As of recently, I’ve watched a lot of videos about OC’s. Not because I need help with mine, but I just wanted to know how and why other people create their characters. In this article, I won’t write about other people’s opinions though, but of course my own. Although there are no rules when it comes to creating a character, let’s have a look at what is… not so good.
On Deviant Art, there are tons of OC’s, and browsing through them can be quite inspiring. But have you noticed, how many of them aren’t really characters at all? By that I mean, that they are usually rip-off’s from TV shows or the like, recolored and decorated with every bright color of the rainbow, and with characteristics so far from reality (or the world they live in even), that they are just plain unbelievable. Of course, that’s fine, if the creator’s intention is to NOT bring this OC to any sort of reader or watcher.
There are so many of those rainbow heroes, that they are Mary Sue’s all on their own. They all look alike, feel alike, and have basically the same characteristics. A Mary Sure is a character that has no room for development, and can carry the story by him/herself. A character that everyone loves, doesn’t make any mistakes, has boring and overpowered abilities, and is overall just the center of the universe. Of course, any main character is the center of a story, but if the other characters or even events in the story do not affect this person, then something is utterly wrong.
Okay, let’s put aside those negative traits, and have a look at what makes a good character. First of all, you need to have a world to put them in, so make sure that they fit into this world. That would be the first step, however boring it might sound. Next one up is either the design, or the personality, whichever you find most important, or might come up with first. I usually make up a character over a long time, and might even change it to be the total opposite along the way, because not only does the character have to fit into a set world, but it also has to interact with other characters. I‘ve written about that in an earlier post.
When a character is being formed inside my head, I try to find out who the person is, by putting it into situations that could occur in my story, and that’s how I find out how it interacts with the other characters. The character is being created before I even write any words about it, which I find very important. When I’m sure of what it’s gonna be like, I write down a short bio, maybe even with a backstory, and if I feel like it, I draw a quick sketch to remember their design. A character has been born, and is ready to enter the world I have already set up!
But wait, what makes a good design? As mentioned above, it’s really no good idea to just use something that already exists, and paint it over with rainbow colors. It’s also a no-go to overload it with every decoration you can come up with, as your character will just drown in fancy stuff. Once again, think about the world your character lives in, and then who the character is supposed to be. If it’s an everyday human, just find some nice everyday clothes for it. If you’re ever in doubt, just have a look at your favorite characters from a similar universe as the one you write about, look up some color schemes, and think hard about what the character really needs. It’s also a good idea to try and remove some stuff from your design, and think about if it’s still your character. If it still looks good after removing 5 bracelets, face paint stripes, 2 horns and that third eye on their forehead that they never use anyway, then you probably don’t need to add it again.
Jumping to another topic, I’ve watched a lot of DIY art journal videos on YouTube, and they were very inspiring! What does that have to do with this post? As I said, it’s a different topic, but I decided to make use of the art journal idea to better keep track of my OC’s and story ideas. I’ve always been drawing on regular loose paper, which I keep losing to random drawers, piles of paper and whatnot. But I found the idea of an art journal appealing, and that it would fit well with what I’m doing. Sure, it’s just a sketchbook, but I don’t just fill it with drawings on every page, but instead use the same pages to go back to and edit, whenever a character changes looks or the like, so that I can keep track. I write and draw my ideas in that book, and cannot only keep track, but also watch my own progress. I just hope I don’t lose that book to some deep, paper eating drawer…