It seemed like it had been a very long time since they’d collected into the classroom. Nevertheless, the students wandered around the room, taking their seats and muttering to one another. Two of the placeholders had been replaced by actual persons, though they obviously wore the appearance of their characters. It was only then that the other students realized that their appearances had done the same – they were in the bodies of their characters. If one had been watching from the outside, it would’ve seemed fairly peculiar – an array of strange-looking young adults staring at their bodies and holding up mirrors as they poked at themselves curiously.
They waited for several minutes before the professor, KRenee, strode into the room. She looked a little frazzled, but the apparent stress didn’t stop her from grinning broadly at the class. She set up the laptop in its proper spot on her table. Behind her was a huge chalkboard, taking the spot where there would normally have been a whiteboard of equal size.
“Hey, guys. It’s been a while, right?” A chorus of nods and a couple of sighs illustrated her lateness, “I’m sorry about all that. I had a bit of a moment, if you know what I mean.”
“Let me just take care of the attendance,” she leaned far forward over the desk, bringing her face too close to the screen. She then flicked her hand towards the board behind her, not even looking up from what she was clicking on. Immediately, a piece of chalk floated up and got to work writing on the chalkboard. KRenee looked up from her laptop screen and did another head count, making more notes in her files and pushing her glasses further up her noises.
“Okay, that’s out of the way, so let’s get started. No one had any questions about the last bit, which I’m happy about. So, we’re going to move on, cover a little more about the naming of characters, and then continue on to personality design. If you have any questions about it that come up later on, feel free to ask.”
She looked around the class, smiling broadly, “Okay, so, the little thing I wanted to cover about names isn’t going to take long, but you should still pay careful attention.
“Sometimes, you’re going to want to take a character that you’ve made, likely your main original character. For example, you might want to take your Naruto-based character and throw them into Harry Potter’s universe. That’s fine, just remember that you’ll have to think of a name that fits with that world.” KRenee pointed to the board, and it immediately wrote up ‘EDITS ARE A-OKAY!’
“Edits will have to happen when you switch universes – name, abilities, etcetera. Sometimes, they’ll be really small, sometimes they’ll be kinda big and you’ll have to do a little bit of editing to other parts of your character to fit with the changes – its the difference between your character having parents who died from sickness and having parents who were killed.”
One of the students, a young man with silver hair raised his hand, and KRenee looked over at him expectantly, “So, is it alright to have a name that includes more than one language?”
KRenee nodded briefly in understanding, “I understand that some people think it’s fine to do that, but it’s actually ridiculous and makes no sense to do that. If you have a name in English, and a nickname in Japanese, that’s bad. It’s one thing to have two separate names for two separate worlds or even two separate places that appear in the same story,” she looked around the classroom again the make sure that everyone was paying attention, “But if you’re character’s name is George Jettson, he shouldn’t have a nickname like Yuso or Guillermo, because George is from the United States, and he lives in the United States, and he’s surrounded by other United States citizens. He’s not Japanese, in Japan, surrounded by Japanese citizens, and he’s not Spanish, in Spain, surrounded by Spanish citizens. Got it?”
The silver-haired man nodded smoothly in understanding, writing down notes in his notebook.
KRenee smiled, looking obviously pleased with the question, “It’s important not to mix your cultures just because you like how something sounds. If you want to write a story from a certain culture’s perspective, then do so, but don’t go mixing things around unless you genuinely decide that you want to have a character who moved from another country.”
She spun around, and flicked her hand at the chalkboard, which immediately started erasing itself and writing a new message.
“Okay, now that we’ve gotten past what I wanted to cover about names, we’re going to design a character, and we’re going to start from a proper starting point. The appearance of your character is important, but not as important as some other things – personality, quirks and habits, stereotypes within your world, and a whole array of other things.”
The board read “what is your character’s base personality trait?” The professor stepped over to a door that had materialized against the wall to the right of the chalkboard, pulling it open and greeting a pair of dark-haired young adults. They stepped into the room, and it was easy for the class to recognize them as sibling – they had several nearly identical features; grey eyes, round noses, smooth jawlines – even their proportions were similar. They both stood regally at the front of the room, the man’s eyes sweeping the room with mischievous twinkle in his eyes. His sister gazed at each individual face, her expression still and her smile polite, if not slightly amused.
“This is Dia and Daerus. Want to tell them about yourselves, or shall I?”
Dia and Daerus exchanged a brief look, before Dia took the lead and introduced them both, “We’re from the Grand Duchy of Shae, a place found in the fantasy novel The Rise of the Phoenix, by Dawn Rivers Baker. Daerus is the marquis of Shae – he is the heir to the Grand Duchy. He is my twin. I am Lady Dia of Shae. As children of Shae, we enjoy many privileges in the Empire of Taemeranda…”
“But we try not to let it go to our heads.” Daerus interjected with a playful smile.
“Dawn Rivers Baker, known now as Dawn Rivers, is my mother.” KRenee added with a fond smile towards the twins, “She’s my inspiration for writing in the first place. She finished her novel when I was five, and I started writing my own little stories when I was about six. They were terrible; it’s a good thing I didn’t keep them.”
