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04:17 pm: Fun With Character Sketches
I spent several amusing hours this weekend writing character sketches for my upcoming series. I was having a little trouble translated the characters from the roleplaying game where they originated to the paper. Then, I came upon a scene in  a Harry Dresden book by Jim Butcher that seemed like the perfect vehicle for exploring the differences between my characters a bit further.

It's a lot of fun if any of you want to try it which characters of your own.  Here's the scenario:

In the following scene, a demon is offering the people he is talking to a blackened silver coin with a sigil upon it.   The coin is one of the 30 given to Judas. Anyone who so much as touches one of these coins becomes bound to a fallen angel. The evil angel can make them stronger, faster, more powerful, etc, but every time the person accepts this help, they yield a little more of their soul to the fallen angel’s control. And the fallen angel is always there, whispering, tempting.

In this scene, the demon is dressed in a suit and sitting at a desk. The tarnished silver coin lays on the desk before him. There is a chair on the other side of the desk. (This was not Butcher's scene. Dresden was in a bad way when he talked to this demon, but I found that was not useful for the exercise. So...)

[This paragraph was written by Butcher]

The demon says: “You are ruled by fear, fear of what you could be if you ever let yourself stray from the right-hand path. Of the power you could use. You’ve thought about what it might be like to bend the world to your will. The things you have. The people. Some part of your has considered and found joy in the idea of using your abilities to take what you wish. And you are afraid of that joy.”

What does your character say/do?
 
Stormhawk:
 
The demon says: “You are ruled by fear, fear of what you could be if you ever let yourself stray from the right-hand path. Of the power you could use. You’ve thought about what it might be like to bend the world to your will. The things you have. The people. Some part of your has considered and found joy in the idea of using your abilities to take what you wish. And you are afraid of that joy.”
 
“No,” Stormhawk made a mystic gesture with his fingers. “I don’t think so.”
 
“Certainly you have. You desire more and greater power. Admit it!”
 
“Nope. Pretty sure I don’t.” Stormhawk replied, his eyes brimming with mirth. He stuck his hands into his voluminous sleeves. “Not me. I’m just a homebody. What would little ‘ole me do with power?”
 
The demon’s eyes narrowed. “Now you are mocking me.”
 
“Okay, you’ve found me out. I admit it.” Stormhawk pulled his hand out from his sleeve and slapped it down on top of the coin in such a way that the coin was under his cupped palm and did not touch his skin. 
 
“Good!” the demon’s eyes gleamed. “Very good. You will not regret it.”
 
“Of course not, who regrets power!” Stormhawk gestured grandly.
 
With his other hand, he used a small velvet bag to pick up the coin without touching it and stuffed the bag into an inner pocket in his robe.
 
As he left the demon’s lair, he chuckled, contemplating all that he could accomplish now that this coin was his: learn the secret of how they worked, discover a protection against them, hunt down the other 29 and destroy them. The possibilities were endless!
 
 
Ilmatar:
 
The demon says: “You are ruled by fear, fear of what you could be if you ever let yourself stray from the right-hand path. Of the power you could use. You’ve thought about what it might be like to bend the world to your will. The things you have. The people. Some part of your has considered and found joy in the idea of using your abilities to take what you wish. And you are afraid of that joy.”
 
“Afraid? No,” Ilmatar countered. He stood in his metallic feathered robe, his face calm and stoical. “I disapprove. Obviously, I desire power. All men do. Obviously, I could use the power I have to have my way,” He grimaced, as if recalling an unpleasant memory, “but that would not be the moral thing to do, the right thing. Men always desire power, control of their environment. What separates men from beasts is that we recognize the rights of others. We recognize when virtue requires that we curb these desires and conform to the rule of law. It is not fear that motivates me, but rather a desire for virtue.”
 
“Desire of virtue is an opiate that the powerful feed the rich to keep them weak.” The demon sneered.
 
“On the contrary,” Ilmatar countered, still speaking like a debater, “A man’s strength can be measured by his devotion to virtue. Weak men yield to temptation right away. Only a truly strong man can achieve virtue.”

“So, you do not want the coin?”
 
“Not on your terms, but I would like to buy it from you.”
 
“Buy it? Why when I want to give it to you?”
 
“I want to buy the box, too, and I want you to put it in the box for me.”
 
