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A Walkthrough

Following is a transcript of the conversation between the Storyteller and the actor who created Royce Jenner, the example character from the quick start page. This will give you a better idea of one possible way to go about formulating your first Window character.

In this case, the actor decided that he would approach his character's history first, and allow the rest to fall into place. Thus, he and the Storyteller worked through a series of stages in Dr. Jenner's past, from his birth through to his adulthood. (This technique works well for some... You, of course, should use whatever creative process comes naturally.)

I. Conception.

This is moment of that first spark of life. In this brief instant, there are powers set in motion that will mold this new character throughout his life.

The actor must take a moment here to decide on the sort of character he would like to play. What is he like? He could focus on appearance and personality, as well as broad definitions such as career or specialties. On a practical level, he must decide how the character will fit into the cast. What holes will he fill? What parts of the story will he be most active in?

Storyteller: Well, the setting's like this: Victorian England, around 1890. We're setting it up that Queen Victoria has a keen interest in the supernatural, and wants to put together a group of professional ghost hunters to look into her pet cases.

Actor: So it's horror?

Storyteller: Right. Sanity will definitely be used. He, he, he...

Actor: Can we be Vampires or Witche or anything?

Storyteller: Nope, just normal people, or at least mostly normal.

Actor: Good. Well, I've been thinking that I'd like to play a scientist sort, like a real rationalist who always dresses in a nice grey suit, and he's maybe in his forties or so.

Storyteller (making a note): Hmmm, that would certainly be interesting in this sort of Anthology. Do you have a way to get him onto the cast?

Actor: I don't know, he could be a friend of the Queen, or have an interest in the supernatural?

Storyteller: How about the director of an insane asylum? That could certainly give him some notoriety.

Actor: Yeah, that sounds cool. OK, let's make him a director of an insane asylum, and a psychologist type. Um, and he's a total skeptic, like he's investigated ghosts and stuff before but thinks they're a bunch of crap.

Storyteller: That's all good with me. The other players are gonna love this guy. You got a clean sheet of paper?

Actor: Yeah, let's get this down. I can definitely see him now, smoking his cigarettes, no wait, his pipe, and making it clear that he knows exactly what's going on...

Storyteller: Even though he doesn't?

Actor: Of course, that's the point.

II. Childhood

Dr. Jenner has just been slapped by the doctor, and is taking his first breath of air. Wait, is there really a doctor here, or was he born in an alleyway? Where is all this taking place? Is it a small town or a large one, and what is it called? What time of the year is it? Who are his parents?

There are many things to be decided in this first occasion of life. In the last step, the actor got a basic character idea in his head. Now, he must begin working toward that image and answering some of the questions above.

Storyteller: Alright, so we've got this skeptical asylum director. Got a name for him?

Actor: Uh, he's Doctor something. Jenkerman? No, how about Jenner. Dr. William Jenner.

Storyteller: Ah come on, let's get a cooler name than William, something that sounds European.

Actor: Royce.

Storyteller: Great. Dr. Royce Jenner. Where was he born?

Actor: London. His father was a schoolmaster there, very strict. And his mom died right after he was born, so his father, like, controlled his life.

Storyteller (writing all of this down): OK, how old do you want him to be when we get started?

Actor: Um, forty-two.

Storyteller: Lets see, we're playing in 1890, so that means he was born in 1848. Sound good?

Actor: Sure. Now I want to say that he had a sort of crappy childhood. His father made him study all of the time, so he didn't really have many friends. Besides that his life was pretty normal. He did well in school and all. He knew that he wanted to be a doctor.

Storyteller: You know, I don't really think that psychology was very developed back then. I guess we should probably do some research.

Actor: Yeah, I'll check into it when I get to the library.

Storyteller: OK, Any rolemodels?

Actor: Nah, he just wanted to get away from his father. The idea is that he couldn't wait for college.

Storyteller: Wait, wait, we'll get to that in a sec. First, did he learn anything as a kid?

Actor: In particular? Well, he learned how to swim, though not real well, and I think he probably can ride a horse.

Storyteller (making a note): OK.

Actor: Anything else you want to include about his childhood?

Storyteller: I don't know, well how about this: when you were eight you saw something very interesting.... I'm going to say that you were studying by this abandoned church near your house. It was an ancient building, crumbling beneath the weight of its own forgotten history. You had played there many times, and it was like an old friend. Anyway, it was getting dark, so you started to go back home when you heard someone call your name from inside.

Actor: Ooooh, scary.

Storyteller: Yeah well, you went in to check it out and there was a man standing in a long coat and wearing very nice clothes. You recognized him from somewhere, though you're still not sure where. Anyway, he gave you this red ruby Catholic rosary and told you that it was from your mother.

Actor: So she was still alive?

Storyteller: No, he didn't say. He just said that she wanted you to have it. You haven't seen him since, but you still have the Rosary.

Actor: Sounds neat, but why do I get the feeling you're setting me up?

Storyteller: He, he, he. It's just something to think about. Now, what about friends?

Actor: Um, he only had one close friend, a neighbor girl named Lindsay. Let's say that when she was twelve she got schizophrenia or something and Royce had to watch his only friend descend into madness before she had even grown.

Storyteller: Okay, nice...

Actor: Anyway, it only strengthened his desire to be a doctor. Let's get on to college...

III. Teenage years

A lot can happen during this part of Dr. Jenner's life. This is when he will begin to learn his skills and really decide on his future.

