The Sims is not an RPG (Role-Playing Game), but good storytellers know the importance of getting inside a character’s head — and heart. In writing, it’s referred to as viewpoint or point of view because the author is truly seeing the world through that particular character’s eyes.
Of course, good writing and storytelling involves all the senses, so when we “get into character” we should also be aware of what that character hears, tastes, feels, and even what the character smells.
Becoming aware of the environment through the physical senses also involves light, weather and temperature — is it a sunny summer day or a gloomy, dark, and stormy night?
There’s more, however, than just the physical senses. As storytellers, we should understand what the character is feeling at an emotional level, too. We need to hear not only external sounds, but that internal voice inside the character’s head. In short, we have to think and feel all that the character is experiencing. Only then can we truly understand the character’s needs, what motivates him or her, and what actions the character chooses to take.
Doing this in The Sims involves a bit of role play.
To write about Jonathan Evans stepping into his new home for the first time, I had to close my eyes, take a deep breath, and imagine that I was Jonathan. I had to allow myself to feel the darkness and loneliness around him, and I had to listen to his thoughts in order to put them into writing.
Here are the opening paragraphs of Jonathan Chronicles:
Jonathan Evans took a deep breath before turning the key in the lock. He drew in another breath – deeper this time – as he leaned forward and pushed open the door. Even then it required several more slow and steady breaths before he could step over the threshold. This was more than simply stepping into a new house; he was stepping into a new life.
A cold, unfamiliar darkness surrounded him. Although this was a place he meant to call home, it held nothing of the warmth and cheerfulness usually associated with that word. Of course, maybe he was luckier than most. He’d been born into a loving family, had been raised by parents who supported his dreams and encouraged his efforts.
Now, he was alone.
You’ll notice that I also gave a little back story information, that is, information about Jonathan and his life before the opening of the story. Where we come from and the experiences from the past shapes all that we do and is an important part of our thoughts and feelings. The same is true for the characters we create in our stories.
When we’re telling stories about our sims, we have to know their back stories, too.
Just as the past is important, so is the future. To write convincingly about a character, we need to be aware of what he or she wants. Sometimes we’ll express those wants directly. Other times, as in the opening of Jonathan’s story, some of his wants are implied. He wants to build a new life. He wants the warmth and security of the past. He wants to create a successful future for himself.
To bring new dimensions to your stories, take time to see what’s happening through the eyes of your characters. If you’re building stories with your sims, get inside their heads and see the world from their point of view. Pretend to be that sim. Look at what’s happening around you, and listen to your thoughts and feelings.
TIP: Role-play games (RPGs) can help you develop your imagination.
Check out this list of all-time great RPGs: Top 100 RPGs of All-Time.
On-line games such as Gemstone IV will give you a chance to hone your skills in staying “in character”, as will live-action groups.
You can find a wealth of helpful information at LARP: Live-Action Role-Play.
Have fun with your stories!