Hey! This is Portrait! Or you may know me as Icarusflies, IcarusMach9, Fractal, Mortality, Premonition, Io, Conductor, Conductor II, Solar Orchid, Starheart, Rubix, Solenoid Spin, Dead Money, Marvin the Robot, Zem the Mattress, Brighteye, Terrain, Salamander, Cypher-D, Somniac, Triumvirate, Guide Dog, Ptolemy, Consumption, Gestalt, Yportne, Josh Mardon, Romulus, Bat Vampire, Randolph Carter, Matrushka, Homunculus, Jupiter Storm, Claquesous, Messenger Mercury, Monsieur Annoying, Hypochondriac, ~Mewtwo~, ~Nylarlathoteop~, ~Cthulhu~, Yog-Sothoth, Ithaqua, Tsathoggua, Yellow Priest, Curbstomp, Tornado Turbine, Reine de Bourdon, Catscradle, The Inertia, General Jupiter, Shuriken, Metropolitan, Weird Sisters, Etherial Murk, Labyrinthine Web, Steve :), Dali, Tidal Ripple, Domicile, Draconian, Fluffy the Destroyer, Glory Nights, or Erica Zann. Or many, many others.
Does anyone still doubt my qualifications to instruct this course? No? Good. Let us begin.
Introduction to characters
A character is a creation which lives on the paper. Unless they are a throw away device, they should be multi-faceted, and multi-dimensioned. They should have their own quirks, their own identity. They need to think and speak, and move. Unless they are clones, they should not be like any other character. And a character does not need to be human. Animals that play any major role are also characters. They are often more challenging, since animals must NOT be written like human characters. They rely more heavily on the other senses, and think differently. Now, are you ready to create your character?
There are several ways to start in character creation.
The first is to come up with a power, then build around that.
The second is to come up with a name and work from there.
The third is to find a look or avatar you like and start there.
The fourth is to find a source of inspiration (such as a book or video game) and adapt that.
An example of building around a power would be Solenoid Spin. I knew I wanted a magnetic character. I knew that magnetism was common, so I added the power of spinning at high speeds.
An example of building around a name would be Hypochondriac. I knew I wanted a character by that name. What he did? I had no idea at the time.
An example of building around a look would be Starheart. I wanted to use the Ray as an avatar, and Starheart seemed a good fit.
The fourth, and best, is to find a source of inspiration. My example is Premonition. In the work of Philip K. Dick, many stories contain a precog. They each have slightly different abilities, which I found fascinating. Combining these ideas with my own, I created Premonition.
Recommendation: As I said, it is best to start with a source of inspiration. These characters are considerably easier to flesh out.
Now to flesh out your characters. Motives, personality, etc. belong here.
This is where you ask yourself questions. I'll provide common reasons in bullet points.
WHY does your character do what they do? (This is also your character's origin)
- Childhood incident
- Mental illness
- Extreme sense of right or wrong
- To prove something
WHO is your character?
- An insecure child/teen
- A bitter adult
- A psychopath
- A heartbroken individual
- A twin/gestalt individual
- An athlete/fighter
- The last of their kind
- An outcast
WHERE is your character?
- Their sovereign nation
- A foreign country they did not want to be in (an émigré)
- A foreign planet
- Earth from a foreign planet
- Under water
- A country
- A village
- A town
- A city
- A secret location
- A team base
WHAT is your character?
- Government Experiment
- They don't know
WHEN is your character
- In the future
- In the past
- In an alternate timeline
- Lost in the timestream
- In the present
HOW does your character work?
- Registered hero
- Unsure of what they are
- Martial artist/street leveler (powerless)
- Metahuman (powers from birth)
- Weaponry (armor, etc.)
Put these together. How do they interact with each other? I'll give an example, using Portrait.
WHO is your character?
- An immature adult
WHAT is your character?
- A mystic immortal
WHEN is your character?
- In the present, but with heavy influence from the past and fear of the future
WHERE is your character?
- Generally in either the USA, France, England, or the Painted World
WHY does your character do what they do?
- As a villain, she followed the instructions of the Great Old Ones. As a hero, she want to atone for her past sins.
HOW does your character work?
- Unsure of herself, striving to be a hero.
Now you have a decent idea of who your character is, and how they became that way.. Let us go on to putting your character into a setting.
If you are reading this on Comicvine (which you should be...if you're not, this was plagiarized, unless you're my project sponsor, in which case hi! I hope you're enjoying my winter term stuff!) you probably want to put your character into the Vine Universe. This can be a little complicated.
There are two parts of this. The technical aspect, and the in-universe aspect.
To get your character noticed (the technical aspect), you must introduce him/her/it/them to the other Viners. Post in some team threads, get a trainer (who will vouch for you later), have some battles, participate in the big RP. If you are persistent, people will remember you, and ask you to participate later.
