Questions to get to know a character in the game


#1

I’m in the process of trying to address a major flaw in a couple of my WIPs, which is basically that many characters lack personality/background/development, etc.

So, I wanted a bit of help from people. What do you think are the best questions that any MC would want to ask another character in the game? (basically I’m imagining this as a series of questions that the MC can ask, which them prompt other questions etc). I’m thinking of letting the MC ask about 6-9 questions, do you have any suggestions? (what do you normally want to know in another character?)


Aetherian Spell Academy [wip] Chapter 1-5 available. Chapter 6 in progress (Updated 1/8/18)
#2

Usually, I think character development is best portrayed through natural narrative. So throughout the story you could learn about different characters by interacting with them in different situations and having their interests and background come up smoothly and gradually through bits of dialogue.


#3

Yes, the problem is that the MC has a choice of a number of other characters to take along, so it is impossible to write different stories for each of them. Hence, I was hoping of adding some more depth by just letting the MC interact with them through dialogue…


#4

I agree with @Samuel_H_Young, but then I personally strongly dislike what I tend to think of as ‘interrogation sequences’. I find them immersion breaking, I suppose because I wouldn’t normally start firing questions at someone unless I’m running an interview or an actual interrogation, or something of that sort. (And why is the PC so seldom subjected to interrogation trees themself? There should be more. XD )

The whole dilemma may be part of why CoG strongly recommends not having a variable number/presence of NPCs in their games. I remember reading somewhere that it gave them fits with Choice of the Rockstar, for instance, and that’s also a game where some people commented that the NPCs didn’t feel particularly fleshed out.

I did think Community College Hero handled it well; @Eric_Moser gives a choice of study groups, so you’ll be with one specific group of supporting characters more often than the rest and that gives you a chance to get to know them a bit better.

You could also perhaps consider adding specific incidents or comments if character X is along? Another author who’s taken that route is @Lucid in the Lost Heir series, along with some flavour text occasionally depending on who was accompanying the PC at any given moment.

There are a few other titles/series out currently that have a wide variety of companions who might or might not be with you (@JimD’s works would probably be a wonderful study case); might be worth having a look and analysing how some of the other authors have made it work? I think there are some approaches that can add a lot of flavour without being a completely unreasonable amount of writing and coding, particularly if you were going to code query dialogue trees anyhow.


#5

I agree with @Samuel_H_Young and @Fiogan. I enjoy when writers let the character interactions breathe. Asking a series of questions just doesn’t seem authentic in most situations. I mean, who does that in real life?

Now there ARE ways you can “rapid fire” out some info about a NPC in a more natural way if you really need to do that. Job interview, classroom joint project, cheesy “getting to know you” team-building exercise at a workplace, speed dating scene, or some other unique social function, etc. But those are exceptions, not the rule.

I think 99% of the time, it’s preferred to slow it down. Maybe learn one thing about a character that is important, and more importantly, a few things about them that aren’t plot-related at all. In CCH, we learn that Dirty Girl likes corn chips…a lot. So much in fact that I mention it (a few times) in CCH 2. And it has no plot relevance whatsoever. I’m just trying to build a little immersion. I think it’s more authentic to learn things about the NPCs that don’t conveniently fit into the plot.

But I think the biggest factor is that the writer needs to invest the time into characters. And BIG chunks of time, because information will be revealed in small, organic, bits and pieces. And some of it won’t eve be important, other than to make that character seem like more of a real person.


#6

I’m going to build on what everyone said above.

Character bonding is a situational event driven mechanic. If you are writing about a formula one race team, you can take the MC character’s role on that team and have them interact with other members of that team … the MC is a mechanic, so she interacts with the pit crew, the drivers, the owners and the race track officials while performing their “duties” … this same event driven mechanic can be employed in almost every situation…

In your Mad Max road warrior WiP there are a few different places I’d expand social scenes to get to know your key NPCs - When you first designate your team, you have the MC go into a tavern … the tavern would be a great place to get to know each key NPC better - flesh out various small vignettes there while we meet the gunners, the drivers or the navigators…

Later you stop in a gang’s hangout which is another tavern type scene … so expand your social vignettes there…


#7

What is the plot? I would ask different questions for a job interview than I would for a speed date. Are we playing never have I ever or some other game? I need more information, but I do think static characters are easier to flesh out and write well.

What’s unique about the character? If they have visible tattoos, scars, or exotic features or accents, I may want to ask about that.

