to be sure, but Merecraft's tendency for the dramatic means that his reports and tales are often coloured with a little more fantasy than hard fact would allow. He enjoys surprising people by unveiling new information with a flourish that serves him well on stage, but can get him into trouble elsewhere.

Reckless - Partly the unflinching confidence of youth, partly the result of his flighty nature, Merecraft has a tendency to act before thinking things through. He acts on his heart more often than his head, and dreams of glory may drive him to unwise action before he thinks about consequences.

Inquisitive - Never knowing who his mother of father were has given Merecraft an inquisitive nature. He hates not knowing why, or how things happen. If he is set a puzzle he will drive himself to distraction trying to solve it.
There is an online character diamond generator available here, but it is a little flaky and can give odd results. Besides, it's more fun to create one yourself from scratch.

Anyway, next time you want to create a character for roleplay or some fiction writing give it a go. It's quite a fun exercise and doesn't take long to do!

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