Creating and Developing an Original Character
The five steps below are pretty simple to follow and they will help you to establish a foundation for your character. And once you do, you can develop them into an awesome character that isn’t a Mary-Sue or a Gary-Sue.
1. Your character depends on the type of story you are writing. Such as if you’re writing a horror, fantasy, science fiction or a historical fiction. It is with this that will determine the kind of character that you want. So you must keep in mind that your character should be able to fit into that type of genre.
2. When you know the type of story you are going for, you can then decide the basics of your character.
a. Name: Don't just use any names or a name that you use a lot because you like it. Your character isn't just a puppet to play with. They need to be bought to life and to do that they need a name. Whatever their name will be, your readers, the other characters in the story and yourself will associate them with it. A name for them is basically an identity; what they're known as.
What helps in thinking of a name for any character is to do some research. Look up baby naming websites or look up historical websites (especially when the setting of your story takes place in a certain time period). When you have a name for your character just make sure that it matches their national background (if they have one), fits the fandom, and their personality. Or make sure that there's a very good reason for why they have that name. After all, it'll throw people off if there's a character in Feudal Japan, born and raised there with an American name like Emily or Jessica when there's no way that could be true.
b. Gender: Male or female, it's a very simple decision.
c. Eye color: When it comes to eye color, most people like to have their characters have unusual colored eyes. It would be understandable if your character is abnormal (a demon, alien, half-breed, etc.) because what they are explains why they have such eyes.
Just keep in mind that if you're going for a realistic story having a character with purple-blue with red tint in their eyes isn't realistic. A color like that doesn't exist unless you're trying to say the eye color is black. But if you plan to use unusual colors, ask yourself if the character your creating really needs it. If they do just make sure there's a good reason why they have it.
Otherwise, there's nothing wrong with picking a normal, plain color like brown or black. There are too many stories where majority of the characters have blue, red, green or some other color eyes. However, if you want to make your character seem unhuman (even if the fandom you're using contains nothing supernatural) you can always have them wear color contacts (if contacts exist in that fandom).
d. Hair color: With hair color you have to also decide the length and style it's in. Depending on your character, you should choose a color that's going to go well with your story, your character's background and the fandom. I only suggest that if the fandom contains a lot of blonde people, don't make your character blonde as well (unless, of course there's a good reason like they're related). Just like in Naruto there's a couple of them that are blonde like Ino, Temari, Tsunade, Naruto, Yondaime, Deidara, etc.
Try for a normal color that isn't seen a lot, like light or dark brown. Or if you want some uniqueness maybe a purple color? Then you can decide the length and style you want it. But for the length think wisely, because you don't want a character to have long hair when they aren't old enough to have grown it to that length. Another thing, is the climate. If they are in the desert or in really hot areas why would they have really long hair (unless it's a part of their national background/culture, like in Ancient Egypt)?
And lastly, the style your character's hair is in. You decide if their hair is wavy, straight, in a pony tail, pig tails, braided, in a bun, curly, spiked up or not. Keep in mind about their hair when writing your story. If your character has a long, braided, pony tail, your readers will be wondering why a bad guy hasn't used it to their advantage (of course depending on the fandom) like pulling on it.
e. Skin color: Does your character come from an area that is hot and the sun is close? If they do then their skin color is likely to be on tan or on the dark side. If your character is hardly out in the sun, then they'll have a much lighter skin tone. If they are always inside a house, then they are most likely to be pale. And the pale skin tones are the ones that get sunburn easily if they are out for too long, so keep that in mind. And, as well as your characters nationality, of course that’s if you want them to have one or if your story calls for one. Example; if they are from Ancient Egypt then they would have a tan or darker skin tone.
f. Age: In this part you decide whether your character is young or old. So, they could be a demon that’s old, or some other long living supernatural being. Or they could be a human. But in doing so you, should keep this part in mind when you’re thinking of a personality for your character. Their age reflects on their personality, like how mature they are or not. For example, in Yu Yu Hakusho, Shuichi and Kurama are the same person but unlike Yusuke (being half demon and young), Kurama’s calm patience and intelligence are from the long years he’s experience and you can see that when he fights and in other situations. While Yusuke on the other hand, is young compare to Kurama so you can easily notice that his maturity grows as time goes by.
g. Type of education they have: Depending on their age, you can decide the type of education they had or have.
h. Their family life: For this part you’ll have to figure out if they have a family or not, if they have a big family or a small one. Either they have a guardian or they live alone. Maybe they have someone they look to as a family member, a friend or a pet? You’ll also have to keep this part in mind with the character’s personality too. For example; if the character was abused or they were taken away, then this would have an affect on them.
i. Height: This is simple! Are they tall, short, or average height for their age? If you don’t know much about heights, you can ask family members or friends to get an idea of the height you want your character to be. And/or you could always look it up online by looking for reference height charts.
j. Weight: Another simple one. I’m sure people wouldn’t tell you how much they weight so it’s best to look it up. Try Health sites because they contain information about the average heights and ages of people and they can give you the weights for them.
k. Distinguishing features they have: This could be many things but it's best to think about one distinguishing features that your character has. Having too many would be overwhelming and it can be quite distracting for your readers. So whatever feature you focus on or mention, should represent your character in some way. It could be that they wear glasses and it’s rare in whatever fandom you’re writing for. Or that whenever they take off their glasses, their eyes stand out a lot or that they look attractive without them. Maybe they have a scar or a tattoo? How about a round shaped head or almond shaped eyes? Or they have a mustache? A 5-o’clock shadow? Or their fangs are noticeable whenever they smile, grin or talk?
