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Tragedy and Angst: Not Substitutes for Depth and Development!


QuickLime

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Hello all! Welcome once again to my blog! I apologize for not posting an article for so long but Rph duties do come first nowadays!

The subject of today's entry is about a trope that I am sure MOST of us have seen (and rolled our eyes at) in the Application Forum! I personally call it a symptom of Special SnowflakeItus (Note to self write blog about SnowFlakes later)

Yes you know them, you hate them! It's the Tragedy and ANGST characters! Walking a lonely isolated road paved with dead parents, bullying, and generally are "outcasts"

That's not to say that these traits can't be used in an app! But the problem comes when people use them as a substitute for the real character depth and development.

(Basically in the eyes of Rosie, Angst and Tragedy are like cake mix, a cheap and unequal substitute for a real homemade from scratch cake)

So I am going to list the most common angsty, depressing, and tragic tropes that plague the application forum and then talk more about depth and development.

[colour=#ff0000]MY PARENTS ARE DEAAAADDD![/colour]

Your Oc is /NOT/ Batman! It's perfectly okay to have a parent that has passed on, but more often than not a pony (or Griffon/Dragon/Seasnake) has it so that their parents were tragically killed in an accident. (Fire/dragon attack/ banishment to the moon) It's overdone, not clever, and honestly it's just plain lazy! Stop doing it srsly I mean it!

[colour=#ff0000]I AM AN OUTCAST AND AM BULLIED BECAUSE OF MY PHYSICAL APPEARANCE![/colour]

Shush! No you are not Silly Filly! :razz: We know for a fact that ponies do not act like this, having your character discarded, rejected, shunned or "Bullied" due to their appearance, talent, or species is not how reality works in Canterlot! You won't be chased out of town for being a unicorn with a single mother , for having strange coloured eyes (considering the variety in ponies eyecolour that's just silly sir) or for being a pegasus that can't quite fly yet!

I can already hear you now "BUT LIIIME DIAMOND TIARA AND SILVER SPOON ARE BULLIES! THERE ARE BULLIES IN EQUESTRIA!" Yes, yes they are! I will not deny that sometimes ponies are flat out not nice, but two fillies that make fun of a blank flank does NOT justify your character being bullied (and sometimes beat up) just for the sake of making us feel sorry for them! This is lazy writing, and it doesn't make your character appear tragic, misunderstood, or whatever other purple proise you want to use to justify it.

[colour=#ff0000]I AM A MISUNDERSTOOD SOCIAL OUTCAST THAT MUST WANDER EQUESTRIA IN SOLITUDE![/colour]

-Rubs temples with hooves- Ghn this trope is the biggest pain in the FLANK to interact with! "Outcast" characters are normally spurned and rejected, often times for something they have no control of and live like hermits in deep forests, dark caves, or high mountains away from ponies. But Roleplaying is a COLLABORATION! It takes more than one person to rp and when your character is so angst filled that they cannot talk to another character without feeling ungodly angst? Then we have a problem

[colour=#ff0000]I AM PHYSICALLY DISABLED THEREFORE I AM FOCUSED PRIMARILY ON MY DISABILITY![/colour]

No no no no no no! This is not only overdone to death but it's also REALLY REALLY insulting to people who/have/ this disability in real life when you portray a character that is blind as helpless, insecure, and rejected for their lack of sight (-glares bitterly at the Animated Fan Animation known as "SnowDrop". Blind characters are the most common, and it's pretty hard to pull one off well (Starswirl the Bearded does a great job of using blindness correctly in his Zebra Application)

A character with a disability is MORE than their disability, and it's insulting to make this issue the very center of their character, it doesn't make them deep, interesting, or even decently written, it's just a cop out to tug heartstrings and to gain sympathy.

Those are the most common overdone traits, and they really need to stop being used! I understand the desire to write a deep, meaningful character that has a piece of your soul, that moves others, and is popular! But Angst and Tragedy really do not make up for Depth and Development!

Think on it

Would you rather read an application about a feeble blind pony that struggled with her horrid blindness, bullies, and rejection only to be embraced for her super awesome blindness?

Or would you rather hear about a Zebra that while she was born blind never let it slow her down and learned to read and understand the world around her, whom is a valuable asset to her tribe, a playful and flirty soul, and compassionate and even a bit of a trickster if it serves her right?

