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Character Creation Academy

Welcome

Welcome to the Character Creation Academy! Here, you will learn in-depth how to craft memorable, well-developed characters from scratch. Taught by the academy's top professors, each lesson explains the different aspects of character creation - from personality, backstory, appearance, and more. Each lesson will provide you with a deeper understanding of character creation, and the importance of character development.

What is character development and why is it important?

Character development is the process of creating a three-dimensional character with a layered personality and clear motives. Character development is important because it provides the reader with clear sense of a character's motivations, values, and a deeper appreciation of the significance story. Like humans, fictional characters have values, fears, obsessions, hobbies, and relationships; without these traits, your character and their story have no impact. In summary, character development is the ability to clearly understand and articulate all aspects of your character's personality, values, history, etc., while being in synchronization with their actions, to be fully equipped to judge their reactions and motives.

Big Al's Class: Backstory

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Big Al

Hey, there! I’m Big Al, and I’ll be teaching you all 'bout creating a unique backstory for your character.

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Big Al

Awesome sauce! Let’s get started, pal.
What is backstory? Essentially, it is the background of a character. It is a formative mesh of experiences that have shaped a character's motives, persona, and values. In this lesson, Big Al will teach you how to craft an original, dimensional backstory for your character.
  • Avoid Cliches: Avoid over-used cliches in a character's backstory. Unless properly executed - which is rare - filling a backstory with overused cliches lacks originality, and comes across as dry. To avoid accidentally running into a cliche conundrum, here is a certified list of cliche examples to steer clear of.
Big Al says: Your character's backstory is where ya should be most creative! Have fun coming up with out of the box ideas.
  • Originality: Originality is key to crafting a memorable, dimensional backstory. Foremost in building an original backstory, deviate from overused cliches (as mentioned in depth above) and remain authentic to your character's current state. Secondly, draw on personal experiences (or others') to craft a meaningful history, and to better understand your character's desires. Lastly, your character's backstory should correlate with their current state, and exemplify their desires, obsessions, values, fears, and personality.
Big Al says: If you're having trouble being creative, try drawing experiences from real life and weaving them into your character's backstory.
  • Relevancy is Key: How has your character's past contributed to their present state? For example, if your character is always in a happy mood which past events could have shaped their optimistic attitude? Perhaps they had a carefree childhood, with lax attention; their parents could have consistently supported their dreams and uplifted them; they could have a bright imagination, and it only grew from encouragement by their parents. Drawing on a character's past experiences, and how they relate to their current state, creates relevance and adds realistic dimension to a character.
  • Jot it Down: To begin your character's backstory, start by jotting down brief blurbs of their life, starting from their childhood to onward. These blurbs should only be about a sentence in length. The goal was this exercise is to break down large events into concise sentences, which get to the heart of the character. Once you have a small timeline, you can connect certain events, edit out unnecessary details, and relate events back to your character's current state.
  • Simple Doesn’t Mean Bland: Even a simple, uneventful backstory can induce intrigue and craft a dimensional character. To develop interest, and craft a refreshing story, pair a simplistic backstory with originality, and realistic struggles that force your character to evolve. For example, Big Al was raised on a small farm in Missouri. When his family suddenly moved their homemade jam business to the big city, and left behind everything they had ever known, it was a monumental change that Big Al struggled to cope with at first. He a hard time adjusting to his new lifestyle, and with his parents' business struggling, Big Al thought his family had made a mistake. In time, Big Al gained confidence from his parents, witnessing their optimism and hopefulness; they were determined to succeed. Eventually, he learned to enjoy the city, making new friends and memories, and his parents' jam business only continued to thrive. Big Al's struggle was adjusting to city life, and not seeing the positives of a new situation. This experience changed him by teaching him the importance of looking on the bright side of a dark situation, and that with enough positive attitude and hard work, anything is achievable.
Big Al says: Your character's goals and struggles can also change 'em in a negative way! But make sure they change negatively for the right reasons.

When it comes to your character's backstory, be original, and step outside your comfort zone. Here are Big Al's main takeaways from this lesson:

  • Be original
  • Avoid cliches
  • Give your character goals and realistic struggles
  • Simple doesn’t mean bland

Professor Flea's Class: Dialogue

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Professor Flea

Mah name is Flea - but tat's Professor Flea to yu! In mah class, yu'll be learnin' all 'bout character dialogue. What is tat, yu say? Well, if ya shut yer trap, yu'll learn!

