Comic Talk, Tips and Tricks

Originality In Characters
Metalbender92 at 2:03PM, June 10, 2009
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Whenever I try to start a comic, I always get hung up on the characters. I try to think up original characters, but then I always remember some other comic with a character that had a similar personality. I want to come up with a unique cast because if I continue a comic for a couple years, I don't want to be using a character that isn't my own.

So, what are your opinions on originality? Is it common practice to use characters that are alike, or should a writer come up with a totally unique cast?
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last edited on July 14, 2011 1:59PM
Custard Trout at 3:02PM, June 10, 2009
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Pretty much everyone is going to say ‘duuuuh duuuuh thar r n0 orginal caraters duuuuhy!111!!!!1!!one!’

Don't let that dissuade you. You just need to spend a bit (or, preferably, a lot) more time developing them.
Hey buddy, you should be a Russian Cosmonaut, and here's why.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:02PM
NickGuy at 4:57PM, June 10, 2009
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characters themselves dont matter. its what those characters DO and what YOU SAY WITH THEM that what matters.

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last edited on July 14, 2011 2:15PM
AwesomeUnicorn at 2:59AM, June 11, 2009
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Don't worry what people say about “originality”. It's important to be original, but do what feels right and original in your head because there's always going to be some dick that goes “Hurr you copied this character in some obscure Star Wars novel/Japanese manga/random TV show that was canceled in the first season.”

The story and how the characters (even if it's a cliched character) react to it are going to make for more originality than just the characters. Hell, you could even take the same tired, old characters and make something great if you can offer a new twist or insight into their personality, or view things from a whole different perspective.

Great example: “Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth” took the same Batman and placed him in a plot that nearly drives him insane, and then back through a sort of psychological rebirth. It was still Batman, but it was Batman through a point of view that had really not been done yet, putting a new spin and fresh view of the same old character.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:14AM
Hyena H_ll at 5:10AM, June 11, 2009
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Well, for certain there are formulas and archetypes and themes that work, and writers have been using ‘em since the dawn of writing! If you study literature or cultural anthropology, you see the same stories coming up again and again. You can find the same theme in the Odyssey, Gulliver’s Travels, and the Wizard of Oz, for example. Josheph Cambell wrote a book called “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” about comparative mythology that's a seminal work on that topic.

Or if we're speaking more on a pop culture level- look at television shows; there's almost always a cast of four main characters, with a handful of reoccurring “satellite characters”, all of which can be pegged as certain “stock” personalities. The same goes for superhero teams. If you pay attention, you'll start recognizing distinct patterns that may very slightly, but pretty much all follow the same formula.

I've said before, I'm kind of a cynic about these kinds of things- I don't think there's any such thing as an original idea. See “Simpson Did It!”, and "Mediocre artists borrow; Great artists steal". ;)

I think it's more the way you tell the story that matters; if you're a skilled enough writer, you frame these universal stories as your own. The best way to do this, in my opinion, is to draw from your personal experiences, no matter how mundane. Like AwesomeUnicorn said, attention to real world details of how people act, react, and interact can really put a story above and beyond. It doesn't have to be a realistic story, or one grounded in the “real” world. But you've got to put something of yourself into it to make it “original”.



last edited on July 14, 2011 12:52PM
kmajor at 7:51AM, June 11, 2009
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I don't recommend getting too hung up on making your characters “original,” mostly because that will probably drive you insane. No matter how unique real people are everyone reminds someone of somebody else, right? I'm sure you've heard an “Oh, you know who you remind me of?” comment or two in your time. (I just got one, like, a week ago.) I think a better way to approach it is to try to make sure your characters are really fleshed out. Even if you're not going to get every little detail about them onto the page the more you, the writer, know about them, the easier it is to write their dialogue and actions and the more natural they will come across to the readers.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:19PM
deepcheese at 10:39PM, June 17, 2009
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Don't try too hard to make an original character- you will probably end up with an anthropomorphic muffin war-hero-turned-pirate with turtles for feet and a villain/love interest that is a ninja mershark (like a mermaid, but with a shark) who commands an army of mosquitoes.
Would this be original? Sure. But these characters aren't all that relatable, and once the original ‘WTF’ reaction dies down, your interest in them will as well. After all, there's only so much crack that a person can take.


