to (and how NOT to) create a BRILLIANT persona
Naming your characters
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
- 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
- Saraminalinessa - too long and no, planning
to have a nickname won't help. Just use the nick name.
- Djlorphyth - how do you pronounce this,
- 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
You simply can't do without it. Let's
discuss some characteristics that are NOT original:
- 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
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.
- Exceptional Social Circumstances
"So, you're also the son of a Lord Holder and a
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..."
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." ;)
- Personality Quirks
"Yes, they put me on latrine duty again because
they don't understand that I was only trying to
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
"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.
- 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!
|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