What is your method of creating a character?

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Milk, Apr 15, 2016.

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  1. Hello everyone

    As you can see by the title of this thread, I am asking you what your method is of making a character? What steps do you take or places you go to help you make a character more easily?

    Lately I've been busy and my imagination has been dying due to it, so I was wondering what I could do to make myself more imaginative again.
    Thank you for answering.
  2. If I'm starting from absolutely nothing, I go to TVTropes and keep getting random tropes until something inspires me.
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  3. If I'm actively searching for a character idea and really struggling? I browse pictures and pick one I like. I build a personality around the character from how they look and work up from there.
  4. That actually sounds pretty useful, especially since it's sometimes hard to build a character without an image in your head.
  5. Oh wow, I should give that a try.
  6. Have I mentioned I love answering this question? I love answering this question. Honest and true, I love it. Sometimes answering gives me ideas.

    Ok! So, the absolute best way to come up with a character in my experience is to absorb stories. Read books, watch movies and plot-based TV shows, read comics, play games! Do all that stuff and TAKE IN STORIES. This is vital! While you're doing that, think of character traits you like from those stories.

    For example, I was watching Nanatsu no Taizai and saw a character. She had beautiful, long black hair with cute bangs that made her look unique, despite the simple hairstyle. I took that hairstyle (long hair with cropped bangs) and then I took some time to think of what might go well with it. I decided I wanted someone who was stoic, but only because they didn't know how to express the feelings that they felt. I looked through TV tropes to find something, and stumbled upon Oracular Urchin, and suddenly remembered River Tam.

    I grabbed onto that idea and began to write a few scenes. She quickly transformed from an expressionless girl with wide eyes and silky hair to a girl who always smiled, even when she shouldn't. Cheerful at the worst of times, and that led to conflict.

    This is my MAIN method for character creation. A lot of the time, I don't start out intentionally getting ideas, but when it happens, it feels very natural.

    My secondary method for forcing characters involves a combination of TV tropes and flash game doll makers. I get ideas from one, and then develop them further by playing with the other.

    My third method is accidental. Introduce them to an existing RP as an NPC, and then end up falling in love. Simple enough, and they usually end up with a lot of wiggle room.
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  7. Honestly, I'm glad I made this thread. I've been exploring a lot and getting ideas with what I've been getting from everyone.

    So not playing flash dress up games as I type this. But I'm so thankful that you've listed quite a few things that could help spark my character creator side.
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  8. Not a problem! Another big thing to remember is that you CAN polish a turd. If you don't like the results of your hard work, you can always remake them, edit them, or even delete them. You're never 'stuck' with a character that you don't want to be stuck with. =)
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  9. Daydreaming.

    The best character ideas are the ones that just sort of come to me when my mind's wandering. I'll draw from things I like and continually add to them almost subconsciously. I keep thinking of more and more layers to their personality that I think I'd like, all before I make any attempt to write any of it down. Then I can finalize things and solidify the parts that I think will work best.

    Forcing myself to come up with a character never works as well. If I'm in a situation where I have to make something, I just start with a vague idea, anything that I feel like doing -- and just let myself brainstorm possibilities from there.
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  10. I ask myself what possible purpose that character fills in the plot. I then create the character and fulfill that purpose. Does the plot call for a warrior? Time to make a warrior. Does the plot call for a high school student with magical powers? Time to make me one of those fancy schmancy Hogwartsy people.

    "But Brovo! What if the role play has no plot?!"

    Then it has no conflict, and there's nothing to resolve, and it's a shitty story. Move along to the next one because that one will inevitably die about four pages in.

    Next thing I do is I take my role-fulfilling dude, or chick, or pineapple, and I ask myself why they took that role, and why they would be interested in resolving the conflict in the story. Because a character without a motivation has no reason to do anything at all, and then I will feel no inspiration to write for that character, because I will have no idea why that character wants to do anything. Maybe the warrior wants to slay the big bad because of some personal vendetta. Maybe the high school student with magical powers seeks to succeed on a family legacy, and not let them down. Who knows, it just has to be something that would keep driving the character toward conflict resolution. It also doesn't hurt to see what other characters already exist in the plot (either by the GM or by other players), to make sure I'm not overloading any particular role. "Nine half naked warriors, one tent" is the title of a porno, not an interesting and diverse cast.

