Comic Talk, Tips and Tricks

Developing characters for your comic/fiction
hat at 6:35PM, Jan. 8, 2007
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I found this cool article:
http://everything2.com/index.pl?node=How%20to%20build%20a%20character%20in%20fiction
Take a look!


Feel free to post any of your links/strategies on good ways to make characters.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:45PM
Darth Mongoose at 9:49AM, Jan. 9, 2007
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Hmm, I agree with some things the article says, but disagree with other points. For example, I don't think it's so hard to come up with a character for your imagination and make them original. Copying things you've seen in real people is good, but it's important to remember that the tutorial in that article is really based toward characters who live in the real world. Creating fantasy characters is similar, but not the same.

As a base example, I'm going to use Juliet from my comic, because she's probably the most interesting and possibly the most popular character, and the character who had the most interesting creation process.

-Start with a concept.
Juliet started with a few ideas that were important.
Number one was that she was going to be Rocket's best friend, and so, since Rocket is extremely upstanding, straightforward moral and a bit hesitant, I wanted her to have a friend who was darker and more ambiguous and very confident.
Number two idea was the concept of a curvy, weight concious ninja. Ninjas are always so skinny, and totally unfazed at the idea of wearing skimpy, skintight clothes.
Number three, and the idea that made her name was that I thought it'd be reaaaally funny to create a character who seemed to be like Belldandy from ‘Ah! My Goddess’, but who was really not as nice as she seemed. This concept was eventually mostly scrapped, but it did have an influence on the character's name (see below) and her appearence.

With fantasy, you can go for concepts that are pretty ‘out there’ and get away with them. Rather than going with the old stand-bys like ‘young man who was raised by wolves!’ or ‘Spunky princess running from an arranged marriage’, try quirky concepts like ‘dragon who hoards books’ or ‘Heroic post man’. Let your mind wander, and stick concepts together to see what works. Another way is to think of a fantasy stereotype, then concider the ‘realistic’ implications of it, like if there were modern dragon hunters, they wouldn't use swords, they'd use rocket launchers, wouldn't they?

-Name.
In this case, the name was easy. In the OVA of ‘Ah! My Goddess’, Belldandy was voiced in the dub by Juliet Cesario. Since it's one of the very few anime where I like the dub just as much as the sub, I named the character, who started as a Belldandy spoof after Bell's VA (sadly in the movie and the new series, Belldandy isn't voiced by Juliet Cesario, and doesn't sound nearly as good). The name has a nice, classy sound to it, so it just stuck. Ellis was…I dunno really, it just has a nice ring to it. It's a pretty innocuous name, and ‘Juliet Ellis’ just sounds…well, nice. Her nickname from Rocket ended up as ‘Juu’ because the longer u makes it sound cuter, I guess it's kind of just the name written in Japanese phonetics, but it gives a softer sound compared to ‘Ju’, which is quite sharp and snappy.

The article says ‘start with the given name and then give the surname’. I disagree. I sometimes even start with just a nickname and work back from there. Going back to my comic, Rocket was called Rocket before I decided that her real name would be ‘Rochette’, a name that could easily have been turned into the nickname ‘Rocket’. If you find it easier to start with a surname, ie. a character who's a smith, named ‘Smith’, then you do it that way! Remember that not everybody calls you the same thing. I call my brother ‘Bro’, my sister calls him ‘Joe’, his full name is ‘Joseph’, but a number of his friends call him by his surname, ‘Holden’, and in high school, he was known as ‘Handlebars’…for unknown reasons. Having your character called different names depending on who's speaking and the situation can really add depth!

-Design
REALLY important for a comic. I won't talk about Juu much here, because the points are obvious.
-Don't make it too complex. To efficiently make sure your character doesn't take too long to draw for a comic, draw a full body shot of them with little or no reference of previous drawings of the character four or five times. Any details you forget to add or that add too much time to the overall drawing process or are very tedious to draw, either simplify or remove altogether.
-Be distinctive. Choose a few simple, recognisable points for your character. With Juliet I chose to go for distinctive triangular eyes that resemble Belldandy's slightly, hair that forms into ‘manga antennae’ and a grey bodysuit worn under all her clothing as some of her recognisable features. Think carefully, if you got somebody else to draw this character, who was unskilled, or drew in a very different style, could you recognise it as your character?
-Faces. Drawing all your characters with the same face, esecially the eyes, can be disasterous. Just adding scars isn't a great idea, since few people have distinctive facial scarring. Try out different eye shapes and nose shapes as well as hairstyles, colours and accessories.
-Height and weight. Loads of people just draw lots of characters like mannequins, all the same height and build. On average, women are smaller than men. Some adults are as short as children, others are towering basketball players! Not everybody is trim or muscular in the same way. Even athletic people still have differing bone structures and the slim, wiry physique of a rock climber is totally different from the muscular legged, but slim-torso'ed sprinter or the top-heavy, bulging armed weightlifter. Bodyfat and where it occurs differs from person to person too, on some people it's around the belly, on others, the hips etc.

