Sunday, February 6

A tale of two L's

The variety of roleplay characters I manage to play never ceases to amaze me. A new scene is proposed and I have to come up with an identity. What does the scene call for? Is she a quiet girl or a boisterous one? Is she nervous or confident? Fearless or timid?

A quick scan over all my personas often leads to to one being commissioned and I can slip into her like a soft kid glove. For situations or people that are new to me I often default to such a character. Bringing Caoilfhionn to Finishing School is one such example. Despite not knowing either of the teachers or many of the girls, I never felt out of my depth.

Let me digress here momentarily. Although bringing a fully formed character like her may have been difficult for the FS teachers, they never let it phase them. Even during one scene where I was so deep as Caoilfhionn I cried for half an hour! For her naughtiness in harming school property (jumping on the trampoline in the snow!) she was forbidden from wearing her pretty dress to the party for the gentlemen that evening, ordered to wear her uniform instead. Poor Caoilfhionn was so distraught at the shame of having disappointed Mrs Darling and Miss Hammond-Grant so much that she'd earned this horrendous punishment. In the end I had to come out of role and be assured Caoilfhionn wasn't a hated girl, but merely it was a punishment they always planned to give someone and as the naughtiest girl, and a lively character at that, she seemed a good choice. And that was exactly right, I, EJ would have coped with the punishment, but Caoilfhionn could not!

However, there are many times a scene demands a new persona and I must invent her. What will the scene entail? Is it light or dark? Does it require submission or fight?  Most importantly what do I want to feel from the scene. Empowered or abused? Loved or despised? The final step is to name her and give her background and context to my play partner. The more realistic I make her, the more I can believe in her. For example a girl who is a prefect and Captain of the Hockey team is not likely to have a poor academic record and little respect from the teachers. Or a reformatory inmate arrested for prostitution is not going to have much education.

Last week I was listening to Neil Jordan (Irish writer and directer) give an interview on a local radio show. The presenter made reference to the protagonist in his latest book and asked how easy was it to write the story down, to tell the character what to do. Jordan's reply was that it was not a matter of him dictating to the character, but rather he was following where the character demanded to go.

And thus it is with my characters and why I love roleplay so much. This ability to throw on a slightly different skin at will and let the character loose.To get lost in an alter ego and follow where she wanders.

So let me introduce you to Lily and Lucy. Two more different characters I could not invent. Lily was an orphan at the Sailors' Orphans Institute. The institute relied heavily on the generosity of an old Colonel, who made substantial donations to the orphange as well as larger personal gifts to the warden. In return he would often request the company of one of the oldest girls. What he wanted the girl for was not talked of, but they were required to do everything he asked of them and the girls lived in fear of getting a bad report on their return. The last girl to visit him had got just that, a poor report and a refusal to have her visit again. The poor girl was birched until she screamed, every day for a week for this failure to please him. And all the older girls were made to watch, to understand their fate if he was disappointed again.

When it's Lily's turn to visit she is petrified. She takes the train alone, nervously watching for her stop. When she finally arrives she needs the bathroom and spends a few minutes tidying her clothes and trying to calm her nerves. (We decided to play the scene in role from the minute I arrive off the train and I fall into character so quickly, become so terrified, that the station master asks me am I OK!)

The Colonel is standing on the other side of the turnstiles, a cane in his hand and looking very impatient. 'What's all this shillyshallying?' he demands. Then turns on his heel and marches out of the station. (The hotel is maybe a 5 minute walk away, but it feels like 50 and I'm worried I'm actually going to be sick with fear as we walk there). At the hotel Lily nervously answers his questions and dares not resist when he undresses and inspects her.(T he scene continues until we leave the hotel for lunch and to my relief HH asks do I want to break role over lunch. The plan was to stay in role with him watching and evaluating her throughout. I'm thankful he gives me a break however, as I'm too upset to be able to talk or eat!)

Poor Lily suffered much at his hands, but as she was a very compliant and submissive little thing she doesn't disappoint him and returns to the orphanage in relief. Lucy Plackett on the other hand was a very different matter!