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Professor Flea

All right! Let’s start with ta basics! What is dis character dialogue nonsense, and why is it so impor'ant?
Why is character dialogue important? Although it is commonly overlooked, a character's dialogue speaks volumes about their upbringing, their speech, and their persona. It lends them a distinct sound, which distinguishes from other characters. Professor Flea is will teach you everything about character dialogue.
  • Catchphrases Galore: Adding catchphrases into your character's dialogue quickly sets them apart, crafting unique and recognizable dialogue which is immediately associated with that character. To set their catchphrases apart from the rest, consider crafting original catchphrases for your character. Your character can throw catchphrases into their everyday speech, or purely occasinally; for example, when they're particularly upset.
Professor Flea says: Give yer character their own "flare" by usin' yer own, made-up catchphrases. Be original!
  • Accents: An accent correlates to a character's upbringing, homeland, and status. As a writer, it is important to convey a character's accent in a way that is respectable to its origins; simply put, forget all traditional notions of grammar and spelling, and immerse yourself fully in your character's accent. Write their dialogue in a way that reflects their accent, and pronunciation of words. Professor Flea, for example, has a deep southern accent. Notice the unique way he pronounces the words me, the, and my? By simply changing around the words, his accent is more believable and realistic.
Professor Flea says: Rilly experiment with dis! Dig deep. Study yer character's accent, an' have fun figurin' out how deh'd speak wit it!
  • Tone: Another way to dress-up a character's speech is providing them with a specific tone. In dialogue, your character's tone is important. It conveys their emotions, and puts meaning behind their words. For example, in Professor Flea's speech, he uses an excessive amount of exclamation points, indicating that he is loud, and perhaps irritable.
Professor Flea says: Step out o' yer comfort zone wit dis one! Really dive into yer character!

Darling Rose's Class: Personality

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Darling Rose

Bonjour, dah-ling! I am Dah-ling Rose! Today, I will teach-eng you all about person-ahlity! Somezing I have a lot of...

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Darling Rose

Let us begin, dahling!
As the backbone of any character, it is important they have a well-developed, detailed, and well-rounded persona. Darling Rose is an expert in the field of personality development, and she will teach you the basics of crafting the perfect persona.
  • History: A character's backstory is essential to crafting well-developed, dynamic personality. Darling Rose recommends creating a new character with their backstory before all else. It allows their personality to develop naturally through events, and develop realistically. If in the beginning your character's personality is not coming through the way you had envisioned, zero in on major events that have directly contributed to your character's current state. For example, Darling Rose is arrogant and vain. From her childhood, she was spoiled and coddled, which contributed to her egotistical mentality, and fostered arrogance.
Darling Rose says: Big Al tahlked all about creating a memorable, and reahlistic backstore eahliar!
  • Strengths & Weaknesses: A well-rounded character has both equal strengths and weaknesses. As a general rule, a character's weaknesses should be as consequential - if not more - as their strengths. For example, we will use a character with a strength in peacemaking, and a weakness in swimming. Compared to their strength, swimming is an inconsequential weakness, as it does not directly conflict their ability as a peacemaker. An appropriate weakness would be avoids conflict. Although the character is good at maintaining the peace, they shy away from conflict, even when most confrontational situations would benefit from their peacemaking abilities.

There is an exception to the rule of equal strengths and weaknesses, and that is: A character might have a few extra weaknesses than strengths, but never a greater amount of strengths. A character's strengths and weaknesses should be well-balanced and realistic. An important aspect of character creation is maintaining a realistic, open-minded mindset. Question whether your character's personality would hold strong in actuality. Is their personality is tangible? In other words, is it balanced and deep enough to seem real.

Darling Rose says: Here’s your homewerk, dah-ling! Make a list of three well-balanced, and realistic strengths ahnd weaknesses for your character.
  • Mannerisms: Giving your character unique mannerisms and idiosyncrasies (such as a tic, a catchphrase, communication style, etc) creates depth and realism. These realistic qualities can be drawn from your own, or others'. It is important to use mannerisms sparingly, and selectively; they should stem from a character's personality. Darling Rose recommends attributing these broad mannerisms to any character: A walking style, a tic, and common gestures. As your character develops, mannerisms may evolve.
  • Different Traits Shine Through: As humans do, through various interactions a fictional character will carry a varied persona. Around close family, they are witty and warm; yet, around those that are unfamiliar with, they are withdrawn and cold. Through each interaction, a character will react differently, and shift their persona based upon their company. Though an overlooked aspect of character creation, it is a vital, and realistic method to create depth and dimension in any character.
Darling Rose says: I treat everhyone as if zey were mei clozest friends! And besides, everyone loves me, no?
  • Q&A: To dive deeper into your character's mind, host a rapid-fire questionnaire, drilling your character with random inquires - both personal, and impersonal. This exercise is meant to equip you with a broader understanding of your character's emotions, values, thought process, and problem-solving skills. Darling Rose has provided you with a few questions to ask your character:
  1. What is your favorite memory and why?
  2. If you could change one thing about your past, what would it be?
  3. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
  4. What is your biggest pet peeve and why?
  5. What is your favorite hobby?
  6. Do you believe in fate? Why or why not?
  7. What does happiness mean to you?

