Character Creation (Quackcast 23)
skoolmunkee at 8:29AM, May 4, 2011
Some basic tips and guidance on designing the inner and outer aspects of characters.
Character Creation (Quackcast 23)
This writeup is not so much a tutorial as a guide, and an easier-to-reference version of the QuackCast topic.
This information is to help you focus on the artistic process of working out the writing and design process for your characters, as well as looking at what DD members have to say.
We've organized this information around the structure that Scott McCloud uses in his book Making Comics (which is a great resource for anyone who makes comics). McCloud says that a character needs three things:
1. An inner life
2. Visual distinction
3. Expressive traits
OK- a lot of people don't go to great lengths to fully develop every character. I think we can agree that main characters get more attention, and sometimes things just happen more organically. But it's still worthwhile looking at some points, which might help you think about what you do.
This is a Cliff's Notes version, for full explanations please refer to the Quackcast recording!
- Beyond personality to “origin and purpose” - find the reasons for why they do what they do and say (which helps predict what a character may do in a situation). What influences do various aspects of their life have upon them?
- Those massive “character creation questionnaires”- they are usually far too long and tedious to actually do, but the concept of ‘figuring your character out’ is there
- This is what makes great, distinct characters so great and distinctive, think about it
- Having an inner life helps generate internal and external conflict (the heart of many stories)
- Use of stereotypes, archetypes, tropes, heroes, villains, protagonists and antagonists, antagonists, minor and major characters, and (don't use) Mary Sues. All these come with expectations that you can take advantage of (or twist). You can use a stereotype if it's believable. A villain is scary because you understand him.
- If you are going to base characters on yourself or your friends- they need to be more interesting than that!
- You can approach characters thematically, both for internal or external traits. Water, fire, earth, air - OK, there's the Captain Planet version of that theme, but there's also the Fantastic Four, and other creative designs which tap into the various elements. This is where the manga ‘blood types’ come in. You could use all kinds of themes to base a set of characters upon, even just as a starting point.
- Well-designed characters should be visibly distinct from one another beyond different eyes and hairstyles. Size, body shape, facial features, etc. try filling your characters in with black and see how easy they are to tell apart. The more different the better!
- Think about color themes when designing characters. Can you make them recognizable? Do any characters have truly characteristic elements of their design?
- Going back to the themes, you can design a look based on a theme set (very like the Fantastic Four)
- You can also design based on similarities to animals, inanimate objects, etc- for example, the birdlike librarian. You can also play on expectations- like the birdlike librarian who loves monster truck rallies
- And make sure if you are designing a character, they're someone you can draw again and again! Elaborate designs are nice, but will get old fast
- Character model sheets can help your consistency, but also help determine basics like their individual variances, different costumes, typical poses and mannerisms, etc.
- McCloud mentions that each character might have two or three unique “key expressions or poses” - a loser might slouch, or hold their hands a certain way, to physically demonstrate their ‘inner life’
- Characters might prefer to wear certain types of clothes - should everyone in your comic be fashionable in the same way?
- This could also involve speech patterns, personal quirks, etc. - but remember, base all of these traits in their inner life so they make sense and are more believable.
For lots of comments from members about how they go about the process of creating characters, check out this thread: How do you approach character creation?