The Character Consultancy

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Frequently Asked Questions

Have any questions? They should be answered below, but if you have any other questions feel free to email me on @


"How can you add anything of value to a character when it's not yours?"

My three years of therapeutic training help me clarify extra details with you. I'll give you an example of a character I've added to without stepping on my client's toes.

This character's name is Derry. His creator, Deroki, approached me for a commission and said he didn't have much detail for me about his character except that Derry was "a big ball of anger".

Now, anger comes in all sorts of levels of intensity and be expressed in many different ways, so that meant I knew what to ask Deroki to tease out what Derry's particular expression of anger looked like. For instance, anger can be expressed in these levels of increasing intensity:

  • Withdrawal
  • Boredom
  • Delaying
  • Moping
  • Petulance
  • Sulking
  • Tantrums
  • Rebellion

A character might demonstrate these - or not - for a whole host of reasons, so I asked the appropriate questions, and paid attention to his answers, to find out what the correct profile for Derry in each level was.

In addition to that, anger that has its origin in different life stages is going to look different. Here are some examples using the life stages described in Erik Erikson's 8 Stages of Man:

Infanthood
Anger from here is a wordless, intolerable, flailing rage, and it's not easily pacified.

Toddlerhood
Anger from here is not much more tolerable than anger from infancy but has a slightly better of agency, since toddlers have some muscular control which influences their feeling of ability to influence their situation.

Young childhood
Anger coming from here has a more focused energy and direction but is also likely to be callous and cruel.

Older childhood
A person who had problems in this stage but not in the ones before is likely to be far more moderated in their expression of anger, but it'll still be painful and deeply felt because disruption in this life stage means they feel useless or incapable.

Adolescence
We pretty much revisit all of the above when we have problems as teenagers. Because of this, residual teen anger tends to give a kind of double-layered quality to peoples' problems.

Young adulthood
If a person had a good childhood it's unlikely they'll have severe anger problems as a result of anything that happens in this life stage. It's not impossible, though. Young adulthood anger can come from being isolated or not allowed to contribute to society.

Middle age
This is where people start to lose their sense of agency, not necessarily because of their own failings but because the next generation is all grown up and ready to make their own mark on the world, and they need the middle-agers' support. I'm sure you've met people who resent being in that situation.

Old age
Anger at the end of one's life is a terrible thing, mainly because by this time it's too late to do much about it. Anger here can be expressed as despair for this very reason.

Then there's the question of whether the character's anger is coming from a position of "I'm better than you (therefore you're scum and I despise you)", "You're better than me (and I hate you for it)", or "I'm no good and neither are you". And the specifics of how that character switches between those three positions.

That's why I offer this service. When I received Deroki's questionnaire answers about Derry, I found out a lot more about Derry that Deroki hadn't uncovered for himself because he doesn't have the training I do. For him, finding these things out was a joy and he was very eager to tell me so.


"My character doesn't have a standard psychological make up. Can you still work on them?"

Yes, absolutely! My training is based on human psychology, however I am confident enough with it to be able to depart from it if needed. Common departures include:

Dragons
Dragons, and anything else that hatched out of an egg, are capable of moving under their own power, finding at least some of their own food, hiding from danger, and perhaps more. This means that they never went through a stage where they were completely dependant on any other individual, like a human infant is with its mother. This has implications for their psychological development. If you have never been helpless, your own ability to trust in your own ability to keep yourself safe and provide for yourself is that much greater. In addition to that, your independence and autonomy are never as big of an issue as they are for a human toddler, and it is generally given that you are capable from before you begin to consider your place and potential in the world. All of this means that I write 'early independent' characters very differently. Here are a couple or dragon characters as examples:

Grukkal | Arix Ordragc

Robots, Androids, and Artificial Intelligences
Artificially intelligent beings function very differently from biological creatures. I am thoroughly trained in understanding child development and this may or may not be relevant to your robotic character, but it does give me a reference point that I can start from. In addition to this, I have had a casual interest in Artificial Intelligence for a long time thanks to a good friend, so I know not to anthropomorphisize AIs.

See Bombay's testimonial

"I have a robot character which does bring about a few obstacles when attempting to analyze her past. Specifically her childhood. It's very difficult to develop a character that can be related to when it has no childhood or regular developmental stages. However, The Character Consultancy has done an outstanding job in helping me understand how to work through these issues as well as develop my character in a natural and professional manner."

