Creating characters - your way of doing it?

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Mirena
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Creating characters - your way of doing it?

#1 Post by Mirena » Sun May 03, 2009 12:17 pm

When you create a character, how do you go about deciding on their personality and how detailed are you? Do you simply pick a name and choose a few traits or do you include everything down to the color of their favorite socks?

Do you borrow traits from people around you or from anime/games/movies? Do you go to wikipedia and look up psychology-related pages for inspiration?

How do you go about writing characters that go completely against your morals/ethics? When you have someone doing "bad" stuff, do you feel the need to include a reason or do you not really care about it?

Basically, how do you go about it and what parts do you consider to be difficult/easy? And do you have any tips or tricks that help you with the process?

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Re: Creating characters - your way of doing it?

#2 Post by Satoh » Sun May 03, 2009 12:49 pm

I use character generation engines a lot for characters' appearance (like tektek's gaia avatar simulator or the character creation engine in AG3)

Then I look at and scrutinize their physical features, and come up with a broad description of their external personality, and then usually I look deeper and consider what things might be hidden under the surface.

A cheerful looking character generally acts nice (or some cases mischievous) but can easily be hiding the fact that they are deeply depressed, or have big temper issues. Or... only on RARE occasions they can simply be cheerful.

I also consider their manner of speech, right down to the sound of their voice(theoretically that is).

I then look at reasons for why they might be the way they are, what kinds of special abilities, if any, do they have? What kind of dark past are they hiding?(everybody has secrets) Are they philosophical, do they think deeply about things before ever speaking? Or are they superficial, saying the first thing to hit them even before thinking about what they've said?

Is there someone they are, or could easily develop deep feelings for? (deep as in strong, not necessarily good feelings, as severe loathing factors in as well...)

If the character hates someone, do they hate them for a reason, or are they in denial of other feelings, like envy or even love. Often times a very deep character can go through large swings in changing their entire outlook on life. The deeper the characters' feelings, the more likely a traumatic event or revelation may change them into the opposite feeling.

This is my process.
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Re: Creating characters - your way of doing it?

#3 Post by Dalton » Sun May 03, 2009 1:19 pm

Since most of the time I come up with some topic for a story first, my process is rather complicated.

As I said, first there is as topic, so I start thinking about what the story will be like, but every story will need some characters (even if it is only a narrator). So I think about what kind of characters are going to be fitting into this story.

The characters that come to mind in this stage are very basic: They have no name and only 1-2 basic character traits.

From this point on it is a process of thinking about how those characters could be involved into the story at hand. I ask myself things like, why are they trying to achieve, whatever main purpose the story has. By that they can get both new character traits, and a backstory. (Note, that in that stage the plot can dramaticly change.)

Then I begin to... honestly I don't do anything at that stage the looks of the characters just come to me.

After that I start looking at different webpages that list names, until I find one I like for the characters.

Then I have this template for a character profile, that includes my view as an author as well as some kind of interview with the character. By thinking about the needed information to fill it I can deepen the characters personality even more.

From that point on I spend some time to think about one of the chracters in random situations, I just come up with randomly. After that I think I have quite some feel for the characters and am ready to start writing about it.


On the topic of borrowing character traits: Of course I do. I am not thinking about it, it just happens. I guess everyone does. We have definitions about character traits, because we have seen them somewhere. Coming up with something entirely new would be damn hard, when it comes to character traits.

About "bad" characters: I feel that every person has some reason for doing what they do. That is why I go through the process described above even for "bad" characters. I try to understand their reasoning and don't think of them as "bad" or "evil".

On a side note: A character can change during the story he/she is in. Their personality is most lieky going to be really different then before, if the events in the story are drastic enough (love, violence...) The change will be very little though if the story doesn't feature those events (mostly seen in comedy/slice of life storys)
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Re: Creating characters - your way of doing it?

#4 Post by Satoh » Sun May 03, 2009 2:08 pm

Dalton wrote: About "bad" characters: I feel that every person has some reason for doing what they do. That is why I go through the process described above even for "bad" characters. I try to understand their reasoning and don't think of them as "bad" or "evil".

