Hey Fanon, Dust here with part 2 of this ramble fest. Keep in mind that this part is by far the most illegitimate as there are definitely more ways of designing characters than what I'm about to discuss here. Therefore, take everything with a grain of salt.
Once again, I'll be using examples and jumping back to RWBY in their own separate section.
First off, when I say Physical Design of a character, I encompass the appearance, personality, backstory, weapon, and abilities, basically everything about the character. Personally, I believe there to be a spectrum in terms of physical character design creation that center on two methods/reasons: creation for the sake of self-expression verus creation for the sake of self-fulfillment. Now you might think I'm pulling this out of my ass, and you'd be correct, but hear me out.
Creation for the sake of Self-Expression (SE)
Characters created in or close to this spectrum are personal in design and usually will themselves to life as their creators need them to exist to convey a personal message. For the most part, characters like these have a set framework and journey in mind with very specific flaws. They either have something to prove or to improve upon in place of its creator.
These characters have something to say, or have something said about them that leaves one to think themselves. For that, I would say their Personality and Backstory are their most developed and important traits.
One Punch Man / Mob Psycho 100
Basically every character in these two shows (who are by the same guy, ONE) is created for one purpose, to prove a point whether it be funny or serious. The main characters of both shows also prove a point in their self-awareness of the preception of "power". OPM acknowledges that power is nothing without the heart (i.e. a hero like Mumen Rider is arguably a better hero than say the Tank Top Heros) while making fun of the pretentiousness of classical heroes who themselves are created to acknowledge that being a hero is more than status.
Mob of MP100 acknowledges pretty much the same thing. In addition, Mob is created as a deconstruction of "The teenager with super powers" trope where traditionally, people with power are expected to use them for the greater good. MP100 on the other hand acknowledges that while an individual possesses power, it does not mean they have the courage to use it, nor does it excuse one from the problems of daily life. In addition, those with power do not have to be ashamed about their decisions of simply "running away" when things get tough. Running away is natural and not everyone is mentally strong enough to deal with the problems presented to them.
Creation for the sake of Self-Fulfillment (SF)
Characters created in or close to this spectrum are soley concept based. It's perhaps the hardest to be original using this type of character creation as many devolve to using tropes as Lego pieces in creating their characters. It's also good to note that the creation Mary Sue / Gary Stu, and fantasy ful-filling self-inserts (Kiritos) also lie on this spectrum. Unless you are a talented concept artist, stay away.
While these characters can have something to prove in their own right, they usually exist for aesthetic reasons. They have no strong sections as any character can be created out of a niche.
For those not familiar with what BRS is, it was basically a drawing of a mysterious black haired girl with a blazing blue eye by artist Huke. Nothing more, nothing less. And yet, it has now blossomed into a full-blown media franchise, made popular by the song of the same name inspired by the piece by one of the most influential VOCALOID artists, ryo/supercell.
Since then it has gotten an anime, several video games, a manga, and several figurines just because some guy decided to draw cool shit.
Where does RWBY fit?
Most definitely concieved in Self-Fulfullment. I mean, it's Monty Oum; if there's one thing he does right it's to make, what I am going to refer to as "cool shit", even cooler.
Now, where RWBY fails is when it doesn't acknowledge the fact that its characters are created soley for stupid cool action sequences and tries to be a show where character development matters a hell of a lot more than it should and done through TALKING. That is not to say an action orientated show can't have character development, but the method in doing so is completely different compared to one focused on speech or everday life.
And there's just SO. MUCH. TALKING.
To oversimplify things, true character development in a series like RWBY requires the development of a character's physical capabilities as well as an anchor point to their actual character development. Their physical abilties should match their mental state and the development of their mental state should reflect the development of their physical state.
RWBY character's don't get stronger, they just get a character redesign and silly things to worry about, none of which is the proposed Grimm threat.
Now when you compare that progression to things like a traditionally structured shoenen like My Hero Academia, where every character gets a chance to develop, one can see what I mean when I say "NOTHING HAPPENS IN RWBY". There is literally no progression of character. The only thing that changes is the fate of the world so underdeveloped we could not care less about it. You know what happens when characters progress? You get excuses to develop the world more because you're constantly forced to top yourself.
The point is, there's shows that convey their character development through actual character development, and then there's shows that convey their character development through physical improvement. RWBY tries too hard to be the former when it clearly is designed to be the latter.
Character Concepting (Dust's Method)
Finally we come to my personal tutorial of actual character design. Taking what I talked about above on the sepctrum of character creation we can break down any character easily as well as justify the purpose of certain characters. Normally I use the SE method asone probably has to try pretty hard to make bad characters going through this way and one can always hone these characters until they are satisfied that the "cool factor" has been appeased.
Rayne is one of 4 Self-Expression based characters in my arsenal and was created solely to present my personal journey on theism/religion.
To begin with, I wanted to show my early (age 12-16) views on my faith in Catholicism. I wasn't born into the faith but it some how ended up in my life and growing up, I always attended Catholic schools. For those who went to public system schools, the only notable difference is that a Religion course was mandatory in each grade.