Daerus chuckled softly, and Dia smiled a little more broadly, diverting her gaze towards the ground as she worked to contain herself.
“When you write a story, your character will need to have a personality. Now, you can go all out and write a huge reference sheet for every single piece of your character’s personality, and include different things that your characters react to and such, but that will take you a hundred years and it’s really not necessary. Not only that, but with such a huge bank of information, you’ll be forced to come to a screeching halt during every scene while you look up their reaction to what’s going on.”
“My mom’s solution for constructing a personality is actually really simple; find a base personality trait. Just one or two, three at the most. Try to make sure that they don’t contradict each other too much, and base your character’s every action off of those traits. Dia, Daerus, if you will.”
Once again, they exchanged that brief glance, and then Dia started talking, “My base personality traits are independence and politeness. I make my own decisions and I fight my own battles – but I am also very polite.”
Daerus smiled, “She’ll beat you in a fight and then help you up with that smile of hers.”
The withering look she gave him brought a laugh out of the whole class, including a light chuckle from KRenee. Daerus only returned her look with a mock-innocent smile.
“The politeness,” Dia continued, taking her gaze away from her twin, “Is the more dominant feature that Dawn relied on when she was writing me. Above all else, I am polite. Everything else is secondary.”
KRenee nodded, smiling, “Daerus?”
The playful Daerus nodded, “There are two major traits for me, as well; curiosity comes first. It has gotten me into trouble on more than one occasion, as I’m sure Dia could tell you.” Dia closed her eyes and smiled broadly, “But, aside from my curiosity, there’s the fact that I wear my heart on my sleeve, and that means a variety of things. It means that you can tell when you’ve hurt me, or when I’m irritated, or when I’m feeling guilty about breaking mother’s prized vase collections.”
KRenee nodded, “That’s the whole point; the base trait or traits should be the driving force behind your character’s actions and decisions. Dia can be as furious as possible, but she will not curse you out. Dia is the kind of person who could tell you that you’re less interesting than a slug and leave you thinking you’d been complimented until you had consulted the dictionary,” she explained, gesturing lightly towards the grey-eyed woman standing beside her.
She then stepped around to Daerus’ side, “Daerus is definitely as smart as he is curious, so you can guess that his questioning nature is very critical and very comprehensive. He wants to know why we do the things we do, how those things work, and what those things do to help. He wants to know not just if your contraption works, but how it works, and why you use it, and why you don’t use this other thing, and what persuaded you to do this instead of that.”
The man in question smiled almost bashfully, “I used to get in trouble for asking too many questions.”
Dia leaned towards him until their shoulders gently bumped together, an affectionate look in her eyes, “I spent a great deal of my childhood talking the tenants out of appealing for you to be banished from the Empire.”
“You did not,” Daerus retorted, “No, you were talking them out of feeding me to the Throk.”
Dia giggled just a little, and then leaned away, planting her feet and controlling her laughter. KRenee chuckled, “Alright, I do think that covers everything for today. Let’s get busy, now, shall we?”
“After you’ve read this chapter, I want you to think about how Dia and Daerus were portrayed in my writing of them. What did your impression of them tell you about them? Did you come to any interesting conclusions about them? What did you think about their interactions with each other, and with the classroom setting? Did you get a good feeling for their relationship?”
“With those kinds of questions in mind, I want you to reread either the “Quickie Prompt” I made you write to apply for the class and/or the first scene of your original character’s story – the scene where you first meet the hero or heroin of the story.” KRenee pursed her lips, a slight frown of displeasure appearing, “I will say, some of you were very over-the-top with your introduction of your character – you made sure to heavily imply that they were one thing or another. The number one thing that came up in almost all the applications was the obnoxiously heavy implication of how unique your character is. One of the applicants used the word “unique” six times in the span of about three paragraphs.”
“Remember what I said about only needing a couple personality traits to write a character! Now, there’s two things you can do for your homework. You don’t have to do both – feel free to pick one based on your availability to complete it.” She stepped around the table and leaned in front of her laptop briefly before straightening up. “Your first option is to write a short piece featuring two characters of your choice. Pick two personality traits per person. I want you to send in the traits you chose AND the piece for a hopefully brief critique – I want to let you know if you’re paying adequate attention to the personality traits you’re choosing and also let you know what I think about the character’s as you wrote them. It’s important to know if you’re getting the right reaction to the characters you’re writing. Your prompt is:
Your two characters are colleagues OR classmates, and they’re getting coffee at a nearby Starbuck’s for some reason. Remember the traits you picked!
She looked up at the students, some of which were already thinking about the traits for their characters, which characters they would use, and etcetera.
“Your second is to figure out what the main personality trait or traits are for you main original character. Then, go and read a chapter or two featuring that character and see if you’ve been characterizing them properly. Does the way you’ve written them fit the traits you’ve assigned? Why not? Where did you go wrong? Write up some notes and send them to me, along with a link to the piece you referred to so I can go over it with you.”
KRenee grinned, “Alright, class dismissed! Hopefully, I’ll see you all soon-ish!”