“Good morning!” said Bilbo, and he meant it. The sun was shining, and the grass was very green. But Gandalf looked at him from under long bushy eyebrows that stuck out further than the brim of his shady hat.
“What do you mean?” he said. “Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?”
“All of them at once,” said Bilbo. “And a very fine morning for a pipe of tobacco out of doors, into the bargain.
…"Good morning!” he said at last. […] "What a lot of things you do use Good morning for!“ said Gandalf. "Now you mean that you want to get rid of me, and that it won’t be good till I move off.” - The Hobbit, J.R.R Tolkien
How to Create a Well-Rounded Character: The Trinity of Character Development
One of the most important aspects of roleplaying (and writing in general: yay, more tutorials that work for roleplaying and non-roleplaying writers) is having a unique, well-rounded character. It’s not always easy to do, because the questions asked about a character are often misguided. Today we’re going to have a lesson on what I call the Character Trinity.
To start off, let’s define what a well-rounded character is. This means they have three unique aspects of themselves:
something they want (central desire),
something negative about them (a character flaw),
something positive about them (redeeming quality).
The character may not be aware of what these three things are, but they need to have all three issues addressed. In other words, you might need to know more about your character than your character knows about themselves.
Now let’s break it down.
The first question you want to ask is this: what is my character’s main desire? Every character wants something. In the real world, people might float around like ‘I dunno, I’m just here,’ but that doesn’t work within fiction (which is, by definition, not real). Most audiences, including other roleplayers, want to see characters who are doing something. Take, for example, Frodo Baggins, who had a desire of 'destroy the Ring of Power in the fires of Mount Doom’ and went all the way to Mordor to do so (if I just spoiled that for you, sorry).
After you have a desire in place, the next question you want to ask is what is my character’s central flaw? Perfect characters, also called Mary Sues, are a huge no-no. You need to create something essentially “wrong” with your character. Going back to Frodo, his central flaw is that he’s a hobbit and hobbits “never had any adventures or did anything unexpected.”
You also need to follow up with a third question: what is my character’s main strength? What are they good at? I’m not being a sap when I say that everyone has a unique talent. Making a character that has no redeeming quality will alienate and exhaust your audience; we need to be able to relate somehow. In the case of Frodo, he’s strong in the face of danger.
Within these three parameters an infinite amount of unique individuals exist. Let me give you some more examples, both from characters I currently roleplay as and from other sources, answering these three questions:
Rowan Wilson (x): wants to be loved; hates 99% of people; he breaks social norms in entertaining ways
Sara Windsor (x): wants to be lazy bum forever; has an abrasive personality; cooks amazing food
Hermione Granger (Harry Potter series): wants to help Harry defeat Voldemort; she’s kind of a know-it-all; she’s willing to die for her friends
And some characters who don’t work:
Daisy (The Great Gatsby): she’s just kind of there; she’s not with Gatsby?; Gatsby likes her?
DeAndre Wilson (see Rowan Wilson): no central want; he’s got a personality of fermented poop; he’s hot.
Edward Cullen: wants Bella; he’s patriarchal in a patriarchal-themed YA novel; eVERYTHING ELSE.
The options are up to you and the combinations are limitless. Whether the three answers relate to each other or they’re completely separate, the world’s your pickle. Stick with the three themes: want, flaw, and strength, and it’ll work every time.