Thursday, July 10, 2014

New characters, new stories, new journeys

Because I don't already have too many things going on all at once, why not add even more?

A conversation on the BioWare fanfiction forum a couple days ago started me thinking about double-standards and what society in general considers attractive. One of the things I thought of was the old ​announcement trailer for Borderlands that had a woman delivering a monologue. Here's a screenshot:

Then she turns toward the "camera" and you see that one side of her face is all scarred and she's got a fucked-up eye. And after being caught by surprise, my next thought was, "Huh. Y'know, she's still beautiful despite all that."

So, yesterday I was thinking a little more about that trailer, and standards of beauty as presented in media like video games, and double-standards. A male character can have a few scars, or even a face that looks like a thousand miles of bad road, and no one gives it a second thought aside from maybe wondering what happened to him. But female characters, generally, tend to look like supermodels unless they're placed in the background to add a little "flavor" to a scene. (Granted, that's not always the case--the recent Tomb Raider reboot, for example, has Lara get pretty battered, bruised, and dirty...but it's not permanent, and she's quite attractive anyway.)

For another example, one thing I noticed about Mass Effect from the very beginning, when customizing Shepard, is that the male version could have more pronounced scars than the female. Now, I don't consider scars on a woman's face to be a deal-breaker...but more to the point, because of this apparent double-standard, the character automatically becomes a little more interesting if she's got some visible mileage on her face, simply because even in 2014, we're still not used to seeing things like that. Visually, characters who aren't perfect, or don't look like supermodels, are just more interesting to look at. And in terms of story/character, it adds another layer to her and makes me want to know what happened and how she deals with it.

Anyway, so, as I was thinking about this yesterday, I had this image from the trailer lodged in my mind:

Aside from just thinking she still looks good despite the obvious damage, my mental gears started turning and coming up with ideas for a new character and possibly a new story or novel. Because working on a half-dozen different writing projects already just isn't enough, apparently.  O_o While taking deliveries yesterday afternoon, there I am sitting in my car on the way to the customers' houses, without anything else to do, so my brain keeps itself occupied by coming up with stuff and putting the pieces together.

First off, I started thinking that whatever happened to her, she's probably a badass. Whatever life threw at her, she survived it, and probably kicked its ass. Was it an explosion? A fire? Acid? Was it an accident? Or combat? Or did some whackjob single her out and do this to her? Did she merely escape and try to put her life back together? Or if someone did this to her deliberately, did she take immediate retribution, or track him/her down later for revenge served cold? I haven't settled on any particular answer yet, but I've come up with a few ideas.

Then I thought over how the event affected her--is she (justifiably) angry and bitter and does she just generally have a chip on her shoulder? I had this idea that, before it happened, she was either a supermodel or was on track to beginning a career as one. After losing that potential future, it'd be perfectly reasonable for her to suffer from depression and be resentful and filled with bitterness...but it's also kind of the obvious way to go.

What's a more interesting way to go with a character like this? Maybe she forces herself to be cheerful, or at least act stoic, to hide how much it gets to her? Or maybe she genuinely shrugs it off, being satisfied with simply having survived it without being completely crippled, and decided that being an adventurer was more challenging and fun than making a career out of wearing fancy clothes and being photographed all the time?

I figured the last one would make a better story. I had this idea of her, when someone asks her about having surgery to fix all those scars, replying, "Actually, I'm more concerned with being blind in one eye. In my line of work, that can get you killed. And given my line of work, I can't get medical insurance, so I keep hoping for a big score so I can get myself a cybernetic eye." I liked the idea of her being much more focused on practical matters than what she looks like.

As for her being a badass...I thought up two possible ways of introducing her. In one, she's in a marketplace, buying a foot-long Sonoran hotdog, when several goons converge on her. Her first reaction is mild annoyance. "Oh, come on, can I at least finish my hotdog first?" When they (not unexpectedly) refuse to wait before assaulting her, she just grumbles, "Goddamn it"--and fights them off while eating her hotdog.

The other idea I had is a bit darker. Similar scenario, but in a bar. The goons pick a fight with her for whatever reason. It escalates until one of them breaks a bottle open on the counter and threatens her with it. Which just makes her roll her eye. "Dumbass. That's not how you do it." She buys a beer, breaks the bottle over the goon's head, and while he's staggering backward, she stabs him in the chest with the jagged remains of the bottle still in her hand. "That's how you do it," she snarls as he collapses and starts to bleed out. Then she turns to the rest of the goons, raises an eyebrow...buys another beer, and just waits for them to make a move.

So, after about 20-30 minutes of mulling this over yesterday, I've got some of the basics of this character down. I'm thinking she deserves to be the main character in her own story or novel, or at least a really major supporting character. I might put her in Freelancers to help flesh her out before using her in an original work (because Freelancers doesn't already have too many characters for me to juggle).

But yeah...why not just pile on even more stuff to keep working on all at the same time? XD

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