That's not to say that you CAN'T write a story about that- but remember that a totally unique concept isn't going to necessarily make your characters sympathetic to the reader, which is what will really carry them through the length of the story.
Give them personality, and a backstory that fits with their character. For example, Captain Turtles-for-legs might have post-traumatic-stress-disorder and a drinking problem from his days at war, and the ninja-mershark might suffer from extreme identity cricis (Is it me that he loves, or is it the shark?), perhaps she is only half human not just physically, but mentally as well. (but don't sink too far into depression, backstorys don't always have to be depressing, and not everyone has to die)

You know, now that I look back on my post, I don't really think that I've answered your questions…..

last edited on July 14, 2011 12:10PM
bravo1102 at 7:19AM, June 18, 2009
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People are people and always have been. No matter how hard you try to create something original it will always be the sum of your experiences and human experience is universal whether you're a South Seas islander or resident of a large European city.

As said even when meeting someone totally new everyone sees similarities to someone they've already met. Then there's Hyena_H's quote. It's one of my favorites about copying versus stealing.

Take any idea or anything you've ever seen and if you can make uniquely your own it's original. Sure you borrowed/stole but you made it your story instead of an exact copy of theirs. After all Lucas stole quite a lot to make Star Wars everything from John Ford's The Searchers to Fritz Lang's Metropolis. You can too.

I wish I could. ;)
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:33AM
IDrawWithAMouse at 12:01PM, June 26, 2009
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Just draw, man. Don't think about how original a character is, just think about whether or not you LIKE to draw that character.

Good characters will not necessarily be original, but they are almost always drawn by people that put their own heart into them.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:56PM
DrLuck at 1:50PM, June 26, 2009
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The term “original” can be a bit sketchy to begin with. What may not seem original to you may seem completely original for someone else.

For example, I made a character that's a vampire that looks like a corpse (because hey, they're dead, right?). I took the idea from an article I read about vampires on Wikipedia. I'm not sure if it's even accurate or not (the part of the article was about how people used to think vampires looked like corpses way back in the day rather than our typical vampires today), but the point is the concept, not the accuracy. I go further into research about vampires, and found Dracula from the original novel turned into mist. Hey, that's pretty cool. I should incorporate that in somehow.

As you can see, I'm not being completely original. I'm taking already thought out ideas from previous works and incorporating that into my work. So to me, he's not a very original kind of vampire, especially since it seems like something I'd come up with. To someone else who is not familiar with these bits of history and references, it's an original idea when compared to typical vampires. To someone familiar with this idea, it's a good reference point and probably refreshing to see it pop up again.

See, everything comes from something previous. Mad doctors generally are from Frankenstein. Frankenstein is from a doctor that's obsessive over his idea. Obsessive natures are something you see in certain people. Doctors are people you see on a normal basis working in hospitals. It's a branching effect. Frankenstein is considered pretty original in its concepts and characters, but even the concept is something that's from previous ideas that helps with relating to (creating something they can't control, being a misfit, ect.) and makes the readers more sympathetic by recalling these kinds of memories about themselves.

And to go even further, don't try so hard on making it original. Answer these questions: why do I need this character? What is its function for my story? What's important about this character that's important to my story.

Think about what you need. Do you need a captain of a ship? Okay. Now what? Well, perhaps he lost his eye in a bar fight. Okay, now this guy doesn't got depth perception and suffers from people calling him a cyclops as a joke. How does he react to these jokes? Is he short tempered? Is he level headed? It just kind of goes on from there.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:17PM
Eddie Jensen at 12:12PM, June 27, 2009
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don't worry about originality, worry about who your character is in relation to the story, why is he like that and why does it matter that he's like that? how does how he is relate to who he is around? and so on. Just create people not characters. If you think your making something original your probably making something no one can relate to.
if I was a teapot I think I'd be orange.

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last edited on July 14, 2011 12:18PM
kyupol at 7:59PM, June 27, 2009
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Metalbender92
Whenever I try to start a comic, I always get hung up on the characters. I try to think up original characters, but then I always remember some other comic with a character that had a similar personality. I want to come up with a unique cast because if I continue a comic for a couple years, I don't want to be using a character that isn't my own.