Characters That Were Never Children
I generally present backstories by tracking a character's life from birth to death and show how they developed over that time by using Erik Erikson's 8 Psychosocial Stages of Man. Erikson's model is a helpful way to capture both a character's timeline and their psychological make-up in one go. However, I can capture just their psychological make up without working that into a timeline, and this is helpful for characters who began life as adults. The beauty of Erikson's model is that is gives a wonderfully comprehensive overview of a character's psychological landscape and I can write that as happening 'now' rather than 'having developed at some point in the past'. Here's an example of how the end result can look:

Hito

Immortals / Ascended Beings
Beings that will never die, or have 'died' only to keep living, may not have to consider their mortality. I can explore the implications of this with you, taking into account whether your character still has a human psyche or whether their immortality expanded their mind. The terms of immortality can vary wildly from one character to the next so I'll talk through those with you. Common issues include a newly increased ability to fulfil their lifetime ambitions, the risk of running out of things to do with an unlimited time-frame or the futility of fulfilling their ambitions when they will likely outlive the fruits of their labours. Here is an example of a character who lived a life as a mortal and then became an immortal, with all of the new psychological development that entailed:



The work I do often includes speculative psychology, and I am confident enough at my current level of knowledge and training to be able to speculate with you and find alternatives that suit your character, their species, or their culture.


"My character has an adult/NSFW/kink/fetish element. Will you feel comfortable working with them?"

I have no problem working with characters for whom sexuality is important. After all, sexuality is a part of a person or character's psychological make-up. However, I approach fetishes and kinks more tentatively.

The reason for this is that fetishistic characters sometimes require skewed psychology to work, and I generally work with psychological realism in mind. For example, a potential client approached me to create a profile of their character who had mind-control capabilities. They asked for me to help them write a backstory where this character used their mind-control talent to over-ride the will of any other individual of the character's choice in order to have sex with them. They wanted for this character to live in a society where they had free rein to do this without fear of any legal consequences.

I turned this commission down for two reasons. The first was that I do not condone sexual assault or rape, and this person required me to do so in order to write this story in the spirit they wanted. Click here to read my thoughts about abused and abusive characters. The second reason was that it is psychologically unrealistic to expect a society to allow an individual to harm others in this way.

The rule of thumb here is, please note that I will not take commissions that are in poor taste.


"I want to work with you but have writer's block. What's the point in working with you if I can't write anything?"

Writer's block is frustrating - that is certainly true. I have two answers for this.

Firstly, having a profile written can be profoundly helpful in shifting writer's block. Knowing more about your characters' history and the reasons that they do things can make it easier for you to visualise what will happen next in whatever story you write.

Secondly, I can explore your writer's block in a consultation. Unsure of whether that will be any help? Here's a transcript of a consultation where I helped Mirath to shift his writer's block:

Mirath


"I want to buy from you but can't afford to pay."

I offer payment plans. Contact me on @ letting me know the rate of payment that would work for you best and we can agree on a payment plan from there.


"Your write-ups are too long! I don't want to read that much just to get to know a character!"

I structure my analyses so that you can get a quick idea of who the character is just by looking at the first 50 to 100 words of the analysis, like so:

Name: Youko (in the current day; born Damian Tzavaras)
Species: Human
Sex: Male
Age: 42 years, and "on the upper side of young"
Height: 5ft 9in
Weight: Not given
Siblings: None
Home: The Conjured Isles
Quote: "Do what you love, and you'll never work a day in your life. So I don't do what I don't love doing. Not anymore."

Youko is a human from the Dungeons & Dragons setting. He is the son of two social climber parents who cared more about status than love and affection, but was raised by a nursemaid who was far kinder. He is a loving and friendly character who loves the arts in all their forms, and appreciates integrity and kindness in others

There is clearly much more to know about Youko, but this gives you a rough idea of who he is. If you want to know more you only need to read the rest of his profile which, by the way, you can find here:




"Why would I use your service when there are Myers-Briggs tests online that I can use instead?"

Online tests can give you insights, however they are automated online forms and not people. What I bring to the table is that if you talk to me (as opposed to using a Myers-Briggs test), I can answer you personally. Unlike a form I'm live and present, and can give a personal response, answer any specific questions you might have, use my intuition in addition to training, and provide after-care.


"My characters are too early in development for this service to be useful."

