Reflection: What Ifs?

There’s one idea I like to explore that I think really helps establish a character: how would that character be if things were different?  There are many different possible outcomes for a single event, but time is linear, so only one outcome is the actual one.  But let’s explore the idea as to what if the outcome was different.

I look into a character’s past, and find some apparent defining moment for that character.  I might think to myself how would that character react if that event never happened…or happened differently.  Now this is a standard thing to consider when designing a character, but I find it really interesting when this can actually be included in the story.

If I can actually show how the character would react in an alternate reality where things happened differently, it would certainly give a unique new perspective on the character.  This is something I’ve explored many times with time travel in some of my older projects (many times in Swogprille).

I also find this concept interesting in alternate realities and parallel universes, and show how the same person would end up differently if they lived a more dramatically different life.  I especially like it when such stories emphasize the similarities or the differences between the lives of the two counterparts.

This is really a neat way to develop a character, but unfortunately, it’s limited to science fiction or fantasy stories.  I suppose somebody could experience an alternate life through a dream or hallucination, but in that case, the reality is created by their subconscious, and thus, I am actually showing how they think their life would be different in said alternate reality.  While this says something about their character too, how they think they would be probably does not reflect how they would actually be.

In the end, it’s our pasts that really make us who we are.  Showing how characters are different if they had different pasts is a great way of showing this.  The character may claim that a certain event in their past causes them to think the way they do, but perhaps they only think that, and it was really something else?

A what-if scenario like this can be difficult to show outside of science fiction, but it really helps show who the character truly is, and what they are truly like.  It helps show what kind of an effect the past had on them.  Anyway, I think I’ve covered this subject enough, so White Rakogis is signing off.


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