Author Topic: Designing Characters  (Read 845 times)


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Designing Characters
« on: May 20, 2018, 07:28:30 PM »
How do you design your characters? What comes to mind first, and how do you build off of it? Everyone's process is different, so I'm curious how people approach them and what could be learned.

Mine either start with a physical image, or a single idea, and just build themselves off it. Azre's cocky personality happened first and Erza followed as a counterbalance, Jima was the question of what happened when a hunter was fascinated by Grimm instead of desiring to kill them, and Prism was the concept of a tragic but determined survivor.
Prism Skylark - Beacon First Year, Winged Sharpshooter and Leader of Team CASA (Casanova) #ffffff

Chantou Rou - Beacon First Year, Insect-Eyed Rebel of Team LGGR (Lager) #ff82a4

Albrecht Clodwal - Beacon First Year, White Knight Nice-Guy of Team CNRS (Cinerous) #00a4a4

Azre and Erza Sundown- Shade First Years, Fallen Stars of Team RASB (Raspberry) #fe2d00, #feab00

Jima Purpora - Beacon Third Year, Grimm-Obsessed Scholar of Team PLSM (Plasma) #6e3aa8


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Re: Designing Characters
« Reply #1 on: May 21, 2018, 06:50:30 AM »
Most of my characters are first a theme or personality traits and I build off from there. For example my first character Calen has a pretty consistent theme of a Shrike, a small bird probably best known impaling their prey on spikes. The white-black colour scheme is common in most sub species which Calen mirrors. Although not specifically 'territorial' the same sort of tenacity which has driven pairs of Shrikes to defend their territory against entire migrating flocks carries through Calen with a lot of what he does. Calen's favourite hobbies cooking and dancing are both implimented by the tiny birds although cooking perhaps needs pretty big quotation marks. The birds small statue but impressive speed is where I got Calen's general appearance as well as semblance. Then I tend to fill in the gaps with aspects of my own personality making Calen a 'in the mirror darkly' version of myself.

The only exception to this is Amarant, the Atlas headmaster, as we needed him for a thread.
No criticism is too harsh so hit me with your best shot.

Calen Shrike - ASTC - First Year Beacon.

Saffron de Cortez - SALT - Third Year Atlas.

Amarant Lovis - (formerly of)ACCE - Headmaster of Atlas Academy

Ramalia - RASB - First Year Shade


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Re: Designing Characters
« Reply #2 on: May 21, 2018, 07:12:47 AM »
With RWBY characters, PCs and NPCs, I usually start with one of three things - a personality trait, a semblance or a theme song. For Razzy, it was mostly the first: I wanted my first character to possibly stand out with a constant smile of excitement on his face, someone who'd face any adversity with joy and hope and all that. I made Rufus similarly, a character who is defined by his stubborness as well as the whole 'only speaking through rap' thing - I believe Janus tossed that idea out in chat and I grabbed it.

I mostly based Reginald and Coconut on songs, though. For Reginald, I had two things I wanted to include - I'm So Humble and a pressure-manipulating semblance. I spent some time on that site that picks random RWBY name suggestions based on color, and stopped at 'Reggie' for 'regalia'. From there, I added onto the character, first his appearance, then personality, then history - with a name like 'Reginald', the snotty personality came to me on its own.

Meanwhile Coconut was even more straightforward - after listening to Plus Danshi a couple of times, I figured I should make a character based on the song, the fact that the character would be a pervert being obvious. I was drawing a blank on a semblance for him, and eventually decided I could just not give him a combat semblance at all, forcing him to improve strictly his own physical capabilities. After that, I based his appearance on Len Kagamine in Plus Danshi and Gigantic O.T.N., and built on from there.

Anza and Silica were also mostly based on personality traits at first - Anza is an anxious young girl constantly having to change the way she acts just to fit in, while Silica is there to keep Reginald in line by constantly reminding him that the way things stand, she is his superior until his father says otherwise. She's also kind of salty. Finally, Janna was me making a walking tank - no more, no less, and her personality came afterwards.
Razzmatazz Gele - 2nd Year warrior of happiness of Team ____. "Oh, I also like ____! Let's be friends!"