On a side note: A character can change during the story he/she is in. Their personality is most lieky going to be really different then before, if the events in the story are drastic enough (love, violence...) The change will be very little though if the story doesn't feature those events (mostly seen in comedy/slice of life storys)

That's a good point. There are, however, some cases where characters are what they are simply because they enjoy it...

EG sadistic murderer type. They kill simply because they like the feeling of dominating the rest of the species around them.

The difference between characters like this is...

Characters who feel they have a good reason to do what they do, are not evil, but merely antagonistic. (This excludes people who are insane, as insanity means they cannot tell right from wrong.)

Characters who know what they do is not good, and do it anyway, especially if they enjoy it, are evil. (The insane can be considered evil, if their works are to a certain magnitude... attempting to destroy entire races, is called evil, regardless of how insane you are, or how good you think it is, for instance.)

Then there are also cases where people act solely on their whims, and have no reasoning for anything they do.
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Re: Creating characters - your way of doing it?

#5 Post by Dalton » Mon May 04, 2009 7:01 am

Satoh wrote: That's a good point. There are, however, some cases where characters are what they are simply because they enjoy it...

EG sadistic murderer type. They kill simply because they like the feeling of dominating the rest of the species around them.

The difference between characters like this is...

Characters who feel they have a good reason to do what they do, are not evil, but merely antagonistic. (This excludes people who are insane, as insanity means they cannot tell right from wrong.)

Characters who know what they do is not good, and do it anyway, especially if they enjoy it, are evil. (The insane can be considered evil, if their works are to a certain magnitude... attempting to destroy entire races, is called evil, regardless of how insane you are, or how good you think it is, for instance.)

Then there are also cases where people act solely on their whims, and have no reasoning for anything they do.
You are right, I forgot about those psychopatic characters. I admit, that I too have some of those in my storys. However, for some reason I let them always be people who are not the main bad guy. I somehow believe that it would not make be interesting if the bad guy is just "evil".

You are right, that sometimes people do something on their whims, but it wouldn't be anything to "evil", would it? I mean you are not murdering someone just because you are bored, are you? (Excption of course are the above mentioned characters)
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Re: Creating characters - your way of doing it?

#6 Post by Le petite Glasskitten » Mon May 11, 2009 1:15 am

Hehe, I borrow like mad! It is fairly difficult for me to deliberately come up with a character "from scratch" because it feels very forced to me, causing somebody to exist only to fill a role. I know it must be a lot different for the real pros who can invent new characters easily! ^^;
It might also be different for different media. Most of my characters live in either plain-novel or comic worlds rather than visual novels, and they are faced with situations vastly different from a standard high school romance.

Basically, most new characters come into being for me when I have very strong feelings about a person, either in another work of fiction, real life, the Internet, or even a celebrity. I tend to isolate whatever it is that makes me feel that way and figure out how that sort of thing would look in one of my own universes. (Less frequently, a character will pop into existence when my pre-existing characters have reason to interact with a new person, and then the throwaway character inserted into that role will gradually develop a mind of their own through interactions with my mains until they become a main themselves.) Once I have a kernel of a personality--a feeling--it sort of grows Katamari-style from there, when I react strongly to other stories/events/ideas/images and think, "So-and-so would SO do that!" or "That would look great with So-and-so's wardrobe!" or "Oh, gosh, that could almost be So-and-so if he/she were less _____!"

I do look up psychological conditions sometimes...and physical conditions...and common reactions to life issues...though that usually only happens when I have already determined what a particular character is dealing with.

Some kinds of "bad" characters are tricky for me, particularly the "sadistic murderer" types. I simply cannot understand them. I generally have to base their behavior on what I hear about real psychopaths, which can be a rather depressing chore. I have other kinds of "bad" characters who have reasons to act differently than I would, ranging from completely different cultural conditioning to mind-altering drugs to extreme circumstances; they are not quite as difficult to work with, but sometimes I worry that they will teach me to empathize with the wrong values. I wonder if that is a valid concern...?

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Re: Creating characters - your way of doing it?

