Tag Archives: character
Evening all. Everyone sobered up from New Year? Good, then let’s talk about antagonist character development, shall we?
With all the family oriented movies on over Christmas and there affiliated one-dimensional villains maniacal laughter still ringing in my ears, I’ve been thinking a lot about the nature of villainy and what make a good bad guy in a story.
My working theory when it comes to villains in stories (and in life in general I suppose) is that no one thinks of themselves as evil. Bad people do bad things because they’re greedy or spiteful or angry but not just for the sake of being evil. Evil isn’t an emotion, it’s not a driving force for a personality in the real world so it always rings hollow when it’s presented as a motivation. I mean sure, if the character is a psychopath then they might do stuff just to be evil but if that’s the case then they cease being a character and simply become a dangerous obstacle for the protagonist.
When in come to villains , I personally think that most of the good ones can be broken down in to 2 categories.
1. The bad guy
All the aforementioned motivations. Greedy, spiteful, angry or all of the above. A person giving in to all there negative emotions but that’s the thing, they’re still a person and no-one, absolutely no-one is all bad or all good. No matter how close they are to being pure one way or the other they are never a paradigm.
Just as a good guy can do something bad, a bad guy can do something good. They don’t stop being a bad guy, it simply shows a capacity for good that is unused. Shen from the movie Kung Fu panda 2 is a good example of this.
2. The anti-villain
Someone trying to do good but going about it in a bad way. Arguably more dangerous than a simple villain because just like the hero, they’re fighting for something beyond themselves. Fighting for good as seen from their perspective. A trait usually associated with a protagonist and ultimately, a motivation we expect to win the day. I like these kind of antagonists because it creates a nice moral ambiguity within the story about right and wrong. The Operative from the movie Serenity qualifies as an anti-villain I think, although taken to a particularly mental extreme.
But anyway, I’m board of hear myself talk. What do you think? What makes a good villain?
See you next week!
Good Monday all. I decided to swing back towards arty this week and write a quick guide for designing a cartoon creature. As with every other tutorial I’ve ever written I’m not clamming to be any kind of expert but in this case it needs stating that there are literally thousands of more qualified people on the internet with tutorials on this subject out there. These are just some rules that I think make sense for most cartoony critters and what I keep in mind when designing them. All of these rules sort of intertwine with one another and all of this is just my opinion so take from it what you will. I’ll be using this guy as an example for each rule.
Alright, let’s get this shit rollin’.
2 or 3 colours
In my opinion, a simple creature design shouldn’t use more than a handful of colours. Think about Bugz Bunny or Mickey Mouse, how many colours are used on them? 3 or 4 max in most cases. Colour one of the first details people recall when trying to remember a cartoon character which is why It’s important to have an easily identifiable colour scheme. If they’ve got to many colours on them then the first point of recognition for you critter is effectively gone.
Less is more
Short answer. Don’t add unnecessary details. If you’ve got a good character design, stick with it. Chances are, slapping on a lot of colour bands, elaborate patterns and extra crap isn’t going to greatly improve it. I know you don’t want your creature to look featureless and boring but adding too much detail can have the same effect. If you character is too visually busy then all that detail you spent ages putting on just blends together in the mind and becomes little more than a boring flat colour. Think about Pikachu from the Pokémon franchise. All it’s got is two dots and two stripes, the rest of it’s just a solid block of colour.
Has to makes sense in its own world
This might seem weird when talking about a cartoon but your character design has to have a level of logic behind it. It has to fit in with the world it’s from. If you’re making a squirrel in a relatively normal forest, don’t start adding crap like antenna and a trench coat. Make sure it fits in with the established world.
So there are the rules I stick to. Maybe they’ll help you too if you ever want to dream up your own cartoon character.
See you next week!
Apologies to Graham this week but I’m going to be stepping on his toes a bit and talking about the world of comics. Specifically the best known comic character out there, Superman.
Recently I watched the full animated series of Superman and although it was enjoyable, it really did drive home the fact that the man of steel is a pretty empty character. My favourite moment in the series wasn’t a fight scene or some big twist. It was a single line of Clark Kent’s, said as the narrator. (Referring to a crime he’s unearthed) “I could have flown to the police station but I’ll admit there was some ego involved. I wanted this one to be Clark Kent’s, not Superman’s.”
