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Submitted on
May 15, 2012


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6 tips to create a character (...kinda)

Journal Entry: Tue May 15, 2012, 9:43 AM
  • Mood: Helpful


If you go down to the woods today
You're in for a big surprise

Keep these pearls of wisdom in mind and you shall soon reach eternal bliss! :meditation:

Well technically this should be titled "DARQX' TIPS FOR CHARACTER CREATION BOOYAH" or something along those lines - emphasis on DARQX and TIPS which i almost mistyped as "tits" and that would just be incorrect :B

:icontuxedoplz: Now excuse me whilst i put on my salesperson voice...

Do you want to create a character but don't know where to start? Maybe you just need some tips for a more realistic character? Here at Darqx' easy used car character tips, we can help!

Let's begin shall we? :lol: I'll be using the Hedone High boys as my examples.

Tip #1: Hai baby, what's your concept?

If you were looking for a date this pick-up line would probably get you slapped in the face, but if you were looking to develop a character and shove them in a setting with other characters than it's a pretty handy way to begin. To put it in a longer sentence: What is the point of your character in relation to the storyline and/or other characters?

Let's take .D and Izm for example since i have this thing about creating characters in pairs. And since storylines like to kick sand in my face and make me cry (ie i suck at them) all of my characters are developed more or less in relation to each other.
Opposites but not

.D and Izm are designed to be each others foils and to complement each other in various ways - both good and bad. Izm often serves as an instigator for adventures or unwanted circumstances (even when he doesn't mean to), whilst .D is a grounding force to keep things from going too awry. Sometimes these roles reverse. Both can count on the other to have their six, even though .D acknowledges that most situations they end up in is the other boy's fault (and will hit him for it).

Tip #2: Oh yeah, I can relate...

Relatability is an important aspect of any character, as it is part of what makes your character likeable. The more people can relate to your character, the more likely they are to enjoy your characters. Plus it has an added advantage of making them seem more realistic. Your character could be a two headed cow alien hybrid from Pluto but the absurdity of that doesn't matter so much if your audience can relate to them in some way.

Some ways you can achieve relatability are through:
  • Looks (this is a pretty shallow way though)
  • Personality
  • Actions (ties in to personality)
  • Ideology (what do they think?)
  • Relation to other characters in a group dynamic


Observe the people around you to gain ideas and understanding for aspects of your character's looks, personality, emotions etc.

We'll use Marcus as an example here, with some relatable aspects highlighted:
marky-maru the little bro

Marcus is the youngest out of the main group; he's boyishly cute for a 13 year old and resonates a naive "little brother" vibe which seems to automatically endear himself to most girls ...people. He's not a fighter and most times would rather run and get help then risk getting pummelled. He wants to do the right thing by the older boys and fit in with their group dynamics. Even though they like him well enough he still gets worried about what they might think about him, and as such at times doesn't have very high self esteem.

People find they can relate to Marcus because they have probably felt or acted like him at some stage in their life or so i've been told lol

NB: It should be mentioned that just because people can relate to a character doesn't necessarily mean they have to like them. You should still try and make un-likeable characters relatable, as it keeps their motives realistic (how many villains have wanted to take over the world "just because"? At least give them some kind of logical reason, even if the logic only truly makes sense to them) and makes for interesting conflict of interests for your audience.

An example is the HH headmaster. Rire is easy on the eyes, charming and good at his job. His relatability stems mainly through cosmetic reasons as people either like how he looks or apparently have had teachers that have looked or had a similar personality. Now throw in the fact that he has paedophilic tendencies and shows some sense of favouritism towards .D and all of a sudden people are torn as they are drawn in by one aspect and repulsed by another.

Tip #3: Contextually, my dear Watson!

The circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.
Context is one of the things that helps to either make or break a character. Take these two extremely basic scenarios:
  • An 8 year old girl single-handedly defeats a small army
  • A dragon single-handedly defeats a small army
Now depending on what else we actually do with them both characters have the potential to be well rounded and interesting...but seriously just from skimming these the girl already seems a lot more Mary Sue than the dragon and will probably have less relatability.

:iconthinkingplz: Why's that?

Because of our preconceptions of what an 8 year old girl is and can do and what a dragon is and can do. It's not too much of a stretch to imagine that the dragon is possibly giant and the army was like squashing ants to it. Without knowing much about the girl (she could be the daughter of a giant cyclops for all we know), however, she just sounds like she has some super special awe inspiring Jesus Wave Mary Sue power or something.

