((I had a point when I started this–I think I lost it along the way, but that happens when you write a post in pieces over several hours. Regardless, there’s still some merit to my ramblings, so here you go.))
In some ways, I suppose I am an odd duck amongst RPers–I don’t mind RPing “by myself”. I enjoy spinning side stories and writing little vignettes, digging deeper into my characters. It’s all growth, and can still be surprising. Even if all of my character growth is occurring in journal entries, it’s still there.
Now, I am not knocking dramatic storylines. They are things to be used judiciously, however, and so in the times between we have…well, normal stuff. Small changes. Little ripples that, although minor, change the face of the entire pond. These things aren’t enough to be called stories on their own; there is no plot, no stated direction, and no end in sight.
I’ll pull out the death knight version of Ambrosine here as an example. She’s already a Death Knight–I don’t really need anything more dramatic than that. A kind and caring person by nature before her turning, she is genuinely wounded by her reception at home. Wounded, and guilt ridden. As dictated by her temperament, even one tempered by Arthas’ misdeeds, her natural reaction is to retreat. She goes back to her roots–farming–and uses that to tie up all of her time so that she can’t think.
…or, not quite all of her time. She’s still craves social interaction. She’s lonely. And this is what drives her to seek out company, and–because she wants herself, and death knights in general, to be better accepted–she strives to be friendly. Awkwardly so, but friendly none the less. A smiling, hugging death knight? What is this?!
In and of itself, this is not a “storyline”. This is merely a character with a purpose–but it sets the stage for interactions. I have given her a reason to go out into the world and a reason to interact with people. Not only can these interaction be thought-provoking–how does everyone else react to her? How does she handle negative attention?–but they can also be hilarious. Ambrosine was particularly fond of reaching out to other death knights. You can only imagine what some of them thought of being hugged.
I had no idea where it would go from there. If she received enough negative attention, she would have given up. Instead, however, she recieved…encouragement. People liked her. She spent more and more time in the “outside world”…
She changed. She also changed some of those around her, and all without a single dramatic act. She’s now a happy individual with a new hobby, a new purpose in life, new friends…all becuase when I didn’t have a story for her, I just had her go out and be herself.
I’ve seen one or two people say they don’t know what to “do” with a character. So what? You don’t have to know what to “do” with them. They know what to do with themselves, when the opportunities present themselves.