As an artist, character creation is one of my favorite things to do but it is also the most complicated. Basically you are making someone from scratch; their style, their backstory, their likes, their dislikes. It can be overwhelming, but also a very fun process. For me I like to start with the basics.
“Think about the meaning of the word ‘character’. You’re supposed to breath life into these things, make them appealing and give them the magic that will allow people to imagine what they’re like to meet and how they might move.” –Neil McFarland
Forget the name, nobody comes up with a name for their character immediately, and if you do, then it may not even fit your character later so don’t even try. Design is also something that usually comes later but I’ve found that I enjoy drawing my characters early and seeing their process as I develop them more. Interesting looks alone do not necessarily make for a good character; its personality is key as well. A character’s personality can be revealed through their interactions, where we see how it reacts to certain situations. The personality of your character doesn’t have to be particularly agreeable, but it does need to be interesting (unless your characters is purposely dull).
The driving force behind a character’s personality is what it wants to achieve. Too often, the incompleteness or flaws in a character are what make it interesting. Personally I prefer character that have that major flaw in their lives that constantly make them question themselves. Those are the kinds of characters I can relate to and the kind that I want to see.
Even if you don’t plan on telling it, developing its back story is important. Where it comes from, how it came to exist and any life-changing events it has experienced are going to help back up the solidity of, and subsequent belief in, your character, and will also influence how your character thinks. And sometimes the telling of a character’s back story can be more interesting than the character’s present adventures.
Something I now found helpful when designing a character is taking personality tests as if I was one of them. Personality tests, though fun and a great time passer, also tells us a lot about ourselves. And taking one as your character can tell you things about them maybe you haven’t thought of yet. Taking the 16 Personalities Test I recently discovered my character was an entrepreneur, same as Bruce Willis and D’Artagnan of the Three Musketeers – actually very fitting for my character.
Also, looking at a list of character traits can help as well. Character traits are all the aspects of a person’s behavior and attitudes that make up that person’s personality. Everyone has character traits, both good and bad. Character traits are often shown with descriptive adjectives, like patient, unfaithful, or jealously. You can go through the whole list and pick ones you know your character has and maybe get ideas for others.
Thinking through all of this you should have a pretty good idea of what your character is like. And designing them around their personality should help influence that. But your character can also keep growing. As we live and experience new things, we like to put that into our stories and our characters. That is one of the things that make some characters so special, when we can relate and share with them.