This Christmas, I played Uncharted 2 in its entirety. I’d never played an Uncharted game, and frankly, I never thought I would. Something about the ruggedly handsome treasure hunter seemed kind of cliche and boring to me. I mean, at least Indiana Jones wasn’t trying to be an action hero when he went hunting for artifiacts. Drake is, like, well he bothers me.
First of all, he’s kind of a sociopath. He steals stuff because he’s bored and “hey, why not?” That’s a given, since he’s a classic “treasure hunter” and all that. What bothers me is that at the beginning of the game, he has this weird thing about not using guns. And then he’s, like, “Oh, I guess tranquilizers are okay.” After this, he proceeds to be completely fine with tranquing people off of heights that would break their necks and PULLING PEOPLE OFF OF WHAT WAS EASILY FOUR STORIES AND INTO THE SEA. I mean, what the heck, Drake?
The weird thing is that the creators of this game create this sort of charming “I have the worst luck in the world” persona around Drake. I mean, the pacing and planning of the story is pretty spectacular. The game starts with Drake climbing out of a train wreckage with a stomach wound. It’s hard not to feel bad for him at that point, because he seems like a guy who just can’t get a break. But then you start jumping and swinging off of stuff in the main arc of the storyline and everything breaks. That’s right. Signs posts bend. Floors crumble. This guy has. The. Worst. Luck. Ever. After a while you have to just start rolling your eyes at it, and I think that’s what the creators wanted. You just have to laugh and enjoy such a ridiculous storyline. I mean, at one point, he does fight yetis in the Himalayas, after all.
Yes, I just said that.
Then, I found out you could unlock a costume called “Doughnut Drake.” Not only did it turn Drake into a man of incredible weight (as in fatness, not seriousness; he’s still silly as all get-out), but the game slows his dialogue down so that he talks in this deep, breathy voice with a slight delay. And in that moment, how I looked at Drake changed completely.
He was still the same Drake jumping around and killing bad guys and stuff, but all of the things that made Drake kind of dillweed turned into ways of making him a more sympathetic character.
For example, the everything breaking all the time. Now, it made sense. Now, it had a reason to break. Those signs and old brick floors were not meant to hold a man of Doughnut Drake’s size. He has no right being caught in this situation, doing all these acrobatics everywhere. Hearing Doughnut Drake’s labored panting through his corpulent jowls makes me cringe and laugh at the same time. Suddenly, my character was a man with absolutely no reason to be in his position. And yet, there he was, struggling with every step. It was kind of admirable.
In addition, the women in the game are always making jabs at him. With regular-sized Drake, this was expected. He’s a big douche. With Doughnut Drake, it’s completely uncalled for. Give the poor man a break. He’s tired and hungry. He didn’t ask for this. Not to mention, because his voice is actually just in slow motion, the women often talk over him. Even when he does get a word in edgewise, the delayed reactions always make him seem like he’s fumbling for his witty comebacks.
It made me think of how easily we are swayed by the smallest of changes in a character like how a person speaks or a person’s weight. Characters in novels act the same way. If Indiana Jones was overweight, would that have elicited more sympathy? If James Bond had a lisp or a chronic stutter, would he still be a ladykiller? Would anyone take him seriously?
When writing your characters, think of a change you could make to their appearance or mannerisms. How would it affect the way you and your readers react to him/her? Would it make them more or less appealing? A joke or a jerk?