“Ah…you plan to give it to the Knights of the Cross.”
 
“I give you my word that I will not. I can offer this.” He pulled a feather from his cloak. One that was not so full as to have enough red energy to destroy a continent. He lay the feather on the demon’s desk. The demon picked it up, sniffed it, and hefted it on his hand.
 
“So, you’ll take the coin and you won’t give it to the Knights?” When Ilmatar nodded, the demon chuckled. “What have I to lose. You cannot damage the coin, they are nigh invulnerable, and the power will be there, calling to you. Certainly! You have a deal!”
 
Outside, the coin safely in its box, Ilmatar smiled grimly and went in search of the nearest Black Unicorn Sibyl. There were very few problems involving corrupted magic items that could not be solved by a liberal application of Black Flame.
 
 
Natasha:
 
The demon says: “You are ruled by fear, fear of what you could be if you ever let yourself stray from the right-hand path. Of the power you could use. You’ve thought about what it might be like to bend the world to your will. The things you have. The people. Some part of your has considered and found joy in the idea of using your abilities to take what you wish. And you are afraid of that joy.”
 
Natasha put her fingers in her ears.
 
“Think. Think of what it could offer you! What you could achieve.”
 
“Nana-na-nana! I’m not listening. I can’t hear anything your saying.”
 
The demon continued to speak, but Natasha stood up and walked from the room, her fingers in her ears, changing nonsense and nursery rhymes to drown out his voice.
 
Only once she was outside did it occur to her that it might have been more fitting to have chanted prayers.
 
 
Svarteld:
 
The demon says: “You are ruled by fear, fear of what you could be if you ever let yourself stray from the right-hand path. Of the power you could use. You’ve thought about what it might be like to bend the world to your will. The things you have. The people. Some part of your has considered and found joy in the idea of using your abilities to take what you wish. And you are afraid of that joy.”
 
“No, not at all. What gave you that idea! I’m eager to bend things to my will,” Svarteld replied cheerfully. He looked at he coin, where it sat on the table, calling to him. “No strings attached, right? I mean, I wouldn’t owe you anything?”
 
“Nothing.”
 
“And I can throw it away any time?”
 
“Any time.” The demon’s eyes gleamed.
 
“And it makes you stronger and faster and stuff, right? But I don’t have to do anything evil unless I want to, right?”

“Exactly.”
 
“You said there were 29 other coins. Do you guys get together? Do I get to be part of a club or something?”

”We will, of course, be pleased to welcome you among our company.” the demon replied graciously. There was a hungry gleam in his eye.
 
Svarteld looked at the coin. Sure it was evil and corrupted the soul, but only down the line. In the meantime, he pictured all the things he could do with it. Later, once it began getting on his nerves, he would find a way to get rid of it, right? After all, he had survived the Sword-Minder sword and the Ring. How bad could this be?
 
He picked up the coin. “So, is there a clubhouse?”
 
 
Jared Connelly:
 
The demon says: “You are ruled by fear, fear of what you could be if you ever let yourself stray from the right-hand path. Of the power you could use. You’ve thought about what it might be like to bend the world to your will. The things you have. The people. Some part of your has considered and found joy in the idea of using your abilities to take what you wish. And you are afraid of that joy.”
 
Jared Connelly sat casually slumped in the chair, one foot resting on the demon’s desk. “So this is the part where you psychoanalyze me? Are you a trained psychiatrists? Or is this a part-time hobby?”
 
“Let’s just say that I see to the heart of things.”
 
“Actually, I like fear,” Jared gazed upward as he spoke, as if he were addressing the ceiling rather than an individual in the room. He spoke in a low murmur. “I think a certain daily amount of fear is healthy, don’t you? You guys gain power through fear, don’t you? Doesn’t it actually do you more good if I remain fearful and don’t take the coin? That way I keep producing fear, and you can continue to intimidate other people, creating more fear.”
 
“What of your goals? What of the programs you are trying to accomplish?” the demon reminded him.
 
“I also like frustration,” Jared continued in the same casual murmur. He played with the heavy gold ring on his finger, twisting it with his other hand. “I think it keeps me on my toes. If I accomplished my work too quickly, what would I do next? It’s really annoying to have to find new projects. I’m expecting this project to keep me busy for years.”
 
“What of the strength it would give you? The speed? The sheer physical prowess.”
 
