Developing your Basic Idea

Getting the basic idea of a character is always the hardest part of the creative process. By doing the simple things we discussed in the last section and not just sitting at your desk in the dark trying to be inspired, you will open up new avenues of experience that can lead to new ideas for your characters. However, the basic idea is only the first step. You now have a vision, but it is only a somewhat ghostlike visage on the edge of your conscience. Your basic idea is floating around either in your mind or on paper. You know where you want to go with this idea, but you’re feeling somewhat lost as to a direction.

The strategies in the previous section are mostly cerebral, whereas the methods discussed here are best done visually with a piece of paper and pencil. Not only will you have a record of idea changes, but your drawings will also help generate additional ideas. Use relatively inexpensive paper and a soft pencil, marker, or pen.

Do not erase! This is very important. You are not drawing pretty pictures but generating differing ideas. An eraser will slow you down and kill the creative flow. No one else is meant to see the images you will create; they are just your thought processes and ideas coming to life. Don’t expect them to look solid and refined at this point.

The following are some strategies to help you develop a basic but vague idea into a more concrete visual image ready to be drawn or sketched. They are not the only ways to firm up an idea but are good methods for continuing the process. As noted in the previous section, use these ideas in conjunction with each other.

Using Caricature

You can caricature just about anything you are drawing: people, animals, plants, and maybe even rocks. Caricature can be used to further develop ideas that seem to have gone stale. Quite often, caricature, while humorous, is looking for the essence of the subject. If you are having trouble seeing where to go with a design, try doing a caricature of what you already have. Once you have again found the essence of the caricature, continue with the design. Figure shows an example of caricature.

Using Humor

Humor is a great way to take an idea that is stalled and jump-start the creative process. Humor’s main purpose is to entertain, and it generally does not need a lot of explanation. Humor does not try to make a statement. For example, if you are developing a serious barbarian character, put him in a humorous situation or change his props to something humorous and see how many more creative vistas open for you.


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