Lucy was the first character I ever played that I didn't actually like. She had no respect for authority, cared for no-one else's opinion and was quite a bully to the other girls. And horror of horrors she refused to wear her uniform properly. She was pupil at St. Anne's reform school and came to life during a detention scene with several other girls attending a party hosted by Martha.

The only person Lucy liked, and grudgingly at that, was Suzanne McNally, a tough scouse girl. After sizing each other up, realising they couldn't bully the other they called a truce and decided to rule the school together. In truth Lucy was an aggressive little bitch. From her Essex face lift (due to her hair being scraped back so tightly!) to her sneer, there was nothing to commend her to anyone. And the increasingly harder whackings doled out by the teachers had no effect on her at all. She still threatened to cut Candy and Rosemary's plaits off for crossing her, deemed Jemima So and So Gored too wet to even notice and Faye became her own personal bitch.

Not sure I want to bring her out to play too often and the other girls definitely don't want to see her again anytime soon. But even playing her I still felt the same liberation of just letting go and seeing where I end up!


Rayne said...

EJ - thank you for the brief jaunt into your mental escapades :D

I just experienced my first 'real' roleplay a few days ago - and by real I mean stepping into and out of a character other than my own typical personality. Beforehand, I hadn't been quite sure that it would work out, but it did, and has only left me wanting more chances like the ones you describe! :D

Indy said...

I've always though it would be fun to have a collection of characters, to be able to communicate what kind of a scene I'm in the mood for just by saying, oh, I feel like being so-and-so today. I'm not sure my characters are all that different from me, though the situations in which they find themselves are obviously rather different from my daily life. It would be interesting to try something dramatically different at some point, but that would take play partners who knew me well, I think.

Alas, I think serious role play like that is a lot more common on your side of the Atlantic than mine. So my opportunities to experiment in that way are few and far between. Good thing I'm happy playing as just Indy, too!

Abel1234 said...

Fascinating exploration of what "being in character" in a scene means, and how it affects your play and your mindset.

It was so interesting to see you walk into the room at the reform school as Lucy - a fully-formed character from the off, and immediately so very different to Caoilfhionn.

I'd have been thrown by it had I not seen elements of the Lucy character in some of our previous scenes, in different contexts - at least, the sense of defiance and reluctance to submit to authority.

My challenge with Lucy was to work out how to punish her, when punishment merely added to her sense of defiance. The temptation to "beat it out of her" far harder than would have been appropriate for the group scene was definitely there - yet that would have, again, exacerbated the defiance.

I'd like to meet her again, when she is finally sent to (say) the Chairman of Governors for pushing her luck with the regular masters just too far. But then something in me would hope that, no matter how hard she was flogged, she *wouldn't* break under the punishment - for a broken Lucy wouldn't be Lucy. I wonder how she'd cope with a sound birching, if that were the "punishment of last resort" at a school...?

As for Lily - she sounds delightful. Should the Sailors' Orphans Institute need a new Head, can I add my application to the list?


Kaelah said...

A very fascinating post, Emma Jane, thanks for sharing! I guess I'm too much of a control freak to get into a character like you and to see where I end up. And I'm not sure whether I would be able to play a character who is completely different from the real me or whom I don't even like, at least not as a bottom. Maybe I would be a little bit more relaxed as a top, but I'm not sure about that either. But it's very interesting to read how you get into so many different characters and what you get out of your different scenes! :-)

Unknown said...

"...the other girls definitely don't want to see her again anytime soon."

Not necessarily true... (but then I am a very strange girl ;-) )

Faye xx.

Martha said...

It was awesome how you put on your uniform for the St Anne's scene and instantly just became Lucy! I think that, amongst the girls I know, you are the most adept at this kind of roleplay that I've had the privilege to share scene-space with. I certainly don't come close, much as I enjoy doing it. All my characters are really just me adapted to the particular scene, and for me that's enough - it's really an excuse to play, a means to an end. The far more in-depth characterisation which those such as you, Abel or HH often achieve evokes my sincere admiration though! And is most enjoyable to share, both in r/l and here :-)

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