    Also, side note: The simpler the motivation, the broader it is. "Warrior wants to slay big bad" is quite blunt and gives me lots of ways for the warrior to succeed at that objective. "Warrior wants to slay the big bad specifically with this stick of +4 Baguette of Truth" narrows the objective down and gives me less ways to accomplish their motivation. (Ex: If a better weapon comes along, they might not abandon their baguette. Which could be interesting in its own right, since that could be a critical character flaw, but that's getting more complicated. Which isn't necessarily bad, but there is such a thing as making a character too complicated to feasibly understand.)

    The next step after role and motivation is, well, flaws. What holds them back from accomplishing the conflict resolution? This step ensures I don't create God Sue: King of the Tension Murder. Maybe the Warrior isn't strong enough to battle his way through the entire palace of guards to get his revenge. Maybe the hogwarts student--being a student--still has much to learn and starts out struggling to meet the expectations of their hardass asian parent meme family. In an appropriately diverse cast, this also ensures that my characters will have to form relationships with other characters around them to accomplish their long term motivation in relation to the plot. Like the warrior might befriend a thief who can break into the palace and give him a one way beeline toward his target of revenge, or the hogwarts student might befriend other students who have a menagerie of talents that they can learn from. Because our human flaws are really the only reason we even live in a society that depends on thousands of specialists to get things done. If everyone was perfectly self-sufficient, we wouldn't need other people.

    The last step after that is to flavour my character. Give them a gender, give them a sexuality, fill in all the personality bits in relation to everything else. When making the personality, I try to balance the traits to make a facsimile of an interesting person. A warrior who spent his life training to murder someone is probably a rude brute, but is likely a goal oriented person who enjoys working with others that have a determined personality like his own. The hogwarts student is probably the overly grateful type, perhaps even to the point of being a sycophant, who does everything they can to try and convince others (and themselves) of their own self-worth, in spite of their own insecurities because of their family.

    And that's it, really. Works like a charm every time. To summarize:
    • Make the character fill a role the story needs. If the story has no conflict, ignore it: It's a shitty story, and a waste of my time.
    • Give that character a motivation that relates to the conflict in the story. The simpler it is, the more flexible it will be.
    • Give them some flaws so as to explain why they can't simply instantly resolve the conflict, and to ensure that relationships will develop organically. (Because people don't just eat friendship pills. They generally share common interests of some kind. Like wanting to murder the big bad.)
    • Give the character less important but still interesting traits that can further distinguish them in their role and motivation. Like their gender.
    And uh... That's it I guess.
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  11. I mean... you can have an RP that's more open-ended and has no clear plot at the beginning, but that runs on a bunch of side-plots that come up as characters interact, and that can work out pretty well. I've been involved in several long-lasting RP's that met this criteria, with Fandomstuck being one of them. There's no plot detailed in the OP or anything, but there's always something to do, because there's always some threat to deal with, even if those threats all arose out of unrelated side-plots and they usually have no unifying purpose.

    Obviously that means there's still conflict in some form, hence why I've seen threads like this thrive, but you seemed to be referring to a plot that can be summed up in the OP, and, well... yeah. There are RP's that can have "no plot" in that sense, but can still thrive because there are still fun interactions to be had.

    Sorry if this is a bit of a tangent, but I just thought I'd comment on that.
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  12. [​IMG]

    I'm going to assume there's a communication error. Com check.

    A plot is "the main events of a play, novel, movie, or similar work, devised and presented by the writer as an interrelated sequence." (Google's Definition.) What most people write in the OP is the premise of the plot, or the central idea/thesis. It's often referred to as the hook in a novel's terms: It's the words on the back of the book that pull you in, it's a summary of the conflict that needs to be resolved. It can be anything, so long as it creates the great motivator engine.

    A plot need not be structured, but it need be there to make any coherent sense. Especially when we're talking about a story-based form of entertainment: It's not like role plays can sell you features like "open world exploration." Someone has to be there to write that world into existence and the player characters need some sort of motivation to explore that world.

