Characters show up everywhere, and each time they offer an opportunity to learn more about how they work. Or don’t. Even the dorky dad in an allergy commercial is a learning opportunity.
That’s the mindset I got into when I played Telltale Games’ Minecraft Story Mode. And the game presented me with quite a few things to think about when I create my own characters.
- Sometimes you don’t make adult/good decisions
The characters that populate my fiction are (by and large) responsible and grownup. They pay their bills on time, never sleep through their alarm, and refuse to lie. That stuff is boring. A character who picks fights with drunks twice their size is more interesting. As is a character who sets fire to a competitor’s contest entry because they’re determined to win at all costs.
- You can do your best and still screw up
There’s an expectation that when a person does their best, everything will work out. It’s a common enough theme in inspirational stories and ones intended to motivate. But real life doesn’t typically work that way. People can do their best in anything–rescuing a hostage, training for a boxing match, or studying for a big test–and still have things go sideways. The hostage is killed, the boxer trips, or the student studies for the wrong test. It makes for a far interesting character arc (and a more relatable one).
- Good guys/heroes lie with the best of intentions
Good guys are still human, and they’re just as fallible as everyone else. More than a few movies, books, and video games explore this concept. However, examining a hero lying with the best of intentions is not something that I’ve seen much. And I think it’s interesting. Can a hero who tells a lie because he believes it will keep everyone safe still be a hero? What happens to the hero if their lie is uncovered? Those are fascinating questions that I’d love to try answering.
- Break the rules and don’t worry about the consequences
Rule-breakers are pretty common, and they don’t always give much thought to the consequences of their actions. That’s not to say they don’t get in trouble for breaking the rules. It’s just that they want whatever the rule is blocking more than they’re worried about the consequences. Disregard for the rules–whether all the time or in certain situations–can get characters into interesting situations. Ones that readers will absolutely enjoy reading, and I’d love to write.
These things made for interesting characters in Minecraft StoryMode, and I have no doubt that they’ll help me to create more life-like (and hopefully compelling) characters in my own writing.
What kinds of things have you learned about writing from playing video games? Or even from watching movies or reading books?