To example the picture, Captain America wasn’t created by Stan Lee. He was added to the Avengers, which was a Stan Lee/Jack Kirby creation. I’ve noticed that many people think every Marvel superhero was made by Stan Lee, but that isn’t true. There are some that he gained from those who came before him or his peers. What does this have to do with the weekly topic?
With many of my books being based on role-playing games that I did in college, a lot of my characters were created and played by others. In Legends of Windemere, I was only Luke Callindor while the other champions were in the heads of other players. For example, Nimby was my friend Dave and Timoran Wrath started as an NPC then was handed to a guy named Mark. You can see a long list in the back of the final book, but it does bring up the question of how I work with characters that did originate in my own head. There are a few pieces of this that I have to go into for a clear explanation.
First, there had to be permission and an understanding of what I was doing. I didn’t like the idea of just taking characters, so I introduced myself as the game scribe. Well, the DM did that first and it stuck. The players would say yes or no to me using their characters while accepting that I might have to change things. A big example here is that Aedyn Karwyn was originally named Aidan Quinn . . . Yeah, there’s an actor with that name, so I couldn’t keep it. Most players didn’t have a problem because they weren’t going to use these characters again once the game ended. One person didn’t want her half-demon thief in the books, which is why that one isn’t there. Aspects of the plot that she was involved in went to Queen Trinity and Sari, but I respected those wishes. There was also a character named Cameron Fodder who I just omitted because it was a joke warrior. Anyway, the firs step was establishing that I was allowed to use the characters that didn’t originate in my own head.
Second, I realized pretty quickly that I couldn’t take them from the game as is because a book runs differently. In a game, you’re only on the same quest with not much in the realm of personal stories. The reason for this is because personal stories require one player get more attention than the others. So, the group is rarely split up in a game, which means all of the individual scenes are nonexistent. You can’t have Sari go off on her own to save Luke while the others continue their plan like in Ritual of the Lost Lamb. It means the Sari player would be isolated from the group until that was done or the group would have to spend half the session sitting around listening to only two people have fun. So, I had to design more personal stories for all of these characters, which typically resulted in me talking to the player and getting a little insight into the future of the story from the DM. In the end, I realized that I had to change up a lot such as:
- Dariana went from being a half-angel to the daughter of Baron Kernaghan and Zaria the Purity Goddess.
- Sari, whose player left after 2 months, went from being in a continuous coma to being more active.
- Queen Trinity, General Vile, Nyder Fortune, Kira Grasdon, and most of the supporting cast never made an appearance in the game. In fact, the game only had Luke and Sari being romantically involved with her being a ‘damsel in distress’ because the player had left.
- Nyx’s power was increased to a terrifying level to suit her personality.
- Fizzle became more involved because he was an NPC who was simply there to get us out of trouble.
- In regards to War of Nytefall, most of the characters weren’t even in the same game or ever met before the series. This meant all of them had to be rewritten to fit into Clyde’s story. I needed to redesign them from the bottom up without losing what made them stand out.
Now, you might be wondering when I’ll be getting to the point about how I achieve the voices of characters who weren’t born in my own head. Well, I’ve kind of explained how I reforged them. With all of the changes that I had to make in terms of background, abilities, and personalities, all of them become a part of my mental landscape. Think of it like they bought an apartment and are still living in there because the rent is nonexistent and they get all the amenities they could want. I hate to say that these versions are mine because I refuse to make it sound like the players had nothing to do with things. I’m very thankful that I was allowed to take what they were using and turn into the heroes and villains of my stories.
I wonder if this is very different from characters who were inspired by living people. Can’t think of a good example for this, but you know when an author takes a person they know and turns them into a character. It’s not always done to be nice, so there is a difference here. There are similarities here, but I can’t say that the champions of Windemere are much like their real world counterparts. Still, they have a voice and that’s the whole point of this week’s topic. Time to put it to bed.
Have you ever used a character created by someone else?