#7 Post by rioka » Thu May 14, 2009 8:57 pm

Well, I took the list here, made a big chart with all of them listed on it. Blindfolded myself and threw several darts. Whichever character type it landed on, I made that character! :D

That's what I'd like to answer since it's so interesting but unfortunately I just try to create varying character types, create a mini-background for each, and based on those two, decide what they would do, what they dream of, how they would act, dress, say, and so on. I usually try to make one outgoing character, one shy, one reserved, etc. =)

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Re: Creating characters - your way of doing it?

#8 Post by IceD » Mon Jun 01, 2009 2:45 pm

Nice chart rioka :wink:

In my opinion, everything greatly depends on the story and realm. It's obvious that they will be most likely different in modern real-life tale and fantasy world, but realm also affects their lifes in some sort of way, and it's not only about their looks. The rest is up to the designer/story writer and/or artists which will later transfer creator's thoughts into something real and visible. Personally, I think it's the best when the creator has the skills to make his dreams come true, because it will reach his/her expectations and finished product will most propably resemble everything in the most less different form, although there's nothing wrong when somebody else does the stuff for you; sometimes it may be even salutary and spawn new great ideas and reach even higher levels than the creator would imagine.

As for me, I'm quite happy with my designing skills and I most oftenly take a large ammount of time for the character designs. The more time you'll spend on them, the better and deeper they will get. Of course, it depends on the story and mostly, your time. Planetarian had only two main charaters - cherfull and talkative malfunctioning android girl who was working in the planetarium and lone, shy and harsh middle-aged junker and their backgrounds weren't described at all, you've learned about them through the story but as for me, I felt in love with them immediately. What I want to tell is everything really depends on the idea you wan't to give the people reading your story. Planetarian is simple as a story, so there's no need for a deeply evolved charaters but long and fairly complex stories will propably require more work because shallow characters aren't that much appealing when it comes to long tales and people will get bored with them quickly, though it's important to remember that VN's are about two things - people (the characters) with their lifes and most propably a plot (story or stories). you're telling a tale about people, so you should make them interesting.

When I came up with my idea, I wasn't thinking much about the story in the beggining and immediately focused on the characters right from beggining; Of course I knew about what I would like to talk and had a slight idea about what the story will be. for me, and for this tale, it was more important to stay focused on the characters. I don't know about how others do it, but I've always got some characteristics ready when I start to develop a character for a story. So they mostly come in a bit of developed form :) . I never think about the name in the beggining, it isn't that much important. but it's really good to write everything about them - right to the color of their socks; it can be really helpful, especially later. The most important part is of course their personality and look, but you should also take a bit time and think about their background (for e.g. where were they born, from where they came from, how did their past look like). Greatly developed, well looking characters with deep backgrounds and personalities will mostly fall easier into readers memory than shallow, plain looking ones. As for the thoughest part, it's hard to develop an really interesting charater and there's no recipe for it, although it seems that innerly quarrelled charaters are a lot more intriguing. you should also take some time and work around their appearance. Yeah, it's hard to create something fresh, all of todays VN's play with stereotypes (look at Rioka's chart) but with hard work you might achieve at least something good. It's not bad to come with stereotypes but they should be well developed, and I think it's good to peek at others work - it might be inspirational, so don't be afraid to do it, but never directly copy anyone's work. You should come with your own ideas, instead.

You can also take a look at my charater descriptions here, although they might seem a bit out-dated and a little bit false, because I've changed quite a lot and polished things from the last time: http://lemmasoft.renai.us/forums/viewto ... 753#p64753

Maybe this will help you a bit.
Good luck with your work!

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Re: Creating characters - your way of doing it?

#9 Post by EmP|ty » Mon Jun 01, 2009 3:19 pm

hmmm, creating characters...a lot of the time they just pop in my head as a semi-thought out character (aka basic traits, hair colour, general style of how they look, motives or ambitions), then I proceed to just think about what I 'know' about them so far, and what would fit with their character.

Then I give at least one slightly odd thing about them, well not so much odd, but one thing that allows them to stand out as a 'main' character or as an important side character (if I am creating one).

