Creating Characters
Characters: Creating Characters
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Character identity within a hierarchy

A person's identity has survival value. In most cases it is the better identity one has the more likely one will benefit from it. One might think of an identity scale being like a pyramid, with the least identified being at the bottom, and moving up to the peak to the person or group which epitomises that identity. Social groups, businesses, the military, etc., all have a figurehead or leader who represents that group, and at best, epitomises it.

If we take a simple case such as the army, then the highest rank in a group will take command. The most resources will be available to that person, and they will have the most privileges and prestige, and stand to gain where influence counts. It is most important that such a person is easily identified for the sake of the group, so they will have distinguishing marks. The distinguishing marks will then take on an identity of their own. Just having the right uniform, or belonging to the right group gives one an identity that goes with the group as a whole. The shift of identity from the person to the insignia of the group or rank is an important aspect of defining a character.

Winning an identity is a battle for everyone. Life is easier if you can get what you want without having to fight for it. Society has solved the problem by creating identifiers with academic qualifications, medals, cups, certificates, ranks, honours, and such like. This was a point well made in the Wizard of Oz. There are also natural identifiers of colour, class, creed, fashion, tastes, and group associations. Then there are personal ratings such as beauty, wealth, intelligence, humour, fitness, popularity etc. that enable us to gauge ourselves with others.

Winning identity or suffering for the lack of it is part of every story somewhere. Take any character and say "what is his or her interests" There will always be an aspect of identity that contributes to drama. The phrase "A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do" refers to idea that certain things are expected of us depending on who we are. In a crisis we normally expect the most appropriate person to take the lead. That person usually knows who they are, and knows that whether or not they can meet the situation, they will have to make the right gestures.


Character assessment

A quick and easy way to look at a character is to see which role they play in a relationship at a given time. These fall into three categories:

Dominant: Where the character takes the superior role for any reason at all, then that is the dominant position. Bosses, parents, leaders, and whoever is in command of the situation is the dominant at the time.

Peer: When two people are equal such as friends, siblings, equal rank, and neither can take control without the others agreement, then that is peer position.

Subdominant: Children, animals, and those who have no power in the situation are subdominant.

By giving the character their position, the manner in which they perform will often seem obvious, as the situation will largely dictate the action.

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