Then you need to see how your character interacts with others (the in-universe aspect). Do they respect any people? Are they aloof? Self-centered? Eager to please? Introverted? Loyal? Traitorous? This is what you need to know before you write.
Now that you have a general idea, let's work on some of the specifics that make your character unique.
Each character needs a name, and a codename.
First, don't just use your name. Some work, some don't. If you have the name batmanisthegreatestever999876, people will not take you seriously, and will forget your character quickly. Take some time, come up with a good name.
Naming is important. A name imparts identity.
To come up with a name, consider these questions:
- Are they taking up a mantle?
- Do they work in the open? (in which case, their actual name can be their codename)
- Are they proud of who they are?
- Do their powers define them?
- Are they making a point?
Examples: Starheart is the personification/avatar of a star. Premonition sees and changes the future. Portrait works with paint. Erica Zann is the daughter of Erich Zann.
When naming, be interesting. If your character controls water, don't name them Waterman. Think. Use the Thesaurus for help. Solenoid Spin spins, and he is magnetic. Rather than Magnet Spin, I found a synonym for magnet. Aquahumanoid is better than Waterman. Not much better, but it is a start.
Your Waterman could name himself after a phenomena that occurs involving water. Evaporator. Precipitator. Typhoon, Tempest, Tsunami, Swamp, Hurricane. Combine a few. Evaporating Tempest, Swamp Tsunami.
Got anything interesting? Good. Let's move on to powers.
Powers are among the most difficult aspects of a character. You need some degree of uniqueness or you will end up with a Human Torch or Batman clone.
Let's start with redefining popular powers.
Elemental powers are always a favorite. There must be hundreds of fire/water/earth/air manipulators. Think carefully before choosing one of these. What makes YOUR character unique? If they control fire, do they burn too? If they work with Earth does it create uncontrollable aftershocks? Are they afraid of water? Does using their power drain their life force?
Other powers that should be avoided or redefined:
- Martial Artist
- Weapons master
- Energy blasts
- Electrical control
- Ice control
- Magic (general sorcery)
- Increased Durability
- Healing factor
Also, if your character is too strong, that is BAD. If your character could take down Superman with a punch, or smash Earth, or heal instantly, they are OVERPOWERED. Avoid this.
For an example, let us go back to Solenoid Spin. Magnetism was too common, so I gave him spinning. When he spins, he is magnetic. That is different. He is also completely insane, which can help with your uniqueness power factor.
Unique powers are harder to think of, but they are much more rewarding. People will go 'Whoa, I never thought of that!" Maybe your character can manipulate glass, and shatters with a touch.
I cannot suggest to you unique powers. This is a good time to go to a source, such as a book. Is there something that strikes your fancy? Could this insignificant plot element be turned into something marvelous?
Animal Characters are tricky since they tend to have different motivations and thought processes than humans. This is the main thing to keep in mind when writing an animal character. Here are some common motivations:
- Loyalty (either to a team or an individual, living or dead)
- Hunger (best with a large, carnivorous animal)
When you write your animal, you might want to use descriptive actions more than thoughts. Remember that an animal might not know WHY it is doing what it is doing. Incorporate this. They will rarely know the consequences of their actions.
Since they are a bit different than the norm, I thought I'd add a section about monsters.
There are two types of monsters. Beasts (swamp things, werewolves, etc.), and human (emotionless, soulless, I guess you could include vampires here)
With beasts, you need to decide if you want a sympathetic or non-sympathetic monster.
For a sympathetic monster, give them a tragic past, or an inability to control their own actions. Non-sympathetic or 'pure evil' monsters kill to kill, just for fun. They don't care who they hurt. For the beasts, write them more like an animal than a human.
Human monsters are a little more challenging. The classic human monster is the sociopathic psychopath. They don't care about human life, and are the ones usually featured in horror movies. (Hannibal Lector is a perfect example here). Write your character as you would normally BUT do not add emotion to your post. They are cold and calculating, or prone to vicious anger. There is a large scale of human monsters. You need to decide how close to a beast you want. You can have the seemingly normal man with a murderous streak, or the animal mind in the body of a man. (Take my character Consumption as an example of the latter. He no longer recognizes human speech, and kills only for food).
Hopefully you now understand what it takes to create a true inhuman.
Sometimes your characters just isn't working out. You don't have the freedom you want with the powerset, and you just can't overcome writers block. You want to start from scratch and redo your character.
This is not an issue if you haven't used the character yet. Just re-write the bio, and jump into RPGing. If, however, you are an established RPer this can be more difficult. The best solution is to create an alternate profile. Introduce this new character into the RP world, and keep your old profile on reserve. If you really don't want any alternate profiles, you are on a slippery slope.
ONLY change the character AFTER you have wrapped up any RPs with that incarnation of the character. If you can work their transformation into the story, then you are A-Okay. If not, check to make sure you are not in the middle of anything, and redo your character. Try not to change your character too much, or it will be difficult for others to write with you.
Now you are ready to create your character. Please leave your feedback below.