Pito - Character Dev Process Picture

Last week there was a request for a discussion of how I create characters. So today I'd like to introduce you to Pito, who's a minor character that will appear in this chapter, and go through my base-line character creation process. This is not the more in-depth work I do (after all, Pito is not a major part of the cast. Even if he is a little adorable) but it's where I start.

Characters are a little like worlds in themselves, so I approach them in much the same way as world-building. There are four key questions I ask: Where, When, Who, and What.

I like starting with "where" because I think the context of a person's culture is extremely formative, and that is in large part connected to their physical location. Pito comes from the Momuru province. Momuru is part of the old tribes that were the basis of Itsuri civilization. However, since their tribe was nearly wiped out by the Ulvaima with the first va Naza to "unite their people," the Momuru have learned to adopt policies of outwardly agreeing with the old tribes and then quietly doing whatever the heck they think is best on the sly. So while slavery was legal in Momuru, socially it was so frowned upon that most Timu in the area are free, and have been for a while. Many are even educated, which is somewhat rare in the Itsuri empire. The fact that the Dream Eater Temple is in Momuru, and home to some of the greatest libraries in the world, helped too. So Pito comes from a culture where he is used to being part of a lower class, but from a free family. He's also absorbed much of the secretive Momuru culture, where you humbly agree, smile, and nod your head when people get in your face, but then go about your business. He comes from a family of modest means and many children that lived near the temple. When he showed an interest in reading, writing, and mathematics, his family was willing to gather together the funds to send him off to the temple.

In Pito's case, the "when" of his life is fairly short. He's young, and not a lot has happened to him yet. The most significant event in his life was being accepted into the temple, which typically happens at age 10-12. Although it can be later, such as in Zhiro's case, who was accepted in his mid-teens. Other than that, there's not much "when" to track for Pito.

This is to identify important figures in Pito's life that had a direct, indirect, and diffuse influence on his development. Direct is family, close friends, rivals, mentors, etc. Pito had an indulgent and loving mother and father, who were generous and hard-working. He has learned from their example and seeks to do his best at the temple in thanks for the sacrifices they made for him to be there. Indirect figures are those that impact a character more by being observed by the character, than by having a lot of contact with them. This can be personal heroes, local pariahs, etc. In Pito's case, Zhiro is an indirect influence. While they have met, and are aware enough of each other that Zhiro can greet Pito by name, they don't spend much time together. Pito admires Zhiro for his unusually high status within the temple, given his age. This is in part due to Zhiro's very prestigious associations with the royal family, unusual aptitude and dedication, and a personal interest by the Trickster God himself. Pito is a little in awe of Zhiro, and uses him as a role model. "Hero worship" might be a little strong, but not entirely inaccurate. Finally, diffuse influences are figures, whether real or otherwise, that have had an impact on the culture and on the character as a result. This can be mythological characters, major political or religious figures, or historical figures. Pito is both fascinated by and afraid of Dream Eater, and particularly eager to study more about this god. At the same time, he finds the trickster god very intimidating and is afraid of facing him. Part of him hopes he is not chosen, and will live his life with all his memories intact. Like many Timu brought up in the less repressive provinces, High Sage Koruval is viewed as a brave abolitionist and visionary. (This is not true in the provinces that were heavily reliant on slavery, and have since adopted Timu Codes...but that's another topic entirely.) This only further boosts Zhiro's status in Pito's mind, since he was taken in by the great Sage himself!

This is more focused on Pito directly. What is he good at? What does he like? What does he dislike? Pito is small, even by Timu standards, who are typically short. He's not particularly strong, but he is quite nimble. This makes him excellent at hiding, climbing, and generally getting into situations that he shouldn't. He's not clumsy, but tends to be better at reactive actions than intentional actions. He has been hopeless at learning martial arts, and is a source of constant exasperation among his instructors in that regard. He enjoys reading, particularly history and legends, and is passable at mathematics. He would have a greater predilection for mischief if not for his parents, as he does not want to disappoint them. However, some of the other boys have been a bad influence on him and he's been half encouraged, have bullied, into become somewhat of a food thief. So far he hasn't been caught, but the cooks are starting to get suspicious. Pito enjoys the thrill he gets when completing a successful caper (the sweet buns are a bonus too) but is plagued by a nagging sense of guilt. Unfortunately, he's a bit of a push-over and easily convinced to do things that he might otherwise avoid. Pito is very optimistic about life, and generally doesn't dislike much of anything. He tends to make the most of what life has given him, another trait picked up from his mother and father, approaching failure and misfortune as merely a chance to try again and do better.

Next Steps...
If I was going to develop Pito more, there's a variety of directions I might go to add more depth. I might research things that are of interest to him, or might be relevant from our own history that could apply to his situation. I could also identify particularly important moments of his life and write them out, getting a better idea of how he acts in different situations. Another tactic would be asking the character different questions to get a better sense of his voice and personality. (There are lots of questions you can ask, but the PaperWings Podcast had a fun set of 10 to get you started) I usually like identifying key motivations, fears, and goals. It's also important to map out the character arc for major cast members, so there is a direction and purpose to their journey. This will be centered around a theme, usually a single sentence, to highlight the core issues they are dealing with. What do they want the most? What are they willing to do to get it? What do they fear the most, and how does that fear influence their actions? What are their key strengths and flaws, and how are those abilities/weaknesses linked? These are key questions to ask of your cast in order to make them active participants in their own stories, rather than passively pushed around by the plot.

I hope you found this exploration useful! Please feel free to ask me any questions about my process. That's what these Friday blogs are for!
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