-History and Personality.
Personally I usually choose a character's personality, then work back to write in a history that could result in such a personality. How Juliet came to be so sarcastic and ambiguous, yet have a dutiful and very moral best friend is yet to be explained in the comic, but I have it all worked out.
Other people like to write a history, and then decide what sort of a character that history would make. A character who's been a badly abused slave their whole life is unlikely to be outgoing and friendly unless there's an important reason for it, like they had a special friend or mentor who kept their spirits up or something.
Obviously however you do this, little details are very important. Things like the food your character likes, their favourite colours, how they speak. etc. Maybe a character from a military background would speak very abruptly, as opposed to a friendly schoolgirl who could just talk on and on and on…

Really, the best way to make a good, rounded character is simply to think about things. What would make sense and be logical, what would be cool or different or a good twist on a stereotype, what you think it'd be like to be in the situation of the character…They're all things to think about. Also, have a good friend who you can bounce ideas off. Even if they're just there to listen to you talk, you'd be amazed what comes up from just letting your ideas wander.
…Er…and that's all I have to say about character creation.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:08PM
mlai at 10:17AM, Jan. 10, 2007
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Darth Mongoose
1. Hmm, I agree with some things the article says, but disagree with other points…. Copying things you've seen in real people is good, but it's important to remember that the tutorial in that article is really based toward characters who live in the real world. Creating fantasy characters is similar, but not the same.

2. -Name.

3. -Design
-History and Personality.

4. Really, the best way to make a good, rounded character is simply to think about things. What would make sense and be logical, what would be cool or different or a good twist on a stereotype, what you think it'd be like to be in the situation of the character…They're all things to think about. Also, have a good friend who you can bounce ideas off. Even if they're just there to listen to you talk, you'd be amazed what comes up from just letting your ideas wander.

1. I think, even if you're creating a fantasy character, it's useful to go thru the little mental exercises the article suggests, such as “what if you take character X to a party?” etc. All characters, whether elves or aliens, are based on humans in the end. As long as you use the caveat that ppl in the imaginary scenario aren't gonna get freaked out by the fact that an alien is in their house party, it's a good characterization exercise.

However, I have a distinct dislike for fantasy-world characters. Because in the end, their world is unknown/hollow/cardboard to us, and so they in turn start out with a distinct characterization disadvantage. Unless they're incredibly fleshed out, like say Tolkien's middle-earth, run-of-the-mill fantasy characters often are just normal everyday ppl who happen to be playing dress-up. It's much easier to base the world in question on something real, even if it's not contemporary real life.

For example, Frank Herbert based Dune on desert culture, and it made the Fremen real. Japanese samurai/ronin/whatever (when drawn by Jpnese artists) are based on well-researched historical and anthropological data, and so everything they do, down to the smallest mannerism such as the way they hold a letter in their hand, feels real. If you're a big Middle Ages buff and you create a knight character, even if the world is a fantasy sword-n-sorcery world, that character will be 100x more real than some kid who decides he's gonna create a knight.

Always use your personal knowledge to your advantage. Let's say you grew up on a farm, or in the bayou. And say you're writing a fantasy story about a boy and his dragon. Make your boy someone who grew up on a farm or in the bayou, and include what you know by way of good storytelling and good artistry. You character (and the setting) just became 100x more real to the reader, to you, and to the character himself.

2. Beware of over-exaggerated names. If it sounds phoney, it prolly is. If it sounds like some kid's Everquest elf's name, by god don't use it.

3. Design and history/personality… these go hand in hand, especially for us artists. Again, having a fantasy character based on a world you know is very important in making the character appear to actually live in the clothes he wears, rather than being just a model from Calvin Klein. Samurai are so cool because they're created by ppl who know them. That's why I hate ppl like us (Americans, Europeans, etc) trying to create samurai stories/characters.

4. Agree. Being obsessed with your created character, and thinking about him/her 24/7, and constantly bouncing brainstorms off friends… very effective exercises.

