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Every story has at least one character, otherwise there would not be a story because there would be nothing that you could relate to, gain some insight in how to resolve issues portrayed in the story, or to get a few thrills. Oddly what draws a reader into a story are the same reasons why people take interest in real life events and other people. What is a character in its truest sense? A character is a fictional person that is a believable member of society, and must be treated that way in order for you and your audience to acknowledge his or her existence. In order to know the character well enough to craft a sensible story, you must know him or her externally, learn more about him or her based on what you envision him or her doing, and pretend you are the character in order to rationalize the causes of his or her current behavior and appearance. There is a worksheet attached to the back that you should fill out to keep track of the details of your character.

The first questions about a character should be the same questions you wonder about people you do not know, except for one that needs to be asked for any character: why does he or she exist? Is it to send a message, fill in gaps in your fictional society, or to fulfill a fantasy that was floating around in your head?  Whatever the reason is, be truthful when you write your character's purpose because failing to do so will result in a horrible self-insert or cardboard cutout. Now that you gave your character a purpose, give him or her a name. As long as you have a name for your character, it will ensure that you know him or her on a personal basis. The location the character currently is and where he or she was raised is important to keep in mind, even though it may seem to you that place adds nothing when making a character. Considering the places the character has been, determine the character's appearance, age, gender, and species. Either write down a short description of how he or she looks or draw the character. How does his or her outward appearance contribute to his or her purpose, you ask? The appearance of a person tells loads about him or her, which is where we will be working on next.

After you get your first impression about your character, delve into his or her mind a little deeper. Think about what abilities or talents your character might pick up due to the purpose you gave him or her and the setting he or she resides. For instance, giving a person the ability to banish vampires serves no purpose in a tale where there are no vampires. Next, imagine the first few words and actions that you can see the character doing. The first impression you get from your character should be the first bit of words you write down about how a stranger will feel about your character, as this is how your audience will see him or her. From these actions, you can also draw conclusions about your character's morals. In the instance of a sentient man-eating being that picks up whoever he or she feels like eating, does this person put his or her needs above others greatly just because he or she can eat people? Write down your inference. With your information on him or her as an outsider, it is now time to step into your character's shoes and flesh him or her out as a full-fledged being.

In the final stage of making your character, it is imperative you thoroughly know your character. Every person is an individual, and your character is not exempt from that. Look back at the talents and abilities you gave your character and think about how your character feels about using his or her talents and abilities in relation to personality.  To illustrate this further, a math geek might be good at math because he or she finds it fun. The basics of social interactions do not change when shifting locations. Knowing social dynamics is a valuable aid when making your character's past believable, which influences the character's personality and values. A brutal example of this in reality is the fact a child raised in an abusive family is more likely to be an abusive parent. If you are unsure of how a certain situation in your head would work out, research at least one real life incident related to your fictional scenario and obtain the information you need. The final ingredient to make the character a true being is to imbue him or her with strengths and weaknesses. I saved this step for last because writing down the strengths and weaknesses early on will tempt you to craft your character around these two, forcing them to be a caricature of the being he or she can truly be. The other reason I left this step for last is because now you have obtained enough information about your character to see their strengths and weaknesses. Giving a character no strengths and all weaknesses and vice versa will only show the audience your fantasies.

When you follow all of the procedures, the result is a being that is almost real, no matter what story genre you place your creation. If you think your character is still unrealistic, be sure to remember what you think makes him or her unrealistic and discuss these issues with anyone interested in helping you. You might have to go through the creation steps again, but if a captivating character is what you are aiming for, the blood, sweat, and tears you shed will be well worth it.
Before any of you ask where the mystical sheet is, it is at the bottom of this. Anyway...
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A simple tutorial on how to design captivating (and non Mary-Sue) characters that I wrote up. Everything is in simple terms...so...hopefully everyone understands it :) (my professor loved this :P, also my first full tutorial). Any concerns, questions, and new characters created using this method should be posted in the comments :) I would love to hear from you.
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Character Worksheet the Tutorial mentions (either copypaste the text below or create a text file in this format):
Purpose:________________________________________ ______________________
Name:________________________________________ ________________________
Age:______ Species:_____________________ Gender (circle one): M F N/A
Current Location:________________________________________ ________________

