Character Building with Dread

I posted a couple months ago about the unique storytelling experience I had hosting the roleplaying game, Dread. This weekend I had the opportunity to see the other side of the story and experience the game as a player, and it was a very fun and inspiring experience.

Players in Dread build their characters by filling out probing questionnaires that tap into the darkest aspects of their personalities. This was the questionnaire I got to fill out:20150913_195859

It was interesting to take these questions and use them as inspiration to build an incredibly well-rounded character. Something I’ve been learning in my improv comedy classes is to approach situations by saying “Yes, and,” and this questionnaire forces you to do the same. Going through each question, I could see the character taking shape in a way that I wouldn’t have imagined on my own.

Dread forces you to visualize weaknesses over strengths, vulnerabilities over confidences. It’s a strategy I haven’t put too much thought into since my days in roleplaying forums, though every character should be developed in this way. As much fun as I had creating the character (who I named Ellara “Ellie” Sturgis), the best part was watching the story and all the other characters come together, and seeing how these deep-seated traumas and weaknesses manifest themselves in conflict situations. In the end, it ended up being one of the best stories I’ve ever helped to tell, and I will certainly be writing an adaptation of it sometime in the future.

I’d recommend Dread to all writers, especially writers of genre fiction, and those who want to incorporate extreme tension and suspense into their stories. I may be utilizing some of the questions from the player questionnaires in my own character development for future stories.

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