So, what are your opinions on originality? Is it common practice to use characters that are alike, or should a writer come up with a totally unique cast?

base the character on (or combinations and exagerrations of):
- yourself
- your friend
- your family
- your girlfriend
- any person you know personally.
NOW UPDATING!!!
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:26PM
TheMightyDM at 11:44AM, July 27, 2009
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Personally, i think that an Original character is pretty much just someone you create, without anyone telling you how they should act. If your character is similar to an already established one, well, maybe you drew insporation from him. Hell, maybe you've never heard of this already established character and you just had the same ideas as his/her creator. If your happy with it, then that's all that matters. Doesn't matter whether its original or not so long as you feel that it is YOUR character and not someone elses.
So many people were so fed up about Michael Jackson's alleged child *ahem* “issues”… All I could think about was, “Holy crap! I wish I could do the Moonwalk!”
last edited on July 14, 2011 4:25PM
Jarrod at 1:47PM, Aug. 9, 2009
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If you believe in your characters personality, and you don't give up on them, you'll find that what your character DOES is what makes her/him special.

Power through and you'll find that a character can have more life than you think.
Draw.

Pew. Pew. Pew.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:07PM
informus at 6:22PM, Sept. 27, 2009
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well…heres my outlook

you cannot FEEL the soul of a character the creator does not love. to make an attitude is one thing, but art is ones way of expressing thyself (its been heard ALOT in school, but its true) so, do what you are most comfortable with, and dont dwell too much on wether they are original or not. if you can express their attitudes the easiest, and draw them real well, its a win-win situation.

(also there are many people who enjoy reading fanfics, dont feel that everyone likes originals)

my comics arnt ready till christmas D:
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:59PM
elektro at 7:06PM, Sept. 27, 2009
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This may be bad advice for a self-contained story like a comic book and such where you know how it's going to end and such, but for something like my comic, which has stories but it's ongoing, it's always good to start off very simple with a character. Later on, build up more and more with the character, until you feel comfortable writing for him/her. That's the way that has worked best for me.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:21PM
ToniusTobinus at 7:11PM, Oct. 1, 2009
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The best response I've heard to this sort of trouble is that the only original character in any story is the writer. Which is a kinda new-agey way of saying that it is YOUR viewpoint, your attitude and your outlook on life, that will shine through the character and make them unique without you even trying.
last edited on July 14, 2011 4:32PM
benjin at 2:20AM, Oct. 5, 2009
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I don't know if you draw traditionally or if you are a 3D artist. Looking at various 3D comics I can tell most of the time what basic models were used for a character and what program was used to morph them.
But that doesn't really matter. There's a theory that there are only 96 basic facetypes alltogether, all human faces on earth look alike one of these archetypes. (I personally don't follow this theory)
The existance of such a theory shows how people look at other people. They always search the familiar.
So if you draw a new character and he tends to look a little like someone else, that's absolutely normal.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:20AM
Phillby at 10:31AM, Oct. 5, 2009
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There's nothing new under the sun.

However, I don't see why a character should stop being ‘yours’ just because you've it's similar to an existing one, you still wrote them. The more depth and personality you invest in your characters the less likely you are of accidentally ripping something off.

What's more likely, finding 2 alchoholic anti-heroes or finding 2 Antiheroes who turned to drink after a messy divorce and losing custody of their children, who have a love of opera, a passion for real ale and an extensive collection of antique russian dolls?

last edited on July 14, 2011 2:43PM
Warspritecomic at 2:54PM, Oct. 5, 2009
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What I've found is when you start a comic, your characters are going to be similar to another comic or person you know. It's after a few pages, then you can start developing that storyline and then the personality will change with what you make it do.

Of course the side I fail at is the original costumes. I can't draw that well so I just do whatever I can to make the script make up for it.
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last edited on July 14, 2011 4:48PM
Leenex t at 6:37PM, Oct. 11, 2009
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Simply put the most original character is based on yourself. Take Lee in my comic for example. He is very much like me… thus he is original. After all I am the only me!
This was a dupe account designed to make another user look bad.
Be warned, if you do this yourself you may be banned from this site.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:30PM
Phillby at 7:54AM, Oct. 12, 2009
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Leenex t
Simply put the most original character is based on yourself. Take Lee in my comic for example. He is very much like me… thus he is original. After all I am the only me!
Don't do this.