This basic outline of your character is what you need to think of first when you're creating them. By now, when creating your character you should already be able to picture what they look like in your head.
3. In this step you can start to develop your character's personality. The best way to do this is to search for a personality that you can understand. Think of your friends or people you know, personalities. You need to understand the different personalities of people before you can truly establish one for your character.
After all, you don't want to create a personality for your character that is too complicated that you’ll get lost in how to write about them in certain situations. A good way to help you in this progress is to go online and do some research, such as web sites that offer personality quizzes. This could help you think about the different personalities and you may even learn a few aspects of some of them that you didn't think about. Of course you should also keep in mind about step two when you're creating the basics of your character.
4. Once you have some sort of personality for your character, it's time for you to ask yourself questions about them. You can do that by asking "what if" questions which places them in many situations. Questions such as, "What would happen if my character witness a murder? What would they do if they liked someone? What would they do if they were in trouble?" These kinds of questions can help you write about them and give you a better understanding of what they are like.
5. When you have that done, then you can start thinking about their hopes and dreams, their fear, their memories, their likes and dislikes, their hobbies, their habits (but don't go overboard by listing too many likes, habits, hobbies and so on. Only list the most important ones that really speak to your readers about your character).
In truth, the most important aspect in creating and developing your character is their personality. So take your time with that part and feel free to go back and revise it as many times as you like, until you've perfected it. You can also shape their background information to match their personality. Just like stories, characters go through revises as well, so don't think that once you've written them down that you can't work on them.
There's always room for improvement, and never be afraid to edit your work. And always ask yourself questions about them, it can help you learn and know more about your character. For example; lets us say that your character is a very closed off person and isn't that good with people. The question is why? It could be that they didn't have parents and no one showed them loved. Maybe someone betrayed them? Or they were abused? Maybe they simply can't trust people easily because they are afraid or paranoid? There's many reason and you decide which is more believable for your character.
Questions like that can also help you in figuring out their background. As well as, give you a chance to see how they'll fit into your story. If you need to go back and change a few things about your character then do so.
+ Don't give everything about your character away. Make them a little mysterious (but not too mysterious) because it's more enjoyable for the readers to try and figure them out. It's not fun when a writer puts out all the information about the character in the very beginning of the story. By doing that, you’ll be taking away from the story. So please don't do the giant text of biography of the character or have the character describing everything about themselves. There are other ways that can reveal information about your character without it ruing the surprise.
+ Sometimes it helps using real people around you in your stories. It's fine to have someone to base your character on and you can get a character that's realistic and not a Mary-Sue or Gary-Sue at all. Though, don't base your character too much or exactly on someone because you could get in trouble. You’ll have to ask them first, if you wish to have a character just like them in your story.
+ Writing dialogue for your original character sometimes isn't easy to do. Most people don't speak in perfect grammar, some use contractions or even talk in slang. Your dialogue should be like that, realistic. When writing your character's dialogue, it should reflect who they are. For example, if your character is from England, London then their dialogue should reflect that. You don't need to write the accent, instead you write their dialogue with British slang and terms in mind.
For example, in Liverpool the kids use the term "Ace" to describe something or someone as awesome. In America we call potatoes chips, chips but they called them crisp. We called them cookies, but the British call them biscuits. There's also several areas in which British and American spelling are different -- they write it as centre but in American it's center. For them it's colours, for us it's colors. Basically, your character's dialogue should reflects their background, where they're from, personality, age, fandom and so on.
+ When dealing with romance keep in mind of your character's personality/history and those around them. Nothing is worst than having your beloved character fall in love in a really short amount of time of meeting a new character. That's too Mary-sue like and the best way to fix that is to start slow, let those emotions develop and grow with time. So no rushing, the characters aren't going anywhere.
+ Don't be afraid to put your character through hell or have them die. If they happen to be in a situation that leads to their death than don't be afraid to take that path. Not every story has a happy ending and sometimes the stories that have such endings are memorable and emotional. Especially when their death compensate for something that the readers will/can be satisfied with. Like the world is saved, or their death triggers another character's new perspective/understanding of the world that people never thought would happen...maybe they joined the good side. Either way, that's a powerful thing to draw from your readers so don't be afraid of writing their death or a sad ending or a bittersweet one.