For this one (and pretty much only) moment, he was a character. He wasn’t perfect, he had wants and desires of his own. Unfortunately, this was the only time we got to see any semblance of a personality.
The longer I watched the series, the more I realised that when you get right down to it, superman doesn’t really have a story to tell. Think about it, he’s already the most powerful so he doesn’t really have much to achieve or aspire to and he’s the panicle of good so the only way his character could develop would be negatively, which would defeat the object of Superman.
That’s not to say that some amazing stories haven’t been written about the character. All-Star Superman was an amazing bit of writing, although as it was an alternate timeline sort of thing, I’m not sure if it helps or hinders this argument. I certainly don’t think a serialised series is the right format for Superman.
As I said in my post about character writing, superman is a singular concept in the world of fiction and is compelling because of it. I didn’t realise at the time of saying it but I think I hit the nail on the head. He’s not a character, he’s a concept. He’s the idealised version of a super hero, the most powerful, most trust worthy. Unfortunately a concept doesn’t drive a story. A concept can define a story but it can’t move it forward, only a character can do that.
So yes, I think Superman would be a lot better suited to being a recurring character so he could live up to his own hype.
What do you think?
I usually use these bloggy things to talk about the use of graphics in the process of storytelling, but today I wanted to go in a slightly different direction. You see before graphics, before art style or atmosphere , there is story and the driving force of any story is a good character. So today I thought it would be a laugh to go over some basic rules for writing a character.
Like every other article I’ve ever written, I’m not claiming to be an expert on the matter. These are just a few simple rules, which from my perspective seem to hold true for some of the better characters I’ve seen.
None of these rules are set in stone and there are popular, well established characters that are exceptions to each of them, but for the majority I think they hold true.
This is purely for beginners. For anyone who’s ever wanted to throw a character together but never got around to it. The most basic do’s and don’ts.
Let’s be honest, people suck. We’re always murdering each other or forgetting birthdays or anything else that proves that we suck. That’s why your character, no matter how good they are, always has to suck just a little.
We’re human; we have flaws, all of us, so if you want to make a character believable they need to have flaws as well. The meat of a character comes from their struggles, both inside and out. If they have no internal struggles/issues/temptations that influence them and their behaviour, then they’ll appear flat and un-compelling, primarily because the audience will have already worked out what they’re going to do when presented with an obstacle.
The one possible exception to this rule would be Superman. No matter what trials or hardships he’s put through, he always does the right thing. Well as far as I know he always does the right thing. I’m not completely up to date on my DC. So why does he get a free pass? Simple – because he’s ‘The Superman’. A singular concept that’s compelling because he is one of a kind.
Everyone’s disliked by someone
I hate to break it to you, but someone dislikes you. You might know them, you might not, but either way they are definitely out there. No one is liked by everyone, so if you make a character that is universally loved, they’ll immediately feel false. Certain personality types just don’t comfortably interact, so if your character has positive interactions with everyone, it means that someone (either your character or the one they’re talking to) is acting outside of their established personality. It also removes a source of conflict. In one way or another conflict drives a story, but if your character is loved by everyone then you’ve lost a possible source of it.
Bizarrely, the only exception I can think of to this rule is an actual person. Namely, Professor Brian Cox. I seriously don’t know anyone who doesn’t like that guy.
Your character has to change
Have you written a character that you love exactly the way they are? Awesome! Now it’s time to screw them up beyond all recognition.
Occurrences in our lives change us and alter our perception of the world and you’re character needs to evolve and adapt to the situation at hand to feel real. For example, if your character is attacked by a dog then chances are from that point on, they’re going to have a fear of dogs.
A story usually begins with a shift from the norm. Something that requires confronting and/or overcoming by the main character. For that to happen they’ll probably need to act or think in a way that they hadn’t before and once that obstacle has been dealt with, those new characteristics will still be part of the character.
If your character doesn’t change then what’s the point in following their story? We’ve met them, we know there current personality. If that’s all they’re ever going to be then what ever happens next doesn’t really matter.
Off the top of my head, I can’t think of an exemption to this rule but I guarantee there’ll be hundreds of them out there.
So there you go. You want a realistic character then they need to be a homicidal social outcast who snaps at the first sign of trouble…… you wanted to write a villain, right?
See you next week!
(yep, I’m gonna try and make these weekly again.)