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Character Creation Part 1: Physicality

This post focuses on what the player does to create their own character from the outside in, see other posts for character definition, inner traits, objective, and endowments.


You’ve stepped on stage and the scene has begun. What are you doing that the audience will read as “character”?

First there’s the way you stand – what I have come to call a character’s base shape. Where is your center of gravity over your feet, how wide is your stance, are you collapsed forward or puffed out?

Then there’s how you entered – your character’s movement style. Did you enter slow or fast? Were you looking straight ahead or over your shoulder? Did you tip toe or stomp?

Of course, if you’re playing in a grounded or naturalistic style, you may answer “somewhere in the middle” to all of those questions. Or maybe you did what you normally do in the rest of your life. No matter what choices you land on (and just being yourself is also a choice), the audience will use them to build up an idea of your character.

Then you open your mouth, and the third initial character choice comes in. Your voice! Beyond modifications to your standard use of your vocal tract in the language you’re playing in (see future post for more on how to modify your vocal tract to create “character voices”), you still have some choices: are you speaking loudly or softly, quickly or slowly, with enunciation or muddled? You also have your standard accent, which will mean different things to different audiences, and that’s also for a different post.

These first three groups of choices make up your character’s physicality and they are all 99% controlled by you as the player of the character. It’s possible for other people to endow your character’s physicality with attributes before you enter (i.e. "Oh I can already hear your mother on the stairs, she’s always so loud") but after you enter, it’s highly unusual.

A note on physicality and stock characters: some physicalities will be associated with certain stock characters i.e. “the nerd”, “sexy best friend”, “the cranky old man”. Usually it’s more fun to play against type with these characters, but there’s also no reason not to play a stock character 100%, as long you know that’s what you’re doing and it’s not offensive in context. If you find yourself labeling ALL your physicalites with some stock character label, however, you might want to consider other ways of describing them. Viewpoints, Laban and animal work all provide useful vocabulary, but I find bending the spine and leading with body parts to be the most intuitive.

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