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Wed, Sep. 10th, 2014, 10:17 pm
the Character Roulette Meme (AKA Silly Question Game) is the greatest writing game you'll ever play

I wrote this for tumblr's benefit, but since journal fandom is the one that appreciates the game...


The Character Roulette Meme was a tradition left behind in the fandom move to tumblr, and we are all missing out.



The rules of Character Roulette:



1. Make up a numbered list of 10 to 15 characters and keep it a secret for now.

2. Ask everyone to make up questions, in the form of:

"One forces Two and Seven to get married. Is it a happy marriage?"
"Five, Six and Twelve form a band! What do they call themselves? Are they any good?"
"Why *are* all the other numbers afraid of Seven?"

3. Stop taking questions, and then fill in the names from your list and answer accordingly.

4. Post results.

5. Hilarity ensues.

Hilarity and *really interesting* scenarios that neither you or the question asker would have thought up separately.



Why it is so much fun




Prompt memes are pretty fun in general, right? For low stakes writing warm-ups / creative problem solving practise WITH a built in audience.

But "prompt me anything" is waaay too open. So the usual compromise is for the writer to specify what *kinds* of prompts they will take.

Usually, especially on tumblr, this is a scenario - eg, "give me 2 characters and I will write their first kiss" or "give me a threesome and an AU setting and I'll do a drabble".

Occasionally the writer will define the characters instead (or as well): "I have a *need* to write X/Y or X/Z hurt-comfort - pick one and give me a scenario!"

It is a game you're playing *with* the prompter, right? The challenge is to keep enough control that it is still in the range of fun things to personally think about, but to leave it open enough that the prompt can spark *new* thoughts. Otherwise it's just masturbation, and it's easy enough to do *that* on my own time.

SO!

This is the opposite - Questions/scenarios/plot prompts - are COMPLETELY OPEN. But it is STILL FUN because the characters are constrained to ones you wish to see bounce off each other (narratively or otherwise).


(Plus, the question/answer format gives you a lot more response-quality freedom than fic prompts but shhh.)

And unlike having the prompter explicitly choose the characters:

1. you can afford more variety in character options

and

2. The prompters are working *blind*, as in experimentally. If you tell me you will take character X prompts, I am going to prompt you for scenarios I want to see character X in. That's going to be a much different set of scenarios than "be creative! who knows what will happen to who!"

And what will often happen is characters you have not even considered interacting before will be stuck together in a scenario no one has ever considered them in. *Now* solve for character X.

It's a good way to get some edge case character tests, at the very least. And I have never seen a result post that is not highly entertaining.



So that's the overview!



I have played this game a lot, back in journal fandom, and I have thought about many aspects of it. And if it means I can convince tumblr fandom to play along, I will give away every secret I have.



ANSWERS FOR ASKERS:




What sort of questions will work best?



You just got to be going with what feels right at where your heart's up in, you know? 

Seriously, don't worry too much. A range is good. I usually get questions ranging from stuff like:



What is 13’s biggest secret guilty pleasure? [hat tip hannah]



to



Years ago, 13 and 6 had a night of random passion with this stranger they'd just met in a Gogo Club. When they meet again in the now, they don't remember each other, which is good because now they're on a superhero team with 11, 4, 9, and 3, and 13 is dating 15, who runs a bakeshop, and 6 is having serious UST with 4, who leads the group. When 11, who has known them longest, begins to realize the truth, what wacky hijinks ensue? Does s/he tell them, and if so, which them--13 and 6, 15 and 4, all four, or everybody? How do various people take it? Do the current relationships stand or is the passion of the past reignited? What the hell were they doing in a Gogo Club anyway? And most importantly of all, how good are 15's muffins? [hat tip mb]



on the other.

For me, somewhere in the middle usually has the most room for expansion. But the range is good, so ask whatever hits your own sense of humour.



Are there any types of questions to avoid?



The only major thing is not to put in other characters, such as "7 calls Dean Winchester from Supernatural for a booty call, how sexy is it?"

