What About the Voices that Come from Others?

Avengers #4

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?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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30 Responses to What About the Voices that Come from Others?

  1. Marcia says:

    Reblogged this on The Write Stuff and commented:
    A very interesting and informative post today from Charles Yallowitz. Check it out! (And as always, don’t forget to pass it along.) Really enjoyed this one, Charles.

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  2. harmonykent says:

    Thought-provoking post, Charles. I love what you did with the characters 😊

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  3. No one has developed characters that I have used. You have to be the character master.

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  4. L. Marie says:

    This is a great topic! I’ve written stories with character I developed with a friend. We had a group of characters who lived in the same neighborhood. Each of us developed some of the kids in our series. Whenever we wrote stories with the characters the other person developed, we asked for permission.

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  5. Adele Marie says:

    I haven’t taken a character from a game, but a song did inspire the main protagonist in my wip, Love Song. https://youtu.be/-uNLQxurOlM I was a role player for years so I’d be lying if I said no influence from those days went into my characters. They lived in my head and some of them have gone into my stories. xx

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  6. Interesting stuff. I hold that every character is inspired by something, somewhere. Could be a poster, movie, book, game, but something. My root monsters started off like the pygmys from The Mummy Returns, but there is some tooth fairy from Hellboy, a spoonful of minions, and a sprinkling of Wile E. Coyote. They were inspired, but remain my creation. At the other end of the spectrum is fan fiction. It’s cool that you went to the point of asking permission, and interviewing the players, but I doubt you would have needed to.

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  7. “Have you ever used a character created by someone else?”

    The short answer (yes, really):

    My brother and I write stories using each other’s “imaginary friends” all the time.

    Several of mine are secondary characters in his novels: Raven (and, briefly, Deegan and Geoffrey) in Project Brimstone, for example. Raven was originally created as a minor character for Changing Magic, and — I can tell this here, if nowhere else — the original reason he “migrated” out of that story’s setting at all was because I’d adapted him once as a character for a roleplaying game. For that matter, Deegan was first appeared as a game NPC… And Geoffrey, who had his origin as an anonymous walk-on who existed only to have his favorite t-shirt stolen as a note of humor in the Inciting Incident. And — finally! — Paul is writing Jon Livingston (who may not quite be an “alter ego” for me the way Jason Grey is, but he’s certainly one of my personal metaphors) into one of his WIPs.

    One of my brother’s characters appears briefly in my short story “Finder’s Fee.” Several of the crew of the Roald Amundsen (characters in “that novel that WILL be published eventually”) are Paul’s creations rather than mine, as are many of the other minor characters.

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  8. Reblogged this on Author Don Massenzio and commented:
    Check out this post from the Legends of Windemere blog that asks the question: What About the Voices that Come from Others?

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  9. L. Marie says:

    Charles, to answer your question, while both collaborations had challenges, I enjoyed both experiences. Sometimes one of us said, “I don’t like what you did with that character. That’s not the direction I wanted to go.” And then we would have to come to a point of understanding.

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  10. I have also played in games where someone — the GM in my case — said they were going to use our characters in writing a series of novels. Alas, I’m still waiting for those novels to come out!

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  11. For me this is a yes and no kind of question. My hubby likes making characters, but often doesn’t do anything with them afterwards. So he made some I then used for a couple of my books. I’ve got a couple of others he’s made that I liked , so aske for to use in my books (I haven’t written all of the stories for them yet). It’s slightly different to your situation though, since he’s never played them, so I only have the character sheet to work from, and any idea of personality, backstory, etc, is all mine.

    Being familiar with how roleplaying characters work though, I would say it’s similar to using real people as characters. Not exactly the same, but pretty close, since – assuming your group(s) got in to their characters properly – they’d have felt real to you for a while, and possibly to the players themselves too, which is possibly partially responsible for the characters feeling so real to you.

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    • I can see how that’s kind of a gray area. The characters are there as templates, but haven’t been flushed out. Some characters in the games were more real than others since you have different types of players. You have the actors that dive into a role, the number crunchers looking at stats, the laidback ones who only care about having fun, and a few other types. It’s a challenge to work around all of those.

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      • So like most groups then… Some more fleshed out, and almost like real people they were played so well. Some hardly more fleshed out than the templates I get from hubby. Others somewhere in the middle. Must make working with your characgers quite a challenge at times.

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