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3 Tips For Creating Characters

As a new indie game developer and game maker, we at Fortunus Games often think about what is needed to create dynamic and memorable characters for our visual novels.

Here are 3 tips we at Fortunus Games found useful while creating our characters for our current visual novel in development:

1. Keep things simple.

Often, as creators, we are tempted to add in as many details to our characters’ backstory and storyline as possible. Possible reasons for doing so: 1) to make characters more interesting, 2) to engage as many interesting and relevant themes as possible, 3) to move the plot along and create pathos.

It may be preferable to make the backstories and storylines of characters as simple as possible. The more complex a particular character’s backstory and storyline are, the more plot holes you may end up creating for yourself. To resolve these plotholes, you may have to add even more detail to your character’s backstory and storyline, resulting in TL;DR.

As interesting as your character’s backstory and storyline may be, sometimes, there just isn’t enough room or space in the story to accommodate all of those details.

If you put too much detail into a story that can’t accommodate that amount of detail (i.e. your character’s backstory is considerably more complex than the plot of the actual game/novel/story he or she is in), the storyline may start to meander. In other words, the story becomes too long and will appear to have no overall purpose or structure. Your story may seem more like a disorganized collection of thoughts and stories about the character than a coherent plotline.

2. Avoid Using Tragedy to Define Your Characters

We all know a character who seems to have few defining characteristics other than a “tragic past.”

The problem with these kind of characters (particularly when they are the protagonist) is that they often fail to engage with anything other than our sense of pity and often, frustration. Many of these types of characters (who are solely defined by their tragic pasts) are repetitive and predictable. Oftentimes, they do not exist other than as a way for the author/creator to comment on the evils of society/a particular person/fate/etc.

As such, these types of characters tend to have little to no personality other than their negative feelings towards their tragic pasts. We do not know anything about them that is NOT related to their tragic past — we don’t know their favorite foods, their hobbies, what their (non-abusive) family members and friends are like, what their beliefs are.

If your character has a tragic past but has a personality outside of their negative feelings about their trauma, don’t worry, this doesn’t apply to you, since you are not letting the character’s tragic past define the character.

3. Allow Your Character to Grow.

Finally, it is important to let your character grow, particularly if they are the protagonist, deuteragonist, or antagonist. This tip is less applicable to background characters we only see once or twice, who generally add little to the story.

Not only does letting your character’s viewpoints, aspirations, and relationships change throughout the course of the story help flesh out your character, but it also helps give you more ideas about where the story can possibly go. Your character should face multiple challenges, some small, some large, as the story progresses, and grow along with the story (and in some cases, the author!).

Sam, the protagonist of "Sam in New York," grows in a variety of ways (and directions, depending on the choices you make) as his visual novel progresses.

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