FIGHT current chapter: Filling In The Gaps
FIGHT_2 current chapter: Light Years of Gold
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:05PM
LIZARD_B1TE at 5:55PM, Jan. 11, 2007
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I found this article very helpful, actually. I tend to put a bit too much character delevopment into my villains and not enough into my heroes, so these excercises are very helpful.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:36PM
hat at 11:36PM, Jan. 13, 2007
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Here's a Mary Sue test.
http://www.springhole.net/quizzes/marysue.htm
You don't want ‘Mary Sue’ characters. Those are the boring, annoying and poorly designed characters that ruin the story. I don't know how accurate the test is, but it's pretty interesting and you should give it a whirl.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:45PM
Darth Mongoose at 11:58PM, Jan. 13, 2007
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Mary Sue tests are pretty handy. Having a character who's unbelievably wonderful can totally ruin even a good story. Of course, use the tests with discretion, since many popular characters from fiction, especially comics, are Mary Sues and get away with it by virtue of good writing etc. Anakin Skywalker immediately leaps to mind as a Gary Stu (male Mary Sue) character who works within his setting, because Star Wars is filled with high adventure, he's meant to be ‘special’, SW rarely concentrates on character development much and he's against an entire galaxy.
For some fun with horrible Mary Sues, check out these!
http://www.mimisgrotto.com/gaffdolls/
It would be kind of fun to do the same kind of thing with spotting comic sues, but it'd involve reading bad comics, which somehow seems worse than bad fanfiction…
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:08PM
mlai at 8:29AM, Jan. 14, 2007
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Pfft-HA HA HAHAHA~!!
My lead chara got a score of 53!!

The Test
50+
Kill it dead.

Well, the lesson here is not that I have to scrap my whole script. Instead, it tells you that you should use this test with discretion. I'm sure if we put Nausicaa or the chieftain's son from Princess Mononoke into this test, they'll score something like 1000+. But we know those are not bad fiction.

But if you're a beginning writer, do pay heed to the test.

FIGHT current chapter: Filling In The Gaps
FIGHT_2 current chapter: Light Years of Gold
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:05PM
Aurora Moon at 7:04PM, Jan. 14, 2007
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hat
Here's a Mary Sue test.
http://www.springhole.net/quizzes/marysue.htm
You don't want ‘Mary Sue’ characters. Those are the boring, annoying and poorly designed characters that ruin the story. I don't know how accurate the test is, but it's pretty interesting and you should give it a whirl.

I like how it had this warning:

test
READ THIS FIRST AND READ IT CAREFULLY - MISUSE OF THIS TEST WILL CAUSE INACCURATE RESULTS!
How to use this test:
Answer all questions for which the answer is ‘yes’ or ‘technically yes’ UNLESS the item mentioned is normal for the universe - you know, everyday, ordinary stuff. For example, if your pink-haired character is from a universe where most people have technicolor hair (as in a lot of anime), then you would not answer yes to your character having unusually-colored hair. If your character had an exotic name because you make up everyone's names, you would not answer yes to having an unusual-sounding name that you made up. Sue-ness is relative. ;)

If your character is a role-playing character and the only reason you can answer ‘yes’ is because of other players acting of their own free wills (IE, everyone has their characters throwing themselves at your character's feet and you've done nothing to force this) do not answer yes to the corresponding question.

Make sure that you answer the questions properly depending on what type of universe your character is in:
Fanfiction - a story set in a world you didn't make up.
Original Fiction - a story set in a world you made up yourself.
RPG - Role-Playing Game.

If you see a question that looks like it's been linked, rest your cursor over it - it contains a tool tip, which should contain further information on the subject.

Please, please, please remember that these are the symptoms, not the disease. Just because your character has fiery-red hair and has a name like Crystal doesn't mean that she's a Mary-Sue. However, if the character in question is a buxom immortal empath named Crystal who looks eighteen, has fiery red hair, violet eyes, a perfect complexion, dresses in tight black leather, is followed around by her own personal wolf, slays evil with a mystical sword, and has a complete disregard for authority, you should definitely be wary.
I'm on hitatus while I redo one of my webcomics. Be sure to check it out when I'n done! :)
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:09AM
LIZARD_B1TE at 1:14PM, Jan. 15, 2007
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mlai
Pfft-HA HA HAHAHA~!!
My lead chara got a score of 53!!

Mine got a 35.0_o It's like an opposite or something!
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:36PM
mlai at 10:38AM, Jan. 16, 2007
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@ Lizardbyte:

Mine is a hetero SWF. They should hook up!