It is up to the answerer to define the character list. No one else gets to send out invitations.



Is it encouraged to ask more than one question?



Hell yes.



What if I asked 20 questions?



That is too many. You are thinking of a different game.



ANSWERS FOR ANSWERERS:




How many characters should I add to the list?



I've usually seen 10 to 15.

I do 15, which I find is a nice balance between "might as well have used the random character generator" and "been there done that".

The deal is you want enough repeats that the same character will be in different scenarios with different people, but not so many repeats that it gets predictable.



 Which characters should I choose?



You've gotta want to write them.

That's the most important thing. If you are not actually interested in exploring these people, you will leave this bar early no matter how many other tips I can give you.

But if you care about more than ten characters, I have a few tips for how to set yourself up for entertaining results.



1. Choose characters with different story purposes.



If you load your list with too many HBIC characters (or based-on-Sherlock-Holmes characters or angry-lady-soldier characters, or whatever) they will not interact with each other/the scenarios in different enough ways.

Mix it up! "X turns into a dragon, how do they react?" Well, do they freak out, hunt down the person responsible, be utterly thrilled, show up for the next team meeting and *dare* anyone to mention something has changed, not even notice? If your entire list will react the same way there is not much point in playing.



2. If you are doing a crossover list, consider reusing fandoms.



This way, some of the characters may get randomly assigned to other characters that they have past history with, and they'll play off each other differently than strangers. 



3. HOWEVER...



if you decide to put in family members (or any other awkward pairs) be aware people may unknowingly stick them in romantic or sexual situations together.



4. Diversity



Okay, this is not really a tip, but it's something I do and have never regretted.

So you have a list of 10 or 12 or 17 characters you are about to populate silly scenarios wi



th. They are the first characters that came to mind for people you're interested to write about, plus or minus some tweaking to invite situational humour.

Now, neatly laid out like that... what is the gender breakdown? How many are white vs. PoC vs. does not apply?

There are no diversity quotas in this game - but if (like I have) you notice that your character list trends towards the white and male, ask yourself if that is truly what you want to write.

If not, this is a very easy time to swap some out for other characters you also enjoy. Since the prompts will not be built around the characters, there are zero re-workings required.



5. Feed your your list into a randomizer



Humans are *so fucking weird*, and they get emotions ground into their numbers. So the character you might assign to say, "7", and the scenarios an asker may invent for "7" are not entirely unconnected.


Remove all the variables you can, yeah?

Plus, that way you can read the questions before your list is finalized and no cheating will have happened. Just randomize it again if you make a change.

[Note: I suppose if you wanted to respond directly to tumblr asks as they come in, you could randomize your list after each response. But then your askers will already know who might show up.]



Does it work with original characters?



I have seen a couple people try this! I have not done so myself, on account of not having original characters, but promises of an original-universe character list seem to gather less attention, which is understandable.

But! I bet you could bribe people with the fandom version and then answer it with 2 character lists, one fannish and one original.

I've made 2 lists before (crossover and single fandom) and it was interesting to see how different characters play off the same scenario.



Examples:



Some of my favourite answers:

-the first appearance of Terrible Meme High School
-the Old Spice Man's midlife crisis vehicle
-Cristina Yang goes back in time 2
-Rose Lalonde and Veronica Palmer team up to utterly demolish The Amazing Race
-Cassandra Cain goes to Prospit with John and Karkat
-Hyacinthe Cohen faces off against Benjamin Sisko
-Amanda Waller becomes a Pirate Queen
-Karkat Vantas tries to start an internet flame war against John Egbert with utterly unshocking results

Look I have even gone back and tagged these things now.

It's true that those are all me. Who else played this game? So many other people, and I can find none of the posts now. Tragic.



And so...



If you have any thoughts or questions I will be happy to answer.


If you want to try playing this yourself, I'd feel thrilled and accomplished.


And yes, if you want to leave *me* a silly question to answer, I'm currently open for them. Characters are numbered 1 to 15, askbox is here. ;)




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Crossposted from Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.