What was their life like before they came on our adventure? This doesn’t work if there is no big change in scenery like students in a public high school or long term friends.

If they’re travelling with pets or kids, I’d ask if the kid was theres or about the pet.

How do they feel about the rebel/government group’s philosophy or their own life philosophy?

Are they seeing anyone? :kissing_heart:

If we’re listing to a trial, there reasons of why a person is/is not guilty would say a lot about them. Do the ends justify the means? Try to find a slightly variable action scene like whose side they join in a fight or something.


#8

When trying to flesh out characters, I recommend making a smaller, revised, version of the character profile sheet/character bible below for your own reference. A lot of it is dependent on the scope of the story and how major or minor the characters are. That way you can have a list of the characters favorites, nervous ticks, distinguishing marks, etc. And through that you can portray the characters pasts/personalities through something other than the ‘interrogation’ method, whether or not it effects the plot, similar to what @Eric_Moser said with Dirty Girl and her love of corn chips. Though that’s not saying the MC can’t ask a question, it just wouldn’t be back to back grilling of the other character.

Full Name:
Nickname/Byname:
Age:
Race:
Ethnicity:
Nationality:
Date Of Birth/Horoscope (Earth):
Home Region:
Height:
Hair Color:
Eye Color:
Body Type/Weight:
Distinguishing Marks/ Features:
Scars/Deformities:
Body Art/Piercings/Modifications:
Repetitive/Habitual Physical Quirks:
Spirituality:
Heart:
Abilities:
Personality (Myers-Briggs Test):
Experiences:

  • Family Background -
  • Education -
  • Favorites -

#9

Naaah, don’t force it.

Let the MC and the NPC stay silent throughout their journey (if they’re in a journey, like riding a car together) and let 'em know it’s an awkward situation :smiling_imp:

And then the NPC abruptly asks the MC “Soo… what kind of food do you like?”

It’s awkward. It’s weird. Yet it’s so effective to develop


Once you get the hang of it, the flow of the conversation should go smoothly.
Trust me :ok_hand:t4:


#10

I agree with much of what was said before, and I realised that I probably made a mistake in my approach to character development (I made the same mistake in my CSComp entry, so I guess I’ll have to carry that forward in my next two games, though I hope that will teach me a lesson…)

So, basically I know I’m not going to get top scores for character development, but I want to go from a score of 10% for that, to maybe a score of 30-50% (i.e. from, “I don’t know these people travelling with me in the car at all”, to “well, it wasn’t done in the best way, but at least I feel they were people…”). For the case of some of the characters they already have a small vignette, and there is another small one when they spend time together, but I wanted to add a little bit more. I like @Szaal suggestion, about the NPC asking a random question, and then the MC having to react to it, and maybe ask something else in return, or just stay quiet. It might add a little bit more to the game, without me having to re-write the entire structure.

What other questions of that type could be interesting? Like, if the NPC asks the MC what kind of food they like, then the MC has the choice to answer, stay silent, and then possibly ask the NPC some other question (or also what kind of food they like…)


#11

Is there a main theme in your Wip, if so you could ask about the way the character feel regarding that particular theme. And more importantly why do they feel that way? Also you can talk about some shared experience with the MC, if the other character belongs to a same community that the MC you could ask them why are they in that community; or maybe if they are taking part in same activity you could ask them why are they doing it. You can make connections between their answers and their backstories, and even with the main plot. Maybe you can use it to foreshadow some future events. You can ask how do they feel about other characters too.

Also is worth noting that knowing everything about a character through scenes where you ask questions might not be the best tactic. Characters usually are too willing to share things about themselves that people should not share in real life. Sometimes it’s better if there are particular events that trigger these conversations. Also, remember that part of character development is like solving a mystery, it’s not always about the change of a character but rather the chage of reader’s perception of that character.


#12

In the spirit of “show, don’t tell,” you could consider adding a scene for each character (probably the one that introduces them) that is designed to really play up the facets of that character that you want to bring to the forefront. If the character’s irresponsible, make them crash a car. If the character’s creative, have them perform a work. The MC’s choice can then be about reacting to that, which really sets up a dynamic instead of creating an info dump. If you’ve got a bunch of characters, give them each a line or two that sets up their relationship with the character as well.

But I also personally don’t mind “interrogation sequences” because they’re a video game convention that is essentially choose-your-own-level-of-exposition. I’d recommend making the questions very specific to the character instead of generic, though, or such sequences would risk feeling a little dull and formulaic.


#13

…oops.

…oops.

:slight_smile: