Sunday, 12 June 2016

Writing Salon Week 7: Character Description

This post is for the June 12-18 writing event of the 2016 AIF Writing Salon.

Write descriptions for the player and partner. What do they look like? What are they wearing? What do they look like naked? Post your descriptions and try to entice us with your characters.

To help get your mind in the mood for writing, I'm including two public domain excerpts from Fanny Hill. Adapt them to your needs.

Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (Fanny Hill)
(description of a woman)
John Cleland
my shape perfectly straight, thin waisted, and light and free without owing anything to stays; my hair was a glossy auburn, and as soft as silk, flowing down my neck in natural curls, and did not a little to set off the whiteness of a smooth skin; my face was rather too ruddy, though its features were delicate, and the shape was a roundish oval, except where a pit on my chin had far from a disagreeable effect; my eyes were as black as can be imagined, and rather languishing than sparkling, except on certain occasions, when I have been told they struck fire fast enough; my teeth, which I ever carefully preserved, were small, even and white; my bosom was finely raised, and one might then discern rather the promise than the actual growth of the round, firm breast, that in a little time made that promise good.


Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (Fanny Hill)
(description of a man)
John Cleland
The young gentleman, by Phoebe's guess, was about two and twenty; tall and well limbed. His body was finely formed, and of a most vigorous make, square shouldered, and broad chested: his face was not remarkable any way, but for a nose inclining to the Roman, eyes large, black, and sparkling, and a ruddiness in his cheeks that was the more a grace; for his complexion was of the brownest, not of that dusky dun colour which excludes, the idea of freshness, but of that clear, olive gloss, which glowing with life, dazzles perhaps less than fairness, and yet pleases more, when it pleases at all. His hair being too short to tie fell no lower than his neck, in short easy curls; and he had a few sprigs about his paps, that garnished his chest in a style of strength and manliness. Then his grand movement, which seemed to rise out of a thicket of curling hair, that spread from the root all over his thighs and belly up to the navel, stood stiff and upright, but of a size to frighten me, by sympathy for the small tender part which was the object of its fury, and which now lay exposed to my fairest view

If you have something you want to share, just post it as a comment to the blog post. Be careful to use a separate account for posting and not an account you use IRL. Anonymous comments are welcome, but it would be useful to tag your comments somehow so we know which comments are from whom. AIF Central sometimes has difficulties dealing with longer comments. You can break up your posts into multiple comments, or sign-up to become a blogger on AIF Central and make a new blog post with your content.

17 comments:

  1. I'm behind on my character descriptions. I've been delayed by trying to learn how 19th century clothing works. It's more complicated than I thought.

    If you want to know if it's possible to have quickie sex with a fully clothed Victorian woman, the answer is yes. Beneath all those layers of petticoats, it was not uncommon for women to go commando. Even if she were to wear undergarments such as bloomers, these undergarments were crotchless. Apparently, Victorian women believed in airing out their nether regions. I haven't figured out if it's possible to have sex in a hoop skirt though. I suspect so because women might need an easy way to go to the washroom too. Then again, that hasn't stopped modern women from wearing rompers.

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    1. I'm not good at descriptions, so I tend to keep them short and sparse:

      Mrs. Harrow is Mr. Harrow's wife. Although you were planning on quickly dismissing Mr. Harrow and his incessant promotion of his ventures, you were intrigued by Mrs. Harrow's devoted defense of her husband and her advocacy for the benefits of the ventures to the Empire.

      Though her features are soft and delicate, Mrs. Harrow's eyes shine with the fierce intensity of an intelligent woman who is always curious to learn more about the world. Her golden hair is tied up fashionably behind her head. She wears a modest brown dress that hugs tightly to her slender waist and medium bosom.

      --

      You are Lord Kettering, an idle gentleman who avails himself of all the hedonistic pleasure available to a man of your stature. Although you are idle, you are not incurious. You have travelled the continent seeking adventure and have accumulated many experiences and treasures.

      Your dark brown hair is uncombed and disordered. Though you are clean-shaven, your long sideburns frame your square jaw. Your grey pants fit tightly over your long legs. You wear a crimson vest over your white shirt and grey jacket over your vest.

      --

      Mr. Harrow is Mrs. Harrow's husband. He is a businessman from a minor city in the north. He is a striver, always promoting his ventures and looking for opportunities in a most ungentlemanly way. He is currently seeking your investment in a mine or canal or factory or some such thing.

      He hides his youthful features beneath a well-groomed beard and carefully combed hair. He wears brown pants. His broad shoulders are covered with a flashy green vest and a slightly-worn brown jacket.

      --

      Udele is your mistress. She is a country girl who has none of the poise and grace of a proper lady but instead exudes an irresistable sensuality. She is a magnificent beauty whose sly smile can inspire a thousand poets.

      Udele is wearing a crimson blue dress with exposed shoulders and a low neckline that reveals her ample cleavage. The dress is adorned with elaborate lace trim and many decorative ribbons. It hugs her narrow waist and flares out over her lush birthing hips.

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    2. I'd bet the crotchless thing is less for airing and more for being able to take a pee without dealing with 16 layers of stuff. Hoopskirts are also useful - I saw a play where a lady concealed another gentleman entirely underneath her hoop-gown.

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    3. After watching more videos about how Victorian clothing worked, it seems that the metal hoop skirts of the period could be compressed like a slinky. I'm still not sure if one could actually have sex in them though, so I may skip that period. Apparently, the popularity of the hoop skirt also led to the wearing of crotchless undergarments because women were afraid men would see their bare legs. Before then, skirts were so heavy that women went commando (women might also have gone commando during the regency period when women wore lighter dresses though). I think I'll also skip the bustle-period. At one point, there was such an obsession with big booty that women wore giant butt extensions called bustles, but it also seems like it would be difficult to have sex in them. I think there was a period where women wore corsets but before the hoop skirts were popular (women wore many layers of petticoats instead). I'll try to aim for that in my story.

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    4. https://youtu.be/TzNcryo2Rg4

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  2. Here's the description of my main NPC:

    Katherine's a tall green eyed brunette, almost as tall as you. Smooth, tanned skin lets you know she spends a lot time outside. Her wavy, almost curly, dark brown hair hangs to her shoulders and bounces lightly as she moves. Her body is a killer combination of curvy and athletic, finely turned muscles giving way to lush curves around her hips and chest. Her long legs look powerful, but still supple and soft. You've always been more attracted to trim women but you're finding Katherine undeniably attractive.

    Katherine's wearing a nice denim jacket over a tight red top, which is stretched tightly over her ample breasts. Any cleavage is unfortunately covered by a tasteful scarf, much to your chagrin. She's wearing a pair of stylish jeans, cut perfectly for her figure.
    ----------------------------
    I haven't written one up for the player yet, I know most games leave the player character as somewhat of a blank slate and I'm trying to decide if I want to go that route. I was thinking of making the player character a bit more fleshed out regarding appearance and personality but maybe that's alienating to some? Personally I don't find it too distracting if the player character is described differently than me, what do you guys think? If the PC is a heterosexual man, and the player is as well (I'm making broad assumptions about the player base of AIF, maybe it's more diverse than I think), is a generic everyman character fine?

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    1. When I play AIF, I often forget that I can examine myself to see what I look like. Players who prefer the player character being a blank slate will simply not read the description of the PC, so there's no harm in including one. It's more a question of whether you want to put in the extra work to write one up.

      Personality is a funny thing in that you can be vague and specific at the same time. People's personalities have many different aspects. You can take horoscopes and astrological personality profiles, give them to random people, and they will all think that the descriptions match themselves pretty well.

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    2. The PC *should* have a description based on what kind of story it is. You might have a Larry Laffer, or you might want to at least add a couple charisma and strength points to the PC as wish-fulfillment and to at least make them on par with your objects of affection. There's nothing worse than porn where the women are stunningly gorgeous and their paramour is nowhere near their league.

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    3. My view is that the PC should have a personality because the story is more interesting when the PC has one, but the personality doesn't need to be spelt out in the description. The personality will reveal itself in the character's actions. If you want the character to be a blank slate that players can impress their own personalities on, then that shows up as different paths and actions that the player can choose in the game. By making choices, the character chooses a personality. The absence of a personality doesn't mean the character is a blank slate that the player can inhabit more easily. It just means you've written a character with a bland personality.

      Some players also enjoy playing personalities different from themselves.

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  3. These are a few simple descriptions for my characters. I tried to make them less technical than my elevator description. I'm really trying to make sure that Laurelynn and Hudson seem like they could be real people. Not quite certain that I believe they are real yet though ... if that makes any sense :P.

    :: Laurelynn description
    Laurelynn is a perfectly average woman with an exceptionally infectious smile. Her light gray eyes win hearts and minds before she even utters a word in her polished, self assured voice. Luxuriant ash blonde hair kisses her shoulders, curling just enough at the tip to accentuate her femininity. She keeps herself in good shape, conscious of her health even though only in her late twenties.

    Laurelynn is always friendly, carefully crafting words to best any situation. She'll even offer a firm handshake to any foe. She is all business, dressed in a typical black suit with token American Flag pin. Painstakingly manicured nails and expensive jewelry betray her wealth, while the refreshing scent of her floral perfume adds a subtle sensuality when close enough to her.