Another thing is if I really can't think of a character, I will think of a place another of my characters would go, or where they could find themselves, (say, the library), then think of what a random person looks like there (hmm, blonde hair, female, dark green eyes), and why they are there (Researching for a history paper that is due next week), and how they meet with my character (my character trips and grabs the table for balance, knocks blonde haired girls book off the table).

And there we go, the basis for another character, now that I have the basics of her and at least one of her interests I can progress to make her more 'real', because I often find that starting the creation of a character is the hardest part.

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Re: Creating characters - your way of doing it?

#10 Post by KomiTsuku » Sat Jun 06, 2009 9:21 pm

Most of the physical aspects come to me pretty randomly. Not a lot of thought process goes on during that step other than "Hey, wouldn't that look cool/dorky/almost as sexy as me?" and then just build on it.

As for personality, that is an entirely different thing. I start with a very broad board. I just get the general stuff on them (happy/ sad, outspoken/quiet, ect) and start with that. Since I tend to work in the same universe, I already have a group of characters who I know well, so I add this very general character to their ranks. As I continue along the story, the new character starts to form a unique personality as they work with the veterans. How they react to a certain situation sets a point, which I then get to build upon and start working their backstory, once it becomes relevant. Rarely do the characters I start with often stay the way they enter as.

Basically, I start with a rough outline, once in a while some details (like she's the emperor's daughter) , and then see how it shapes as I go.

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Re: Creating characters - your way of doing it?

#11 Post by KimiYoriBaka » Sat Jun 06, 2009 10:22 pm

I don't know how well this will work for my VNs as I justed started trying, but for my comics I make, I just start with the idea for the story, draw a couple random scenes with completely improvised designs off the top of my head and then starting drawing the story while coming up with new character designs right in the panels.

I think in a good story the characters just naturally develop as needed as long as the creator keeps the appropriate audience and atmosphere in mind. As long as your ready to adjust as needed...
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Re: Creating characters - your way of doing it?

#12 Post by Mirena » Sun Jun 07, 2009 5:10 pm

That's a lot of interesting replies! It's fun how everyone seems to have their own process to come up with a character.

In my case I generally start with a very rough idea of what role I want the character to fill. I then write down a few traits and simple facts about them. Things like their background isn't something I decide on immediately in most cases - often I first go through a series of what-ifs and then pick the option that seems the most fitting.

As a result I often feel like my characters aren't detailed enough. A lot of the time I end making up backstory and facts because the story requires me to do and not for the sake of knowing my own character.

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Re: Creating characters - your way of doing it?

#13 Post by pinkmouse » Wed Jun 10, 2009 7:43 am

I find out about my characters by interviewing them. I trap two of them somewhere and write screeds of stuff with them talking to each other, and then dump that in the "background" file.

When I'm writing the main story I'm conscious that there's a whole lot of stuff that I don't know about the characters - but for me, that's actually necessary. Writing out every detail of their life so far, what they wear etc just kills them dead. For me, the act of writing the story is exploring the characters.

I write scenes multiple times, from the viewpoint of the different characters in it, so that I get their reactions 'on model'. I sort of hypnotize myself into a state where I see the world as they do. (I don't mean formal hypnosis techniques, just role-play, intense daydreaming and a lot of time.)

Personally, I think that labelling characters as "good" or "evil" is lazy thinking and leads to shallow characterization - stereotyping.

I don't think of my characters as good or evil - they're purposeful.

A psychopathic eeevilll-slash-killer is a stereotype. Boring.

A person who grows up in the poorest ghetto, who is compassionate and horrified by the suffering of poverty notices that the larger the family the poorer it is. Later, medical training, the character still wanting desperately to help alleviate suffering. But the state only funds "necessary" procedures, not sterilization, and the poorest cannot afford it - so, this character begins doing the operations for free, in secret, and of course is eventually discovered and struck off. Now, tortured by the thought of those suffering people, our character builds a travelling clinic, traveling the backstreets. Using inadequate equipment, not all operations are a success. Before, our character could discreetly interview patients and get their consent. Now that's not only difficult but risky - what if some stoolie goes to the cops? A disguise, and blindfolding the patients is just common sense. But you'd have to be careful of the smart ones...

