J. Robert King

Ed Greenwood–Day 2

On Character Creation
As well as being a character in his own right—Ed Greenwood looks like a wizard and sounds like a smooth-jazz DJ from the seventies—Ed has created some of the most iconic characters in fantasy gaming and fiction. For him, character creation isn’t a matter of stats and profiles, but of hearing a character speak, of hanging out with characters. Here’s how Ed creates characters that make stories live:

For me, it begins with seeing a character vividly, seeing them walk and talk. I may not consciously and fully work out their aims, back story, and utility to me as a storyteller at the outset or even at the end of using them the first time, but I imagine them until they SEEM REAL to me. Then I can “act as they would” in any situation that comes up, and have them speak and react “in character.” If I do this properly, the results will never jar a reader (or a player, if I’m DMing a D&D game). Someone else might have a very different idea of what a character looks like than I do, but we both “know” the character of, say, Elminster’s longtime companion Lhaeo, or Storm Silverhand, or The Simbul, or King Azoun. As a gamer once commented, after reading a few paragraphs I’d written about King Azoun for a GenCon handout, that had been mated with an offhand sketch of the monarch by a TSR staffer, “Doesn’t look like Azoun, no way, but it’s Azoun, all right!”

If I feel that a character is real and treat them with respect (so the evil guard that the heroes pounce on and subdue, and we see for only a paragraph, is as real to me as the heroes we spend most of the book with), the reader should sense it, and the character will seem real to them, too. What happens to them then matters, too, and the story is stronger.

And as I’ve said a time or six before, the Realms isn’t geography; it’s people. Characters, not landscape.

(Not to mention that if I treat characters this way in my head, I can have lots of gaps in my knowledge about them, but I won’t have any contradictions or jarring inconsistencies, because I can’t think of a character until I’ve resolved those. Eliminating things that won’t “ring true” for a reader.)

February 2nd, 2010
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