Today we are talking about Character Aesthetics. This can be vital in setting the right tone and atmosphere for your character. But in case you want to catch up; Beyond Basics is a series of posts that delve into different aspects of roleplay beyond the basics of character creation within an MMO setting. For our purposes, this setting is World of Warcraft but it can be useful in others too. This series will look at things like plots and storylines, conversations and the world and community around you as a player in an MMO. And how you can best make use of that as well as how it might differ from roleplay on tabletop games for example. You can find the Beyond Basics Series Index here.
What is a Character Aesthetics?
An Aesthetic is a set of principles and ideas that define a certain look, concept or theme. The idea is based on beauty and the appreciation of beauty, and it can be made up from anything. Colors and shapes to scents and ideas. It hinges a lot on perception and rather than give a clear cut shape for your character like his concept will an aesthetic is more flexible.
When it comes to Character Aesthetics you are not talking about the plots and hooks that make up who they are, their concept and driving force. Their aesthetic is more about their atmosphere. Giving a feeling about who and how they are without the factual details. Think about your bedroom and what it says about you if someone that didn’t know you saw it. Quite a lot I bet, that is your aesthetic. The perception of who you are.
Discovering your character
In our From The Ground Up series, we look at the bones of character creation, the necessary things. This is not there because this is not needed, you don’t need to know your characters aesthetic or think about it at all to play them well. But it can be useful.
A lot of people find that characters take a lot of their shape seemingly on their own. And often little quizzes, stories and tests can be used to help you explore more about the character. Mostly triggering you to think about things you have perhaps thought to consider already. Abstract things in most cases but none the less things that help you get a more grounded and solid feel for the character in your own mind and again reinforcing that consistency and depth they will have.
2. Re-discovering your character
If you roleplay the chances are you have some small vein of creativity in your makeup and creative types can tend to get a lot of usefulness from visual prompts and supports. Then if you perhaps don’t play for long spells, or have a lot of alts and ergo are moving from one character to the next a lot, or if you simply sometimes struggle to get out of your own head and into RP mode knowing this can help.
If you have a clear idea of your characters aesthetic, how they look, feel, smell, dress, walk, talk, etc. Then it becomes a lot easier for you to step back into that, to find their character, their atmosphere, and their vibe. Rather than perhaps projecting your own, or your alts or anything else.
So what is your Character’s Aesthetic?
An aesthetic is based on perceptions, so think about things that are perceived. How does your character dress? How do they smell? Are their clothes old or new? Cheap or expensive? Is their soap scented? How do they decorate? What are their hobbies? Do they resonate more with nature or cities? What kind of colours do the favour? Are they hot or cold in terms of temperament? Do they have a certain kind of attitude? Warm and friendly? Cold and distant? Break down their concept into the small details that make them who they are. And similarly thinking about their concept think about the small details about their person that exemplify it.
With something as difficult to describe as this, I think the best way is with examples. So below I have included two aesthetic snapshots of two of my characters. The first from WoW and the second from SWTOR. As you can see this does not have their names, their races, their background or their occupations of any of the things that make up their concepts core. But I hope it still goes give you a feel for the character, of who they are, and their atmosphere. What do you think? What are these two images telling you about these two characters? Let me know in the comments!
How to use Character Aesthetics
I find if I have been away from RP for a spell, or even if I just have a particularly testing day when I sit down to RP I struggle to get my head into my character’s mindset. I struggle to work out where he is at, what he is thinking and what he is doing and wanting to do. Which will then provide me with the motives to get into some scenes. So before I dig in I will take five minutes and I will look over their aesthetics to get myself in the right mindset.
There are different ways to do this. Some people prefer music and for that, I would recommend spotify, I know I have a playlist for all my main characters that I throw on when I am trying to create stories for them and it helps. Some people resonate better with images and can save a folder of images on their PC or online storage and image hosting sites. I like a mix of both and I find the best place to collate all my Aesthetic inspirations is Pinterest, which I have spoken about before in making Mood Boards for characters. Mood boards are not all that far removed from the concept of aesthetics.
To make the best use of this idea I suggest you find the medium that works best for you and collate a few items that you feel represent your character’s aesthetic. Keep them there and bring them out any time you find your mind drifting their concept. Maybe even try a week of looking over what you have gathered before you roleplay and see if it makes any difference to your roleplay and your own sense of connection and drive the story.
Then let me know! I’d love to hear what you do and how it works for you!
If you would like a free little Character Aesthetics exercise you can find it here: Character Aesthetics. We’d always appreciate sign up’s to our weekly newsletter as well you can drop your email in the box below to get involved