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Ivan's Character Challenge


Guest Ivan
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I've decided to try something a little different. You've seen tournaments, and you've seen cool character awards. This is something of a combination of those two ideas. A tournament is time-consuming and difficult for me to pull off manually, and this is something I can judge fairly easily, and reward just as easily.

 

Each month I will be introducing a theme or prompt, along with a set of criteria. Any creator, new or old, who wants to tackle a character using that criteria should submit the character to the CA board. Edits and Revisions are perfectly acceptable and expected. Once a "final" version is ready, creators will post a link here in this thread. New contests begin as soon as the post appears, and run until 11:59 PM on the last day of that month. This current prompt will end on Sept 30th.

 

Rewards- I will CA any contest characters whose creators request it. At the end of each month, I will select my favorite character or characters and write a short story involving those characters.

 

Because this is a month-long process, each prompt will require a bare-bones amount of research. Whether you spend five minutes or five hours is completely up to you.

 

September's challenge is based around the The Kübler-Ross model, more commonly known as the Five Stages of Grief. Each character must address all five stages at some point in the writing. Obviously, simply having five powers named after the stages isn't enough. The character must be personally experiencing grief somewhere within the five stage model, and the other four stages must be demonstrated or at least touched on. The two main things I'm looking for in this contest are a character that challenges my expectations and a character that I can connect to emotionally. There may be two different winners.

 

Best of luck in September,

Ivan

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Character creation tip of the week:

 

If you check wikipedia, you'll find the following bits:

It describes, in five discrete stages, a process by which people deal with grief and tragedy, especially when diagnosed with a terminal illness or catastrophic loss... this may also include significant life events such as the death of a loved one, divorce, drug addiction, the onset of a disease or chronic illness, an infertility diagnosis, as well many tragedies and disasters.

This should instantly give you some ideas about different directions you can go with your character's backstory and motivation.

 

Best of luck!

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Another character creation tip:

 

If you're considering the loss of a loved one as a direction to take your character, this article from Psychology Today suggests that medication is not an effective means of treating the depression associated with this kind of grief, but talk therapy has a proven degree of success. Either of these two method of therapy could be another potential jumping off point for some character ideas, or a subplot, or even just a passing mention. The character may be written from an outside point of view- you could introduce us to your creation through journal entries written by a psychologist or psychiatrist. You could show a degenerating series of personality snapshots over time as your character visits the pharmacy to renew his or her prescription. Keep in mind these are just suggestions for one potential direction- your character may be totally different and none of this may apply!

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Dear Conspirators (you know who you are,)

 

Please feel free to provide tips or potential character ideas as well! Is there a particular direction you'd take or avoid? What things would you do to "mix it up" if you were creating for this challenge?

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Hmm, this is a pretty tough theme to tackle. To keep it simple, I'd suggest using the power descripts to each focus on a different stage.

 

For a random example, say your guy's a mutant with Fire powers and is in the Anger stage, you can use that to represent the Fire power you want to use for offense. Like, he's lashing out against the world.

 

Stuff like that. Keep it simple and easy for yourself. Just focus on writing a character that doesn't suck. You can build on it from there.

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Yes! As an extension of that, you could think of other powers that could compliment the fire power. For example, the final stage of "Acceptance" could be Immunity: Fire, as he is able to overcome his own anger issues.

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Another character creation tip:

 

The five stages of grief are also a response to the diagnosis of a terminal illness. If that's an avenue you want to take, think of the ways someone learns about their own end. Medical prognosis is just one example. A mafia hit, an immutable prophecy, and built-in obsolescence are a few other options. If this is a route you like, the character may have a "bucket-list" or an old score that remains unsettled.

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another character creation tip:

 

Telling stories out of sequence can be a risk, but the potential for payoff is high. A brave creator might try to take the five stages out of order, perhaps putting Denial at the end. In nonlinear storytelling, it is important that both the writer AND the reader understand what order the events happen, and new information must be introduced using the context of what the reader already knows. I have never attempted a nonlinear character myself, but I have seen one or two really interesting examples in the past. Please remember these tips are just ideas, and you should not try to incorporate any of these ideas unless they fit the story you want to tell!

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Another character creation tip:

 

Focusing in on one specific aspect when writing a character can really help create a foundation. A character's entire power combination and personality description might represent only one of the five stages, but the character is totally and completely immersed in that stage at the time. The other stages could serve as simple counterpoints- briefly mentioned in the story to offset how much of this one emotion your character is experiencing. Look at the five stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance, and see if one really embodies your character more than the others. It may be worth the risk of playing down the other stages a bit if you can make your character really emotionally connect with one of them.

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Another character creation tip:

 

From Darth Maxx (Hall of Famer and author of The Apocalypse)

 

The story you're in is the story that you don't know you're in. To put it another way: people are generally stupid about their own psychological state. This is obvious with a stage like Denial -- that's the whole reason they call it Denial. It applies to other stages, too. Someone who's Bargaining might think she's behaving with complete rationality. "Of course there's something I can do to fix this situation! There's always some kind of out!" Try to write a character who's so bent out of shape by her circumstances that she doesn't, or can't, even realize it.

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Ouch. An entire month gone by and not one submission. This even coincided with the re-opening of the FPL and still nothing. I had a couple sweet ideas for October's theme, too. Oh well. Live and learn I guess.

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I wouldn't give up on the whole idea. I thought it was a cool concept to have a monthly challenge, this month was probably just a fluke with the matches beginning; everybody was focused on creating characters or following their matches. Maybe a simpler concept next month would help, possibly a word limit so people don't feel like they have to write a novel just to compete.

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Eh, I'm kind of over the whole concept. I was looking for people to go more in depth, rather than less. This challenge is still open if people want to participate, and I'll still gladly CA characters on request, but the wind has gone out of my sails with the overall project. Word limits are for light, fun tournament characters. If I were to set a word limit, it'd be 3000 words, because after that the characters start to get overly long. 2000 words is a good medium number to shoot for.

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Yeah, I liked the idea of a monthly challenge as well. Its just that I have a about a half dozen characters floating around in the old noggin that need tending to. Seriously though, don't let all of our slackish ways get to you. I think, once things start to get clicking in the FPL and everyones all "Rargh! I need to a character", this idea is going to be just what we need. Something to give us a jump start, if you will. So if I'm ever blank on an idea it would've been nice to click on this challenge, just to get started.

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Yeah, I don't get that. You shouldn't have to force anything. The contest "rules" are literally "Write about one of the five stages of grief." That's it. Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Depression, and Acceptance- If you can't think of anything to say on ONE of those five general themes, then the restrictions you're feeling don't come from this contest, they come from your own mind. Add to that the fact that I've thrown out at least ten potential character ideas in the tips section that nobody has even nibbled on. The potential combination of two or three or four of the ideas mentioned below means there are over a hundred different basic characters that could be created just from this list.

 

1-From the point of view of a psychologist or psychiatrist writing notes about the character's behavior

2- A series of vignettes as a pharmacist watches the character once a month over a period of time

3- A character who has a terminal illness

4- A character who just found out he/she has a price on his/her head

5- A character learns of a prophecy outlining the circumstances of his/her death

6- The list of things to do before this character dies

7- A vendetta that has to be settled before this character dies

8- A story where the five stages are told out of sequence

9- Pick one stage and focus the entire character on that one emotion

10- Have the character not be aware of what stage he/she is in at the moment

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The one that I'm doing is a guy who confronts God at the gates of heaven, gets kicked back to earth to say his final goodbyes, and goes through the 5 stages with his wife.

 

Dealing with just ONE of the stages would be pointless, I don't need a contest to motivate me for that.

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