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Flaws & Fears: Putting the Pieces Together

xx Flaws & Fears: Putting the Pieces Together
Jul 16, 12, 11:48:01 PM by Petrichor

Character creation is a puzzle.  Each piece of the application must be whole itself, but merge together with the others to paint a consistent, clear, three dimensional description of a believable person.  It’s generally easy as a player to figure out what we want our character to excel in.  Flaws and fears however, are often trickier to figure out.  However, taking the time to really reach deeper into a character’s mindscape is very rewarding.  Figuring out these darker parts of the mindscape consistently yield stronger characters with riveting, surprising, and exciting storylines.

Balance and realism between the strengths and flaws on an application are key in creating a strong character.  An application’s assets should be matched if not exceeded by the failings and fears detailed within.  Therefore the more powerful/connected the character, the more noticeable their flaws and fears should be. 

Why is this?  Well, if the challenges posed  don’t match or exceed a person’s capabilities they’re really more nuisances than notable fears or flaws.  Making a character who in spite of power, or because of lack of it, is in way over their head is a great way to make a character with great posting potential right off the get go.  Strong obstacles and troubles generate self-sustaining plot and story for a character.

All of this is good and fun, but where do flaws and fears come from?  To understand this we need to step back and examine the facts and foundations of a character’s personality and compiled experiences.  This sounds like a daunting task but by understanding and referencing Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs it becomes simple.

The Pyramid is a theory of motivation and personality, which is why it’s relevant for our purposes. Basic physical requirements constitute the lowest level of the needs hierarchy. These needs must be satisfied before other, higher needs become important to individuals.

Needs at the higher levels of the hierarchy are less oriented towards physical survival and more toward psychological well-being and growth. These needs have less power to motivate persons, and they are more influenced by formal education and life experiences. The resulting hierarchy of needs is often depicted as a pyramid, with physical survival needs located at the bottom of the pyramid and needs for self-actualization located at the top.

As the pyramid illustrates the three largest layers collectively hold the things a neurotypical person requires to feel safe and happy.  While important and unquestionably motivating, fears related to the loss or deprivation of these universal human necessities and desires don’t help shine a light on your character’s special qualities.  More often than not fears relating to the pyramid’s lowest steps are sent back for changing by the review council.  Contrariwise, flaws that prevent a character from having or sustaining the regular meeting of their basic needs pose a large and interesting to read IC challenge. 

Everyone wants to live, eat, sleep, and fuck. As we do those things we’re  preferably safe, able to access income and support a home and possessions.  While doing that we hope to have friends, family and intimate partners to share it all with

The Higher levels of the pyramid pertaining to esteem and self actualization are where the more intricate workings of personality reside.  Fears and flaws of a deeper or more complicated nature dwell here.  They may be borne from a lack of having not had their essential needs  throughout substantial portions of their developmental years.  For the purposes of Blood Society childhood/developmental years go from infancy to the age when the Offering is made (usually right around 20). 

A good way to think of it would be to imagine this pyramid as a large tree. If the roots representing physiological needs, safety needs and love/belonging needs are not fully nourished the branches and fruits of esteem and self actualization will suffer. Hardship is where learned fears come from and those manifest in the branches, leaves and fruits.  These imperfections are personalized and unique to the character though the issues most often can be traced back to those most human of requirements.

This is how fears and flaws evolve in human personality. Experiences good and bad in our formative years , mixed with what we did (or did not) have growing up shape what frightens and cripples us. 

Fears are easier to come up with than flaws.  An entire section of the application is dedicated to their selection and explanation. It’s easier on BR to come up with fears, a whole section of the app is dedicated to it and Review Council is careful to make sure these are fleshed out.  However, it’s the –creator’s- duty to go the extra mile here and find things that are deeply personal for your character.  Also, keep in mind fears that are too general are often refused.

Most people are afraid of more than three things.  Listed fears should be things that cause your character much anxiety, stress, and fright. These items/stimuli/whatever should be things that keep your character up at night, cause their heart to race, wake them from nightmares with sweat covered sheets and chattering teeth - that sort of thing. 

For the purposes of this article let’s say that there are three kinds of fears:
1.) Likely to be sent back fears.

These are fears that will, without Review Council believing the situation of your character is truly unique or essential to their being, likely be sent back for changing.  You are welcome to try one of these in your first review pass but we generally prefer players to reach elsewhere.

      Examples -
a.)  Being Broken.

To Review Council this reads as a fear of being crippled.  Whatever the character’s personal reasons may be, no one wants to be lessened. Particularly in the post purge era this is a huge concern in the collective consciousness of the Blood.

b.) Not Being Loved/Never Being Loved/Being Alone.   

If you refer to the Hierarchy of Needs diagram, the third level from the bottom (and the last of the ‘basic’ needs), focuses on the importance of friendship, family, and sexual intimacy for the psyche.  Not wanting these things/avoiding them/disliking the idea of companionship is far more noteworthy.
c.) Rape.