When it comes to your character's personality, it’s all about keeping things balanced. Here are Darling Rose's main takeaways from this lesson:

  • Weaknesses must be as consequential as strengths
  • Hone in on past events
  • Add distinctive mannerisms that are creative and fun

Fidgety Fig's Class: Appearance

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Fidgety Fig

Yo, what’s up? I’m Fidgety Fig, Today I’m gonna be teaching you all about creating a unique look for you character! Sounds sick, right?

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Fidgety Fig

Rock on, rock on!
A character's appearance tells a lot about them and their past. It’s important that it is unique and recognizable, with distinguishable attributes. Former rockstar, actress, bestselling author, and style icon Fidgety Fig is here to assist with stylizing your character.
  • Be Ironic: An "ironic" appearance - an appearance in which a character's persona humorously contradicts their appearance - creates interest, and depth in a character. As an example, Big Al's appearance is ironic. Big Al is a huge Great Dane, and from a first glance, he appears a little intimidating; yet, in reality, he is extremely genuine and kind-hearted, which directly contradicts his huge stature.
Fidgety Fig says: Yo, that Big Al is a big ol' sweetheart! Ironic appearances are so sick.
  • Accessories: Accessories are a wonderful way to embellish a character's appearance and create interest. For accessories that are unique, and authentic to your character, consider creating an adornment with a special meaning behind it. For example, Fidgety Fig wears a special necklace during photoshoots and interviews that her mother gave her. She believes it to be good luck.
Fidgety Fig says: Yo, be totally creative with this, man! Personally, I’d suggest giving your character some sick leather boots.
  • Simple Doesn’t Mean Bland: As Big Al stated, "even a simple, uneventful backstory can make for an excellent character," and the same sentiment holds true for a character's appearance. When creating a character with a modest design, focusing on the small details - such as accessories, scars, etc. - is important, because they stand out dramatically against a comparatively simple design. With a few simple touches, a small detail can instantly create a more recognizable character. For example, Fidgety Fig's design is fairly simple, but her iconic, multi-colored eyeshadow stands out, making her character recognizable.
Fidgety Fig says: Speaking of eyeshadow, I’ve got a sick new makeup pallet coming out soon!

When it comes to your character's appearance, it is all in the details. Here are Fidgety Fig's main takeaways from this leeson:

  • Irony is key
  • Be original
  • Have fun with accessories
  • Simple is best

Asher's Class: Naming

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Asher

Hey, sugar, what’s poppin'? The name's Asher, and I’ll be teaching you all 'bout naming your character.

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Asher

All righty, sweet stuff, let’s get started!

When it comes to your character's name, it can be difficult to find the perfect one. It is important that their name is meaningful and unique, and with a million different names to choose from, it can be difficult to decide on just one. But do not worry, because Asher is here to teach you how to find the perfect name for your character.

  • Special Meaning: The meaning behind a character's name is equally as important as the name itself. The meaning behind their name could reflect their appearance, their personality, etc. Also, their name could stem from a late relative, such as Asher's, in honor of his late grandfather. The sky is truly the limit; it's important to be creative.
Asher says: Be creative with this, sweet stuff. Before naming your character, try looking up some names and their meanings.
  • Appearance: Another important aspect to consider when choosing a name for your character is their appearance. Your character's name can fully embody their appearance, like Big Al's does, or subtly hint at it, like Lottie Mae's (the meaning behind her name is tiny, and feminine).
Asher says: Okay, Big Al isn’t his real name, right? Right?... Poor guy.
  • Simple Doesn’t Mean Bland: Both Big Al and Fidgety Fig mentioned it, and it is worth mentioning again: Simple does not mean bland. However, it is important to note that when giving a character a comparatively "unoriginal" name, significance is important (Asher discusses "special meanings" in more detail above). As an example, Asher's otherwise "unoriginal" name is special because of the meaning behind it, which is that it was his late grandfather's name.
Asher says: Hey, sugar, be as creative as you’d like with this. Your character's name should be special, right?
  • Generators: If you are still having trouble finding the perfect name for your character, it is always fine to resort to a simple character name generator. There are plenty of wonderful name generators at your disposal (Asher recommends this one), all with perfectly original, meaningful names. Name generators are also a perfect way to find inspiration for your character.
Asher says: Yeahhh, name generators are dope; super easy and accessible. I wonder if... hm. Nevermind.

