Comic Talk and General Discussion *

The Skeleton of Character Design
MegaRdaniels at 8:58PM, Sept. 12, 2018
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Back when I was writing short stories in Elementary School, my teacher would tell me that the origins of creating a character would to define who they are before you write your story.

It goes like this:

1. Name.
2. Age.
3. Specialties
4. Occupation
5. Favorite Food
6. Favorite Drink

Etc.

It's something I use sometimes if I want to flesh out a character in a webcomic or screenplay.

Another thing I was told that in order to create a character is just to talk to ourselves, include them in conversations in an interview or something.

What do you guys do when creating a character?
usedbooks at 4:35AM, Sept. 13, 2018
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I first think of the role I need them to fill and what is needed for that role. Any required demographics (for example, my character Jack Talbott needed an all male crew) or personality traits? Fun-loving, neat freak, hyper focused, sloppy, athlete, etc.? What are their relations and connections to other characters in the story?

Once I pin down the necessities, for a more major character, I try to get a picture in my head and play through scenarios of their interactions with other characters. If they are particularly outside the norm, I will consider their past and their psychology and how they came to behave that way. I might do some reading on the subject.

One character I have is based on some of the darker (homicidal) mens rights activists that were in the news. So I read their blogs. Another is inspired by the mindset of 19th century slave owners, so I read their journals. (My antagonists require more research than my protagonists because it's hard for me to get into their mindsets.) I had shoddy antagonists for a long time because I went about the development incorrectly. I based them on either other villains in fiction or on victim's and media accounts of criminals. Good characters have to be written “from within,” so (as uncomfortable as it is), I now read their interviews and journals and their words.


If it's a minor character, I tend to spice things up by randomizing demographics. Race, gender, weight, height, subculture, disabilities etc. Fun to play with and makes drawing and writing more enjoyable. Cookie cutter henchmen and extras can make it tedious. It's important to have discernible minor characters in both appearance and personality.
bravo1102 at 6:06AM, Sept. 13, 2018
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The super bare bones is just name and motivation. What does the character want?

I asked once what was an easy way to differentiate minor characters and that was the answer and it works.
El Cid at 9:10AM, Sept. 13, 2018
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I never start by enumerating physical traits; that's if anything the last thing I do. I start by asking “who is this person?” and “what is their story?” And by ‘what is their story,’ I don't mean what is the cause-and-effect function of this character within the plot; I mean more like what is the internal or moral story of this character? Is this an underdog everyman who has to save the day? Is this a deluded toadie who becomes disenchanted? Every character has a broader story outside the plot, and a story within the plot. It's only once I know who this person is, that I can start visualizing them within the constrained pocket universe of the story itself. From there, I'll usually throw up a few different mock-ups in my 3D software of how they might look and compare how the different versions work interacting with the characters and environments they'll be interacting with.

I don't think I've ever asked myself what any of my characters' favorite food is. That feels kinda OCD. Like, I'll go in with a pretty good feel for their personality, and what their “voice” is supposed to be like, but I also like to feel them out a bit throughout the creation process, and also pay attention to how the readers respond to them. I view webcomics as an interactive and long-term process, so baking in too much up front isn't always the best way to go, for me at least.
usedbooks at 9:38AM, Sept. 13, 2018
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I agree with El Cid that being too detailed in the creation process can be more a hindrance than a boon.

For one thing, it might tempt you to randomly mention little unnecessary details for no reason or to do too much exposition just because you want to share how detailed your creation is.

Another reason to let the character develop and reveal throughout the story is for plot flexibility. If you never mentioned the character's family but now an estranged sibling would make a good story element, you can introduce one. Or you want to do something with music, well character X used to be in a band and is a talented bass player. Just be sure not to contradict a character trait or backstory element once it's introduced. It can be tricky to keep track of in a serial project, so keeping personal bios for your own reference and updating them regularly can help.
JustNoPoint at 12:29PM, Sept. 13, 2018
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The above is true but sometimes you just draw up a sketch and they look cool. So then you find a place to fit them in if possible. There are many chars in my story I know most of the character and story details for but no idea what they’ll look like. If possible a random cool design may fill that role.
usedbooks at 2:58PM, Sept. 13, 2018
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With minor characters, sometimes all I have is story role + brainstorm sketch without any character attributes. I just make a fun design and make the personality match it. If they serve a minor role, that can be enough. (And if I like them, they might evolve to a bigger role.)
MegaRdaniels at 5:51AM, Sept. 14, 2018
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I agree with all of these points. A character is an extension of you, true. But one way to make a character memorable os to makenthen human.