No one wants to be raped, but for the average person there is not a day to day risk of it happening so it fades in to the background as one of the many bad things that can, but probably won’t, happen to you.  For a slave character this might be acceptable, or someone who has a history of assault in their lives.  However,  Review Council prefers writers utilize other tragedies as the source of strife for your boyo or girly.  This subject is a raw, complicated issue that hits home personally/in a triggering way for many women.

2.) Acceptable, but might be sent back on a Dark Jeweled or Multi Casted application fears.

Examples -

a.) Loss without cause.

Loss of  what a person cares about and values is generally considered to be something considered undesireable at large.  For more standard characters such fears are usually acceptable.  However, dark jeweled and multi casted characters have a different sort of life than most others, and their fears should be more relevant to their story than a rudimentary fear like loss of X person, skill, object, or relationship.

b.) Fears/phobias.

Fears and phobias, particularly the less likely they are to occur can be good flavor for most characters.  The more powerful/unique a character is though, the more we want to see that in their application.  Unless the phobia is going to be a very real and constant problem for the character it is unlikely that this background information will be considered deep enough.

c.)  The Twisted Kingdom.

We’ve accepted a lot of this one in the past, but as we state consistently our board’s standards are always evolving and changing with our ever-growing players.  This fear has become common enough that we no longer feel this fear is deep enough for dark jeweled, multi casted characters - even Black Widows.  Just like being crippled, no one wants to go insane.  Unless a character has a constant and real level of dangerous interactions with this part of the Blood world, it doesn’t often cut it.   Security and safety are essential to human needs and fears should reach outside the scope of driving instincts.

3.) Excellent fears.
There are no standard excellent examples because they shouldn't be cookie cutter.  The best fears for generating character depth and story are personalized to the character they've been crafted for to the point where they could not easily apply to another person's life.

As with most rules there are exceptions to all listed here but these should be considered to be a good outline to guide your hand as you’re working on your applications.

Less straightforward, more nuanced, but just as important is the inclusion of realistic, substantial flaws for a character to wrestle with.  Craft weaknesses can really be important here.  Taking craft weaknesses that actually impede your character, instead of say Hearth Craft for a Warlord Prince or Combat Craft for a Healer.

Flaws should be consistent and show themselves repeatedly through a character’s application.  As much, if not more than strengths, the cracks in a character’s armour should be showcased.  Even a person who is consistently successful will almost always more sharply remember the negative.  Failures, as opposed to victories, stick out in our memory.  Large losses are major shaping events in a person’s life.

If an application contains no issues other than a single “achilles heel,” type of flaw it will be returned.  Epic heroes may have been perfect save for one deal breaking fault but Blood men and women are not heroes of legend.  They live in their “real world,” and real people are full of weakness.

Our strengths and weaknesses follow us like dueling shadows forever fighting for the spotlight in the drama of our lives.  This eternal struggle between the best and worst parts of human nature, skill and thought is what makes the human condition what it is.  Reading through applications Review Council wishes to see this interplay at work.  If a character’s flaws are negligible this will not happen.

Fleshed out flaws are defects in character that have the potential to influence plot as much as their gifts.  When considering your character’s personality, likes, dislikes, fears, and their successes think deep about the impression those imperfections make on each section.  It’s a hard thing to add in after your character is at the review stage. Keep it in mind as an important part of creating a believable denizen of the Black Jewels world from concept inception to finale and it will  help you realize the most evolved, fleshed out version of your character. 

Remember - all things used in moderation create the most intriguing and relatable characters.  That isn't to say that extreme concepts can't be good or valid.  Quite the opposite in fact. Instead consider this - where there is great individuality there are also qualities that unite and equalize characters so that even in spite of their more "out there" traits, they read as believable. 

Treat this post as a guideline when in need of help/inspiration but there are exceptions to all rules!  If you wish to use something that has been listed here as non-ideal, talk to one of our many helpful members of the Review Council!  We are always happy to talk character concepts and give input.  Your best resource for wondering if X or Y exception is okay is us, and we're here to help!

A big thanks to Phedre for helping me with this essay, and Blue for her wonderful header graphic!

What do you think is most important when coming up with character flaws and fears?  What works best for you when working out the rougher sides of your creations?

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xx Re: Flaws & Fears: Putting the Pieces Together (Reply 1)
Jul 17, 12, 05:24:38 PM by White
What do you think is most important when coming up with character flaws and fears?  What works best for you when working out the rougher sides of your creations?[/b]

First I'd like to thank Gina (and Phedre) for taking the time to pull this blog piece together. Everyone should read it thoroughly and take notes for their next character application.

Flaws and fears are underrated. These 2 application elements should be the focus of your character creation and hold value outside of filling out the application. Using fears and flaws can provide you with a highly dynamic character.

The most important part of Flaws and Fears to me is the humanity that they can bring to your character. No one is perfect but it is the imperfections who make us who we are. By highlighting those imperfections you have a more interesting base to build the character from. It can become the focal point to a strong character.
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