+ I've come to notice that most readers get annoyed with an abundance of OCs in a story. The best thing to do is to not over do it and keep the focus on the ones that make a difference and are important or are semi-important to the plot and the main characters.
+ If your OC is following the fandom's plot. They should be independent as much as possible -- meaning that they should be able to stand alone in their own plot/purpose that connects with the main plot of the story. That way they aren't just a tag along to a story that follows the plot because that's boring (it would make your character look useless and it ruins the uniqueness of certain events and items that were only meant for the canon characters). For example, in the Yugioh fandom, it's not that exciting when a bunch of OCs all have super rare cards. And it's not enjoyable to read the story when they take over the spot light of the main character who are the "main characters" in the first place for having such rare cards. They are many other ways to make your OC connect with the main plot, you just need to be creative and think about it.
Here are a few lists that I made in order to help you with your character's development. Remember to pick only the ones that matches’ your character's history and the character themselves. Be simple and choose only the ones that work because you don't want to over kill your original character with too many hobbies, habits or fears.
List of Bad Habits (Flaws):
Addiction (to caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, drugs...etc.)
Allergic (pollen, animal, fur, alcohol, chocolate...etc.)
Bad Eye Sight
Bard's Tongue (what you say tends to come true; you can't control this prophetic ability, and the compulsion to speak an uncomfortable truth is often very hard to resist)
Borrowing and not returning items
Chewing with mouth open
Compulsion (for cleanliness, perfection, stealing, gambling, etc.)
Drinks soft drinks
Eats junk foods
Eats too much meat
Eats too fast
Eats too much
Interrupts a lot
Leaving the toilet seat up
Licking your fingers
Making fun of people
Making rude noises
Picking your ears
Picking your teeth
Playing loud music
Points a lot
Points out mistakes
Reading over someone's shoulder
Talks during a movie
Talks on a cell phone at an inappropriate time
Talks on a cell phone while driving
Talks to themselves
Tells bad jokes
Using air quotes
Watching too much TV
Wearing too much cologne
Wearing too much perfume
Working too hard
Worries a lot
List of Good Habits (Merits):
Acknowledge friends' accomplishments with public praise
Adapts to situations quickly
Approaching a life and death problem the right way
At all times be aware of attack and retreat routes
Before getting into the car make sure it is clear at the front and the back
Before giving personal data check for credentials of the recipient
Code of Honor
Computer Aptitude (Natural affinity with computers)
Cooking healthy meals instead of eating store bought food/junk
Creates alternative solutions to a problem
Donate money for health organization, relief funds, and homeless beggars
Eidetic Memory (Photographic memory)
Graceful (is agile and delicate in movements)
Greet people in a way they expect and feel comfortable with
Keep a list of interesting words and use them
Keep things simple
Limit eating to three times day and make sure the food doesn't have much sugar in it
Natural Linguist (good with languages and language structures)
Nightvision (Has good eye vision in the dark but is sensitive to bright light)
Play some sports
Reading books when waiting
Technical Aptitude (naturally adept with mechanical devices, not electronic device like computers)
Uses common sense
Wash before eating and keep hands clean when eating
When encountering an unknown word write it down and then look is up
When riding public transportation work on a productive task
When taking out the garbage pick up the local litter
List of Hobbies (Merits):
Collecting comic books
Collecting stuff animals
Collecting bottle caps
Collecting miniature figures
Collecting snow globes
Learning a foreign language
Listening to music
Making model cars
Playing Chinese checkers
Playing computer games
Playing Gin rummy
Playing role-playing games
Playing the piano
Playing video games
Working on cars
Working on crossword puzzles
List of Fears (Flaws):
Atomic explosions (Atomosophobia)
Being a bad parent
Being a burden
Being alone, solitude (Autophobia)
Being buried alive
Being cold (Cheimaphobia)
Being confined or small spaces (Claustrophobia)
Being dirty (Automysophobia)
Being left behind
Being made fun of
Creepy, crawly things (Herpetophobia)
Fear of Friday the 13th (Paraskevidekatriaphobia)
Fire or flames (Arsonphobia)
Heights or high levels (Acrophobia)
Horror movies or Horror books
Losing their job
Love ones dying
Love ones getting hurt
Needles, pins or pointed objects (Aichmophobia)
People touching them
Prostitutes, STDs (Cyprianophobia)
Repeating past mistakes
Revealing a weakness
The number four
Thunder and lightning (Astraphobia)
Undressing in front of someone
Walking under ladders
What others think about them
If you have anything you wish to add onto this, either to the lists or something else, please leave a review letting me know. I’ll gladly add it on and/or help you. I hope this guide helps!
I also highly suggest people to read through my other guide, Mary-Sue so they can understand better of what makes a Sue character. The knowledge is quite useful when you're working on your own Original Character so you can develop them into a more believable being. Also, Everything You Need To Know About Writing helps you to know what the cliches are in stories and the cliche things that OC do.
Mary-Sue by DamnBlackHeart
Everything You Need To Know About Writing by DamnBlackHeart