Edit: Now updated. If for some reason, you want to read the old version, it's right here.
Hello. I've been on this site for ages, and for some reason I think my insight is worth something. This isn't a guide by any means. There are plenty already in existence on this wiki, and they're quite thorough, so I'll be assuming you already understand the basics of character creation. This won't have much to do with visual design, but character design and writing style in general.
I also apologize if I sound pretentious and stuffy. This is just how I speak, sadly.
Style and Other Technical Things
- Do not use art that you haven't drawn yourself without explicit permission of the original artist, ever. It is laughable if you expect your own original work to be respected if you can't do the same to others. If you find the need to use a "faceclaim" for your character using official art from another series, it's good practice to credit the art nonetheless. I've included the links to some good free avatar creators at the bottom of this blog.
- Try to proofread your work for obvious grammar/spelling errors as much as possible. Find help if you're not sure. If English isn't your first language, this should be more reason to seek aid, rather than an excuse. Nobody's perfect, but having a readable profile does wonders. It's unfortunate, but when I see a page riddled with errors, my mind automatically goes to "low quality" before anything else.
- On formatting - avoid huge chunks of text. Start a new paragraph whenever you change topics. For the sake of your readers' eyes, start a new paragraph every 8 lines or so. Depending on which editor you're using, it's pretty easy to see how large your paragraphs will look.
- To further increase readability of your page, make liberal use of various headings as appropriate. Templates are also wonderful for making your pages look pretty. If you're not sure what to use, use other, more complete characters as a reference. Generally, I see Appearance, Personality, Backstory, Abilities, and Trivia on just about any well-fleshed out character page.
- To further increase readability of your page, vary your sentence length. You've probably heard this in school like a billion times before, but this really helps the flow of your writing. Read your work out loud to test this.
- Not relevant, but still related to style: avoid using too many adverbs (This is a problem I still have). If you can shorten your sentence or make it more straightforward in meaning, 95% of the time, the rewritten, shorter sentence will be stronger than the original one.
Actually Writing Your Character
- It's easy to describe a personality in a few words. Expanding it and making it unique is the real challenge. Give your characters interests and pet peeves, strange personal rituals and compulsions. Small quirks are what make your characters three-dimensional. If you find yourself unable to write more about your character, think about why, and what you can do. There are myriad character development resources and memes you can fill out to help with this.
- Taking various personality tests and quizzes while in the mindset of your character is helpful and quite fun. I've included a few well-known ones down below.
- A balanced character is so much more interesting than an overpowered one. If you're going to give your character a strength, give them a weakness to balance it out. This will do wonders when you roleplay; if your character is brash and headstrong, there's a good chance they'll have nice chemistry with someone more reserved and cautious.
- Since this is a RWBY OC site, deciding on an inspiration or motif is rather important. It's part of the show's style to take heavy influence from other sources. However, there's a line between inspiration and stealing. This line is not always clearly defined, but if your character can be summarized by something like "this character is Cloud Strife but in RWBY," it's pretty obvious.
- While we're all trying to adhere to the show's conventions, it's best not to take source material and think, "how can I make this suit the RWBY universe?" - this is something you can do when you're writing their backstory. Rather, take some source material, and think "how can I put a twist on this concept and make it my own?"
- In my opinion, this is the trait that distinguishes okay characters from good or great characters. This may be what they call "originality." So far, I've didactically written pretty things like "balance your character out with flaws" and "give them interests," but it doesn't mean much if you randomly choose them. Don't make your character quirky for the sake of being quirky. It's a lot like cooking. Sure, flank steak and crème brûlée are both delicious, but if you blended them together and topped the resulting goop off with croutons, some contrarian will still insist that it tastes good because this is the internet. But my point stands.
- Strange analogies aside, make sure your character's personality and interests make sense with their backstory. Chances are, a character who comes from a rich background wouldn't understand what it's like to experience poverty or even what it's like to not immediately satisfy one of their desires. If you want to make your rich character worldly, then you should include something in their backstory to explain why they're subverting the reader's expectations. If you do this well, your character can be brilliant. If you don't put in the effort to make your character cohesive, then your writing will seem shallow and immature.
- Since this is RWBY, your character's weapon, fighting style, and semblance are also a major part of "cohesiveness." For example, Myrtenaster is an elegant-looking, graceful thing that you'd expect a noble like Weiss to wield. Coco's weapon starts off as a stylish handbag and transforms into a monstrous, destructive minigun, much like the girl herself - she may seem shallow and irreverent at first glance, but is actually tenacious and fierce. Since this is RWBY, this is just as important as your character's personality, frankly - unless they're a non-combatant.
- The sooner you accept that you're awful, the sooner you can improve. Jokes aside, it's best to keep an open mind when it comes to criticism. If the person offering criticism is doing it civilly and is capable of supporting their statements with coherent reasons, even if you may disagree with them, trying to understand their reasoning can help you grow.
- Obviously, your characters belong to you and you can write them however you want. If you want to write Ruby's twin sister who uses a chainsaw/AK-47 combo, go for it. Making characters should be fun for you. This is the most important thing about character creation.
- If you're publishing your work in a public place like this fanon, you're subjecting it to criticism from anyone who happens to see it, though. If you want to avoid that sort of thing, you ought to put a disclaimer on your page.
- If you're really serious about improving, don't be afraid to cut or completely rewrite things you've spent hours working on. I believe the most heartless writers are the best ones, in the end.
Writing and Stuff
Myers-Briggs Personality Test (there are a lot of these)