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Writing Lesser Known Neopian Characters


by precious_katuch14

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Many characters cast their shadows far and wide across the face of Neopia and its enduring lore. Dr. Sloth for his (ultimately failed) plans of world domination, the benevolent Queen Fyora, the valiant Jeran, and the intrepid Hannah are but a few. Everyone knows Illusen, Jhudora, and their complicated relationship, Brynn and Hanso’s less complicated relationship, and of course, Jazan and Nabile’s whirlwind relationship which only took the span of a few comic panels. These characters are everywhere – in the Neopedia, depicted in avatars, on greeting cards, and a multitude of other items.

     However, other characters remain in their shadows – side characters in plots and events who get little more than a few speaking lines, if any. They are characters who are mentioned in passing on trading cards, or characters confined to their respective games or site features who do not even get merchandising deals. Yet these enigmatic figures manage to spark our imagination and pique our interest – precisely because they are more mysterious due to their obscurity. Plus, when you like to write stories about the world of Neopia, they are fun additions to your plot whether as passing cameos or more pivotal players.

     But if they do not have Neopedia articles or plots from which to derive their characterization, how would one go about bringing them to life? How does one flesh out a character who does not even have much flesh to begin with? These are the questions I will attempt to answer in my article.

     Step 1: Gather whatever material you can find.

     Even if these characters do not command entire plots, if they exist on the website – or, as they say, are “canon” – there is bound to be some shred of information about them. Collectable card or trading card blurbs, snatches of dialogue, and even game appearances are a start. If they do not have Neopedia articles, perhaps they might be mentioned in passing in said articles.

     I recommend taking notes or keeping tabs on the corners of Neopia where you can dig up material concerning your favourite obscure character/s. If your character makes an appearance in a game, it is worth watching or playing through the game to get a feel of what their personality might be like. Comb the entire website if you must, not only for crumbs of lore but also to make sure you don’t wind up contradicting or overlooking any existing canon – that is, unless defying canon or creating an alternate universe is your goal.

     Nothing wrong with that. I defy canon at least once a week.

     Step 2: Maximize the material.

     Now that you’ve gathered every shred of material you can get your hands on and piled them up like a mini Snowager hoard on your desk, it’s time for the next step, which is to stretch them as far as you can to help you build the characterization. What do I mean by that?

     It just means considering the information you now have on your character and seeing if you can infer further details from them. For example, you have the Zafara Double Agent, who, despite being depicted as working for Lord Kass during the Battle for Meridell plot, is described as a double agent. From there, you can figure out how she approaches her job as a spy for Kass and the kind of character she is considering that she plays both sides of the war.

     If your favourite character is depicted as a warrior, perhaps they have a degree of discipline and strength needed to reach their fighting condition. If they are a shopkeeper, what does that mean about the knowledge they possess about the items they offer for sale, and what degree of caution do they need to be able to keep all these items in order? If your character lives in a less hospitable world such as the Lost Desert or Terror Mountain, how do they fare adapting to the harsh climates?

     Basically, take what you have, and figure out the logical (or semi-logical) conclusions you can draw from how your character is already depicted on site. And let’s not stop there.

     Step 3: Consider their relationships with other characters, if possible.

     Some of these obscure Neopian characters play minor roles in big plots, like the Zafara Double Agent I mentioned earlier, and therefore interact with more prominent characters. It is therefore also important to look at how your favourite not-so-famous character deals with other characters as that can tell you quite a bit about them.

     Also in Battle for Meridell is a blue Wocky named Danner who is by Jeran’s side in the war against Lord Kass’ forces. While he does not receive as much attention (and as many fans) as his comrade, one can glean from his brief appearance and his lines his loyalty to Jeran and his competence as one of Meridell’s archers. In fact, Danner says at one point that he’d follow Jeran even to Jhudora’s front door, which says a lot about the respect he has for Jeran and the bond they share.

     Then again, one can interpret that as Danner wanting Jeran to go get a Wand of the Dark Faerie.

     Step 4: Let your imagination run wild.

