I’ve got this personal philosophy about creating characters that I’ve been wanting to write about for awhile. I haven’t done it until now because I realize that it might be a little confusing or it might appear too complicated but I’ve come across some comments about what makes a good character, not only here but also on other websites, and because of that I think now is a good time to talk about what I think makes a good character. I would like to say that I don’t think I’m an expert at creating characters and this is not a tutorial. This is just my opinion.
EDIT = I’ve edited out a lot because this journal was to long. If you have any questions or would like to add something just leave a comment below.
1. Think about there background.
What happens in a person’s past shapes what they are today. This is just as true for fictional characters as it is for real people. Think about how a person would react to a situation because of something that happened in there life. If someone went through a bad break up, they might not want to be in a relationship for awhile or if someone’s loved one was abducted by aliens they might develop a hatred for little grey men. See my point?
There are two good examples of this in the comic world, Batman and Spider-man. Too put it simply, Bruce Wayne is Batman because he felt he was powerless to stop his parents death. Peter Parker is Spider-Man because he didn’t think stopping a thug was his responsibility. Two moments in time that defined two different characters. Of course that life changing event doesn’t have to be as extreme as the two above. How crazy you want it to be depends on how you want your character to turn out.
2. Go that extra mile and add details to there lives.
I would like to say, again, that this just my opinion but I like little details that some characters have because sometimes they say more about a character then how much they can bench press. Let’s use my own characters as an example. Hailey favorite food is strawberries. There is no way, that I can think of right now, that strawberries will help to defeat the villain of the month and it’s not suppose too. It’s something that makes her happy after she’s had a hard day. If you think about it, it’s a small thing (Had a hard day killing demons and stopping evil wizards? Just sit back and relax with some…..strawberries.) but it says something about a character that can forget about a life or death situation just by eating a healthy snack.
There’s another, more subtle, example of this and it involves that black stripe in Hailey’s hair. Have you noticed that in some artwork it’s not there? That’s because most people that dye there hair like that will, more then likely, change it in some way in a month. I think that shows that they like variety.
3. Draw inspiration from the least likely places.
I was given some advice by a professional artist once. It was about learning to draw comics but the more I think about it, I think it makes since in creating a character too.
“If you want to be a good comic book artist find a comic and flip through it. Then, put it down and never pick it or any other comic up again to study the art. Go watch a few movies, watch T.V. or study a few none- comic artist and you’ll be ready to draw your own comic in no time.”
I’ve done that for art, writing and creating characters. I think the reason for that is because there isn’t a lot of variety in comics or manga (which is Japanese for comic so I just said “comic and comic.”) For my characters most of my inspiration come from the people I know, movies and Television. Veronica Mars, One Tree Hill, Victorious, Tron Legacy, the Hobbit and Buffy The Vampire Slayer are only a few.
4. Leave some room to grow.
This one might be kind of obvious. It’s called character development and the point of it is to keep your character interesting. Actually, I have a good example for this. There’s a movie called Butter. Some of you might know it. That’s the one where Olivia Wilde has sex with Ashley Green. (Wait! Don’t run off to watch it until you finish reading this first!) The real star of that movie was the little girl. She starts the movie as an orphan that believes she has no talent, something everyone watching knows can’t be true. She discovers her talent later in the movie and becomes more adorable in the process. I don’t know about anyone else that saw that movie but by the end, I felt like I saw a character grow into a person that has discovered themselves.
There’s also some good examples of what not to do. For that read any Marvel or DC comic published in the last five years.
5. Character flaws. You’re just not complete without them.
A good character flaw, weakness or drawback can be great for a character and it doesn’t really have to be a physical weakness. A weakness can be a tricky thing. If it’s a huge weakness, overcoming it becomes unbelievable but if it’s too weak it becomes insignificant. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that you want you’re character to win and weakness will only get in the way of that happening. Weeeeeeeeell that kinda the point. It’s not if the hero will win that makes him/her/it interesting. It’s how they win. let’s use a movie, the Usual Suspect, as an example. It’s not just that Kevin spacey’s character walked out of that movie as the victor, it’s how he did it that makes the reveal at the end of that movie so great. The fact that he turns out to be the bad guy in the movie means that he should lose, it was a weakness, but he overcame it in a way that shows how intelligent he is. A more obvious example would be Superman and his Kryptonite allergies. By the way, how many of you know that Kryptonite wasn’t originally part of the mythos? It was created because someone realized Supes would be more interesting if he had a weakness.
6. Keep it simple.
Yup. Although the length of this journal might contradict this point, it’s a good idea to keep things as simple as you can. I’ll admit that I don’t see this very much and it happens with the Sue’s and Stu’s more then anything but if you are concerned if your character is insanely complex, but you’re not sure, I might have a couple of ways for you to fix it.
For the last three months I’ve been to write, okay… start to write, a graphic novel but I thought one of my characters might be to complicated. I made a list of the key points of that character so I would have a visual of what made that person what she was and that list was four pages long. That was too much, which means that character was to complicated. After I cut it down to one page, about seven key points, I decided to write a short story about that character which emphasized what that character is about and gave it to a couple of friends. The feedback I got helped me to make a character that made more sense then it did before. If I hadn’t done those two things I would be stuck on character development, Of course now I’m stuck on something else. :/
7. The most important thing about creating a good character?
Remember, how much you care about your creation will show.