    Without a plot and premise, stories fundamentally cannot function. They simply can't. Period. Your story needs a conflict, and you need characters who cannot resolve that conflict instantly, or the story loses all narrative tension. When people say they create "sandbox worlds" they really mean that they create empty worlds and ask players to put conflicts in for them, and if they're lucky, players will. If they're smart about their "sandbox" world, they'll already have narrative threads to pursue for players, conflicts which already exist in some form--at which point, it's simply an open narrative, not devoid of a plot at all.

    Tangent or no, understand that a plot is to narrative structure what programming is to video games: Big or small, complex or simple, it simply need be there.
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  13. Either "What do I feel like playing?" or "What is the current cast lacking?" Depending on how I feel like. I'd give you more detail but I'm whimsical like that.

    I generally start out with an archetype of character, something simple. Maybe I've been looking for a roleplay where that idea for a wartorn orc veteran has a place. Maybe the OP or interest check speaks of a cult of necromancers and I feel like that's a cool bit to use, making a character that has a connection to necromancy to give a second perspective to what is supposed to be an antagonistic force. Or maybe everyone is already a wartorn orc veteran and to balance it out I decide to write the exact opposite, like an arrogant elven highborn who never saw a glimpse of actual battle but seeks to strengthen his position by joining the necromancing slayer party. Or maybe I try to work in an unnamed wartorn orc veteran's daughter who hopes to find her father who has been missing, hoping to find clues to either his fate or whereabouts by getting closer to his former allies, AKA the other players, giving everyone material for character histories and potential for connections between characters.

    I don't know. All of these things sort of happened, but basically it goes like "What would be cool? What can this add to the roleplay? What are this character's goals and how do they enrich the potential story or mechanics?"

    From there it's basically the why question series. Why do they have X ability, why do they have Y personality. Maybe the necromancer character got enthralled with the art when their dog died in their childhood and the dark arts gave them a spark of hope to return what was. Maybe the orc veteran's daughter grew up in a family where the quest for glory took many loved ones away from her and the desire to be heard has had her develop a more forceful style of interaction despite her dislike of her familial boasting warrior culture. Etc. Wrap a story around it, change traits around if necessary to fit the backstory (because iterative processes are way better than letting one completely depend on the other) start delving into picture sites (and probably end up writing a description anyway) and then post it and hope the GM approves.
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  14. I'd say it depends on a bit more than just "luck", seeing as how both Fandomstuck and four installments of Tenshi Jigoku Academy (hoo boy, now that's a name that takes me back) all offered "sandboxes", and did quite well -- because they were all designed to encourage this kind of player-generated conflict. This is why, in Fandomstuck for example, I didn't need to establish any plot or premise for the players to go after, because conflicts and side-plots arise almost out of nowhere. It's hard to explain, but it's sort of like... a butterfly effect, I guess? Tiny little things happen in the meet-and-greet stages of the RP which then turn into bigger conflicts between characters, which then spin off into plot threads of their own as suddenly there's some massive fight going on between two reality-warping creatures which, in turn, effects all the other characters -- and then the event itself and the aftermath of it create even more opportunities for character interactions which give way to their own butterfly effects of conflicts. This was the main advantage to TJA, especially since the "meet-and-greet" stage was sort of ongoing as the RP was always open for as long as it was around, therefore always spawning new developments. All of this is also present in Fandomstuck, although Fandomstuck also has the advantage of making it insanely easy for any player to come up with a side-plot out of nowhere, as Fandomstuck is a fandom crossover RP with each character representing an entire series, meaning that the player behind every character has an entire canon to draw elements from and can easily start a side-plot just by introducing a monster or something from that series.

    This is why Fandomstuck essentially always has things happening -- and whenever things do happen to get a bit dull, it's always easy to brainstorm more possible side-plots and get players motivated again. I do oversee these plots and, in the case of larger and more complex ones, often plan them out via PM's with the player who came up with the idea (in order to make sure it's well-thought-out, and also to optimize what I can get out of each plot), but it's not the same as thinking up a premise that all the players can refer to as "The Plot" -- that's something I still don't need to do.