They say the worst judge of your own character is yourself, so instead of an interesting flawed character you're more likely to create an idealized version of yourself. A comic about yourself living out a perfect life/having adventures/fighting evil with magical powers can only be described as, well, Masturbatory.

There's a reason Self-insert chacters in webcomics are synonimus with Mary-Sues.

Besides all that it's hardly an imaganitve or original. By all means include aspects of yourself in your characters, but please spare us from “the sexy adventures of Rob Hastings” by Rob Hastings.
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:43PM
kaitoukage at 1:35PM, Oct. 12, 2009
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There's nothing new under the sun.

This.

More importantly, though, the trick isn't to make original characters. It's to make believable ones. If your characters are not believable, then readers won't like them.

It doesn't matter if your character feels too much like another one. Most characters in any fictional work can be put into one or two archetypes. The brooding loner, the go-getter hero, the guy with a self-confidence problem, etc. This is not a bad thing. Archetypes and tropes are very useful tools.

If you're having trouble developing your characters, you should ask yourself questions about them, and ask your characters questions. If you google “character development questionnaire,” you can find a lot of forms and questionnaires that are geared toward helping you figure out what makes your characters tick. And your answers don't have to be anything earth-shattering. A well-developed character is going to do more for you than a character made “original” just for the sake of “originality,” even if the well-developed character reminds people of some other character.

I like this questionnaire, but there are plenty of others: http://www.writingclasses.com/InformationPages/index.php/PageID/106

The short version is that you should forget about originality and making your characters unique. That will happen on its own. Just try to make your characters well-developed and believable, with flaws, goals, dreams, merits, and ideas.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:13PM
Pandafilando at 12:44PM, Oct. 17, 2009
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Archtypes and situations are not the problem, say; you could make a comic about the last remnant of an alien race sent to earth to preserve their ideal, if you manage to execute this like no-one has done it before, then you'll make an original story, no matter how unoriginal the plot could have been.

everything is up to the execution.
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:38PM
curlpop at 9:03PM, Nov. 15, 2009
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Nobody is completely original in real life, right? It's good to have characters who come from a wide variety of perspectives, just try and steer clear from mary sue's and I think it'll work out. I like to think of bad habits and characteristics they might have before I flesh them out entirely. Experiment with traits you wouldn't normally apply to a person, create a character completely opposite to you. These will help you get the juices flowing :)


last edited on July 14, 2011 11:59AM
Darkhaxxorz at 8:32PM, Nov. 18, 2009
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I like to put a bit of myself in a character. After all, what's more original than yourself? Being that there is only one of you, it's a nice (but perhaps a rather cheap) way to make original characters.
But make sure it would only be a BIT of yourself. You don't want to simply make a clone of yourself, as that might lead to making the character some sort of perfect person. Flaws are good in characters and make them relatable and understandable.
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last edited on July 14, 2011 12:07PM
lothar at 8:05AM, Nov. 20, 2009
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it has been my experience that if you just make a character and start putting the char in pages and give them a name the char will evolve its own personality and you realy dont have to do anything but watch
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:45PM
sakebento at 8:32PM, Nov. 20, 2009
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While you probably don't want to be creating an ADHD blond ninja boy with a nine-tailed demon fox inside of him, there's nothing wrong with creating characters with similar personalities or appearances to characters who already exist. Sure, you want to be original, but sometimes people discard perfectly good options in the quest for originality. Draw from your own experiences. Look at people you pass on the street, a character who struck you as interesting, your friends and family, or even yourself in order to find a base for your characters. Ask yourself why you like the character or person so much. What if a certain thing in their life was different? What if he was a she? How would that change his personality. What if he was the youngest of seventeen children? What if he was the oldest? By developing depth and history for your character, you being to create a character that is different from ones that already exist. Even if the spark of inspiration is the same, the character will turn into an original one when you spend time on him (or her).
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:17PM

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