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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Storytelling with Non-human characters(part 1)

Or the Mythos of Other,

I know I know I update this month with a "money jar" post and not a real one. I know I know I suck. So I ma gonna make it up to you with a real post not a shitty one.

Now I've discussed previously on writing autistic and how to do it right, as well as the tropes involved in writing autistic characters. However I decided to write about another similar topic. How to write fantastic non-human characters. From mythology or imagination, and how they both play the role of Other.

Like writing autistic characters, there are rules involved with writing characters based from myth. Each creature has it's own set of rules on how that creature appears in the myth and how it acts. The trick is playing with those rules and not breaking them so the creature is unrecognizable from the myth (I am looking at you Myers). A good example of this is my character Pavlos. He is a RP character in a Disney's Gargoyles RPG (Text base), He's a Satyr and follows some basic rules. Satyrs in myth, are lushes, woman chasers and cowards. Pavlos follows this. I've added a few things however. The fact he has affinity to magic is one as well as he also has defense mechanism called a "panic scream" which causes uncontrollable fear. The latter bit was inspired by the god Pan. I thought it would be nifty to add that in there. As you can see he still has a lot "satyr-y" features (works at a wine store, drinks excessively has a different chick every night) but still I did play around with the concept and made him my own.

This is not easy. People don't always do the research and are lazy so they think it's ok for them to make a satyr that is chaste, virtuous and sober. They can do that, but don't call it a satyr. That's like making a blind person that can see with using earth-oh wait....Ok ok that was bit mean. Honestly it takes more skill and imagination to follow the rules of a creature and still make it your own, than to completely disregard the rules period.

Now for some that are geeky enough, I know you will say "But I have my own race" ok then, the idea that you should follow the rules, still applies. If my make your own race you would also have a set of rules to follow. Breaking your own rules, will make you a sloppy writer (I am still looking at you Myers). You can have exceptions, but too many will start to expose your careless writing. A good example of self-made rules are my drakkhani, which are humanoid dragon people. They have basic rules such as:
  • They breathe fire
    Have flight
    Live in tight-knit families called a dia or clan.
    they speak English with gritty accent
    They leg eggs.

Now you can make exceptions to those rules, but the trick is picking the right one and having a good explanation to why. For instance, I have genetic disorder that my drakkhani can experience called "Placental Birth Disorder". This causes the fetus to gestate completely inside the mother instead of the mother laying the egg. Birth is done by C-section and the fetus often has other complications. A good writer again knows which rules to mess with and which to keep consistent.

Writing disabled characters is like this. A friend of mind actually has an autistic non-human character, now that I think about it. The symptoms manifest differently but never the less the character is still autistic (this was made apparent in a game with one of my characters and hers had a meltdown). Writing disabled characters especially those with "rules" (symptoms), is lot like writing fantastic characters. They trick is keeping them consistent while still making them unique and captivating. It's hard work and a balancing act not everyone gets it right on the first try (Picoult I am looking at you now). Knowing which symptoms to bend and not bend is hard and trial and error experience. It takes practice and a time before you learn to get it right.

(Tikaani is still a work in progress)

Part 2 will be on biology and the like

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