How I Create New Characters?

I enjoy character design more than anything else. I feel like the characters are the most interesting part of a story because they are the driving force behind it. They shape the events that happen and can also grow as a result of those events. It’s usually the goals of the characters that become the focus point of a story. As well as this, I guess it’s just fascinating trying to figure out what makes people tick. A character might be unlikeable to begin with for instance, but actually has a very reasonable explanation for their behaviour that can quickly change our feelings towards them (Severus Snape is my favourite character in Harry Potter because of how complex they are.) It’s an amazing feeling if you manage to create a character that others then seem to invest in as if they were real people. I myself can think of several characters that I have connected with and even been inspired by. I feel like I can also express the different parts of my personality within the characters I create.

It’s hard to describe how I come across new character ideas. I don’t follow an organised process as such; It usually occurs as a result of receiving inspiration from several different sources at once. It’s a good idea to be observant of the world around you as the people we pass from day to day can be a source of inspiration. It can be fun to imagine who you think they are or why they’re there. Keeping a journal to note down these observations helps to piece them all together. I also do a lot of Google image searches or learn about different places and cultures for ideas. One way to create something original is to take a stereotype, but to add something new to it that doesn’t fit our expectations. For example, Bilbo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings is an interesting character because they don’t fit every expectation for a member of the Hobbit race.

When I start to formalise my ideas for a character I use a method known as a character diamond, for which you select four personality traits for them (too many and it’ll water down the character, and too few will not be enough to work with.) I try to make one of the traits contrast with the others, as this can result in a more memorable character. For example, a character can be both out-going and self-concious. I also like to list a few quirks or descriptions for how they behave that can distinguish them from other characters. One such character that I have created recently rubs their neck when they’re feeling uneasy. I can easily suggest their emotional state just by having them perform this simple action.It also makes it easier to describe they’re behaviour in a distictive way. It can sometimes be easier to create a backstory first from which the traits can be drawn. It’s a good idea to make connections between the two, for example, Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones is very witty and intellectual as a result of not being able to compete with others on physical ability. Coming from a noble background has also contributed to him having access to books. It’s also important to understand what the character’s goals are, as this will influence the decisions they make.

To help me to develop a feel for the character I also write out a series of questions about them, such as what their favourite food or colour is. This information probably won’t be relevant at any point, but having it there creates depth. Even though the character might be focussed on achieving a specific goal within the story, there will be so much else to them that doesn’t relate to that. I’ll write short stories about them to help me to practice describing them. I also find it helps to create a description of their appearance. Even if you intend to draw them, the images in our minds tend to shift a lot until we secure them in place. I’ll look up lots of images and mix and match. It’s ok to take ideas from elsewhere, but ideally they’ll be altered enough to feel original. Writing from what we know is a good idea because we understand it better and why not make the most of our life experiences. I would also suggest not to shy away from giving your character flaws they are usually the most interesting parts about them. It might also lead to a character arc, allowing them to grow to overcome those flaws.

Characters are really interesting and it can be enjoyable taking the time to figure out who you want them to be. While there are many important elements to a story, it’s usually our attachment to the characters that makes us want to invest in its outcome. These are just a few ideas that I follow for ensuring that my characters are interesting, but I’d be interested to hear any other suggestions in the comments.


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About wallcat

I have a strong passion for computing. In particular programming for which I am able to use a variety of languages including C++, Visual C#, Blitz Basic, Actionscript 2.0, Python and Lua. I also enjoy web-design and have some knowledge of HTML/CSS, PHP/SQL and Javascript. As well as programming I have a strong background in art and enjoy drawing in my spare time. When I’m not sat at my computer I like to keep fit by going to the gym or using my exercise ball.

6 responses to “How I Create New Characters?”

  1. Pasduil says :

    I thought this post was going to be about creating your characters in games, and I wondered why that would be so interesting as to deserve a whole post! Was it going to be about picking the perfect eyebrows and hat? 🙂

    Now I’m curious to read some of your stories!

    • wallcat says :

      I do admittedly put a lot of thought into what hair I give them :P. Some of my game character have back-stories and personalities too, as I find that I can enjoy an experience more if I care about the character I’m controlling. I guess that’s why I love roleplaying, because of my interest in characters. I hope to share some stories eventually, I just don’t have a lot of confidence in my writing.

      • Pasduil says :

        I like to get the appearance and name right as well, but usually struggle to do either! If only because most of the hair options look silly, and it’s hard to find a good name that isn’t taken. Sometimes I have some concept of their personality or backstory as well, but not in any depth.

        It’s strange that you don’t have confidence in your writing because you sound as if you’ve been developing your skills for a long time! I don’t write a lot of fiction myself, but I take an interest in how stories are put together, writers’ working methods and suchlike.

      • wallcat says :

        It frustrates me trying to get a decent sounding name in MMOs. I want to have real names though, nothing silly. I like the ones that enforce first and last names as it’s easier to get a unique one with the combination.

        Well, I’ve always been interested in storytelling (no matter what form it comes in), but next to my siblings and cousins I’m not the strongest at writing and never received much encouragement from teachers or family. It’s an idea that has stuck with me, but I still like to write sometimes for my own enjoyment. I got into drawing and game development as another way to express myself creatively. Roleplaying is also allowing me another way to share my stories.

  2. Pasduil says :

    Have you ever dabbled in fanfic? There seem to a lot of good and supportive communities around that. And you have ready made readers and friends there, as well as other writers who’ll be glad to give and get feedback.

    Livejournal used to be a good place for that, but it was about 10 years ago that I used to hang out there, so I don’t know if it’s still the case.

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