Me as a creator – Characters

I had previously said that one of the things I like most is to spend time creating characters. Not that I`m especially good at that, but it is still something that I really like to do. I find it quite interesting trying to create people. I will talk more about characters of my big contemporary fantasy (mentioned in Me as a creator), as it has loads and loads of characters.

To be motivated to create a character, I can be inspired by other’s characters or real people, a specific personality, a desire to implement some idea (ability, background, trope) or the need for the story or the interaction with previous characters. Maybe motivation by an idea is being overused, as some of my characters have no real distinction in personality, are not integrated with the plot or have no relation to other characters. But this problem happens more in the big contemporary fantasy, that is more of a universe than a story so a plot may be created for them later. For now, I try to define characters traits.

I find myself conflicted between trying to make memorable or realistic characters. It is common that they are created to be sympathetic, likable, or memorable, and these may conflict. But I think it’s more important to make them interesting or work for the story. I have a great interest in visual media, especially draw-based, and commonly I make an effort to make them iconic. But, especially in the contemporary fantasy, there are unnecessary coincidences for “symbolism”, including specific dates birthdays. I hope people won’t mind it too much.

A character sheet is something I try and give up on using. I tried to use things like MBTI types for personalities, even going as far as trying to make the test as one character, but this is a lot of work and has a debatable utility. The collection of symbols may be listed. Also, I think about random shit like “what would X do if he won the lottery”. I got my priorities straight!

This symbolism is also reflected in the names. When I was a child, I used to not name my characters. When I started to name them, I would search on the internet names in the country that they would come from. Random names that I thought sounded nice would be included. Some would make reference to other characters, historical people. Nowadays, with the influence of manga, I may spend too much time choosing a name to have some kind of deep meaning, are related to who they are.

I draw them to help me define the characters and I still want to draw them somewhere. I fear making them look the same, or depending on things like hair and clothes to be distinguishable. A kind of cheap way to make a character more distinguishable and less of (my) standard beauty is to just change a random feature, like the nose. But as I plan to make a cast full of snowflakes (in design), I should work better on this. I am avoiding making everyone beautiful, as it is not only unrealistic but it makes harder to create designs.

But trying to make every character with a unique design will make more obvious how the extras have a lackluster design. One way to avoid this is making the extras faceless. Inspired by manga, I use this also to symbolize how unidentified these characters are. It’s symbolism to justify a convenient technique. Great move.

The unique design reflects my wish to make each character somehow unique, interesting and sufficiently complex, even if they don’t have much importance in the main story. According to myself, “each character is a potential protagonist, it’s just that the story happens to be more focused on some”. But I like to imagine some episodes in which a more secondary character gets the point of view. I thought about recounting the same events with the point of view of different characters. I like this idea, but others may not. I may also use many flashbacks.

One use of flashback is to provide backstory. It took some time for me to create a character past that was not spectacularly dark and troubled. It is indeed an easy way to create motivation, sympathy and justify the asocial behavior that many of my characters have, probably exaggerating my own problems. Later, I had an epiphany and found out it is not necessary such tragedy to make characters problematic. Besides, I wanted some happy people. A subversion I am commonly using is having a dark past, but not being that troubled by it. For characterization based on present actions, interactions with other characters are essential.

I got concerned about making relationships between characters, as I have my problems with social interaction. How would I establish them? One thing that usually comes to mind is just the characters doing some mundane thing, as just an unimportant talk, dining, playing video games. It seems I have a thing for “slice of life”. Dialogues serve to establish relationships.

When I was younger I showed a piece of dialogue that I had written and the person said how it was strange. I believe I had the tendency of writing dialogue to have a dramatic impact or deliver some ideology and forgot about how real people talk. This is something I am getting better at, I hope.

So, developing characters is an ongoing project. It is going somewhere.


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