Locating Useful Reference Materials
Being able to find appropriate reference materials and learning how to use them is one of the most important abilities an artist can have. In fact, one of the most important skills you can acquire is knowing how to find information that will be useful and inspiring to you as you design your character. Learn how to use the local library. Learn how to use the Internet to find visually inspiring imagery; you can find anything on the Internet these days. The vast amount of visual and written information on the Web can be overwhelming if you are not careful, so make sure to spend your time effectively.
Playing with words can be one of the best ways to come up with good ideas. Basically, this exercise consists of writing columns of words and combining them in unusual ways. You can literally draw lines from one word to another. Combinations you never thought of will arise. If needed, take some time to create lists that are specific to the project you are working on. It would not do much good to list ocean creatures if you were working on a space character.
Here is an example of a very short list to illustrate the concept of combining words to form new ideas to work with. Of course, this list is not meant for any specific problem; the lists that you would use should be customized to your problem. Some combinations work better than others. A “sharp heroic” does not make much sense.
Fantasizing About the Character
Fantasize about the character that you need to design. Fantasizing goes hand in hand with both brainstorming and daydreaming. Fantasizing is more an individual activity where you would imagine “what if”-type situations about your character, whereas brainstorming is best in a group setting, as we have seen. When fantasizing, you will want to get out of the everyday modes of thought and see how far out you can take your ideas. “What if?” is the biggest question to ask yourself when you fantasize.