Characters are more than the sum of their parts, they need real soul injected in them while you write, you need to be able to make a character interesting just as they are! If you spend too much time focusing on the bad in your characters life that we can't even grasp the first thing about them as a pony(or person) then that stuff needs to be taken /out/

Ask yourself this "Is what I'm writing relevant to this character? Or am I doing it because it sounds cool/angsty?"

"Is this characters disability a crutch, or a centerpiece focus for their entire life?"

If the answer is "Yes"

Go back to the drawing board and start again, because a shallow character with a tragic and dark past is nowhere near the same level as a happy character with maybe hints of sadness but tons of personality that lets us fully grasp who they are :)

This has been the Queen of Ravens

Until next time!

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On the one hoof my parents are Deaaaaddd...on the other hoof it's been like 2000 years since I was a foal...I think I found an Excuse! - A Time Traveling Pony who prefers not to say his name. (AKA NeoExlucky since Time is too awesome to hide behind a computer screen!)

In all seriousness though if we were talking all species then I would say it's possible for you to be bullied, if you were a zebra living in a pony Town. I consider what happened in bridle gossip to be a form of Bullying. Then again maybe this is just for Ponies. I don't know, I'm gonna go eat cake!

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On the one hoof my parents are Deaaaaddd...on the other hoof it's been like 2000 years since I was a foal...I think I found an Excuse! - A Time Traveling Pony who prefers not to say his name. (AKA NeoExlucky since Time is too awesome to hide behind a computer screen!)

In all seriousness though if we were talking all species then I would say it's possible for you to be bullied, if you were a zebra living in a pony Town. I consider what happened in bridle gossip to be a form of Bullying. Then again maybe this is just for Ponies. I don't know, I'm gonna go eat cake!

Could you please not be speaking "In character" On this blog? This isn't in character this is legit, so I don't think it's appropriate to be talking like you are your character, And Zecora was not BULLIED, She was feared because she was different, but they were never flat out nasty to her, just afraid, AND while it is possible such a thing is frowned upon hardcore in WOE (Not to mention your OC is for FFA and NOT WOE and this guide is specifically for WOE )

I should know I'm Zecora's Rper ;)

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Loving the Caterlot Laptop!

But ofcourse! Honestly if it were possible I'd totally customize my laptop to look like that, the canterlot logo is perfect ;) Thanks for noticing

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BHUT HOW ELS KAN I SHUW U MAH DEP BAKSTOREE???

"

[colour=#282828]It takes more than one person to rp and when your character is so angst filled that they cannot talk to another character without feeling ungodly angst? Then we have a problem"[/colour]

[colour=#282828]I can't tell you how much I agree with this. I had a spate of people in one of my open threads come in with characters who at the slightest hint of something going wrong would have their characters turn and flee because of Outcast Syndrome. Then when I didn't put the brakes on the thread so my character didn't go super far out of her way to comfort them and make them feel like special little snowflakes even though literally nothing was wrong, I received a PM from one player expressing disappointment. [/colour]

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Question, should a character have been responsible for the bed they made, and still manage to function as a productive member of society displaying joy and other emotion instead of losing him/herself to the negativity of the past be called as substituting tragedy and angst as character development? I can understand the need for positive character pasts and/or thought for the sake of the setting, but if lets be frank, character development is why we RP. Functionality is a thing I think can get mixed up in the message of the character. There's growth to be found in every character, regardless of the stripe, so shouldn't they be given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the preparation before the execution of how they'll be written?

Snowflaking is a thing. It's a shame it happens, but one could attribute it more to the writing of the player in question than the character they chose to tell a story with. As much as it's important to the site to maintain a relationship with the setting and it's rules, I think we're forgetting here that some people like the idea of having a character with some degree of importance. Crafting an identity in Equestria should be a fun journey to see a characters rises and falls, and to make the kinds of ponies people want to play, not how saccharine or storybook it can be. After all, Equestria's been faced with far worse than things we even see here in the real world, not to say these things represent the norm, but lets be honest here. Equestria isn't the safest place, and neither should the stories be.

Outcasts and other types that don't seem to fit in whatever degree do have work needed, but I doubt they need the devaluing of tragedy or triumph to do so. Remember that a pony/person's past often precedes their present.

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What you have to keep in mind is that this is not about carefully executed backstories, this article is souly about the special snowflake type of applications that use angst as a crutch not a character developing tool, I'm not forgetting anything, just expressing that using angst as a crutch, and something sad or dramatic just for the sake of sad and dramatic is not okay ;)

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Every character is up for interpretation, as every writer is different, and people of different skill levels develop characters differently. I should make it clear here that these roleplaying guides/blogs are just that -- explorations of the character development process with suggestions to improve it, and don't represent anything official about how business is handled in the Applications area. Roleplay Helpers exist to help with character design, and any questions regarding character design policy should be fielded to an SRP or Moderator. We look over every application personally and ask for changes to a character based on a large variety of factors, including history, personality, intent for play, and what sort of impact such a character can make on the roleplay environment.

