How to (and how NOT to) create a BRILLIANT persona
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KEY ONE: Naming your characters
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You know the general rules: dragon names end with TH, male riders take honorifics, etc. But some names are better than others. How is this? Consider the following list:

  • Bladeworthy - we are not a game of D&D and you are not a daring barbarian
  • Isuldur - stealing names from other authors is even tackier than stealing them from Anne.
  • Jinnifer - warping earth names to make them look Perny is okay to a certain extent, but don't get carried away
  • Saraminalinessa - too long and no, planning to have a nickname won't help. Just use the nick name.
  • Djlorphyth - how do you pronounce this, exactly?
  • Leaf - it's possible Pernese parents would do this to a child, but it isn't tradition, and it would probably be a source of adolescent anxiety.
  • Cerap- be kind to your characters and consider what their honorific might some day be...
  • Ch'rl - you may be able to grunt that, but you can't say it.Give the poor guy some vowels!
  • Topazth - dragon names are dangerously easy to get carried away with. Will you still like this name in twenty years?

The point is: make names easy to pronounce, original, and kind to your characters and those who play with them.

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KEY TWO: Originality!
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You simply can't do without it. Let's discuss some characteristics that are NOT original:

  1. Exceptional physical characteristics
    "What do you mean you can't hear me because a wher bit off your ear when you were six? That green stripe in your hair MUST mean you can compensate some other way??"

    Sparkling emerald eyes, a white streak in the hair, an ear missing from a childhood injury, being seven and a half feet tall (or four feet): these things have been used too often to be considered unique qualities any more. And making your personas characteristics MORE bizarre (purple eyes, blue hair, missing nose) will only make it worse. If we didn't put a rein on this, we'd soon have a Weyr full of circus freaks. A few people have to be "normal" looking, but that doesn't mean we're all cut from the same mold. Putting that streak in her hair won't make a good conversation topic - chances are no one else knows/remembers it's there, so unless your character makes a point of talking about it all the time (which is bad manners) it's just a useless frill. If you want a physical pecularity, think about how you plan to use it to enhance your character and his or her story.

  2. Exceptional Social Circumstances
    "So, you're also the son of a Lord Holder and a Master Harper?Whaddyaknow!"

    Believe it or not, most people come from normal, working families. Ranking characters do reproduce, but their progeny really aren't all that likely to end up at the Weyr. If you want to do this, you should probably ask about who controls those ranking characters, since there's a good chance someone does.

    "No, no! Don't cry for me. Being raised by wild boars after my parents both tragically died in a cave colapse when I was three wasn't really so bad..."

    Childhood trauma is especially unattractive in potential candidates. Do you remember being 13? It stunk, didn't it? It was hard enough to cope with without having massive trauma on the plate as well. At 13 (on up through the rest of the teens), you're still coming to grips with a normal past, so if you think you can handle all that and still be strong enough emotionally to impress a dragon, I say you're nuts. And don't think that being strong enough to handle it is a sign that you'll be a great rider - if you really want to write trauma into your past, we will logically assume it is affecting your present (even if you're keeping it well hidden) and you will not impress a dragon. Everyone's childhood has *some* trauma, be it losing that really important dodgeball game, not getting a cookie when you really wanted one, or having a parent die tragically at a young age. But if you write it in, make it logical, and make it count for something!

    "You impressed from the stands at the age of 11? That's nothing! I gained my master status at 19 because I can hear all dragons!"

    Super-achievers one and all! The way the IQ at this Weyr looks, we should have reconstructed our own space program and found a cure for cancer by now! Exceptions may be made, but by and large, characters get to their current ranks through conventional channels. Too many super-achievers makes everyone look the same. The movie "The Incredibles" probably said it best: "saying everyone is special is just another way of saying no one is." If you can justify your character's "special" status, we'll talk. Otherwise, there are easier ways to make them "special." ;)

  3. Personality Quirks
    "Yes, they put me on latrine duty again because they don't understand that I was only trying to help..."

    Characters written as "misunderstood" usually end up sounding martyred instead. If your character has real conflict with other characters, that's great! It makes for some very interesting plot lines. But then, don't expect that your character can always be in the right. It isn't fair and it isn't normal. Misunderstandings do happen, but if they happen chronically, we'll take that to mean your character is TROUBLE, and will be treated as such. That means no impression, no promotion, and probably your character will also be avoided for joint posts.

    "Sylvia walked into the dining hall and waved at everyone, smiling around the room to make sure she didn't leave anyone feeling left out. Everyone beamed back, happy to see such a lovely girl."

    NO one is universally adored. Some people are easier to get along with than others, but don't assume you can be loved by all. Conflict with other people is one of the main ways to derive new plots. But with that in mind, refer again to the previous point.

  4. Over-abundance of pets
    "This is my dog Spot, my gold wher Basilisk, my cat Pussy, and my firelizards Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple, Pink, ....."

    If you keep too many animals, people will start avoiding you because of the smell. Anyone who owns real pets know that they are a lot of work. If you own a zoo, we expect you'll devote most of your time to caring for it, and therefore you should not expect to impress a dragon or be promoted to Master Star Smith.

    Writing a character with pets also means writing FOR the pets. So if Sally Mae has sixteen flits, we want to hear about each and every one of them from time to time. Saying "Sally Mae and her flock took a walk on the beach" doesn't cut it. And for aspiring dragonriders, remember: if you can't take care of a flit or feline or canine, how can we expect you to take care of a dragon?
KEY THREE: Have fun!
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This is the most important part. Write a character that you find interesting. If you don't find your character interesting, no one else will either. Don't use tricks and extra trimming to make them special, keep them active and get them involved. The characters at the club we know and like best really aren't the characters with the highest rank, the coolest hair, the cutest butt, or the warped-est family past. They're the characters who are constantly surprising us and making us laugh. Those are the characters we want to play with, and THOSE are the characters that are really Special.




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