Friday, April 14, 2017

The Right Question for a Character's Foundation (Hannah)

A few weeks ago, in my post on fantasy travel and transportation, I mentioned my love for Bethesda Softworks’ Elder Scrolls games. They are computer role-playing games, which means you get to create a character (or several) and play in the world of Tamriel as that character. Usually when I am creating a character, the first question I ask is “What are her moral and political beliefs?” From there, I can figure out what background would lead to such a worldview, and look ahead to what sort of lifestyle she will have. This question is a great place to start because the character’s worldview colors every other aspect of her life.

But it isn’t the best place to start.

Around Christmastime, one of my friends was creating her first character for the Elder Scrolls, and she asked a question I hadn’t thought of. Or, rather, it was a question I had tacked on to the end of the character-creation process. I wondered why she chose to start there, but pretty soon I realized exactly how important her question really was.

Who or what does your character worship? 

The Elder Scrolls universe is high fantasy and completely separate from earth, and therefore has its own mythology… including many different philosophies, pantheons, and religious groups unique to that world. I had a couple of religious characters, but the question of what each character worshipped didn’t even come up until fairly late in the process. Part of this was because for a long time, my characters only differed in the skills they had and the factions they joined. I didn’t even consider playing a religious character until near the end.

But the issue went deeper than just the way I played the game. It came from a subconscious misunderstanding of worship. Consciously, I know better, but I wasn’t really thinking about it and I slid into an easy – but detrimental – mindset regarding the importance of worship.

What you worship isn’t just a cosmetic thing you add on the end of a character. Worship defines every single aspect of life – morals, beliefs, lifestyle, desires, and priorities. I skipped right to the surface with my “moral and political beliefs” question, but my friend looked deeper, into the very heart and soul of a person. Whether someone is religious or not, what he worships is the foundation of who he is.

What is worship, then? Worship is usually used in a religious context; for example, I worship God. But if it were only a religious thing, then non-religious people would be excluded. In a broader sense, to worship something is to show it your absolute devotion, love, and investment. One of the definitions provided by Google is “adoration or devotion comparable to religious homage, shown toward a person or principle.”

A person who worships a deity of some sort places that deity above everything else, and lives his life in accordance with the nature of the deity. Someone who worships something more tangible, like money, will live his life with money as the top priority. Obviously, his lifestyle will be different to reflect the difference in what is most important to him. Someone might worship a political or philosophical idea, making its realization his life’s goal. Others might idolize work, pleasure, power, prestige, a person or group, or really anything else imaginable. In short, asking what the character worships is asking, “What is the foundation of his entire life?”

This Good Friday, I encourage you to reflect on who or what each of your characters worships, and carefully investigate how that priority colors every other aspect of his life. Then turn this analysis inward. Who or what do you worship? I know for me, as a Christian, it is easy to say I worship God. But too often, I can tell by my lifestyle that God is not really my priority. During those times when I prioritize myself, I have to be careful to remember the One I truly want to worship, and not just live my life aimlessly.

We are building up to Easter, the most important holiday of the year. As you search your characters’ hearts and minds to understand them more fully, take a moment to analyze yourself. Are you ready to celebrate Christ’s resurrection and rejoice in the freedom and grace He offered on that incredible morning?

Thank you for reading!

~ Hannah


  1. Interesting post, Hannah! I've never thought about characterization this way, but you're right, who or what a character worships will have huge ramifications on other aspects of his or her life. I hope you have a very happy, blessed Easter!

  2. This is very insightful. Even if a character is not religious, he or she worships something- values something above all else- and that shapes the rest of his or her life. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Wow, fitting for the Easter celebration. Yes, I agree that who we are in life is significantly shaped by "whose" we are. It is usually very obvious to me when I really get to know someone...where their heart is. And yes, I have friends who do not practice a particular religion or participate in the rituals of a religious life, but still display those actions that verify that they belong to God. In writing, one would have to make sure their characters maintain a consistent moral tendency throughout. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!


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