When it comes to your character's name, it is all about making it significant, and original. Here are Asher's main takeaways from this lesson:

  • Consider your character's appearance
  • Put a special meaning behind the name
  • Don't be afraid to research

Lottie Mae's Class: Development Exercises

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Lottie Mae

Hey there, peaches! I’m Lottie Mae. On this fine day, I’ll be givin' you some mighty fine developmental exercises for your character!

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Lottie Mae

Lord-ee, character creation just butters my biscuit!

If you are having trouble getting acquainted with your character, do not fret: World-renowned writer and character development expert Lottie Mae will help you with her tried and true developmental exercises.

  • Scenarios: To become better acquainted with your character and their motives, run them through a series of different scenarios. Scenarios are a wonderful way to dive deeper into a character's mindset. Lottie Mae has a few scenarios prepared for you:
  1. Would you tell a lie to avoid punishment/getting in trouble, or confess and own up to the consequences? What's your reasoning?
  2. Your house is on fire, and you only have time to save one possession. What would it be? And why?
  3. Someone you were extremely close to (a relative, good friend, etc) just passed away. How do you cope with the loss?
  4. A friend desperately needs your help, but your schedule is swamped. Do you make time to help them, or tell them you’re too busy? What are your feelings about this situation?
Lottie Mae says: Lights, camera, action! Running characters through different scenarios is much like filming a movie, isn’t it? This is by far my favorite way to develop characters!
  • Interaction: Take your character on a "test drive" by having them interact with other characters, via roleplay. Interacting with others is the best, and most effective way to better understand a character, and to fine-tune any aspects of their personality.
Lottie Mae says: I recommend having your character interact with a multitude of different personalities, to see how they react, and adapt!
  • Q&A: Another way to efficiently dive into your character's mindset is by drilling them with a series of questions. Darling Rose mentioned this developmental technique in her class, and has provided you with a few sample questions.
Lottie Mae says: Askin' your characters a round of thought-provoking questions is a dandy way to dig deep into their deeest emotions! Darling Rose covers this exercise in a lil' more depth in her class.

Erwin

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Erwin

Hoi! I’m Erwin, the current dean of the Character Creation Academy. Thank you for stopping by the academy, and I hope our classes helped you with your character creation journey. If you enjoyed this guide, be sure to leave a positive comment below! Thank you.

Character Reference Sheet

The Character Creation School teachers have put together a "character reference sheet" for your personal usage! This reference sheet is perfect for keeping a character's important information organized, in an easy-to-read, concise format. Simply copy the reference sheet, and paste it into the space you will be writing in (a blogpost, sandbox, document, etc).

Please credit Geraniumm when using this reference sheet.

The Basics

  • Character Name:
  • Reason Behind Name:
  • Age:
  • Birth Date:
  • Birth Place:
  • Zodiac:
  • Sex:
  • Sexuality:
  • Current Residence:

Speech

  • Common Catchphrases:
  • Accent:
  • Voice Likeness:
  • Speech:

Mannerisms

  • Walking Style:
  • Tics:
  • Pet Peeves:

Personality

  • Strengths & Weaknesses:
  • Personality Type:
  • Common Traits:
  • Traits Around Strangers:
  • Traits Around Family:
  • Traits Around Friends:
  • Traits Around Partner/Crush:

Backstory

  • Defining Moment/s:
  • Favorite Memory:
  • Least Favorite Memory:

Family

add relatives if needed

  • Bio. Grandparents:
  • Bio. Mother:
  • Bio. Father:
  • Sisters:
  • Brothers:
  • Sons:
  • Daughters:

Add on more family members if needed!

Appearance

  • Eye Color:
  • Hair/Fur Color:
  • Marking/s:
  • Scar/s:
  • Height:
  • Weight:
  • Accessories:
  • Defining Feature/s:

Development

  • Scenarios:
  1. Would you tell a big lie to avoid punishment/getting in trouble, or confess and own up to the consequences? What's your reasoning?
  2. Your house is on fire, and you only have time to save one possession. What would it be? And why?
  3. Someone you were extremely close to (a relative, good friend, etc) just passed away. How do you cope with the loss?
  4. A friend desperately needs your help, but your schedule is swamped. Do you make time to help them, or tell them you’re too busy?
  • Q&A:
  1. What is your favorite memory? Why?
  2. If you could change one thing about your past, what would it be?
  3. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
  4. What is your biggest pet peeve?
  5. What is your favorite hobby?
  6. Do you believe in fate? Why or why not?
  7. What does happiness mean to you?
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