Context affects everything. If your character reacts to something in a certain way, it will probably (or should, really) be explainable by taking things like their upbringing or past events into context. Your character dresses a certain way? Their environment and/or personality was most likely the context. Your character have bright neon pink hair? Maybe they've dyed it or your setting for them is some anime land where such hair colour is normal. Keep the context of your character in mind, and it will help to keep them believable.

Here's a simple instance of context in Hedone High:
design context

Tip #4: Get to know them

Some people can sit down and write every single nuance about their character, right down to what degree of softness they like their toilet paper to be.

Personally, i can't do this :B (but if you can all the more power to you lol.)

Consider this; when you first meet any of your soon-to-be-friends you know nothing about them. Eventually you learn their names and how to pick them out from a crowd by remembering their faces or how they dress or wear their hair. As you continue your friendship you'll find out bits and pieces about their life, what their hobbies are, whether they work, their favourite tv shows, whether they're in a relationship or not and so on and so forth. Unless you're some sort of super psychic (or Patrick Jane from The Mentalist) you can't just waltz up to a person and know what kind of toilet paper they like maybe i should ask my IRL friends this one day just to see their reactions XD

Similarly if you don't know everything about your character from the moment of conception then don't worry about it. It will come to you eventually and you should know when you have information about them that "feels right" and fits with your character. Try not to force the issue if you can help it or you may end up with something that feels a bit off, just for the sake of filling in a bit of information on a character sheet or whatever.

Example: Izm's last name has always been Tanner. Why? I have no idea, it just is :shrug: I tried to change it in my head once but nothing ever sounded as right for him as "Tanner" did.


Keep in mind your characters will probably evolve over time and so aspects of them that seemed "right" before might not seem as right several years down the track. Don't be afraid to tweak them.

Tip #5: K.I.S.S my shiny

If you are the only person in the world who can draw every aspect of your character even remotely may have overdone it :P That's not to say you can't have an interestingly designed character, but rather however they look should follow the general principles of their PERSONALITY, ENVIRONMENT and any CONTEXT that relates to them. If you seriously feel the need to drape your character with all sorts of useless artifacts and jewellery and multicolours and markings and symbols in a bid to make them "unique" or "interesting", then you haven't thought them through enough.

Keep It Simple Stupid.

Let's have a look at Desmond for this. Desmond is a party animal and probably owns at least one pair of glow-in-the-dark rave pants and keeps glowsticks on standby - which is all perfectly well and good if he's out partying but how would we portray him as such in a school setting without going overboard? Shit son, we keep it simple, that's how! :dummy:

Context: Desmond is a party animal and has a largely extroverted and pretty chill personality.
Solution: He dyes his hair (it's green at the moment) and has a bit of a punky mini-mohawk for a hairstyle. He also wears black jelly wrist bands which are/were trendy and an acceptably masculine form of jewellery, as well as pants with a side design on them as part of his uniform. Even his boots have neon coloured laces to attest to his loud personality.

Context: He's in a school setting.
Solution: He wears a school uniform like everyone else.

Context: Desmond has a little sister that he adores.
Solution: He wears a pin she gave him specifically for his vest even though it looks pretty girly. Anyone who teases him about how gay it looks will get pummelled.

desmond compares

Compare the two that i've drawn. Normal Desmond passes as he fits the contexts i've listed and his design is kinda memorable in the HH setting. Wtf!Desmond not only contradicts some of his personality aspects but he'd get kicked out of school if he went to classes dressed like that.

Now i could give you some other design tips such as "try and make them recognisable by their silhouettes alone" and "give them different facial and body features" but you know what? I'm pretty sure most of my characters suffer more or less from same-face syndrome so it would be kind of hypocritical of me to tell you things regarding those |D You could look up character design tutorials on DA or something for more in depth design tips by other people.

Tip #6: Wheel! Of! Flaw-tune!

A flaw is basically defined as an "imperfection", and in order to make your character not perfect (because seriously no one is perfect) and somewhat believable and relatable they should have some flaws. PSSH WELL DUH EVERYONE KNOWS THAT, people say, and then go off and give their characters random "flaws" like shy and childish and insert some mental illness here to give them an excuse to go batshit insane.

:iconimthinkingplz: Well sure, if you want to be like that. Here's another way to consider it:

A flaw may be just a personality trait, and a trait can become a flaw if it has largely negative impacts or consequences.

Take shyness for an example - it's usually more of a personality trait then a flaw, and although a bit embarrassing for your character if it makes them stutter talking to their love interest, it doesn't often cause significant problems and might even be endearing to people. ON THE OTHER HAND, if your character is so painfully shy that they can't step outside of their house and be amongst people or they'll have panic attacks and lash out at anyone who approaches them...then it becomes less of a trait and more of a flaw for them.

