How to Build a Solid Original Character

In this Tutorial I am going to show you in detail areas that are essential for creating a good Original Character, that is Unique and unlikely to be stolen or framed for plagiarism. We’ve all seen those deviation of character sheet which shows the OC in a awesome pose then lays out all this information that you know few of us really read. Did you also notice that not all character sheets give you the same information? Some of them include weight and height, some of them include blood type, a back story, character development, and some of these character sheets include unique information that probably doesn’t apply to all genre’s of OCs or FanOCs, like weapons, vehicles, and powers. When making a character sheet it’s good to keep it rounded, but also understandable and creative.

For starters, THE NAME, I’ve seen plenty of good names out there, but also some boring ones, not naming any but it’s important to come up with a good name. For example if you’re making a Vocaloid character it makes sense to give it a Japanese name with the suffix of -ne in the surname, but it’s also overused. it’s also important to have a good meaning, something that can be familial or for the character’s personality. Example: My name means the Helpful Warlike Angel, (that’s a fact…) the name must mean something that is relevant to the character’s family or personality, my name is Warlike because I turned bright red on the day I was born so my parents named me Marcus. Middle names, this can be relevant or irrelevant very easily, for characters it’s easy to just leave out the middle name I’ve can name plenty of my characters who don’t have middle names, but if you give them a middle name think like a parent, the first name should be easy to remember, and the middle name can be anything you want, not matter how bizarre. Also for middle names I’ve learned that if you have a 1 syllable first name, give the character a 2 or 3 syllable middle name, to make sure it has a good ring to it.

Physical Appearance! this is really important to make your character YOURS! it’s more than eye color, hair color and hair style. What are your character’s Notable Physical Characteristics? Is he/she left handed? does he/she have any battle scars, how about health impairments, allergies? Are her cheekbones pronounced, or are his eyebrows dark and knit together. All people are unique and your characters should be as unique as real people to make them seem more real. You can include, height, weight, blood type, and other nonsense, but keep it relevant, if you claim your character is skinny or overweight or tall or short, if your genre is vampires, include blood type. Vocaloid’s: singing style. Alchemy: title or status (flame, fullmetal). Side note: Nicknames and Aliases are always fun to play with, like superhero names, and other titles, you can show in plot, appearance, or clothing, how your character lives up to that name, or go back in their past to explain how they got it, and live up to it now. Anything is possible but come up with a unique combination of characteristics which will make your OC one that sticks out in the masses of other OCs on dA

Clothing and Accessories. As much as this is weird and difficult for me clothing does make a character unique. Sure you can make a drawing of a shirtless guy with a really interesting facial appearance and it’s good but how the characters dress says a lot about them. Who they are, their preferences, their status and title, and when their story takes place. I know all you artists love when someone says use Reference Material, “but it’s so hard to find!” “you have to pay so much for good books” “I’m just too lazy”. How does your character dress? scratch that, in what genre does your character dress. Victorian, Pirate, Steampunk, modern, Asian, hipster, school kid, ninja, soldier, battle suit, space traveler, think of your genre and start there. Then look things up. Personally, I started a Pinterest account for this reason. 1. because you can easily dump all your character outfit ideas onto a board, and 2. you don’t have to save all those dangerous, space-sucking files onto your computer/usb/sd. I cannot emphasize enough how much I love deviantart/google search, it makes this so easy. If someone were to go through my favorites you’ll find I sometimes favorite some wild outfits, because I think they’d be interesting to draw. Become search happy because the internet is so useful in this way. But, just saying, if you’re going for modern clothing, photography books are a great resource even for non-photographers. I have a photography reference book and I love it!

Powers, Abilities,Hobbies, and Skills: This is the portion of your character sketch which makes your OC interesting. Aside from the good looks, Who is your OC. Does your OC have the ability to fly? Can he use a katana? Does she like to read? is your OC a talented mathematician? Who the heck is this person? OCs’ powers, abilities, hobbies, and skills, are as diverse as yours are. If your OC is you, make sure you include that, but for the love of God that is overused! The key here is being unique, stick to your genre, and be creative!

