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A matter of character

This is Tarra.

She’s my main character. She’s an alchemy teacher, a sister, a hero. She goes through character growth, becoming strong and self-assured. But how does she start?

This is the challenge I have at the moment. Previously my main characters have always turned out acting like and sounding like me. Ana, the main character in “mind”, was not supposed to but I guess I’d been living with her in my head for such a long time that she was bound to pick up some of my characteristics. Tarra needs to be different, otherwise I might as well just call her Tallulah and be done with it.

While my other characters are young, awkward, teens, Tarra is a bit older, made of slightly stronger stuff. If she was a DnD (Dungeons and Dragons) character, her highest scoring attribute would be Wisdom, her lowest would be Charisma. In other words, her weakest skill is being likable. Not great for a person you want everybody who reads your story to like.

I was contemplating this fact and then I decided to actually roll out some attributes for her using a Pathfinder character sheet. I think this will be a good way to avoid ending up with a Mary Sue character who’s good at everything and always succeeds.

In Pathfinder, when a character is in a situation their success is determined using a dice roll representing luck. Usually there is a number that they have to beat in order for them to be lucky enough to succeed. Their abilities add or subtract numbers from the dice roll – affecting their chance of success. The higher the number of points in an ability, the more positive the affect it will have on the roll. I used a system where you can allocate a specific number of points to any attribute you like to come up with the below. The number is the amount of points she has – with 10 being average – and the number in brackets represents its affect on an imagined dice roll. For instance, if I rolled to see if she could lift something, I’d need deduct 1 from the result.

So, this is Tarra.

Strength: 8 (-1)

Muscle and physical power. Damage done when physically attacking someone or ability to carry heavy items. Tarra is quite slight so it serves to reason she wouldn’t be very good at this.

Dexterity: 10 (0)

Agility, reflexes and balance. This is what you use when dodging attacks or doing any kind of climbing/acrobatics. Tarra is pretty average at this.

Constitution: 15 (+2)

This is her stamina or ability to survive. She’s pretty hardy. She has to be because I’m going to put her through a lot.

Intelligence: 12 (+1)

In Pathfinder, this means the character’s ability to learn new things. It’s a score that’s especially applicable to wizards and since Tarra is an alchemist, she’s pretty adept at learning. In the handbook it says that “creatures of animal-level instinct have intelligence scores of 1 or 2.” So she’s at least 6 times more intelligent than an otter which is probably comforting for the parents of the children she teaches.

Wisdom: 17 (+3)

As opposed to the book-intelligence indicated by the above score, Wisdom refers to common sense. This is her highest ability because she has a ton of willpower (much more than I do at any rate. I’d say mine is at about 11… maybe 9 when it comes to chocolate) and any willpower checks are rolled using this modifier (so you add the +3 to your rolls when testing your strength of will). It’s also good for awareness and intuition, and these are both traits she’ll need to have to survive my story.

Charisma: 7 (-2)

Tarra’s Achilles heel is that she’s smart but not very socially adept. She is the least likely in a group to talk herself out of a situation… she would probably fail any situations where she needed to bluff, use diplomacy, disguise herself, intimidate someone, perform or influence anyone. She’d be pretty rubbish as a leader.

As the writer the instinct is always to try and use any means necessary to get her out of trouble, but this character sheet should make me stop and think. Tarra won’t act like I would because my numbers would be quite different if it were me making the decisions. I may never actually touch a dice while writing, but I want to force myself to bare in mind the odds whenever I have her trying anything.

I feel like I might just be making life more difficult for myself as the days wear on.



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