FIGHT current chapter: Filling In The Gaps
FIGHT_2 current chapter: Light Years of Gold
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:05PM
FoxmanZEO at 4:05PM, Jan. 16, 2007
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The Mary Sue Test
7
B)

When it comes to characters, I personally think it's better to work on their world first.
'Who must do the hard things?

He who can.'


-Confucius.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:30PM
ozoneocean at 5:28PM, Jan. 16, 2007
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That Mary Sue test isn't so great for comic characters. Idealy your typical comic character should score fairly high.
 
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:25PM
FoxmanZEO at 6:06PM, Jan. 16, 2007
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Whyzat? They don't have any less reason to think, live and have hair. It already takes into account whether or not something is normal for their universe and everything too.
'Who must do the hard things?

He who can.'


-Confucius.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:30PM
hat at 6:10PM, Jan. 16, 2007
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That Mary Sue test isn't so great for comic characters. Idealy your typical comic character should score fairly high.
I disagree. Having the same cliche characters is boring reguardless of how the fiction is presented (In our case, comic form)
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:45PM
Darth Mongoose at 2:30AM, Jan. 17, 2007
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But Mary Sues aren't bad because they're cliched, they're bad because they're overpowered and take up lots of attention. You can actually get away with over the top melodrama and incredibly high powered characters in the pages of a comic, that's what Ozone is getting at. The Mary Sue test is nothing to do with how cliched your character is, a character could be very original and still be an incredible MS, in fact most of them are, because the writer has made up tonnes of strange or unusual cool stuff their character could do and be, but it's precisely how much higher than the other characters that character stands that makes them irritatingly special, and thus a Sue. What Ozone meant was that because people come to comics with the expectation of big, bright and bold, you can get away with over-the-top characters who would rank pretty high on the MS list, but if your comic doesn't dwell on these characters or try to be serious, you can get away with them. Most of the X-men are total Sues, as are most Shounen Jump characters!
I ran Kitty Pryde (Shadowcat) of the X-men through this thing, she scored a whopping 80 points! I suspect Ichigo from Bleach would score similarly. But they're both extremely popular, and not unoriginal characters. So, as I said before, use the test with discretion for comics (Unless your comic is a very serious slice of life thing, maybe).
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:08PM
ozoneocean at 10:19AM, Jan. 17, 2007
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That's it exactly like Darth says.
Face it guys, more than half the comics out there are about highly visual, big, bold, exciting characters, -even the more serious ones. That's what sells, that's why people are interested in them, they's why people are interested enough to create them. ;)

What are Superman, or Batman, the (farther's of American comics), if not big fat Mary Sues? My fave Mangas like Ghost in the Shell are the same, Motoko is a total Sue. I wouldn't read it if she wasn't, I couldn't be bothered.
If I want beleivable non-standout characters then I'll read a book.

-oh and I think X-men is crappy simply because the characters don't stand out enough. What's the point of having super powers and wearing a stupid costume, having wierd hair, being super muscular, having perfect breasts etc (for the women), and amazing hair if everybody does it? Those characters are stupid… There are hardly any normal people for them to stand out against.
 
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:25PM
mlai at 1:07PM, Jan. 17, 2007
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Someone
I think X-men is crappy simply because the characters don't stand out enough. What's the point of having super powers and wearing a stupid costume, having wierd hair, being super muscular, having perfect breasts etc (for the women), and amazing hair if everybody does it? Those characters are stupid… There are hardly any normal people for them to stand out against.

That's 1 of the biggest gripes I have against comics, and why I like manga so much. It's 1 of my immediate identifiers of a comic with a poor artist. If I find that even the garbage man or the chemist are musclebound models, I put the thing back on the shelf immediately.

I never see this in manga. Professional manga that I peruse never lose that connection with the real world. Nothing is overly shiny, ppl look normal, clothes look normal, there's not unrealistic technology everywhere you look. I always have this feeling that a lot of manga artists go thru life art and drafting classes, but an entire generation of comics artists never did.

FIGHT current chapter: Filling In The Gaps
FIGHT_2 current chapter: Light Years of Gold
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:05PM
hat at 8:01PM, Jan. 17, 2007
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Guess that's why I never really got into Xmen or (insert Marvel/DC comic). I personally like a more down-to-earth hero.

I mean don't get me wrong, alot of over-the-top stuff is cool. Though some authors have characters with super-rediculous traits that leave me screaming WTF. Takes me out of it.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:45PM
FoxmanZEO at 11:26PM, Jan. 17, 2007
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Ahhhhh, but the rules say you don't tick everything about the character.

