What goes into building a character?

I have to be up front with all of you, I love building characters. If it’s for my book or Pathfinder RPG, I love it. I have been building characters for Pathfinder RPG (Rule Playing Game, a lot like Dungeon and Dragons) for years. Pathfinder, there is a sheet that you fill out. On this character sheet, you have all sorts of “slots” for Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma. These are the base character building blocks for the character you want to play. Different races have different abilities that will give you boosts in some of these slots and a deduction in others. Example for this is one of my favorite races is an Aasimar, who gives you a plus 2 in wisdom and charisma. For a witch, magus, druid, ranger or any other kind of magic user, these boosts are a good thing. For a frontline fighter, not so much.

To answer your question, yes, this is ssssuuuuuupppppeeeerrrr nerdy stuff. This blog should come with a warning.

Next comes AC or Armor Class. The higher the armor class number, the harder it is to kill you. Frontline fighters will have higher AC than, let’s say, a witch or magus. Rangers, druids, and other hybrid classes that mix frontline fighting with ranged attacks, will have some armor but not the heavy armor of the tanks in front of the party getting the snot beat out of them. BTW, tanks are the Fighters, Barbarians, Paladins, and sometimes the Clerics or Druids depending the combat class you choose. Me, I liked playing a Ranger or a magic user.

If you really want to look up all this stuff and maybe help yourself with character building ideas, here is the site that I go to for ideas. d20PFSRD

So, what the heck does this have to do with a book? Well, glad you asked. When I start a game of Pathfinder, there is a short story that goes a long with the game. In this short story you get the general idea of the adventure that you and your party are about to set out on. You get a general idea on what kind of characters you need to build and equipment you need to bring.

The same could be said for any book. The plot, the outline, the main and side characters will all play a factor on how you build the character for your book. Most modern love stories do not have dragons and wizards running around fighting orcs and trolls. If your book does, cool, drop a link and I would love to check it out. On the other hand, most fantasy adventure books don’t have book editors falling in love with their handsome but maddeningly cocky and charming publisher.

The right character for the right book.

My first book is an fantasy adventure. (I know, surprise!) My main character is a fighter. I know how to build a fighter from playing Pathfinder, so I have a good grasp on how this character should be built. Next I had to figure out male or female. I was tired of the typical male jughead with bashed everything in site and gets the big sword at the end. So, I picked a female main character. I wanted her to think through the problems, to face adversity and many issues facing woman today like, rape, violence, sexual harassment, and gender equality.

No, I did not write your typical fantasy adventure book.

When I drew up her companions, I wanted them all to be females but different in many ways. These women are fighters, druids, clerics, rangers, and magus. I was very comfortable with these characters because I, once again, played them all in different campaigns. These characters had to have different personalities, body types, and even different races. Even though they are nine different people, they all had one goal, to help out her fellow party member get through their battles. I loved writing these characters because it gave them a sense of camaraderie and freedom.

What kind of campaign did I want? Well, first, it had to have dragons. Why? Dragons are awesome, that’s why. Then I had to figure out the campaign’s main goal. I did kind of mail it in. The main goal was to retrieve an powerful sword. I know, seen it, right! Here I had to relay on my experience playing the RPG. There are many campaigns out there with many different goals. So how do I build this book to fit the characters? So I started to write an outline on what information I had at the time. The outline grew into something real after the third chapter and soon blossomed into a book soon after.

If you noticed, I talked about the outline of the book after I talked about building the character. This is how I write and not how I write. I did have a very general idea of the story but I wanted to solidify the idea of the story with the building of each character. Each character helped lock into place another aspect of the overall story from action to comedy. When I got stuck writing the story, I went back and look at all the characters. I would think about how they would react to different challenges that I put in their path. I wanted them to struggle, to lean on each other, to be vulnerable, I wanted to be scared. Mostly, I wanted them to love each other and fight, not for herself, but for her party.

The idea of fighting for her party comes from both the character build and from the author understanding of the women that he built. This is why I love to build characters. Don’t get me wrong, I can give away these characters to ten, twenty, even a hundred writers and they will come up with something different. That is the beauty of this, everyone has their own ideas on what a character should bring to the story.

It’s not now the character starts out, it’s how they finish is where I find the most enjoyment.

I will write later about character personalities and physical builds.

But for now, thank you for adventuring to my blog and happy writing.

J.W. Berwyn

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