That's the way on how I was taught. Make them human, relatable, and interesting.
bravo1102 at 6:25AM, Sept. 15, 2018
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Something I see as a problem is tokenism and labeling as ways to obtain diversity. This group and that have to be included so here's the token faces in the crowd which is so much window dressing or just a stereotype. Or the work recognizes diversity so a character is an obvious member of such and such group as opposed to being a well rounded individual. A paper thin cut out of said group for diversity rather than an active member of the cast with any individual identity outside of their group membership.

Make interesting characters who are well rounded individuals not mere labels or the one different face in the crowd. Make a good character, not a label.
usedbooks at 10:05AM, Sept. 15, 2018
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That can be a big issue if there is only one representative of said demographic in the cast or if all members of the demographic act the same. When there is only one, they seem to suddenly be a representative for a group rather than a character in their own right – especially is all other cast members share the same demographics. (Not just race/gender but religious group, political affiliation, weight class, age, income level, etc.)

If you have a varied main cast where everyone is a different “type” it's less of a problem. Same goes for if your cast is all very similar – unless you decide to add someone for “diversity.” That's when you get the “token.” If the “other” character is a well-developed character, it can lessen the effect but it still can feel like a token character especially if attention is drawn to the fact. (Oh! A woman on the ship! Look guys! It's a woman!)
MegaRdaniels at 6:29PM, Sept. 15, 2018
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usedbooks wrote:
That can be a big issue if there is only one representative of said demographic in the cast or if all members of the demographic act the same. When there is only one, they seem to suddenly be a representative for a group rather than a character in their own right – especially is all other cast members share the same demographics. (Not just race/gender but religious group, political affiliation, weight class, age, income level, etc.)

If you have a varied main cast where everyone is a different “type” it's less of a problem. Same goes for if your cast is all very similar – unless you decide to add someone for “diversity.” That's when you get the “token.” If the “other” character is a well-developed character, it can lessen the effect but it still can feel like a token character especially if attention is drawn to the fact. (Oh! A woman on the ship! Look guys! It's a woman!)

Jesus, don't get me started on that. When I first made my webcomic, one of the most challenging characters to pull off was Stringy. She's Muslim but I didn't want to make her feel like it.

I don't make her religion or group a character. That's what's wrong with many media today. Write a character based on personality not because he or she belongs to a group.
usedbooks at 6:47PM, Sept. 15, 2018
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I have a Catholic character. It's pretty integrated into his personality, but it doesn't come up often. Not exactly a secret. It drives many of his choices even if it's not mentioned. Other characters' religious beliefs don't come up at all (but many do have them in my brain canon, lol).

Character sexual/romantic orientations don't come up often either even in fairly central characters (aside from MAIN main cast because it's nearly inevitable that it comes up). I know what they are but the audience probably doesn't most of the time.

Idk. It's kind of realistic for a lot of characters to have affiliations that simply don't come up in daily conversation.
MegaRdaniels at 2:05PM, Sept. 16, 2018
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usedbooks wrote:
I have a Catholic character. It's pretty integrated into his personality, but it doesn't come up often. Not exactly a secret. It drives many of his choices even if it's not mentioned. Other characters' religious beliefs don't come up at all (but many do have them in my brain canon, lol).

Character sexual/romantic orientations don't come up often either even in fairly central characters (aside from MAIN main cast because it's nearly inevitable that it comes up). I know what they are but the audience probably doesn't most of the time.

Idk. It's kind of realistic for a lot of characters to have affiliations that simply don't come up in daily conversation.


Natural dialogue flows without a character bringing something up often. Now I would bring up politics from time to time in my webcomic hence the script, but it won't be like something propagandic.

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