LISA BRENNER

ILLUSTRATOR & COMIC ARTIST

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Creating Characters

Having your own characters is one of the best things in my opinion! It’s so much fun to play around with them, be it on paper or in your head as you are in the shower or on your way to school/uni/work. They follow you everywhere. You can try to shape them, but they will often develop their own will and do what they want.

 

1. Use real people you see outside.

Do you sometimes see someone you think looks really awesome? Maybe a teenage girl who stands out from the other teenage girls because of her grungy look, hair cut straight just beneath her chin, bangs, wearing a black worn-out t-shirt with a band print on it. Or that super pretty tall young asian man who looks as if he knows exactly that everyone is staring at him. Or that big bear guy with his body covered in tattoos and those white glasses.

Draw them! Make them your characters. (They will never know. But they’d probably be happy that they inspired you.) Even if you have no idea about their story, there’s a high chance they develop a life of their own the moment you draw them.

Btw., photos of people are also allowed as a base. (Pinterest is a wonderful resource.)

 

2. Exaggerate.

Do you want to give your character red hair? Make it redder. Are they tall? Make them taller. Are they into music? Make them look like they are into music!

 

3. Populate your existing world.

Do you already have 1 character? Great! Do they have siblings? What are they like? Do they look like your character? Do they get along? Who’s your character’s best friend? Are they alike or very different? If your teen girl is a troublemaker, who is that one teacher she keeps fighting with?

We humans don’t live isolated. We have family, doctors, friends, neighbours, teachers, students, co-workers, maybe even rivals. If you want it or not, they shape who you are. They make you angry or happy or thoughtful. The same is true for your character. Their social surroundings shape them. They might bring out their best or worst in them and make them do things. Confess their love to them in an embarrassing way. Destroy all of their flowers because the neighbours treated the dog badly. Learn that difficult magic spell in order to help them get rid of that nasty curse.

 

4. Create a group.

Look at the characters you already have. If they are all short, a tall one could make the group more interesting. Is your group completely male? (Happens to me often.) Could you add a female character? Fill the gaps.

Usually, a group with contrast (tall/short, lean/corpulent, beard/no beard, male/female/other, grumpy/happy, young/old, etc.) is more interesting. Look at the cast of a movie, series or book you like. Can you spot the contrasts?

But sometimes, a group consisting of similar characters can work as well. Maybe it’s a group of same aged boys like in “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding. They still look a bit different from each other and have different personalities that cause conflicts. But they are all 12ish year old boys.

Example below: The cast of my story idea “cutE”. Boys, boys, boys – ah, one girl! I mean, it works and I have fun with this cast …

5. Contrast, contrast, contrast.

Contrast strengthens the qualities of the characters. Boys get more boyish when they stand next to a girl or a manly man. The strict mum seems stricter when her husband is soft and forgiving. An extroverted guy seems more outgoing when they hang out with an introverted book nerd.

 

6. Scratch your itch.

Ouch! Where does it itch you? Go there. This is important. Maybe the most important thing, at least for me.

Do you feel like you should draw something out of your comfort zone, but deep down, you just want to keep drawing pretty girls? What’s stopping you? Draw those girls!

I really like boy characters. I have tons of boys. Lately, I’ve lost a bit of interest in them, so I started drawing girls. Because they were suddenly, out of nowhere, itching me.

Is there a topic that scratches you? Maybe you really want to create a sports story, but there are already so many out there. Haikyuu for example. Who cares! Draw your sports team. Make a cool group. And then draw their rivals. And after that, if you’re still into sports, keep creating sports teams.

 

7. Draw what you liked as a kid.

I loved pretty girls as a little girl! Especially the princesses in my fairytale books (look up illustrator Felicitas Kuhn). So I recently reconnected with this and drew a girl with long, blonde hair and cute as a button. It felt like taking an autumn walk and drinking hot chocolate at the fireplace.

 

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Hi! I’m Lisa, illustrator and comic artist from Germany. I create the comic Green & Gold

This blog is an outlet for all things comics and freelance life. Maybe you’ll find something helpful here!

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