Conversely some traits are just always flaws, due to the negative perceptions we have of them. Being overly greedy, for instance, is not often considered a good or neutral personality trait.

That's all there is, there isn't any more.


There isn't too much more i can say that hasn't already been covered elsewhere (such as personality tips or colour theory or how to create names or whatever if you're in need of that sort of thing), probably with more knowledge than i could even hope to have lol!

More to the point i've run out of ideas and this seems as good a place to finish as any.

But let's recap:
  • Have a concept
  • Make them relatable
  • Put them in context
  • Get to know them
  • K.I.S.S their design
  • Are their flaws really flaws?

Keeping these things in mind when designing a character can be quite handy to make sure you don't end up with something intangible and unrealistic, or worse yet a character no one has any feelings towards (except maybe ones of "oh great another Mary Sue, moving along now").


You might have noticed i hardly covered the topic of a Mary Sue or a Gary Stu. Or at least didn't do it outright.

The thing about MS's and GS's is that they don't have to be the extreme examples given in other tutorials (where every person and their pet rock love them to death and they can do a bajillion things perfectly yadda yadda) to be considered Mary Sues. Your Plain Jane self-professed "Anti-Sue" might actually be considered a Mary Sue. Your magic girl with super powers might be a well rounded character. It all depends on how you handle their contexts and relatability. Once you start skewing or screwing around with these aspects to try and force them to fit something "awesome" about your character is when you start to have trouble.


Hopefully this has been of some help for you in terms of thinking about the things driving character creation, or has got you to look at some things differently :)

If not well then i hope you've enjoyed the pictures instead lol.

Add a Comment:
Havrrics Featured By Owner Jun 7, 2012
This was actually really good! It has me churning the gears in my head for the story I'm concocting! I would like your help deciding format though. Should I make it a written story (I'm not all that good at writing though), or a webcomic type of thing?
Darqx Featured By Owner Jun 8, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I think it's mainly up to what you feel like you'll enjoy doing the most. :)
EmeyTroi Featured By Owner Jun 1, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This. It is just what I needed!
I really need to stop pushing my characters and their stories into a context I think they should be in... it always ends up going better when I let them flow on their own. =u=" And the "flaw" part was extremely helpful! I'm always having trouble with characters that seem too much alike or just too... cliche with their flaws and I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong! So that helped a lot (aka BING lightbulb!).
Thanks Darqx~
Darqx Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I'm glad you could find it useful :) And yeah it's usually better to let them take charge rather than try and mould - it can be annoying though, especially when you want them to do something and they adamantly refuse to work in that context lol :XD:
ZeroInformalities Featured By Owner May 25, 2012  Student General Artist
Faving this immediately after commenting and restarting song! It's DECIDED!

This helped a lot but I have a question about the last one, I'm confused. How exactly would you go about giving someone a flaw. Do you mind giving an example since I suck bananas at making questions? :iconpoutplz:

Thanks! And I love this! I really do and might put it to work in a minute! -Changes song, favs and runs to design-
Darqx Featured By Owner May 26, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
A character flaw is essentially an aspect of your character's personality that can be seen as less than ideal :) It's something that makes your character not perfect. For instance you can think about the people in your life and consider the quirks about them that you don't like or that annoy you - those are character flaws.

Some possible character flaws include things like: close-mindedness, selfishness, anger issues, egoism, recklessness (and acting before thinking) etc.

The point for the last tip was that sometimes there is a tipping point for when a trait becomes a flaw, depending on how such a trait negatively affects them/their life/the people around them.
ZeroInformalities Featured By Owner May 28, 2012  Student General Artist
There were a lot of words that my mind didn't want to process so loves you. I think I currently get what you're working towards and I thank you MUCHO for the explanation! :iconnomglompplz: Now that I think about it, I can see "flaws" in things people do (I don't want to be rude and say they are wrong per say). So, thanks again and here's a hug! :tighthug:
Darqx Featured By Owner May 29, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
No problem :)

Aha yeah that doesn't necessarily mean they are wrong, just that you yourself don't like that aspect about them. Like for instance i might not like something someone does because i think they are overly judgemental, whereas someone else might have the same view point as them and think they're correct about it.
ZeroInformalities Featured By Owner May 29, 2012  Student General Artist
Exactly where I wanted to go with that! The help was much appeciated! :iconninjaglompplz:
TheMangaNinja Featured By Owner May 19, 2012  Student General Artist
Yay! This is going to come in handy for my webcomic! *faves journal* Good thing I don't have work on the weekends anymore, I have reading material now to work with since Mother Nature cursed my insides.... :iconsickplz:
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