Character Creation For Dummies

Almost everyone I've ever met has a fictional character they've created that goes through stories. Unfortunately, a lot of people aren't spectacular at creating in-depth and interesting characters all the time. As such, I found it appropriate to address everyone with this free guide on how to improve character generation.

The One-Off

Everyone has been there. You need a character to fill a small part in a story/backstory, so you make one up. Unfortunately, the majority of people I see do this create what is essentially a malicious name and face for the villain, a overly aggressive female for a love interest, or maybe just a completely righteous do-gooder for an ally. 

This is not how you create anybody.

As such, here is a complete guide on the steps to create an interesting One-Off character.

1. Identify the characters purpose. As above, they might be a love interest, a villain, a temporary ally, whatever. For most One-Off characters, this is the most crucial element to their overall design.

2. Think of a REASONABLE motivation for them to fulfill this purpose. I have read about so many characters that do things for the sake of it. While for some characters that's okay, like the Joker causing chaos JUST to cause chaos, it doesn't work for most characters.  If someone's motivation is revenge, why would the person go to such length to get it? Most importantly, whatever you do, don't just use the justification of "He/she's crazy" for anything. The most critical thing a villain or hero has in their character always is WHY are they doing it. Make it interesting.

3. If supernatural powers exist in the world, make up powers that would assist the character in their goals or make it the exact opposite of their goals. A person who wants to cause havoc with the powers of Fix It Felix would be hilarious, but would have to be run with comedy in mind.

4. If supernatural powers were given, either give it weaknesses of some sort or an explanation that says why he won't use it all the time. If the character can teleport and bring objects with him, why doesn't he grab a bucket in his hand and teleport right next to his enemy so the bucket would materialize inside his skull?

5. Create a name. This might sound super easy, but it really isn't. A name need to be memorable, even if the character isn't gonna be, and it also needs to make sense. If your character comes from Japan, he isn't gonna be named Steve Urkle.

6. With his purpose and abilities in mind, what is his job? You might already have this step complete when you get to it, but you will need it for the next step so I needed to put it in.

7. The appearance and clothing of the person needs to match up with the job description. Are they an assassin working for a military company? Give them a dark uniform with short hair. Or, alternatively, make them look like a completely ordinary person. The choice between the two really comes down to the universe they stem from. In a realistic world, assassins need to be able to blend in with a crowd. In a low population world, a fantasy world, or when dealing with people who can sense abilities, the assassin is gonna want the clothing to allow them to camouflage from detection. Tons of things need to go into that, but you can default a bit with really brief One-Off characters. 

8. Give them a goal, usually short term, that explains their introduction to the story. For the assassin thing for instance, you could have them kill the boss at a hotel the guy is staying at.

Static Character

While less likely than the following character type, Static characters are still fairly common. What they are, is essentially a character that you make that doesn't change between RPs or events they are brought into. The creation of these characters varies between people, and I understand those other methods work. Here's the way I make mine.

1. Think of the backstory. This could literally be anything for some people, but others not so much. I can have any backstory I want because the model of the omniverse lets them have any setting ever conceived. If your universe doesn't include travel, make a backstory that wouldn't interfere with established canon (if there is one) and actually makes sense for the character to have. This backstory should also imply what their overall purpose is, but don't actually enforce it in everything. Most people will not enjoy a story exclusively led by 1 person.

2. With the backstory in mind, create an explanation for any powers they receive/have. This should be the easiest step. Make sure to include weaknesses if you want your character to be a key feature in the stories he's in rather than a crutch.

3. Give them a name befitting their heritage or one they gain through what they do like a title of merit. This might actually be the hardest one, as making a name that will last for potentially years is a terrifying prospect.

4. Create an appearance that would realistically occur with the character, like the one for One-Off except it needs to either be replaceable on demand or easy to acquire in bulk.

5. This may sound easy to some people, but you're gonna want to come up with why your character doesn't change. Multiverse? Save states? Simple hidebound stubbornness? Figure that shit out in such a way it makes sense. If supernatural powers exist, the last suggestion might not be applicable for all circumstances.

Dynamic Character

These kinds of characters are what most people on roleplaying sights use. Their character changes over the course of their roleplaying. Draga, Draco, and a bunch of my other main characters all fit this archetype. To do this, simply follow the previous guide except remove the last step and make sure to edit their character page between stories. Most importantly, try and keep the number of RP's the character is involved with either at a minimum number or with minimal impact to the character, preferably the former as none-dynamic characters are more boring.

Predetermined Character Interactions

If you create multiple characters of which have interacted in the past, you need to make a list of important events. Here's the categories in order of importance.

1. Life and Death. If either character or both have come close to death and the other has at least helped in their continued existence, or in fact did not help, that would change their interactions both in the backstory and the future. 

2. Romantic. If romantic subplots are involved in a characters past or present, you need to roleplay it realistically. A new couple isn't just gonna ignore the relationship and live as normal, and a long-married couple isn't gonna have the giddiness of newly-weds. Most critical to keep track of is any and all emotional needs in these situations. Characters like Draga or Draco don't have these, but the women in their lives, even none-romantic partners, have. This was probably the hardest part of writing Trevor and Listeria from an RP called All Is Dust. They had been together for a few months, had just passed the awkward faze, had already passed the coital barrier. I had to realistically play a set of emotions for two different people, one with actual Bi-Polar disorder, none of which I have true experience with. This kind of thing might be fairly hard too, so its easiest if you try and avoid these things. If you are going to, though, an easy patsy to escape difficult writing is puns.

3. Work. Have your characters worked before? If so there should be minor-high levels of communication in some format. The characters would also likely either have total objection working together, or be supportive of it depending on the experience.

4. Passing. This is probably irrelevant, but occasionally you will have characters meeting in the past in ways that were brief and carried little meaning. This would likely have no difference other than recognition of the person.

Creating Background Settings

Practically all people suffer from this at one point. You're trying to think of something that would be interesting, and someone's already done it before. Well, that's gonna happen. Almost every setting has been at least thought of in the past. As such, don't worry about making it completely new and original. Make it unique by the things that happen within it.

1. Create the biomes within it, biomes being things like forests, hills, general weather patterns, the like.

2. Determine what animals/people live there.

3. If people have one, create a system of government. If you want, it can be totally normal, but interesting ones either have serious flaws or something spectacular about them.

4. Determine the tech/magic level.

5. If you want one, create a target for racism. People will be racist as long as there are differences in people.

6. Unless the place is a utopia, create some sort of problem encountering the people of the background.

7. Prepare a way to fix the problem, but don't actually do it. This confuses people, but having a plan go off without a hitch unless it's a flawless plan from a super-genius with super creative ideas is really boring.

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  • This blog has been featured. I find it quite helpful and very well written.

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