Say, the X-men, you don't tick that they have funny hair, costumes or powers because they're uniforms, and styles that those particular characters prefer. Thus it makes sense that they'd be wearing them, and it's justified, there are also many extras and semi-main characters that are just as wacky, so it's a part of the universe. Same way you wouldn't tick off Pinky's hair and clothing. Also, Superman wouldn't get a tick for surviving every battle, because his invulnerability's justified, being from another planet and everything. Oh, and the Kryptonite, would count as a constant weakness, which, I think, would counter a tick in the last part.

We almost expect superheroes to wear crazy clothing and win a lot, so it's a part of the universe that they live in. As in, would you give the Globetrotters ticks for wearing crazy things, winning all the time, looking fantastic and being looked up to by almost all Basketball fans and so forth?
'Who must do the hard things?

He who can.'


-Confucius.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:30PM
hat at 3:21PM, Jan. 18, 2007
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Someone
Also, Superman wouldn't get a tick for surviving every battle, because his invulnerability's justified, being from another planet and everything. Oh, and the Kryptonite, would count as a constant weakness, which, I think, would counter a tick in the last part.
That's exactly why I don't like Superman. He's too strong in my opinion. It takes away the fun knowing that he will most likely destroy a giant robot without breaking a sweat.

Someone
Say, the X-men, you don't tick that they have funny hair, costumes or powers because they're uniforms, and styles that those particular characters prefer. Thus it makes sense that they'd be wearing them, and it's justified, there are also many extras and semi-main characters that are just as wacky, so it's a part of the universe.
No, I just don't like the characters period. The X-Men's hair seem pretty average to me, by the way.

It's not everything that ‘ticks’ the character. It's those little things from the Mary Sue test (especially things that are UNjustified).

Like I don't mind the costumes, the powers and all that.
However things like this can get annoying
Japanese or Japanese-sounding, even though your character is not Japanese?
Someone
Does your character have a practically-perfect body/physique, which you describe, show, and/or illustrate?
Someone
Does your character use magic in a typically non-magical universe?
Is your character a 20th/21st century Earth citizen transported to another time/world?
I'm mainly talking about the comics that have these things out of place, If your comic's whole world is about the ‘Mary Sue’ stuff, good for you.

Some of those things are cliche, by the way. Such as having animals following you around etc.


Honestly, who hasn't seen:
Is your character a 20th/21st century Earth citizen transported to another time/world?
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:45PM
FoxmanZEO at 8:37PM, Jan. 18, 2007
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I wasn't directing that at you, just making a statement about the way that the test is set up.
*nod*
'Who must do the hard things?

He who can.'


-Confucius.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:30PM
thebeansontoast1 at 10:44AM, Feb. 8, 2007
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hat
Here's a Mary Sue test.
http://www.springhole.net/quizzes/marysue.htm
You don't want ‘Mary Sue’ characters. Those are the boring, annoying and poorly designed characters that ruin the story. I don't know how accurate the test is, but it's pretty interesting and you should give it a whirl.

i got 23 :)
last edited on July 14, 2011 4:16PM
beastmaster at 8:52AM, Feb. 28, 2007
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I subjected a character concept I have for a future comic to the Mary Sue test. He got a score of 55. But do I care? NOT.
I mean, what's the point of creating heroic characters if they are not people you'd want to be like? I believe wish-fulfillment is one of the most powerful driving forces of heroic fiction, and creates some of the most revered and admired characters of all time. If Siegel and Shuster had subjected Superman to a Mary Sue test, what score do you think they would have got? Like, 200?
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:15AM
Kristen Gudsnuk at 6:53AM, March 9, 2007
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hmm… I just took this quiz. I think the fact that I admitted that I designed one character's love interests as being “the type of people I would hook up with” probably screwed me over… (the whole “magical snake” thing probably didn't help either) that, and the fact that my comic is full of orphans… (only 2 characters have both parents still alive… and one of those is a runaway, and the other got exiled from his village. T_T) Yeah, basically my comic is full of Mary Sue-ism, which stinks :(
I got a 32 :(
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:22PM
reconjsh at 9:57AM, March 9, 2007
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I'm glad I came across this thread. Though my characters weren't really that sue-ish in terms of final score, it made me really study why I chose some of the traits for my characters that I did… and now I'm going to rethink some of them.

Thank you guys for this thread.
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:02PM

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