I'm running a Changeling: The Lost game and one of the players is new to role-playing games. Her introduction to role-playing hasn't been helped by the fact that CtL has a very unusual setting. She feels like she can't think of what her character would do, and instead does really strange random things that don't make much sense. I spoke with her and we got her motivation down; I figured that would solve the problem. But it didn't really help. What should I do?
I've done a fair bit of stage acting, improv, and roleplaying. I don't know where I learned this along the way, but certainly someone else deserves credit (blame?) for it.
In order to CONVINCINGLY act/react as some OTHER person in an IMAGINARY situation, one must first be able to:
My advice for coaching your struggling player, is to determine where on the above scale her ability falls, then adjust her character so it is less of a stretch for her. Most importantly, keep the focus on how she can have more fun and be more fun for everyone else in the story, rather than whatever her perceived mistakes/failures are.
These are some ideas and techniques I've used for handling new roleplayers, or even that I use myself when I just want some "casual" RP fun.
First time roleplayers are almost always better off playing a character similar to themselves. Some might do well to imagine themselves in the story or even play themselves in the game. This is what we do in Cops and Robbers as kids. (Do kids still play like that? I hope so.) It's what the classic Dungeons & Dragons cartoon from the 80's did. Basing a PC off of a favorite character from books, TV, or movies is another way we learn to roleplay as kids.
Especially in complicated settings, playing someone with amnesia or a "normal" allows the player to remain in character and focus on the story while learning the setting and history along the way. For some people, being in character, focusing on the scene unfolding, and understanding events in the bigger context of setting and alternate history, all while "having fun" may be asking too much. Being or becoming "normal" in fantastical settings is a classic storytelling mechanism. (There ought to be a better trope for the normal protagonist experiencing the crazy "hidden" world for the first time, but I couldn't find it.) Amnesia allows for fast 'n' loose character motivations that can be fleshed out along the way.
Playing a character from a far-off land is a similar technique to amnesia. This allows for a fully-developed character who has an in-game, in-character reason for not knowing everything.
Playing a follower of another (willing) PC is another option. Incidentally, playing a follower of an unwilling PC is a great technique for "advanced" groups (for some definitions of "advanced.")
Most of all, keep the focus on how she can have more fun and be more fun for everyone else in the story, rather than whatever her perceived mistakes/failures are. Yep, that's so important, I said it twice.
Run a number of solo sessions with her focusing on her character's pre-CtL life - a kind of extended prelude that slowly, step-by-step introduces her to both roleplaying and to the CtL setting.
If she's doing random things, she's probably attracting attention from other Changelings — either PCs or NPCs — who would take an interest in what she's doing, or at least why she's doing them. Have people go up and ask her what she's up to. Perhaps explaining it to another character will help her establish a rationale and firm up those character goals.