Jun 29

FOLD: MORE ON CHARACTER

[Workshop and art by Avi Kendrick, YWP]

SAYING HELLO


Welcome to Character Creation!

When creating a character, you are creating a person. This makes something that seems so simple actually very complicated. In this playlist, you will learn how to create a character.

As you go through the XP’s, you are going to be adding elements together to create a character, which you will use in the final project. You can repeat this process to create a second or third character later on if you need it for your final project.
Beginnings
Everyone’s method for character creation is a bit different, but it is typical to start with the basics. Below is a list describing your character’s physical characteristics. You should try to fill this out as much as you can, keeping in mind that your character is in the baby stages, and is likely going to change. Even if you don’t know the exact answer to one of the categories, you should be able to write in the rough estimates.

For example, you’ll probably know that they are tall and have a heavy build, not that they are 6’2” and 187 lbs. The name might not come to you right away, or you might cycle through a few different names before you find the right one, or you might start with the name, and that’s all okay.

The Basics:
Age
Name
Gender
Pronouns
Height
Body type
Race
Eye Color
Hair color
Hairstyle
Other basic physical descriptors
Closing Activity
Fill out this character sheet for a character you are designing. Post the details you have outlined here, and a short explanation of what story your character will be used in. If you do not have a story for your character yet, that is alright, just be sure to say that.

Extension: Do an initial sketch of your character to go along with the descriptors you shared above.
From Here
From here you will continue along the rest of the XPs in this playlist, which are listed below in a specific order.

Building up
Research
The Mary Sue
The Character of It

BUILDING UP

RESEARCH


Despite the boring name of this XP, this is probably the most important part of creating your character. Throughout the creation process, you will want to be researching the attributes of your character. This creates a believable element to your character, and will allow you a new level of understanding when writing their actions.
Timing
You might want to do your research into a culture, religion, disability, etc. before you even begin creating your character. This is most suggested, because it will inform the rest of your character’s personality and physical features.

You might happen to do your research halfway through, after realizing that your character has x characteristic that you do not know very much about. This might change what you have already decided on, or it might add to it.

You might also do your research after having completed a majority of your character creation. This is not suggested if you know you need to do research ahead of time, because it can drastically change the outcome of your character.

For example, you might have gone through the entire planning knowing your character is bisexual, but almost all the way through realized you needed to do a little bit more research into how bisexuality works. After your research, you might realize that your character has had a non-binary partner in the past, that they have struggled to explain their sexuality to their parents (who they otherwise get along very well with, creating a new level of frustration), and that their sister refuses to talk to them until they have “chosen”, which then caused your character to feel envy to their best friend, who gets along very well with his sister. It is amazing, but after just a little bit of research, a character's entire backstory can change, not to mention their physical appearance.
Setting
While you are doing your research, you might want to look into the location of your character. It might seem unrelated to character creation, but knowing a character’s setting is very important. A character who lives in a very cold climate will have had very different life experiences from a character who lives next to a tropical forest.
Closing Activity
Do a bit of research into an aspect of your character that you do not know very well. This can be anything from where they live to their religious beliefs. Let us know how that changes your understanding of them, if it does at all.

Extension: Go back through the previous XP's and re-fill out the character sheets, and attach them here.

BUILDING UP


Once you have an idea of what your character looks like, it is important to begin understanding who they are. Keep in mind that your character is in their baby stages, and may end up looking/being completely differently than you originally planned. That’s totally okay!
Begin fleshing out the details of your character. Explore their current personality, and what made them that way. Look at their past, figure out their relationships. If you can, find what their fears are, and what their hopes are. The important thing to keep in mind is that you might never share the majority of this information with the rest of the world, but you now understand the ins and outs of your character well enough to slip into their head when you write.

It can be helpful to fill out a worksheet similar to what you did in the first XP, which could look something like the following:

What is their educational level?
What is their relationship to their parents?
Sibling(s)?
Who is their family?
What do they live in?
Do they have religious beliefs?
How much money do they have?
What kind of job do they have?
What do they keep in their pockets?
How do they dress?
What are their friends like?
How do they walk?
Do they fall into an archetype?
Quirks?
Clothing type?
What keeps your character calm?
What is your character's temperament?
Etc.
Closing Activity
Fill out the above list. If you want, find your own character reference sheet online and fill it out as well. Post all the details you have just created for the character you started in the last XP.

Extension: sketch your character, including any extra physical features you created for them during this XP.

THE MARY SUE


What is a Mary Sue?
A Mary Sue is a character the author has created who is essentially perfect in every way, being smart, funny, pretty, and likeable to the point of being annoying. A Mary Sue (or, as a male character is occasionally called, Gary Stu -though Mary Sue is acceptable for male characters as well) starts from very humble beginnings, and through the ability of special powers/circumstances is able to save the day almost single-handedly. A Mary Sue is often a character that is created as an author insert, or fictionalized, flawless version of the author. These characters are very two dimensional, and you should try to avoid writing them.

It can be surprising how many characters out there are Mary Sues. There will be no examples of Mary Sues in this post, however, because one person's Mary Sue is another person's heroic character. There are many examples of Mary Sues online, however, so feel free to look for examples if you want to.
Pesky Relations
A lot of Mary Sues will be almost impossibly related to some other character(s). The classic Mary Sue will be your villain's daughter, or the hero’s sister. This is not forbidding you from making your characters related to other characters, because there is more to a Mary Sue than just being related to another character (after all, in Star Wars, Leia’s relation to Darth Vader and Luke does not necessarily make her a Mary Sue).

Your character would have to exhibit some of the other qualities listed below to be considered a Mary Sue.
Being Flawless Certainly is a Flaw
Another characteristic of a Mary Sue is that they will be entirely without realistic flaws. Your characters should have flaws, such as anxiety, blindness, or vanity that will impede their ability to do everything. No one is flawless. If your character is flawless, they become unrealistic and far too unbelievable. They will become annoying to the reader if there is nothing to stop them from doing everything, because there will be nothing for the reader to personally connect to.
A New Challenge
New things should be a challenge. Your character, who has never touched a bow in their life, should not be able to pick it up and suddenly shoot a bullseye, they should have to struggle for a while first (unless it was a one-time fluke, of course). There is a balance in this area, though.

If your character happens to do nothing other than art, it is not unrealistic for them to pick up a new medium fairly easily. You would not expect this same character to be able to suddenly pick up the trumpet and serenade someone and then run a marathon after never running a race in their life, though.

Your character should have challenges and things that they struggle with. This will make them believable, and far more interesting.
Closing Activity
Look at the character you have been creating in this Playlist. Are they a Mary Sue? If you think they are, give them some flaws and challenges. Add some realism to them. If they aren't, tell us why this is so. If you aren't sure, explain what traits make you wonder if your character is a Mary Sue or not.