The course itself was either hit or miss. Sometimes you would get a chill liberal teacher who uses their faith as guideline and encourages us to make our own decisions rather than to depend on faith for help. Other times, if you had bad luck, you'd get the teachers who survive on the idea that the only reason they exist is because of God and that faith is literally the only thing separating us from savage degenerates.
I had bad luck as a kid.
And at some point, it was drilled into me that NOT believing in God or a god was inconcievable.
"Don't they know they're dooming themselves?"
"They're the reason why there's so much evil in this world."
Those were the type of things they went through my mind, and it was quite hateful to say the least. I continued to have this kind of mindset until I watched a Stephen Hawking documentary on singularities and had a complete 180 degree turn, becoming an uncompromising atheist who constantly belittled those who had faith. However, as I matured, I realised that it was no different than my initial phase and struck a middle ground in all of it.
Part of the product from that was the character you see before you, Rayne Annarosé. I deliberatly wrote her to experience what I went through. The process of being raised in faith, blindly following without question, hating without thought, and ultimately, the redemption, realization and shame of it all.
Even now I wish to take back some of the things I said in my youth from both spectrums, but I also learned to accept that the actions I took were equally my own fault for simply being immature.
Keeping all this in mind we move to her initial design.
I wanted Rayne to be the reserved and sheltered character raised in a secluded school of thought. Thus it was appropriate to dress her conservatively in formal attire. The base uniform reflected this as a call back to my times in the Catholics school system while the white coat was established as a symbol of the cult not unlike the crosses, Rosaries, and priest robes worn by those of faith.
The weapon in particular represented two different stances of her mindset. One is that of judgment, reaping those who do not conform to their beliefs but also, being a war-scythe, a symbol of uprising and rebellion against an established monarchy.
Her personality was to be detached and entirely uncalculated. She did not and could not think for herself. She did not need to as her values were determined for her.
The Semblance, which was a late addition, is a matter of acceptance and longing for someone to look over her. While not entirely different from a Stand, a personal protector who is able to help those around her was indeed her goal. It was also crucial that ths was the conveyed concept as I did not want to belittle those who believed in faith, rather acknowledge those that do indeed need and become better inthe presence of faith.
After the Volume 4 redesign, most of these themes remain intact with the added theme of the acceptance of her past. This is shown through her use of equipment specifically design for her which was made by the cult she was brought up from.
Alice is interesting in the sense that her concept started out as a self-fulfillment character but migrated close to a self-expression one. Initially she was to an attempt at a "multiple-arms" character but as luck would have it the weapon limit rule was put in place before she made it past pending. Thus her early physical design was rushed with only a simple sword and throwing knives.
What was done to her over time was to cement the notion of regret in the character in a different way to reflect my arguably lonely time as a primary and highschooler. Simply put, I wasn't enough of a stupid teenager to fit in with the rest of my classmates and ended up isolating myself. Thinking back on it, I wished I acted more like a stupid idiot, maybe I would have had a better time.
Alice as a character is the same. Her wish to go back to the way things were, in both her position in her community and in the eyes of her family, is a central part of her character and the limited equipment she has also reflects this as a mutiple-arms character.
Giving her the alias of Memories locked her as my way of honouring this train of thought.
Her Semblance is purposefully similar to Rayne's as both long for the protection outside of emotional relief.
Her redesign was ultimately an asthetic choice in trying to make the image of mutiple-arms specialist look more appealing and sleek. It also somewhat gave an idea of what the cult Operatives would look like and gave Rayne's redesign its look.
Finally a character that rose from the self-fulfillment category, but knowing me, I somehow was able to twist it to self-expression as well. So for starters, I'll treat Selena as a self-fulfillment character then proceed to debunk that notion.
Selena, Selena, Selena. Perhaps one of my favourite characters created simple because she was fun to write and fun to present. Her creation was spurred from the need of a villain other than common crooks or whimsical monsters. Someone so dastardly bastardly evil for my characters to confront but also be charismatic and delusional. That was Selena's intial concept.
However, the more I worked on her, the more I realised how unsatisfying a maniacle or mustashe twirling villain would be to take on as the only formula available to someone like that would be to be defeated in a straighforwad manner every Saturday at 9:00 am.
And so like any sensible person, if it doesn't work, you fix it.
The first thing to do was to make the villain matter to the protagonist whether it be bitter rivals or opposing ideals. I chose to make the villain a mother. Specifically THE mother. I personally found it an interesting dynamic, the relationship of a parent and their children, making Selena the mother was a way of exploring that.
The second was the realise that villains are people too, making them evil for the sake of them being evil seems a bit too naive in retrospect. Good villains are likable due to some trait that pertains to their humanity, or rather the exploitation of it. This line of thinking resulted in two things, her backstory which narrates her as the same as anyone with the only difference between her becoming a hero was one bad day, and her quirks, which one could argue is an aquired defence mechanism.
Selena is an adult, a true adult and while she IS the villain in the eyes of our protagonist, one has to see that she is probably the only one who knows her place. She is perhaps the only one who has her shit together despite being mentally and physically broken.
Nothing much to say about her design as both outits aim to represent everything mentioned above.
Finally we are at the end of our journey. It took me a couple of days of thinking and another two to write this. Hopefully this is something some of you will take to heart the next time you think about making a character. Feel free to discuss down below.