A short guide by CurlyFriesRPC.
I get it, it’s super hard to say what you want to say with a limited amount of words. It’s hard to set a scene without taking up a whole page sometimes, and hell, the best books are when you’re 50 pages in and nothing significant has happened but you’re so enraptured in the character that you hardly notice. I love me some Dean Koontz.
The point of what I’m trying to say here is that yeah, sometimes it’s hard to show what a character’s all about with so little, but let me tell you here – an admin, for the most part, who’s looking through your audition is going to get bored after the first couple of paragraphs. They’ve got loads of other applications to look over and if yours doesn’t hook them in or show them what they’re looking for straight away they’re not gonna care that you’re an awesome writer. The same thing goes for if you’re trying to showcase your personality for a job or whathaveyou.
You gotta keep what you want to say short and simple, don’t overcomplicate things.
For example, let’s take this character.
Background: Having been brought up in the slums, Kiptain’s been learning how to fight since he was a child. With an absent father, you’d probably guess that his home life wasn’t all that awesome. You’d be wrong (his mother’s the best goddamn parent on the planet), but it’d almost be better if you were right, because having to leave his mother in poverty for the chance to become an international star is one of the hardest decisions Kip’s ever made. He almost regrets it every day, but he’s trapped. Hey, at least he gets to play hockey with his friends on the side.
The only reason Kiptain’s staying on the job is so that when he goes back home (not if, when) he’ll have something to show his mom. He’ll have a life that they’ll be able to share, like she’s shared everything with him since he was a kid.
+ Loyal to his friends.
I’ve looked through everything there, and what I took out straight away is the word ‘Boxer.’ I thought, ‘What can I do that shows that I’m thinking in his shoes?’ I mean, besides gong out and getting all happy with some gloves -because I think I’ll leave that to the ones who can, y’know, heal afterwards.
The answer is: Write what you know.
I’ve never been a professional boxer. I don’t know anything about them, but what I do know about is having control. I know about what my hands look like, and I know about what it’s like to have my muscles hurt. This tutorial’s basically for those who are interested in getting accepted into roleplays, so I’m going to base it on this; making a successful audition.
After having read about my character, what I’m going to think about now are these questions, which always help me get into the character’s head:
1. How old am I? How old do I act?
2. Who is my closest friend? Why?
3. What is my favourite food.
4. What is something that I love to do?
5. What are my family like?
These are five fail safe questions to ask yourself when you’re auditioning, because chances are the admins are looking for you to bring life to the character. What better way to bring life to a character by putting elements of your own into it? I daresay you’ve gone for a character that interests you, so think about why they interest you. What are the similarities between you and them? Pull apart those similarities so you’ll have a little element of you in your audition.
This both makes your writing more realistic and it allows you to get into the character’s head.
When I answer these questions in relation to the character ‘Kiptain,’ I already start to bring him to life in my head. What I’m going to do in my audition is expand on them even more.
We can see that Kip is hockey player. What’s your favourite sport? What is the worst thing about playing it? Kip’s gonna complain about it sooner or later!
Kip is paid to box. Where do you work? How does doing it make you feel? Substitute the feelings your job may give you for the what Kip may be feeling and you’re there!
Think of a time when your friend asked you for help. Did you give it to them? Why did you help them? How did it make you feel? This will help you understand Kiptain’s motivations with his friends.
It’s fairly easy, once you start to really look at writing, to create your own stories about what’s written in front of you, and to have a successful 3 paragraph piece (the usual size of an audition), this is what you’ve got to do.
Another thing you have to watch out with in terms of being is in character is don’t be shallow. Don’t be superficial. The character is a person, and in an admin’s eyes they’re real. They’re their baby. Say you’re auditioning for a character who has ‘is a bitch,’ in their traits. Don’t make your para all about them being a bitch, go deeper than that. Why does the character act the way they do? What lead to that? Because I can assure you, the character probably doesn’t think of themselves as awfully as they’ve been written.
The most important thing when it comes to writing a good piece about your character (or even yourself) is this:
Take the road less travelled.
Don’t write about the easiest or the most obvious things. Think about what other people would write, and don’t write the same thing. You’ve gotta be creative. That’s what people are looking for. In the example of Kiptain, I already know that he comes from the slums. I already know that he’s argumentative. I’m looking for you to show me something that’s not already there. I’m looking for you to put a whole new spin on the character.