     Of course, the reason why this article even exists is because despite going through steps one through three, you’ve still got a lot of blanks to fill. How would this character react to that situation? What if this character met that other character? Would this character be good at this thing or be horrible at that thing? Even the more famous Neopian characters have gaps in their histories and personalities like this, especially if their stories have long since ended, but it’s a bit more difficult when you have an obscure character who already starts off with less material.

     This is the fun part. With what you’ve put together from the previous steps, you can go to town and see what you can add. How is their family life? Do they have any other hobbies or interests? How did they get to where they are now in the vast expanse of Neopian lore? What if they did this thing or that thing? You may want to take notes here as you begin forming your own headcanon, if only to ensure that you don’t forget all the brainstorming you just did. Wait, what did I say was their favourite restaurant again? Was it kelp or the Golden Dubloon?

     Now you’re ready to write about your favourite Neopian character, never mind that they may not be everyone else’s favourite and don’t draw droves of fans the way Jeran and Kanrik do. You’ve got everything you need, so the next step (you mean there’s a fifth step? Kat, you liar!) is to continue to let your imagination run wild with all the ideas you have lined up for your favourite character.

     How do you get to that point? Lucky for you, I did in fact hit that point. And I still have some space left in this article to tell you about it. Fair warning, this is the part where I open a huge can of rambling, so you can close the Neopian Times or hit the back button so you can already get started.

     So, Kat, how did YOU do it?

     In issue 222, I had my first NeoQuest II series published, entitled, “A Hero’s Journey”. This was borne from my desire to spin a backstory about Rohane, the main character of the game. He didn’t have one apart from whatever the cutscenes will tell you (spoiler alert!) or, if you focused on the game proper and did not consider the cutscenes, the beginning chapter where he’s seen leaving his home and his mom in search for adventure. NQII may be a very long game, but it’s only one small corner of Neopia, and Rohane doesn’t really play a part anywhere else apart from appearing on a few site items. Pity.

     I didn’t stew in my pity for long, however. In my playthroughs of NQII, I gathered whatever material I could find – skillset, throwaway lines, the fact that we’re going through this gauntlet of adventures – and built in my mind the image of him as this intrepid adventurer who was not afraid of anything (or at least, most things), who believed in justice, who would protect his friends even to the extent of drawing enemies away from them so they attack him instead (because y’know, he has a Battle Taunt skill), and who would grow from an amateur swordsman to a real master of the blade.

     Then I focused on the blanks. There were so many blanks.

     Rohane’s father, though a central figure in the story, was never really described. I decided to give him a name, a species and a colour, and an identity apart from “unnamed, missing and presumably dead father of the protagonist”. I pondered the idea of Rohane being a younger brother and thus my most enduring Neopets original character, Reuben, was born. In “A Hero’s Journey”, I shaped Rohane’s family life and the circumstances that would lead him to pick up his father’s sword and leave home.

     I asked myself what he did in between quests, how his important battles went apart from the game mechanics, how he dealt with being away from home, how he would deal with the inevitable fame and prominence that greets everyone who successfully becomes a hero, and how his life would be changed after all the adventures chronicled in NQII. In “Another Hero’s Journey: Present”, in issue 951, I figured that Rohane knew how to play chess and felt awkward whenever his older brother dropped his name casually to get discounts. “In, Through and By Brotherhood” (issue 287) and “Unwritten” (issue 343), to name a few, let me get into his mind as I wrote a story told only in letters written to and from him.

     Along the way, I would create sequels and spinoffs and side stories as I answered these questions myself and then wound up with new questions to which I had to provide more answers. In a sense, nothing was sacred. Forget letting my imagination run wild. I let my imagination get onto the first boat it saw to sail across Neopia without a care in the world.

     I know what you’re thinking. “Kat, you just became way too invested a single site character.” Maybe it is exactly the case, but I ramble about this as an illustration of my previous points – that you can write a story (or ten) about your favourite not-so-well-known Neopian characters despite the lack of canon.

     All you need is an imagination operating on maximum overdrive and you’re halfway there. And hasn’t Neopets always been good about helping us fire our creativity cylinders over the years?

     Author's Note: Special thanks to the members of the NTWF for lending me their figurative ears for a discussion on bringing more obscure characters to life, and for inspiring me to ask too many questions about my favourite characters.

 
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