My included preferences when I make a Character Sheet are Fighting style, and Preferred Weapon. My Genre for writing and drawing is action, superpowers, and weapons, mostly swords. This is where you pull out Mr. Lappy, or fire up Grumpy Desktop… oh wait you already have, and research the life out of the Internet, make this seem real. Let’s face it not all of us Artists and Writers can use, much less have, a sword. Well, I do, but think of me as unique as your OCs should be! What are the technical terms for using the weapon your OC uses. If it’s a lightsaber, you have a lot of starwars books to read (of your making a Starwars OC or other Lightsaber-using character, hopefully you would have already done that), If it’s some Ninjistu from anime, by all means love your fandom. If its real weapons like guns, do not be afraid to go ask your gun-obsessed friend, brother, or father, I go ask my brother about gun names, models, measurements, and all that nonsense I will never understand. Believe it or not, your gun-obsessed friend-bro-or-Dad would probably love to nerd out on guns to you, but I’ve learned, keep them on subject, describe to them what you want (pending example), and your relationship with them will probably improve, and if your friend is anything like my twin-bro they might be more interested in your character/art/writing because you included information they gave you. Know Your Stuff, understanding your material is as important in the artist world as it is in the academic world.

“I am looking for a type of hand pistol, for a girl to use, she’s not a character that likes guns particularly but she needs to defend herself, it has to be something she can keep under her skirt, because that the design I’m going for. I need to know all the information about guns like this, so that I can use it and know the terms in my story that I am writing”

Here’s where it gets hard, the next three things usually take me a few days to write and brainstorm for. Prominent PersonalityBackground Information, and Character Changes! That’s not to hard to remember right? PP, BGinfo, and CC.

PP: This one is rather tough, and it takes me a while to work these out, you should go into a character sketch with a basic idea of how your character is going to react to things. if you do this part is easy, but if you don’t here are some ways to find out your OCs PP. their Personality should coincide with their powers, abilities, hobbies, and skills. If your character likes reading maybe he/she is an introvert and likes to be alone to drink coffee. If you OC is a singer maybe he/she has a very outgoing personality, and loves to be in crowds. Is there anything that happened to them in the past that lead them to act as they do? Another way to find out the PP is to imagine your character in a situation. If I were to pinch your OCs arm would he/she scream at me, ignore me, or run away and cry. If your OC was in a high place, would he/she shake platform/rope/whatever to scare other OCs, or stand frozen in fear, or would they jump off hoping to kill themselves? If your OC was faced with their crush, would they be flirty, shy, would they stammer, would they run home and journal their feelings. imagine a situation, how would they react to it?

BGinfo: this one is also rather easy if you go in knowing what your doing but if you don’t you might have to think fast, and like the last one this also coincides with powers, abilities, hobbies, and skills. This does not have to be a biography of your OC, it should be a summary. Your goal of this can be different if your drawing or writing, but mostly if you count on it’s up to present. What has the character been doing before the present time when you’ve been writing or drawing them. When your story starts is when you stop writing the BGinfo. Now if your OC is a main character whose story started at birth, you might not have to do that, but if it’s a scenario like this person has a twin they’ve been separated from the BGinfo is you explaining that your OC has a twin he/she has been separated from. If your OC is a character who turns up in the story from the present time in their life then they obviously have a character story behind them (and a personality don’t forget that) you need to explain what happened to them, and why. If the character doesn’t know why then maybe that’s your plot. Remember your Goal, it is to explain what happened to your OC right before they came into the story or your art.

CC: this is the opposite of BGinfo, so by writing this your basically laying out your entire goal for this characters. The goal here is in light of what happened to them in the past, these circumstances arose, and this is what they did about it, so they changed in this way. Ask yourself, how how will this character react to the circumstances I’m putting him/her in? Another thing that should be accounted for is will this character change? A character may start out as shy and very dependent but after the circumstances of your plot they might have overcome that fear. (Here’s an example from my writing) A character that might be judgmental in the beginning of the story and by the end he is very accepting of those he used to really hate. It might not be a total opposite outcome, maybe they only slightly overcame their previous trait or maybe the circumstances turned out bad. (Another example from my work) A character was kind and loving always ready to help others in need, and after circumstances, that became an act until she completely turned on those she was trying to help, this is a great scenario for antagonists, other than wanting longevity or power. Character development is really important for a plot, but it can be useful for drawings so that you can draw your characters at different stages in their life. Knowing about your characters whole life is a good way to have a solid character.