High school, college, first love, military service, early jobs; all of these and could occur to him in this stage. Plus, this is when it's time for the actor to start putting down some concrete descriptions of Royce's personality.

Storyteller: Now, we've got Dr. Jenner through his early years. What about secondary school?

Actor: Oh, he was a good student, of course.

Storyteller: Oh, of course.

Actor: Then, his father got him a job at a library somewhere, and that's when he started getting into science.

Storyteller: OK, right. He probably studied basic physics and chemistry and all that, but how did he get interested in insane people?

Actor: Well, remember there was his friend Lindsay, and shortly after he was accepted at Oxford, I think his dad went nuts.

Storyteller: Imagine that. So you're sending him to Oxford, eh? Was he studying medicine at that point?

Actor: OK, it goes like this: he got accepted as a medical student, and in the middle of his first semester he got a letter from his father. It was totally crazy sounding, and it basically blurted sentence after sentence about Royce's mother, saying that he had seen her...

Storyteller: A ghost?

Actor: Ahh, but that's up to you., though I guess that could be one of the reasons Royce got interested in spooks. But anyway, he never really figured it out. Before he could get home to see his dad the old guy killed himself. After that, Royce devoted himself totally to studies, becoming the top student in his graduating class. It wasn't until after college that it all came back to haunt him...

Storyteller: Well, you're certainly making my job easy. Lesse, I'm going to make up an exact date of his father's death: it might just come into the story later on...

Actor: Wonderful. Yeah, I can see him a little better now. He's a perfectionist in some ways, and really wants to prove something.

Storyteller: An egotist?

Actor: Better believe it. I think that his belief in the "vast superiority of science" is his defining surface trait.

IV. Adulthood

Well, here we are. The warmup in Dr. Jenner's life in over. He is now an adult: a full member of society. Now it must all come together.

This step could be looked at like the final chapter in a good book, though it should be structured like a cliff-hanger. This is the actor's last chance to give Royce a springboard into the story which the Storyteller is preparing to weave.

Storyteller: OK, Royce, you're out of college now, with a degree as a medical doctor. You're twenty-five years old. What now?

Actor: The military.

Storyteller: What? Wait a minute, you're just looking for an excuse to put some combat skills into the guy, aren't you?

Actor: No, not really. He was recruited as a medic and he wanted to see death up close, so he could study it. By now he had developed a keen curiosity about ghosts and the afterlife and such, and he wanted to prove some of the theories that had been hatching after his father died and throughout college.

Storyteller (making a note): Fine, fine. OK, but it's up to you to do some research and find a British war of some sort that was going on in the late 1860's.

Actor: Agreed. I can probably find something that'll work.

Storyteller: Alright, so he's a field medic for a couple years. He sees a lot of death, and probably deals with some shell-shock cases, or whatever they would have called it back then.

Actor: Cool. That's when he grew his armor, you know, how he rationalizes everything...

Storyteller: Let's not make Dr. Jenner a nutball though, OK? He doesn't do it out of the horrors of war or anything, he just uses his head.

Actor: Oh, that's what I figured, too. Anyway, after he got out he published his first book: a thesis on how battlefield stress and poor diet can upset the bodily humors, causing hallucinations of ghosts and other unearthly visions.

Storyteller: Sounds controversial.

Actor: It was, but it was noticed by a few people, including a respected director of an insane asylum in London...

Storyteller: Ahhh, I see. So naturally, after reading your book he offered you a job.

Actor: Let's call him Dr. Joseph Youngers. And yes, he offered me a great job as his personal assistant, where I stayed for the next ten years of my career. In that time, I published half a dozen more books on ghosts, and made a big deal out of visiting haunted houses and proving them silly frauds.

Storyteller: Ha! The rest of the troupe are really going to enjoy the good Doctor's comments, I can tell already.

Actor: Oh, absolutely.

Storyteller: So, how exactly are we going to get you on the troupe?

Actor: I don't know. I figure Dr. Youngers retired a few years ago and l became the new director of the asylum, where I personally treated a relative of the Queen.

Storyteller: Yeah, sounds good. Alright, then. It looks to me like we've got him in. The Queen met him on a couple of occasions, and when she started organizing this group of ghost hunters, your name just naturally came up.

Actor: Great. So, can we do his skills now? I think he's pretty much done. I'll just have to play him a while to get his personality down.

Storyteller: One last thing. Shortly after you garnered yourself a position as one of the Queen's ghost hunters, you had a most disturbing dream. In it, your old mentor Dr. Youngers appeared to you. He was standing at the base of a roman column, alone in a broad, grassy plain. As you approached, he began screaming, screaming out that his digits were being cut from his hands, and begging you to stop coming closer. You ignored him, rationalizing the imagery even in your sleep. But with each step his wailing became more pronounced, and you began to see blood pouring from invisible wounds at the base of his fingers. Finally you stopped, and he thanked you. "Royce," he said. "I visit you at great pain to myself. The Lords Beneath demanded this restitution in exchange for sending a message."

"What message?" you asked quietly, staying perfectly calm.

"Only this. The woman with the wooden teeth knows about your mother. It is important that you speak with her." And with that, he disappeared, and you woke up.

Actor: Um, okay... Is that it?

Storyteller: That's all I have. Shall we finish him up?

V. Solidification

By now, both the Storyteller and the Actor have a fairly complete image of who Dr. Jenner is, and they are ready to finalize his character writeup. It only takes them a minute or two to agree upon adjectives that fit, and we are left with the complete Window character writeup that you find on the quick start page. For more example characters, check out the Window Character Menagerie.

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