We have another roleplay area in active development that we think will suit the needs of our players better, while still providing the high quality of roleplay that makes World of Equestria a desirable place for players to gain character acceptance. I think this will help resolve a lot of the dissent surrounding where characters should go, and open up more options for fun roleplay experiences of a larger number of users.

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Since it pops up so often (not just in this fandom, but in others as well), I suspect most people don't realize that they're taking the lazy way out. I think it's probably more of an ignorance thing. Beginner writers just don't know any better. It only becomes lazy when they refuse to see the logic in trying to improve and just not improve.

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What makes a character unique, cool, dramatic, or likable has very little to do with the qualities they are introduced with. I can think of very few movies or stories (none, actually) where I like the character based on everything offered to me about them. The effort you take in developing your character is directly equal to the impact that character will have on others who read about it. Telling someone in your character description: "Oh he's an orphan so he's had a hard life" earns exactly as much sympathy as it did time to read the statement- almost none.

However, its often that our favorite characters have 'setting-inspired-qualities' that we would normally see as overused, or even "lame". Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, Leia Skywalker - All Orphans. Katara from Avatar - death of a parent and only child with "special ability". John Snow and Naruto- dejected, outcast, and unloved (by someone/village.) Inexperienced RP'ers and writers look at this and they begin to feel that these qualities are *musts* in 'epic' characters. And it makes sense when you don't look at it too closely- troubled characters have much room to overcome their obstacles.

But if you take a closer look you will realize it is not the setting of the characters that even matters- those "qualities" are happen-stance for plot and setting development more than they are for character development. What actually drives character development is what happens to the character during the story.

Luke and Leia Skywalker- both happily living with other relatives with lives of their own. It is not until they experience the loss of these relatives (on tattooine, and the destruction of Alduin), that these characters experience or suffer loss. They, and the audience, could honestly care less that they were orphans.

Harry Potter - It is not the fact that Harry doesn't know his parents that makes us grieve for his situation, it is how his caretakers mistreat him that sets the stage. If Harry screamed, and was a terrible child, and put holes into walls- then we honestly wouldn't care. In fact, many of us continue not to care until he is at the point of the sorting hat, and despite everything he's been through he wants to be different than what he's experienced, and this creates some small, fledgling amount of character. The interesting thing about harry is that he really doesn't develop much character until the end of the first book. The best example of why setting doesn't matter is seen illustrated by how much more you care that Harry has to *go back* to that family than you did when you first read about his situation. Why is that? Because all the important character-development that we value occurred between those points- the events themselves did not award him any real sympathy.

Katara - Same deal, she's got ability and only has one parent who is gone most the series, but neither of that means tush-kiss; we begin to like her because of her experiences with her companions.

John Snow - We like him because of the choices he makes, not because he is a half-son; and lady stark hates him- the fact she dislikes him is actually more character development *for her*, than it is for him. This only serves as reason for him to "Go to the wall". Its a plot toy, not a character development tool.

Naruto - One of the most troubled characters painted up with most of the tropes possible- special ability, martyr, nobody likes him, attitude problems, orphan, the list goes on. All of these things we don't care about- why? Because we admire his ability to continue to laugh; and to dream. Naruto only gets decently cool when he starts to embrace his responsibility and dreams, and to *stop caring* that other people don't accept him. Through his pursuit of that and the inner strength he displays *during the story*, others grow to admire and respect him.

The key is that all of the above characters are actually normal, uninteresting people. It is what they do that determines how interesting they are. Often they will 'struggle' with elements of their setting, and yes, that is character development; but character development is both articulated through things gained and lost- and how the character responds to that. Applying *less* tropes to your character makes them harder to anticipate what kind of issues they will face, and how they will react.

When making a character, its best to start out with someone average. A farmer boy/girl with simple life. Use your RP to develop your story. That is the appropriate place to introduce loss and gain- not the character's bio. Just try summarizing everything that Luke and Leia Skywalker do into a single, simple character biography. Try doing it with Naruto, or Katara for that matter. You'll notice that they will seem a *lot less interesting* when you are done.

Dont tell us how your pony character is special or cool. Show us how your average OC does something extraordinary.

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