Saturday, June 2, 2012

Improv Characters and Ponderings on Personality Bases

There are two ways to get Percy to carry on a conversation: talk about something he's interested in and leave out 'yes' and 'no' questions, or take him for a walk. He's very much like my Dad in that once you get his legs moving, his mouth starts moving, too.
Percy and I conspiring.
So he and Seph take turns coming with me when I walk my dog, Gypsy. One day when it was Percy's turn, we started on the subject of acting. Now, it must be understood that I dislike acting. A lot. Mostly because I stink at it. That being said, I have no problem -- and actually enjoy -- our Imagination Games.

But that's a form of acting, right?

Well, to me, it's not quite the same. When acting, it's your job to portray the character you've been assigned. In Imagination Games, you get to pick which character to portray, and also have the freedom to develop that character on your own, around your own capabilities and personality. You are the character, you don't have to become the character beause the character is just you in a different life. All you have to do is toss in a few quirks to make your character slightly different from the real you, but even still you're not constrained by script pressure to be a character that's been created with a completely different mindset as yourself.

 This is when we hit upon the idea of personality bases. See, each of us in our group has a set of Improv Characters. These are characters we've made up or adopted from old legends during various games (e.g. Robin Hood, Camille, King Arthur, Fayre and Dascah Grey...) and kept around to re-use in other games. Got that? Okay. In examining the various characters that Percy and I have, we came across similar patterns for each of them, with slight differences. Boiling things down, we came up with the idea of personality bases.

Basically, when you're coming into an Imagination Game with a completely new character, you have to go off some established cliche as a starting point for how your character is going to develop. We called these personality bases. I'll give an example. I personally can play either a villain or a hero with no difficulty switching from one to the other. But one thing I'm not so good at is playing a perfectly cold, stone faced villain. I simply cannot do it. I am far too visually expressive, without intending to be, to be able to pull it off. So instead of starting from the cold villain base, I start from the misunderstood villain base. This gives me much more leeway to be flustered, smile, and laugh, even, while still being either completely heartless or else heartless enough to be villainous. I'm one of those villains you think you have a chance of turning, but who's always too hurt or too stubborn, in the end, to actually change sides. This comes all from the misunderstood villain base, one that allows for little weaknesses and does not require an immoveable demeanor.

For heroes, my base is still on the weaker end of things. I often use an impulsive hero base. Strategically, I'm not very spectacular (XD), but I cannot stand doing nothing, especially when it's my team member/brother/friend/etc. on the line. One of the others I have is the ringleader hero base. This comes from being naturally bossy, and talent for getting others to go along with my schemes.

Now Percy on the other hand often starts with the warrior base, whether hero or villain. He's a fighter right from the start, and stays one right to the end, win or lose. He makes quick decisions based on his own assessment of situations, which often lands him as a mercenary or wandering warrior character, though he will work on teams sometimes, as well.

A personality base is the dumbed down, oversimplified cliche description of a given character type. From there, you can layer histories, tendencies, quirks, and skills over top to make the character ultimately original. As of yet we haven't compiled a list of common personality bases, but we'll do it sometime, and I'll post it here.

Just some food for thought. As we have grown older, our Imagination Games have become more and more orginized. In the end, however, our goal is just to have fun. The whole reason we enjoy these games so much is because we love the comraderie, the story (most of us are writers), and, of course, the costumes and sword fights.

Yeah. The sword fights are awesome.

Dia duit,

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