Appearance (you may draw what your character looks like): ______________________
________________________________________ ________________________________________ ________________________________________ ________________________________________ ________________________________________ __________
Abilities or Talents (include explanations):_____________________________________
________________________________________ ________________________________________ ________________________________________ ________________________________________ ________________________________________ __________
Weaknesses (include explanations):________________________________________ _
________________________________________ ________________________________________ ________________________________________ ________________________________________ ________________________________________ __________
Personality:________________________________________ ____________________
Morals:________________________________________ ________________________________________ ________________________________________ ______________
Quirks:________________________________________ ________________________________________ ________________________________________ ________________________________________ ________________________________________ ________________________________________ __________________________________
History (you may attach additional sheets):____________________________________
________________________________________ ______________________________
________________________________________ ________________________________________ ________________________________________ ________________________________________ ________________________________________ ________________________________________ ________________________________________
________________________________________ ______________________________
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:iconthatonedude236:
thatonedude236 Featured By Owner Oct 27, 2009
Well done! Not only good for writers but artists as well! Very nicely detailed and exlained thoroughly.
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:iconshadowkyogre:
ShadowKyogre Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you. I intended it to be that way because there needs to be a general tutorial for designing characters for stories in general, as stories can be told in more than one format ;)
Reply
:iconabyss134:
Abyss134 Featured By Owner Oct 27, 2009
I think you did a great job with breaking down the complex idea of character analysis. The piece flowed well and I think this will help artists, both experienced and fresh, with developing and making their characters better.
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:iconshadowkyogre:
ShadowKyogre Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
;) Thank you very much. How's it helped you so far btw? :meow:
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:iconabyss134:
Abyss134 Featured By Owner Oct 30, 2009
In general, I think the piece has really opened my eyes to see that I really need to try and make my characters more dimensional and not so straight forward. Every time I read I get a new gem to use for my writing.
Reply
:iconfistoffenris:
FistOfFenris Featured By Owner Oct 27, 2009  Hobbyist Writer
Ah! A character journal! I can't resist, I'm going to have to try this one out. Oh, and if you don't mind I'm going to link a friend.

Purpose: Protagonist, symbol of endurance
Name: Jack Wolffe.
Age:50ish Species:Genetically spliced Wolf Man
Gender (circle one): M
Current Location: Monx, Sariel. (Formerly Sacremento, California)

Appearance (you may draw what your character looks like):
Very much fit. He looks like he's been through a lot maybe worked out and at the same time lived out in the wild. He's got a dark shade of gray that looks like cement does in the shade. He normally wears concealing clothing (dark trench coat) but under that is probably in an armless shirt and jeans of some sort (Sometimes camo).

Abilities or Talents (include explanations):
Marksmanship, stealth, hand to hand (He was trained by the military but he doesn't know which program.)

Weaknesses (include explanations):
Extreme bouts of anger, he can't relate to society often. He's visited by nightmares and can't sleep, it also shakes his focus at times. He's not perfect, someone with martial arts training will probably break his defenses.

Personality: Withdrawn. He pretty much knows he's got Anti-Social Disorder meaning he can't obey the rules. He rarely opens up but mainly tries to push people away from him ever since his wife was killed.
Morals: Innocents should not be harmed if possible. Trust is just a five letter word. If your job is reprehensible, then do it and nothing more than it.
Quirks: Hallucinations, panic attacks, PTSD
History (you may attach additional sheets): After being diagnosed with a fatal genetic disorder, he was entered into a genetic splicing program meant to save his life. After the program, it seems he developed PTSD from the pain it caused him (the doctors running the experiment did not know he was in any discomfort). Also, it seemed his brain was corrupted, his head was severely messed with and his prior training by the military became his instincts. From there he went on to become a hired hit man thinking it was the only thing he could do. At some point during this time he was contacted by Monx, who had been the lead experimenter during his splicing. A few days later, he met an ex-flame (Rita) and despite not remembering her, he fell back in love and she conceived. Jack ran off after a conflict for which Monx hired him. Somewhere along his travels, he cheated on Rita and another of his kids was conceived. From there, he went home and met his son Matthias for the first time. When his son turned five, someone kidnapped both Matthias and Rita and held them hostage unless Jack gave himself up. Instead, Jack charged in only to find Rita had been drugged to repeatedly have the illusion that she was being rescued by Jack to break her will when it turned out she had not been. When Jack freed her, she took a pistol out of a holster on his chest and shot herself. Jack went on to beat the living hell out of her kidnapper, after which he burned the man alive. From there, he was banished from Sariel (Nation formed on the U.S.'s Western Border) forced to live in the U.S. During a power struggle almost twenty years later, Jack reentered Sariel under an old identity he used to use for assassinations. Matthias, who was at this point a member of the Sarielian special forces, recognized it and as Jack set up to kill the Sarielian president, Matthias came up from behind him and put a bullet in the back of his head.
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