I have helped to develop several characters from a very early stage in their development, and the clients I worked with on these projects found my help to be invaluable. Here is an example of a consultation I did with somebody who had a character in the early stages of development and a worldbuilding setting at an even earlier stage:

Furry X

In addition to therapeutic training (which gives me detailed, technical knowledge of how personalities work and how a character's interpersonal relationships are likely to play out), I also have counselling training. This allows me to talk to you without imposing my own ideas about your character, to help you make sense of the early ideas you have for your character and how they fit together.


"I know my character best. Why should I commission you to describe them?"

You do indeed know your character best, and that's the secret ingredient in the work I do.

My role is more subtle than straightforward character creation. I don't add anything to a character; what I do is facilitate you in developing your character in new ways that you may not have thought about. Take the below consultation transcripts for example, where I helped Kiroku Bandit find a new dimension for his character, and helped Doubtful-Tea in organising the roles for the cast in a game.

Kiroku Bandit | Doubtful-Tea

Think about how beer is made. A brewmaster can put together the ingredients, but cannot personally turn the mixture into beer. It's the yeast that ferments and turns the ingredients into beer. The brewmaster's role is vital to create the best conditions for the yeast to work, but all he or she can do is facilitate, not create. That's what I do with my clients.

However, sometimes I do other things too, such as compare my potential clients to fungi.


"I already know my character really well. I don't think you could contribute anything to their development."

If that's what you think, you might want to read the answer to the previous question in this FAQ list, my fun guy!

What I offer is structured knowledge about how personalities and relationships work, and a professional-level perspective on psychological realism. I'm an advanced trainee therapist, and this means I know many techniques that I can use to define and describe personality traits and behavioural patterns. When we work together on your character, I facilitate you to find out more detail about your character by sharing my knowledge with you.

In short, I have a map of how personalities work, but you are the one holding the compass!


"My characters change often so a sheet would soon be out of date."

This is one of the reasons I offer character profiles in written format. In addition to being searchable and easy to copy-paste, they can also be updated. No matter what you order from me, it will be based on a No Frills, as they are the basis for the text on Infographics and the script for videos so I always keep a written copy regardless of the the type of commission you order.

If you have ordered from me but your No Frills is now out of date, feel free to either update it yourself or ask me to update it with you. For characters who update often, and species or worldbuilding scenarios that are in production, I offer a Patreon tier dedicated to this kind of after-care. See the After-Care tier on my Patreon page.

You may also be interested to know that I can format a No Frills with empty boxes for you to fill in extra information during a game, if desired. Here's an example:


"I'm interested, but my characters are very personal to me."

You can always ask me not to upload your finished No Frills. If it helps, as a trainee therapist I have a keen awareness of (and formal training in) confidentiality. If you don't want your finished character profile to be made public, that is completely up to you.


"I feel uncomfortable about the fact that you work in the psychology field due to a bad experience I/someone I know had. How do I know I can trust you?"

Representing my profession in a professional manner is important to me.

Counsellors and therapists are mandated to see a supervisor (a kind of therapeutic mentor) for a certain ratio of hours relative to the number of counselling clients we see. I have a fantastic supervisor who tells it to me like it is and I value my superviseeship with her very highly indeed. Before I set TCC up I spoke to her about it, particularly about working ethically with TCC clients.

The result of our discussion was that I should assess every potential client to check that they would be psychologically robust enough to cope with having their creations analysed. I incorporated that assessment into my preliminary discussions with potential clients. This has been very effective and the clients I have worked with are a mentally strong, resilient bunch. Ultimately I am content that I do no harm.


"I prefer my commissions to look really visual and amazing. Your commissions are written so I don't think they're exciting."

Written No Frills are the core of what I do, but I can also make Infographics and videos which are far more visually appealing. Want to see some examples?



A word about art: I'm not much of an artist myself, so the art you see on my Infographics and videos are by a variety of different artists. I always ask for the artists' permission before using their art and credit them according to their preferences.

Sometimes more art is available, sometimes less. When less is available (or if you just fancy having some new, custom art) I offer an artist find service. You Pay What You Want plus a small fee and I'll find you an artist who is available and charges within your budget.


"Designing characters is half the fun! Why would I get someone else to do it?"

The vast majority of my clients have reported that they had a world of fun designing their characters with me. I aim to make the design of your character a deeply enjoyable experience!