Useful tips:

  1. Keep things from becoming cliche: this tip is relevant to genre, if your genre is romance, it’s really easy to become cliche. Movies like the Notebook and Safe Haven are good examples of love stories that are focused and creative. They give depth to their characters in a way that is not overused or cliche. Backstory on one or both of the couple is good, but to incorporate a good romance into a story that’s focused on a lot of things, like Hunger Games for example, takes effort, and character development has to be worth that effort.
  2. Make a character sheets on yourself or characters you’ve already developed. This allows for your to practice and see how to write those difficult areas in a detailed format! And doing one on yourself gets you comfortable with writing areas that may seem awkward to you, this has worked for me, I’ve never liked putting in the height and weight of characters.
  3. Be Freaking Creative!!! but also be influenced, I’ve seen so many fandoms that start really neat characters but you just can’t go anywhere with them. So what I do when I become influenced, is I try to pick one or two traits I like the most, and put everything to scratch. If I like the characters PP and a Notable Physical Characteristic I’ll start everything else from scratch, it actually comes rather easy when you have what you want, but getting everything else is where I get stopped by the other aforementioned difficult ones.

EXAMPLE!

Name:  Cliff or Michan

Notable Nicknames/Aliases: Shadow Trust 

Primary Story: TS:TA-SC 

Age: 29-30     Birthday:   February 17, 2005    

Hair Color: Dark Purple, nearly black, to neck     Eye Color: Purple 

Other Notable Physical Characteristics: Cliff has been blind since he was eighteen, he is only able to see a little light. Nationality: Japanese. he speaks with a Japanese accent, not thick, but not so slight that it’s not there. 

Powers/Abilities:  Chance manipulation, Hallucinations, he is mentally able to change the outcome of any event. He has to be able to see the object or person whom he intends to manipulation, and from a person who has previously been manipulated he can use them to manipulate others.

Fighting Style: he fights with a katana and he was classically trained as a samurai before he came to America, he can fight with fists.

Preferred Weapon(s): His Gray Japanese Katana which was an heirloom to him before he left Japan 

Other Notable Skills/Hobbies: He enjoys running even thought he can’t see, he can play the piano 

Prominent Personality: Cliff is stubborn and often judgmental he can be quick to jump to conclusions about a person, he sticks with his decisions no matter what outcome they’ve brought him to, although that can lead him to become brash. Even though he’s stubborn he is not unwilling to learn, and change. In Trust’s state he holds his authority firmly, but in a loving manner, he wants only what’s best for the Shadows and sometimes he may seem to have a cruel sense of humor. 

Background Information: Cliff and his brother Reon left Japan after Cliff used his Shadow to kill their parents and destroy their home, and Reon caused Cliff to reverse age to an Eight-year-old. In America they were in an accident which caused a victim in the vehicle (Gene) to become lame. Cliff learned how to speak English through Gene and they became friends, however Cliff’s relationship with Reon declined when he tried to teach Cliff Braille. They lived two years in Topeka, Kansas, and five years, in Luray, Virginia, then they moved again to another part of Luray, for two years before TA, in which Cliff learns to play piano, finds an interest in running, and attempts to kill himself by not eating and depriving himself of sleep and warmth.

Character Changes: Through TA, Cliff starts out as a very angry character who very seriously threatens to kill Mark. He is Judgmental of Shadows and slightly racist while he doesn’t know he’s a Shadow. Cliff and Reon butt heads, and inwardly Cliff feels he is ready to go off on his own, to find a way to make a life away from his brother, and feels Reon is trying to stop him. After Cliff spends the night in a shack and becomes very sick he attempts to run from Reon and falls into a ditch, Mark rescues him and begins to see (pun intended) that Mark as a Shadow is not all that bad. Unlike other stubborn characters Cliff is Movable, his mind can be changed, and he really does learn how to accept Mark, the Shadows and his own powers. By the end of the story he is still a serious, stubborn character, but he is caring in that way, very knowledgeable and not prideful.

There you have it, a wonderful little tutorial, on how to make a good and solid OC. Here’s a blank version of the Profile I used for the character sketch above

Blank Character Sheet 

Name:                                                       
Notable Nicknames/Aliases:                          
Primary Story:                                            
Age:               Birthday:    /  /     
Hair Color:      Eye Color:             
Height:            Weight:              
Other Notable Physical Characteristics:                                                                                                               
Powers/Abilities:.                                                                                                                                              
Fighting Style:                                                                                                                                                
Preferred Weapon(s):                                                                                                                                       
Other Notable Skills/Hobbies:                                                                                                                             
Prominent Personality:                                                                                                                                      
Background Information:                                                                                                                                   
Character Changes:                                                                                                                                        

I hope you enjoyed this, and you read it all And I hope it has been most helpful. If you fill out the character sketch profile, I’d love to read it and favorite/comment If you’re curious about anything else, I’d be happy to reply of edit something into this for everyone to see! I love writing characters and I hope too see more really good original characters.

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