    :: Hudson description
    Hudson is a man's man through and through, and he'd never have it any other way. He'll shave when he wants. His short, messy black hair is styled in whatever pattern he uses to dry it off after a morning shower. He's taller and more muscular than the average joe, but his round face and big lips make him look youthful as he approaches his thirties.

    Look Hudson in his brown eyes and he'll tell you exactly what he thinks, for better or worse. He has no time for games and doesn't rely on anyone to do something that he can get done himself. He is a devoted father and works an honest job to protect what's his. He's dressed in the cleanest smelling tee shirt from his laundry pile along with the same work pants, sneakers, body harness, and hard hat as any workday.

    :: Genie description
    You are an ephemeral being trapped in a small, ornate lamp which is a relic from long ago. Although you maintain many human-like features, from the waist down your body funnels into the opening of the lamp, inescapably cinched into the infinite nothingness inside.

    You are irrevocably bound to the lamp and to the rules of the spiritual contract that force you to serve any mortal who comes into possession of the lamp. You can however take the liberty to interpret your Master's will as you see fit. It is within your power to do anything, yet you can only truly act when commanded.

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    1. Those were really pleasant descriptions to read. Two things jumped out at me though.

      1. "perfectly average woman" doesn't really mean anything to me. Average in what way? What does it mean to be average?

      2. Having Hudson be a father is an odd choice. I think you're trying to balance off his gruff manliness by showing he's a family man. Making him a father brings up questions about whether he's married or divorced though. Perhaps you could use coded language instead like, "he loves spending his weekends with his nephews and nieces."

      You might be able to make your characters feel more real by giving them a flaw, so that they don't seem entirely like wish-fulfillment. The flaw can actually be endearing. Something like, "She eats healthily, except for ice cream on Saturdays and the hidden stash of chocolate bars in her desk she uses as a mid-day pick-me-up. Conscious of her health, she plans on signing up for a yoga class one day but never does." or "She'll even offer a firm handshake to any foe while secretly poisoning their dog in her mind."

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    2. Those are some good points. For the physical descriptions I am trying to provide just enough information to create a mental image without being overly detailed. As a player/reader I really like the process of picturing a character as I like them, and I dislike being given too much detail. It is difficult finding the right balance.

      As for personality I wanted to talk about the characters generally while leaving some details to explore later on. I wanted to give about as much detail as you would get if you were serving one of the characters in a restaurant. How do they look and behave around others? Along those lines the player will learn more about Hudson's relationship with the mother later, but for now knowing that he is a father should explain a lot about him.

      It turns out that I've made Laurelynn a little too perfect in a lot of ways, but I find that to be a flaw in and of itself. Her overt smile, friendly manner, even wearing an American flag pin shows that she is highly focused on how she is perceived by others. There is a reason for that, but I wanted to discuss that later.

      I wouldn't say that my stance on all this is 100% right, but there is at least a method to my approach.

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  4. Character descriptions are among the most challenging tasks in writing (or attempting to write) AIF in my opinion. Whereas in mainstream fiction it's a good idea to trickle out details a bit at a time, preferably through action rather than exposition, AIF demands that the entire description be dumped on the player in one go.

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    1. Does it really "demand" it though? At minimum it could be stretched out. In Inform 7 it's quite an easy thing to write a description that changes on repetition. If the player is interested in a character and examines her repeatedly it could simulate longer and longer perusal.

      The description of Sarah Palin is "[one of]The woman has a strange voice, horn-rimmed glasses, and bustles back and forth onstage in a blue business suit, kicking the slack cord from a handheld mic out of her way as she meanders.[or]Despite her oddly northern accent and vapidly incomprehensible platitudes on the middle east, she is totally working the sexy-librarian thing with the frumpy glasses and dark chestnut pinned up hair. In a movie she'd whip off the glasses and shake her hair loose just before explaining that she's not the prude everyone imagines her to be. Then she'd take the riding crop out of her desk drawer...[or]The woman turns upstage to point out the proximity of Alaska and Russia on her map and...whoa, she's got it going on from behind. Yeah, definitely do-able. With bonus points if you had some sticky tape to keep her from talking during the "do".[or]She remains aloof as she chatters onstage incessantly, nailing the "brainy girl with a secret" attitude behind her glasses and flexing each tight calf muscle as she works the stage like a pageant winner in her shiny matching heels.[stopping]"

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    2. That's a very clever idea.

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    3. I think it "demands" it in the sense that most players like to have the picture painted for them before the actions starts. It's more important to the fantasy than it otherwise would be outside of AIF.

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