But don't just take my word for it. Here's what some of my past clients have had to say about the experience of working on their characters with me:

See serial art commissioner ArixO's testimonial:

"After having Hayley recommended to me, I decided to give her service a try, for a bit of fun and to help develop my character a bit more deeply. I ended up learning things about the character even I didn't know! She does a great job developing characters while sticking to the essence of what you want out of them, giving them depth without remaking anything about them. No regrets!"

And Tau Switchblade had positive things to say too!

"I requested a reference sheet from The Character Consultancy because it was something I had not seen offered before: an offer to analyze my character in various ways based on supplied questions. It's interesting to see Tau's life explained through the eyes of someone well-versed in character nuance!"

Why not read more about what my clients have to say about me on my testimonials page?


"My character doesn't have much of a history. I don't think there's enough information to analyse."

I can take a lot out of a surprisingly small amount of information. As an example, you might want to try reading about how I analysed Derry (see the first question on this FAQ).

But even Derry was well-defined compared to Jeffra Cox. This is all Hale-Art was able to tell me about him:

"Born into nobility, Jeffra underwent extensive training for knighthood and was the top of his class by a considerable margin. He could not take the pressure, however, and became the leader of a terrifyingly strong bandit clan. He has the equipment and skills of a top tier knight after decades of continued practice. The next step for him is an assault on the capitol itself for a coup."

And this is the finished No Frills:



My main take-away from Hale-Art's description was that Jeffra pushed himself to exhaustion. This means that it's unlikely he worked hard purely for the sake of being competitive or for greed (despite the potential of a knight; a successful knight could become very rich indeed). People do not exhaust themselves for selfish reasons; they do it to appease somebody else.

So from this we can tell that Jeffra had somebody to appease, and that they would not be pleased if Jeffra made a mediocre effort. This person who Jeffra had to appease could have been an actual person, but the timing of Jeffra's exhaustion tell us something else: that he was not appeasing a real person (not even within the context of a fictional story), but a projection of a person. In Transactional Analysis we call this an 'introject' - somebody who demanded a lot of us once upon a time, and whose demands we accepted as our responsibility to fulfil to the point that we keep a working model of them in our heads. We tend to keep introjects even after we no longer have to please the person who they are modelled on, and this is what I believe Jeffra is doing.

Adults are independent - that's what defines adulthood. They can walk away from anything that doesn't benefit them or actively does them harm (theoretically, at least). Jeffra kept up his appeasement behaviours as an adult. It couldn't have been a person who was causing it, so it could only have been an introject.

The other main snippet of information Hale-Art's blurb gave me is that Jeffra trained as a knight. A half-hour of research on traditional knight's training revealed that Jeffra would have started on this career path when he was very young. Childhood is when most introjects begin.

And that's how I got the basic outline of the drama of Jeffra's life! Other details slotted in quite easily after that.


"How long does a No Frills / Infographic / video take to make?"

Questionnaire - this takes around an hour for you to complete.

First draft - I sent you this within a week of you sending me your finished questionnaire and payment. I invariably include further questions, usually to do with your character's family, specific events in their life, or the culture in which they live. You will need to send me your answers to these. This can take around 30 minutes.

Second draft and onwards - I strive to send you your subsequent drafts within a week of you sending your question answers and requested tweaks to me. Most of my write-ups take three or four drafts before they are complete, so the basic.

Infographics - an infographic takes around 3 hours longer on top of the above.

Videos - A video can take around 3 weeks to complete.


"My character is really messy. I'm kind of embarrassed to show them to you."

There's nothing to be ashamed of about a messy character. In fact, I often work on commissions that are never completed because my client reaches a point where they get what they want from working with me before we make a final draft.

If you aren't interested in organising your character to the point of perfection, that's fine. I have worked with clients in the past who just wanted to make sense of contradictory backstories and straighten out time-lines, not end up with a write-up to present to others. If you want to work with me on resolving something about your character then we can start to write a No Frills with problem-solving in mind, or we can work together in a consultation. You tell me when you have gone as far as you want to go.

See economics bat's testimonial:

"Hey! I commissioned Hayley a while ago because I had some thorny characterization problems in some original fiction. I had a set of behaviors in mind and some tropes I wanted to incorporate, but I didn't have sophisticated thoughts on motivation. After we spoke for a while, I found some pretty fundamental contradictions in my original goals for the character, and over some consultations we fleshed out two mutually exclusive explanations that completely satisfied my original conditions. From this point I've been able to write quite a bit, and with Hayley's well-informed assistance I was able to move forward from imitation into using realistic psychology in my work."