Character Building
Written By Gen

So you're in the Academy and have a character all set to go, but how much do you really know about your alternate persona? Through our encounters with the other players here, we learn a bit more about them, sure. But a little preplanning goes a long way towards making sure your characters live and breathe in the eyes of others.

This is going to be a bit more in-depth and opinionated then most of my general tips, since I'll be breaking down Genevieve and discussing some of my influences and decisions on how and why she is what she is. So as always, take this with a grain of salt, as not everyone even cares to break down their concepts this much, if at all - and not all of it is necessary. The intent here is just to expound a bit on how I created Gen, and how I cover some of the base details to try and make her more lifelike.

Basic Concept

First, most people will have a general idea of what they want right off. Male or Female, tall and thin or short and stout - most will have a starting point for their characters firmly in mind. Since this is a breakdown, I'll be starting at square one and building from there.

Male or Female: Female. I chose this because *spoilers* I myself am male, so as a writer I thought it good exercise to try and write from another perspective.

Age: in order to be appropriate for a school, she'd have to be 18 or under. I chose 17 so she'd be worldly 'enough' to explain some of the details I could write in her own speech and pass off as experiences, and also so she'd be a budding authority figure, in the same was Seniors in High School are to Freshmen.

Ethnicity: With the basis of a 17 year old female, the next thing I wanted to flesh her out was some background. Ethnicity seemed the best way to do so, as it would narrow the options of appearance and provide some basis for family history. Here, I chose Italian (my other thought being Spanish) - it was something I was somewhat familiar with, easily adaptable to American immigrants, (for her background) and full of potential for later stories and history. (Who's ever seen a Mafia movie, eaten spaghetti, or learned about Rome in school? That's right, everyone :P)

Appearance: With the above basics sorted, and ethnicity decided, this part is fairly easy. Italians tend towards dark hair and dusky skin, so I kept the black hair, paled her skin a touch (part of her background, since she's half Italian and half Irish - more on that later) and gave her hazel eyes. At this point, I started thinking of a girl I'd gone to high school with, and recalled that she was one of the goth kids. With a touch of nostalgia (and a quick check of the Academy roster to see what they already had) I decided this was a suitable fit, and one I was intimately familiar with, and made her a goth. That settled the matter of her base appearance and standard makeup and such, while her base clothing I initially modeled after the same girl from my history before watching the anime series 'Ergo Proxy' and deciding that Re-L's clothes from there were the same basic cut and style anyhow, therein tying it together nicely for future pictorial references. (I actually didn't even allude to this much before Brent made that fantastic sig for me)

Powers: As with any student at the Academy, my girl had to have some kind of powers to work with. Gadgets were a possibility, though I don't like the deus ex machina angle of it. I had a CoH character based off an early concept of this character called the Spectral Sorceress, who was an illusionist there, and thought maybe magic would be a good way to go - alas, a quick check of the Academy roster revealed they were already quite magic-user heavy, so I ultimately decided against it. I didn't think hard about her being naturally capable, since in my head I was still thinking magic - ranged character, which left mutants and science as possible backgrounds. I went with mutant as a base. (It works for the Xmen….)

So I knew she was a mutant. But what did she get from being one? Well, she could look normal, at least. What was a good hook for this young goth girl? I've always been fascinated with contrasts and ironies, so after thinking what power would be cool for a goth girl to have (yay darkness!) I picked the opposite (oh light >.<). A dark clothed, dark haired, cynical girl who's power makes light? Too ironic for me to pass up. Checking the roster, it seemed a good fit, and off I went building her abilities. Turns out from the HERO books Light was a pretty big powerset - but I knew I didn't want the stereotypical 'Light = healing' so I focused more on defensive abilities (invisibility) and offensive ones (lasers, pew pew) and I was set.

Name: Yes, I left this for last. Many heroes have names that encompass their abilities, and I knew I wanted a subtle hint in that same direction. First though, I wanted an Italian-sounding name, and a girl's name at that. Many years ago I had read a fantastic novel called 'Anno Dracula' by Kim Newman, and one of the main protagonists in that book was named Geneviève Dieudonnè. I loved the name Geneviève, especially the way it was pronounced totally differently in French (more like Zhaun-vie-ev) which lent me flexibility in later writing, able to have her criticize people for pronouncing it wrong if she so desired. Upon looking into that character further, Kim Newman noted that he used different versions of the same character in many of his novels - something I thought brilliant, as some characters are too good not to use as much as possible, and it fit anyhow, since really she was an extension of earlier ideas, including the aforementioned CoH hero. So I had a first name… for the surname, I started thinking of ways to say 'light' in various ways. I went back to her powerset, and thought it would be neat if she had an illusionist bent with her light control, and could choose to emanate light in various colors and wavelengths. Rolling with the idea brought me to color spectrums, and that gave me both Spectrum in Italian, 'Spettro' and her codename, Spectrum.

