How to Make Your Characters Real – Part 4: Visualisation

Hi everyone, Ed here from Shades of Vengeance again!
I’m back with another entry in my “How to Make your Characters Real” series. I hope that you are finding these useful and interesting. Of course, if there’s any subjects that I’ve not covered that you’d like me to talk about, please just ask, I’ll be more than happy to speak about it.

When you are creating characters, remember that humans are visual creatures. The fact that a beautiful picture of a sunset is more likely to sell a game than brilliant mechanics is something that I’ve struggled with for a long time as a game designer.

When building characters, this is a relatively easy thing – though important – to include.

Try to come up with three or four features which make any character that’s important stand out from the rest of the population. There are some obvious ones. There’s an eyepatch or a wooden leg or another type of prosthetic, depending on what time period your your story is setting. This can be done effectively in Sci-Fi as well – one of Elliot Draigon’s most memorable features is his artificial arm, and I think the same could be said for Barret from Final Fantasy 7!

However, there are other things that could be included which are less obvious. Perhaps the character always stands slightly crooked, because they actually have constant back pain. Perhaps they perhaps they have a nervous tic, where they turn their head to the left quite frequently as if they’re looking around seeing if anyone’s following them.

There are a huge number of possibilities and I suggest you try not to reject anything that you think might suit your characters attitude – sometimes people’s attitude to their their reality is based on their physical state.

Obviously, you can also think about how they dress, how they wear their hair and various other personal details which are choices, rather than forced on them by circumstances or biology.

Don’t be afraid to experiment a little bit and make your characters memorable to the people who are reading. It’s actually surprisingly hard to go overboard on this.

Once you’ve come up with these details for your character, remember that you don’t actually have to show them or talk about them in every single encounter with that character. Make a choice about when you want to talk about it, and when you don’t want to talk about it. And don’t be afraid to leave it until it becomes a relevant detail – I am sure you have been in a situation where you didn’t notice something until embarrassingly late!

That’s pretty much all I’ve got on this subject, so check in again next week for another “How to Make your Characters Real”, where I’ll be talking about how much information to give away!

– Ed

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