Janna Tarmac - 1st Year tank lady of Team DGTL. "Our job is to protect the innocent, and that's what I do."

Reginald Royale - 1st year snotty brat of team RBLS. "I'm telling father about this!"

Rufus Chocla - 2nd year freestyle rapper of team APRC. "Rap comes from the Soul, don't mess with the Flow, if you can't take no more, don't wait for Encore!"

Anza Burgundy - 1st Year archer of team CRSA. "War eagle, feller!"

Silica Methiviola - Assistant to the Royale Family/Reginald. "Suck my metaphorical dick, nerd."

Coconut Cream - 1st Year pervert of team CASA. "B-before we fight could you just like... nyah once for me?"

Tiber Rostrum - 1st year Bea(k)on student. "*Unintelligible, birdlike gibberish*"

My good ole AMA


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Re: Designing Characters
« Reply #3 on: June 12, 2018, 10:07:15 AM »
RWBY or non-RWBY, what I've found best is to always build a character around one core concept, then take that concept and expand it out logically until I have the essential framework for a character.

Take, for example, Rory Vogel. Yes, he has an actual fairytale basis ('The Juniper Tree' of Brothers Grimm fame), but I took from the story one central concept -- a child abused by their family -- as a basis to start with. Survivors of abusive home lives develop all sorts of unhealthy coping mechanisms, but one of the common ones is a heightened state of wariness and self-protection. It's easy to see how that might inform personality, but how to express it as a combat style? A shield, of course, but a warrior with a shield doesn't really convey dysfunction. A warrior with two shields, however...

For another example: Maria Vogel. The mythic inspiration is, of course, the urban legend of Bloody Mary -- in Maria's case I chose to make 'blood' the core focus. Making her a hemophiliac... well, that practically wrote itself, and having a Semblance that involved the use of blood seemed logical as well. But blood is more than just a red liquid. It contains our DNA, the blueprint of identity. In the case of women it also has strong implications, tied up in sexuality, maturity, and the "breaking of innocence". All these factors guided my thought process when it came to establishing her abilities and aptitudes, her personality and the underlying causes of her malevolence (and occasional beneficence), and even a few aspects of her appearance.

My advice is that it's always good to have one or two key ideas at a character's core, something that the rest of your design choices can play off of, reflect, and in certain carefully constructed cases even stand in contrast to. That last one is important -- having a theme is great, but every character needs unresolved conflicts to be truly interesting. Being in conflict with themself can most definitely fit the bill; despite not wanting to expose himself to more suffering Rory still aims to become a Huntsman and is the first to leap in and take hits so his allies don't have to, whereas Maria (despite being an overall cold and calculating person) is not cruel or senselessly malicious. Creating the potential for what I call "the unresolved why" is a big part of making characters that are not only interesting but genuinely seem to readers like they could be real people.
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Beacon Student: Rory Vogel, "The Scarlet Shield" ~ 1st Year, Team VCVS

Shade Student: Sean Acacia, "Grenadier" ~ 1st Year


Beacon Teacher / Experimental Botanist: Dr. Budonoki Sophos, Medical & Wilderness Specialist

Baker / Retired Huntsman: Alec Chadwick, owner of 'Fabled Goods' bakery

Pirate / Freelancer: Captain Cordell of the Red Corsair ~ Available For Hire!

Mercenary / Infiltrator: Micah Sere AKA "Prowler" ~ Danger, Avoid If Possible

Mercenary / Infiltrator: Maria Sanguine AKA "Bloody Mary" ~ Underworld operative, "The Lady of a Thousand Faces"