So, now that we’ve got those basics down, let’s look at actually composing a piece. A lot of people tend to go straight into action or try and do too many things in their auditions. The cheat here is don’t. You don’t have to show all sides of your character. If I’m an admin, I only want to see that you have the capability to be able to show me that you understand the essence of the character.
In terms of Kiptain, let’s have a look. I’ve got his personality and background spelled out right in front of me. What I want to do is look at what looks like the most inconsequential thing and base my para around that. This not only shows that you’ve read the entire bio and really care about the character, but it allows you a lot of freedom in what you’re going to write.
Freedom = A happy Stiles, because Stiles likes making up stories.
The thing I’m going to base my para around is the sentence, ‘[…] but he’s trapped.’
You might think that this means that I’m going to write him taking his frustrations out in hockey, which would be an interesting way to go because it hasn’t been expanded on at all throughout his bio (and generally if you know what your character does in their spare time it’s a good idea to write about it!), but I’m not. What I’m going to do is I’m going to write about Kiptain taking a shower.
Why would I do that?
Because through doing something totally simple like this, I can show personality points of his without having to add dialogue or anything of the sort.
My paragraph plan goes something along the lines of this:
Paragraph 1: Describe what your character is doing. Why is s/he doing it? What lead to this moment?
Paragraph 2: Get into the character’s head. Have them lost in thoughts or bring in a little bit of a flashback.
Paragraph 3: Bring your character back to the present. Have something physical happen to them to ‘snap them out of their daydream.’ Perhaps end with a line of dialogue.
Of course, this is only one of many ways to showcase a character, but it’s what I’ve decided that it’s what works best for Kiptain. Here are my three paragraphs (whipped up in 10 minutes, using my plan).
The hot water pours, stabs, needles against his back, leaving little red dots as he leans against the steam soaked tiles of the shower he’s been using for little over 4 months now. Kiptain lets his forehead hit the wall; Once, twice, three times, rolling his eyes at his own stupidity and praying that he’ll find some way not to blow up and ruin the control he’s had going for the last couple of months. His skin’s fever red, his blood racing and hair a slick and water soaked mess, and Kip can’t concentrate -can barely think at all. He doesn’t even realize what he’s doing until he’s done it - arm pumped back before his knuckles hit wet tile.
“Fuck!” The clear crystal condensed against his fingers stains red, water swirling around the plug hole even as his hand puts itself back together. There’s a phantom ache in his fingers, an itch that tells him he needs to get out, and get out now, but he can’t. He’s trapped in this and god help him, he’s not sure he’d let himself run out even if he could.
“Goddammit,” The other hand twists the water off, and Kiptain steps onto a threadbare mat, leaving footprints. His clothes get shucked on over still damp skin, hair only briefly touched by his towel and then he’s striding through the apartment, pulling on his jacket, and grabbing his keys.
What I hoped to show you there was a deeper look into Kiptain’s character. I did it through utilising what I’d been told about his personality and expanding on his background. The following are the reasons why I put certain actions into my para:
1. Punching the wall. A boxer uses his/her hands. They’re possibly the most important part when it comes to the job. By having Kip brutalize his own hands, I’m showing how he doesn’t like his job, and how he desperately wants out. It’s not even obvious, I don’t think. It’s all about the subconscious and subtext.
2. The threadbare mat. It’s paying homage to the fact that he comes from the slums. He’s come from a family that wasn’t rich (or so I think), so why would I show him having the best of the best? I would think that he’s gotten used to having little, so he wouldn’t really change it.
3. ‘Little over four months now,’ hints at something that’s changed in the past. 3 points if you can guess what. It’s just to show where I’ve set the scene.
4. ‘and then he’s striding […],’ is where I show his determination. Once he’s got his mind on something, he does it.
So, hopefully through this you can see how easy it is to show a character through only a small amount of words. I’m sure you could pull my writing sample apart as much as you’d like, but honestly what you have to do to show your best in 3 paragraphs?
You have to put yourself in their shoes. You have to feel what they’re feeling. Your character is a reflection of you, don’t forget that.
-Be unique. Take the road less travelled.
-Don’t be superficial. Delve deeper into the character.
-Don’t overcomplicate. Keep it to the simplest scene. Those’ll usually show the most of your character anyway.
-Make sure to read the bio/research on the character.
-Don’t include anything you don’t have to. Half spelled out thoughts will only confuse the person reading what you’ve written.
-Do make sure you pick the character for the character, not for the face claim. You need to feel a connection with the character or you’re not going to be the best you can be.
I hope this helped! If you have any questions feel free to ask and my time will be devotedly yours.