    Neither Fandomstuck nor TJA started out with any plot threads to explore, because they didn't need them -- hell, one could even say that the characters themselves were the plot threads! Each character, in both of these RP's, brings so much to the table and is capable of starting so much for all the other characters to do and interact with, that nothing really needs to be done on the GM side of things.

    I understand that conflict in some form needs to exist in order to keep an RP going -- and both Fandomstuck and TJA definitely have conflict -- but my point is that the plot isn't something that the GM needs to plan out or even have a vague idea of. There doesn't need to be a central objective for the players to follow, there just needs to be something to do -- and if that "something" is dealing with the countless plot threads that arose out of simple player interaction early in the RP and spun off into something else then, well, that's perfectly serviceable, especially if the RP is designed to thrive on that sort of thing. But those plot threads don't need to be orchestrated together by the GM in order to create an overarching narrative. Many of the plot threads in Fandomstuck and TJA are in some way connected to each other, if only because so many of them only exist due to small things in another plot thread creating their own butterfly effects, but none of these plot threads together need to connect to any overarching goal. In fact, many of them fizzle apart and go nowhere -- but that's ok, because there are always other things going on that the players can latch onto.

    tl;dr -- A roleplay can be a "sandbox" and still do just fine, if that sandbox is well-designed and makes it easy for players to create their own side-plots. An RP doesn't need to have an overarching objective set by the GM in order to thrive.
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  15. Thank you all for the suggestions. I've read all your comments and have taken most into consideration.~
  16. I'm a month late to the party, but I figured there's no harm in throwing in my two cents anyway.

    My method is similar to Kaga's. A lot of my better long-term characters come from excessive daydreaming. I'll start out with a vague idea or a drawing, which gives me a little idea of what they might be like (or what I'd like them to be like), and then I spend a lot of time just playing around. Usually I stick them in a little daydream fanfic sort of thing, sticking them with characters from some show or book I like(this is important, since it gives a control to work off of, characters that are already developed with set personalities) and letting a story develop.

    Like 'maybe they meet X on a train. What would they wear? Would they get along? I bet it'd be funny if they were motion sick and trying not to barf on X the entire time.' And see? Now there's some traits they have- they wear floor-length skirts (or whatever is decided), get motion sick easily, and try to be polite even when extremely uncomfortable. they are already starting to take on some personality! And then the scene continues...

    This process takes longer than it seems since I like to replay things a lot over days or weeks of thinking, but it makes the character development seem a lot more organic and natural than trying to come up with stuff on the fly for a CS. And in my experience, the characters I do this with tend to stick around a lot longer too.
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  17. Another method I use are literal dreams. They give me the baseline, and I work from there. It's a good way to take the ideas I've taken in and combine them without worrying about "Oh no, I'm being derivative!" or other useless worries like that which get in the way of a good development.

    I'd suggest starting a dream journal. I don't have one myself, but a LOT of people swear by it, so there must be something to it. =D I plan to try one, but most of the time when I wake up, I have to get moving right away so can't lay there and reflect on my dreams.
  18. That's exactly what I do! I'd prefer developing a character around a picture instead of trying to force a picture to fit my character. It also saves time on searching for good pictures.
  19. Honestly, my characters tend to start defining themselves once I have a basic concept.

    Generally, I create with a role in mind-- what is this character intended to do or accomplish?



    What is this character's motivation?

    Once I have that figured out, even just a vague sense, I start working on personality and history as they build from one another. I also heavily consider their world, especially in a fantasy or sci-fi setting.

    How well does this character fit into the world?

    How are they going to interact with their world?

    Is there anything in their world that might help shape who they are or become?

    From there, I just start writing down ideas. By the time I'm done with a character concept (and I use the term "done" loosely) I've rewritten that character a few times, constantly making tweaks and changes. Then, once the RP starts, that character just sort of starts to write writes his or herself. They develop their own quirks and habits and, so long as it works with the character and their world and isn't something I'm forcing, I let it happen. Letting a character develop as you write can be really wonderful.

    That said, you don't want to let your imagination get totally carried away and change things too drastically, but just let them become their own person. Or animal. Or pineapple.
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