So there were the basics. I had a girl, with the basic beginnings of an appearance, powerset, and base persona from her background. At this point, the Academy was fairly young, so I submitted Gen's admittance letter and waited for Gordo's approval to join the RP, while fleshing out some more details.

Advanced Details

Family/History: I tie these two together for obvious reasons. I knew Gen's father would have to be a strong man, and her mother equally up to the challenge. Not one to pass up literary tragedy though, I went the route of having one absent, and chose to have Gen's mother out of the picture (mostly….) so I could draw upon the intense confusion of a man raising a little girl. That part was easy for me to sketch out, as I just had to imagine raising a headstrong daughter of my own, and mixing that with the details I imagined a strong father would possess.

I chose the name Victor mostly just out of personal preference - its a strong sounding name, and help me get a basic idea of this man. I knew I wanted him to be intelligent and successful, because I would be portraying Gen as at least as intelligent as myself, if not moreso, and she would need a reason for being as advanced as she was. For that, I fell back on my own personal training and interests, and made Victor a lawyer. This allowed me to easily build a background for him, complete with his own tragedies (parents killed in a Mafia-rigged car bomb just years before he left Italy, and the death of his wife in childbirth) giving him a tragic but compassionate edge, and the strength of character to maintain a professional, demanding career while raising a daughter himself.

Now that I had a strict but fair man with a headstrong daughter, I fleshed out some details of their interactions. I made Victor a fencer as a sort of hobby for him, to keep him in shape and give them something to do together. Everyone likes an Italian swordsman, after all, the only thing better being Spaniards. Since I had Victor flee the Mafia to America, I had to have him set up shop somewhere, and I chose my own hometown, Chicago. This allowed me a solid foundation for any writings concerning the area, as I was intimately familiar with it. As such, this became Gen's hometown as well.

Gen's mother I detailed a bit, then retouched later. Lucy itself I just chose as a name, knowing that my idea her leaned towards an old plant controller character from CoV - so I went the full nine yards and made her a stereotypical redhead bombshell sort à la Poison Ivy. To explain how she met Victor, I made her a police officer, which also added the strong edge she'd need to have to work her way through the ranks of the force as a female, as well as catch his eye. The plant control was secondary for a long time - I came back to it later mainly because it was a great tie in for the reason Gen could manipulate light, giving her a basis as a mutant, from her mothers side, as an advanced sort of photosynthesis. Having her 'die' in childbirth let me work on her background more, and I let her grow a psychotic side, making her grow more and more enraged at the state of nature versus the expansion of cities, eventually leading to her faking her own death to escape family ties and legal system (not to mention her honorable past and Victor) and go rogue as an instrument of nature's vengance. (Leading her to make an appearance as Amaranth, the antagonist in Welcome to the Jungle.)

Background: Like any teen, Gen had to grow up first. Using some of her history, I gave her father a best friend named Phil, a private investigator who could play the 'cool uncle' to Gen and teach her some of her 'less then legal' tricks. She also had a best friend growing up in Jeri Desanti, who's story will be told another time. I drew on the conflicts of interest in her background story, using her and her fathers background in law to contrast another students family, who are criminals. The details you can read off the wiki, mostly because I'm tired and don't want to summarize it tongue.gif

Tying it Together

As you can see, many details start to come together when they get fleshed out a bit. Gen at this point is far more detailed then she was at the beginning of this, with a family and reasons for being who she is. Further thinking from here leads to figuring out her likes and dislikes, and how she handles herself in certain situations. Interacting with other characters will help fill this out as well, since not many people will know how their character will react to meeting a sentient robot or a five and a half foot talking lizard until it happens :P. I hope at this point you have a better understanding as to how some simple basics, with a couple details, quickly add up into a detailed history to make a character more then just a name on paper.

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