How To Design Your Character – Looks.

You need to know what your character looks like, every detail. You need these in your mind even if you write the whole story without once mentioning it. 

Why? 

Imagine if your character was on the shorter side, but you never mentioned this, you know it so you will know they have to reach for that button to stop the bomb going off. Your character has a beard, they might randomly scratch the beard in the story, or pluck that bird out of it for the umpteenth time. Details that enrich the story come from what you know of your character.

So sit down and draw your character.

A commissioned drawing of my main character, Kaz.

Wait, you can’t draw? 

Yeah, neither can I. But don’t worry, for I have a plan. 

If you can draw, go for it, be amazing.

Using Character Creation Tools

If you are a gamer, you already have a head start on this next bit. If not, download some demos.

Demos? A lot of games hold their own character creation pages, and some are amazing. Games like Perfect world have character creation and is free, you could also search for other free MMOs like second life.

The Sims have excellent character creation tools.

Let me explain. Character creation in games can be a great start to creating your own character for a book. But don’t settle for one game, get different perspectives, design the same character over and over using different games, play with it, perfect it. 

See worksheet 3.

Side note; Sims is great for creating whole communities from your story, what the houses are like, who lives nearby etc.

Games with good character creation can be found in many places. Xbox, Playstation, online Mmos, PC games. 

Some MMOs are free like; Perfect World, Second Life, AION.

Final Fantasy XIV has a demo with awesome character creation features.

Some have demos for character creation like; Sims 4, Code Vein, Final Fantasy XIV.

Others you can buy / borrow and really get stuck in; Mass Effect, Dragon Age, Skyrim.

I am sure theirs’s many more out there and it will only get better as time goes on. Enjoy, but don’t get too distracted…

Using Deviant Art

I love these guys! If you don’t have an account, get one, it’s free. You can share your story ideas, read other people work and look at endless art. Great for inspiration. You will find many who will draw your characters for you for a price, be that a bit of dosh or a trade, well worth doing.

Here’s some of the pieces I have bought/traded. All my own characters by different deviants.

How To Design Your Character – Personality

I don’t think I need to explain why personality is important. You need only look at the people around you, the people you allow in your life, the people you avoid.

But how to create a set of unique characters, each with their own personality?

My first piece of advice would be to take a good look at yourself.  What are your favourite things about you, what do you not like about yourself, what do you hate, what is a funny quirk, what is an irritating quirk. Give your main character a good selection but make sure they have flaws.

Your hero can not be too perfect, if the hero is perfect then they are not relatable, not believable and quickly become a character in a story instead of the friend you are going to laugh and cry with over the journey.

Look at your other characters, give them other aspects of your personality, some of them the same, mix it up, bring in personalities you admire, or personalities you love to hate. Base characters, loosely, on a friend. Bonus points if they can’t work out which one they are but can instantly see it when it’s pointed out. It may only be one small thing, like the way they demand their coffee, or the rolling of their eyes.

Look at some beloved characters from your favourite books. How is their personality different from others in the same book? What quirks do they have? What flaws?

Mood Boards

A Mood board for a character in my book Freewill (out in 2021)

This is part of one for a character I am currently building. 

The board show her personality through pictures. Bright colours, cheap but sturdy units, a gamer who likes music, alternative clothing, goes for a quirky look because she is a quirky girl, simple, energetic.

A picture speaks a thousand words. A page full of pictures can give you an essay on the things your character likes. 

Get some old magazines and cut them up, it’s as simple as that.

Words next to your images: optional. Sometimes I just have endless pictures overlapping.

D&D Sheets

Have you ever played dungeons and dragons? No, you should. Especially as a writer, it is great for ideas. Yes, then you know what I’m talking about. Why bring it up here? Character creation sheets obviously. Check them out – you don’t need them but they can help you get your thoughts in order. They may help.

D&D character creation sheet.

If you google search them you will find many variations, depending on the type of story you are writing you could find one that matches exactly what you need, others can be changed to suit. Most sheets have a section for you to write the background/ history of your character. This is important as it tells you and the reader why they are the way they are. They cannot just be, they need the history.

Make sure you know where they came from, what type of upbringing they’ve had, why they want what they want. This is especially true for bad guys, don’t make them shallow. Give them history. Remember the more details you have the more in-depth, believable and relatable they become.

Some people prefer character cards, others keep files of data on their computers. Myself, I have notebooks dedicated to character creation, complete with mood boards. I’ll explain in a moment.

If you look at Worksheet 5 you will find a list of questions that will delve into the personality of your character, it’s a good exercise to get you started.

Humanization

Making your character relatable; a few things to note.

Traits that cause the hero does something stupid are often more relatable

Give them fears. I’m not going to say that to her! What will she think of me? But, what if I get hurt? Or how about, what if you get hurt?

Give them facepalm moments. They do something while caught in the moment and the reader facepalms because they know it’s going to come back and bite them in the ass.

Give them prejudices. Prejudices they may not even realise they had. They had a bad mother? No woman from that stock is any good. They really enjoy Dominoes? It’s the only decent Pizza place in town.

Give them strong traits that don’t always work in their favour. Confidence can be perceived as arrogance. Courage can be perceived as stupidity. Follow those fine lines and cross them.

No one is perfect. Even I will have another slice of cake when I’m not hungry. It’s cake, there is no choice. It’s not right, but it’s cake… Now I want cake.

See Worksheet 4

WOW. You’ve almost got a character. Just a few more things to note in the final part of this quick(ish) course. Part 3.

Hey guys n gals. How’s your characters coming along? I really want to know. Share your ideas below.

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