“Those are nice,” Jared agreed mildly, nodding in agreement. “People like to be strong and powerful, it makes them feel good, feeds their ego, those kinds of things are useful for controlling minions. They like that stuff.”
 
The demon narrowed his eyes and gazed at Jared for a time. Finally, he said, “So, there is nothing I can say that will interest you?”
 
“No, not really, I’m satisfied with my lot.” Jared pulled his foot down and rose to his feet, stretching.
 
“If you change your mind, you know where to find me,” the demon murmured.
 
“Sure, yeah! Ciao,” He gave a short wave.
 
As he turned to leave, he slipped the coin into his pocket.
 
 
Andrew:
 
The demon says: “You are ruled by fear, fear of what you could be if you ever let yourself stray from the right-hand path. Of the power you could use. You’ve thought about what it might be like to bend the world to your will. The things you have. The people. Some part of your has considered and found joy in the idea of using your abilities to take what you wish. And you are afraid of that joy.”
 
“Doesn’t everybody?” Andrew asked casually. He kept a congenial smile on his face, hiding any nervousness.
 
“No. Not like you.”
 
“I admit power hunger is a favored vice,” Andrew stuck his hands in his pocket. “But I don’t care for magic items – things that can be taken away, power that comes from outside, like from another being.
 
“Mind you, it’s not the moral thing. Good, bad, indifferent…” he shrugs. “Its all the same to me. If you could find a way to give me this supposed strength and speed directly, it would be a different story. But as it is…no. I’m not interested.”
 
They spoke on for a time, the demon making additional offers, but Andrew stuck to his guns. Magic items just did not interest him.
 
“Very well,” The demon said finally. “Your loss.”

”Probably,” he said with a shrug, rising to go. As he left the building, he gave a sigh of relief. He had gotten out of that in one piece. The day was looking up…of course, it was not over yet.
 
 
Loren:
 
The demon says: “You are ruled by fear, fear of what you could be if you ever let yourself stray from the right-hand path. Of the power you could use. You’ve thought about what it might be like to bend the world to your will. The things you have. The people. Some part of your has considered and found joy in the idea of using your abilities to take what you wish. And you are afraid of that joy.”
 
“But I’m not interested in bending the world to my will,” Loren replied. “I want to bend it to my mother’s will, and to the will of the Time Lords. And I don’t think either of them would be happy if I picked up your coin. They like me loyal to them, you see, not corrupted by some evil angel.”
 
“Are you such a Mama’s Boy, then, that you cannot make choices for yourself?” the demon mocked.
 
“Yep, that’s me. The eternal Mama’s Boy,” Loren said. Normally, that particular moniker rankled a bit, but at the moment he did not mind. If agreeing with the fiend could get Loren out of here any quicker and away from the corrupt coin, then he did not mind agreeing with him. Who cared what a demon thought, anyway?
 
“So, there is nothing I can do to interest you in joining us?” asked the demon.
 
“No,” Loren stood up, “But if you ever need a job, here’s my card.”
 
 
 
Ladyhawk:
 
The demon says: “You are ruled by fear, fear of what you could be if you ever let yourself stray from the right-hand path. Of the power you could use. You’ve thought about what it might be like to bend the world to your will. The things you have. The people. Some part of your has considered and found joy in the idea of using your abilities to take what you wish. And you are afraid of that joy.”
 
Ladyhawk leaned back and laughed out loud. She gestured with one hand as she spoke. “You don’t understand what I want at all. In fact, you are so far away from understanding me that there is not a word for the order of magnitude of the distance between us.”
 
“Do not be too hasty, my dear. No matter what you want, greater power can help you achieve it.”

”Nothing you can give me could help me get what I want.”
 
The demon gave her an oily smile. “You might be surprised. What is it that you want?”
 
She leaned forward, her eyes shining. “Joy!”
 
“Joy?”

“Happiness. I want people to be happy. I don’t mean pleasure. I don’t mean sated. I don’t mean satisfied. I don’t mean achieving some false desire that actually makes them more miserable. I mean filled with joy – closer to Heaven. Look me in the eye, demon, and tell me that your cursed coin with its fallen angel can help do this?”
 
The demon met her gaze. His smile held for a moment then dissolved into a snarl. “Very well, I grant you…that it cannot do.”
 