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Re: Designing Characters
« Reply #4 on: June 12, 2018, 10:36:09 AM »
My rwby character have mostly been based around a theme or, in the case of Lily, a single image. When I made Merlettta, I had this idea of a solitary weaponsmith with a troubled past. I used that with some inspiration from horror and stealth games to create a smoke based hundreds with attachment issues. As I started to use her in threads I started to flesh her out more and more, kind of a character growth based around who she was at the core. For Blair, I wanted to do a more regal person but still wanted her to be down to earth and slightly inexperienced with the modem world. I always found fish out of water stories fasinating, it was using that and some Norse myth and culture that I centered around a character who was the daughter of someone important but knew little of the world outside her villiage. And with my current experiment, while still not fully accepted due to minor oversights in my part, I was thinking of someone who relies on nothing but tech. I think we all try to start from some basis but we end up in different places
Merletta Yoru: The Shadow Hunter
Liliana Blossom: The Maven of Song (Team REBL)
Lady Blair Valka of Felwinter "The Lady of the North
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Re: Designing Characters
« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2018, 09:52:25 PM »
I made Billy Bone out of spite. She's the most fun character I've ever had the pleasure of making!
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Re: Designing Characters
« Reply #6 on: June 23, 2018, 12:15:40 PM »
Before I made my characters starting from an image or a pre-existing character and reinvented it, giving a new personality and backstory that I thought could fit the original design. They never were very original though, even if fun to use.
After two or three characters made this way I shifted to starting from a core concept, or a goal that the character had to have. From there I created a backstory and consequently the rest.

With Rwby, given that the semblance is a manifestation of the soul and, consequently, of the personality and motivation of the character, I decided to start from the personality of the character. Once I decide on the personality I try to find some kind of semblance that his coherent with that. For example, Mogan is afraid of responsibilities and tries to delay and postpone his work, is secretly very insecure and afraid of failure. So his semblance is a gamble that increases the consequences of his actions and forces him to take risks if he wants to use it.
Mogan Treehouse - Beacon Student Third Year

Shoko-La Bitter - Mercenary and Hitman

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Re: Designing Characters
« Reply #7 on: June 23, 2018, 02:08:12 PM »
I'm currently in a creative writing exercise of just pumping out as many unique semblance as I can in my Google docs so my current process is taking a semblance and figuring out how it would fit a character, what it says about their personality, etc. and then from that, figure out combat behavior, weapons, maybe history. For a recent example...

I've got a semblance that essentially boils down to them being able to create aura shades of people who pass away in their presence, basically pseudo-necromancy. Now, the obvious connection is necromancy=bad guy, but what does this say about his personality? How did this semblance get awakened? Well, maybe his ability to temporarily "revive" the dead is born from him not being able to let go of loss or guilt, he has an extremely hard time letting go, he'd do acything to see someone he loved one more time, maybe. Okay, if that's what he's like, how might this have awakened? A pretty obvious and not bad idea is that it was awakened when he watched a loved one die, but who? Parents or childhood friends are good but a tad cliché, aren't they? Why not take it to a smaller, more realistic scope, maybe he was a student at Beacon, maybe his semblance has been unlocked for a while but there's never been a chance for it to actually show itself. Maybe he was on his first team mission, or even one further down the road when they don't have a teacher supervising, where one of his teammates who he looked up to, respected, maybe even loved but never knew about his feelings gets fatally wounded and passes away and, in a moment of panic, his semblance activates.

Now skip ahead, how does this paint his world view, not only watching someone he loved die but then seeing them come back and then disappear again since his semblance isn't permenant? Would he feel a sense of closure, would he feel the world is cruel for forcing him to watched those around him die only to see them again and watch them leave a second time, or would he see this as a power that he can use to amass power and become strong? Or, maybe, all three. Of course he feels that closure, seeing the person he loved once more and being able to confess everything even if they can't *really* hear him or respond because it's not really them. He feels the world is cruel despite this because if anyone dies around him, even if he doesn't activate his semblance, he can still feel the aura inside of him, alien and lost and, depending on his belief, maybe he thinks he's keeping them from getting into heaven or hell. He feels this is a way to amass power, anyone he feels is a "bad guy" who dies around him give him the chance to use their power for good or at least his version of it. Three things that can contradict each other but still exist in the same person because they're only human and even if they try to be one thing, the other thoughts will still always be in the back of his head.

So what would his weapon be like? If he turns into someone that kills those around him to gain their power it would be something quick and clean. Easy kills, minimal damage to the body and soul. If he turns into someone who simply takes from those around him, he could focus on anti-grimm weapons and let his shades do his human fighting for him.

Once you figure out one thing you can usually take some part of that thing and extrapolate it to figure out the rest of the character naturally.
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