I'm sure you can see what I mean...

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Re: Creating characters - your way of doing it?

#14 Post by Kirakishou » Sun Jun 14, 2009 8:24 am

When I create characters I sit down and pop in some music that fits the story I want to create and then I look back at all the things I read such as Norse Mythology and Monster/Ghost stories from Japan and things about Suicide and Evil and then I piece together characters. I pick the gender first usually and then what race/species and then I form their personality. Music always seems to help me as I listen to alot of underground Black Metal and Japanese Electro so I can go from malevolent creations to the quirkiest Loli with a raspy voice and a lisp. Most of my characters have a part of myself of what I am or how I wish to be, but I think all people do that. Never tried any of those character generator things that were mentioned in here though.
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Re: Creating characters - your way of doing it?

#15 Post by Coatl » Mon Jun 15, 2009 6:36 pm

Mirena wrote:When you create a character, how do you go about deciding on their personality and how detailed are you? Do you simply pick a name and choose a few traits or do you include everything down to the color of their favorite socks?

Do you borrow traits from people around you or from anime/games/movies? Do you go to wikipedia and look up psychology-related pages for inspiration?

How do you go about writing characters that go completely against your morals/ethics? When you have someone doing "bad" stuff, do you feel the need to include a reason or do you not really care about it?

Basically, how do you go about it and what parts do you consider to be difficult/easy? And do you have any tips or tricks that help you with the process?
I'm a very character driven person.
For my main characters, I try something I can relate to, maybe add some of my own flaws and personality traits such as cursing or not being able to say no to a nice woman.

For other characters, I imagine them based on one solid trait or archetype. For Example: If I want to make a shy character, I think about the common traits that shy characters have. Then I imagine what kind of history do they have and begins to mold the character a bit. She could be shy because she get's easily nervous or because she has had a history of people think she says stupid things. I often think how they would interact with the main character and the lil things like how they help you out or what they are afraid of.

For looks. It honestly depends. I sometimes based a person's looks based on personal taste or looks that are uncommon. I like short-haired women and sometimes some with curly ends so i can draw a girl like that. Or if I see a girl with long, dyed hair in the front and short black hair in the back. I design that.

For guys, I draw hair that is not always up in the air and spikey, I sometimes do slick back with curly ends. Or that style where the hair is combed forward and spiked up in the very front.

For traits I sometimes go with a few basics, imagine a conversation and go from what I think fits, or I wonder how they would react to a situation and go from there. So although i don't get their favorite socks down in the first go, I often can decided if a character likes or dislikes things such as TV and hair color off the bat.

If I'm borrowing traits, it's usually from a character whether it be a live action movie or manga. I usually do these things for parody character or characters who are a nod to the things they are based off. If I'm designing a maid character after my favorite character Hisui from Tsukihime; I go with renaming them something apropriate first and them add a few traits that are similar but from there I try to imagine how they act and have conversations and make sure that a character isn't totally similar.

It's difficult to a draw a character that is completely against my ethics. But I often just think about things that I'm against and have that be traits that this character likes. Most importantly you have to go for things that are against a character's morals. you don't have top make him 100% opposite of you because realistically not every enemy is. If I'm designing a murderer, I'll have to kill off women, and I can't even stand women dying in films and such but if it's going to impact a reading who shares that same hatred of women and innocent people dying then I'm actually going the right direction. I do think about this person's life as well, I come up with fictional conversations that they can have, I even come up with hobbies that they enjoy. One thing though, don't over do it with the whole "I'm the bad guy so I have a one-sided view on things" cause it'll make your character look too shallow. Unless you can establish that this character has a reason and a fierceness withing them, you should avoid making them rather shallow.

I think the most difficult part is sometimes the design because for guys, I have to think about ethnicity, hight and build. and then to top it off, I have to think of what hair style matches them. Also I have to think of a proper end if they have conflicts because you don't want a Mary-Sue in any of your characters. Sometimes the hard part is omitting characters or events.

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