She leaned forward, still looking into his eyes. “Aren’t you tired of being unhappy?”

”I beg your pardon?”
 
“Don’t you wish you could be happy?” She asked.
 
The demon spat, “I care nothing for happiness.”
 
A disturbing impression of rot and corruption emanated from him, but she ignored it, leaning closer and kept her gaze locked intently upon his. Somewhere inside him was the spark worth saving. 
 
“You could have it, you know. Happiness. Joy. It’s right there, waiting for you. All you have to do is turn your back on the darkness.” 
 
“Enough,” The demon drew away, averting its eyes. “You do not want the coin. I have figured that out. Be gone from here!” He glowered, anger glowing in his eyes which were turning red.
 
Ladyhawk stood and walked around the table towards him. She did this without fear, without showing any sign of being intimidated by his anger. Calmly she took his hand. He jerked in surprise, as if he not used to being touched – at least not voluntarily. Taking advantage of his surprise, she leaned forward and, despite the waves of revulsion that flowed from him, kissed his cheek. Softly, she whispered in his ear, “You are free!”

Without looking at him again, she turned and walked from the room. As she passed the desk, she recognized the sensation that came from the coin itself. It was “poisoned.” Smiling a quirk of a half smile, she depoisoned it. As she left the chamber, she caught a glimpse out of the corner of her eye of the desk, upon it lay the gleaming silver coin, pure and unstained.
 
 
As yet unnamed kick-butt black kid whom we will call Simon Tanner for this particular exercise: 
The demon says: “You are ruled by fear, fear of what you could be if you ever let yourself stray from the right-hand path. Of the power you could use. You’ve thought about what it might be like to bend the world to your will. The things you have. The people. Some part of your has considered and found joy in the idea of using your abilities to take what you wish. And you are afraid of that joy.”
 
“Let me think about that,” said Simon, as he pulled out his black unicorn horn and stuck it through the demon’s head, killing it instantly.
 
 

And also,
The Great Race Fathers (powerful, archetypical background characters) and the demons – the one line response version. (We have to assume for this that the demon coin is powerful enough to help overcome some dread threat to the universe).
 
Theseus (Oberon): Tipping up the rim of his wide-brimmed hat, he asks, “What are your terms?” (After negotiations, he calls a servant to pick up the coin, probably Svarteld.)
 
Hyperion: Hyperion leans forward, his full plate mail clanging beneath his white surcoat with its red Crusader’s cross. In a philosophical tone, he asks, “What do you mean: ‘to desire?’”
 
Ar Ellon: Quite silently, without any word whatsoever, the tall man dressed in the night sky, his face shadowed by his deep hood, began taking out his bell, book, and candle.
 
Aurelian: “How much for all 30?”
 
Promachus: He drags the demon out into the sunlight and beats him to death with a club. Then, claiming the coin as spoils, he walks off, whistling.
 
Tindolos: He looks thoughtful and reaches for the coin. The door opens an older version of Tindolos comes in. He looks haggard, weary and wracked by regret. He croaks, “Don’t touch the coin!”
 
Ixion:  Jumping to his feet, Ixion brandishes his weapon, aiming it at the coin. In a ringing voice, he announces: “Let justice be done, though the heaven’s fall.”
 
Proteus: Pulling a pair of handcuffs out of his trench coat, he says casually, “You have the right to remain silent,…”
 
Prometheus: The demon waits, but Prometheus never shows up.
 
 
 

 

Comments

[User Picture]
From:princejvstin
Date:January 14th, 2008 10:33 am (UTC)
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I like it and its use for character development. The two key questions the Shadows and the Vorlons make in Babylon 5 are the same sort of illustration of character. I'm going to have to think about this, see if I can't try it for my own characters.

[User Picture]
From:capnflynn
Date:January 16th, 2008 04:43 pm (UTC)
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What a fun exercise! Thanks for sharing yours--I think I may have to "borrow" this idea for my own characters too!
[User Picture]
From:saintjoi
Date:January 22nd, 2008 07:35 am (UTC)
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Yay, the Dresden Files books! I have read the first two, and enjoyed them immensely. Intend to read the rest, but must finish all books by Edgar Rice Burroughs first, as well as the Lensman and Skylark series, and Worm Ourobouros (which I swear, I really will finish someday)
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