Monday, November 25, 2013

Establishing a Visually Striking Character

So last week I built a character. That was fun. In continuation of our series, I want us now to look at the nuances of character designs that incorporate into the final character concept. Like my previous series on World Building where I discussed often details often overlooked when build immersible worlds, there are dimensions that can be missed or not considered integral to the process. Here I will discuss apparel, clothing, and iconic accessories that go into creating a likable, iconic character.

Clothing can vary in one or two ways I've found. There could be other ways but, suffice to say, let's assume that Genre and Period setting narrative are the most common ways to establish who a character is and how they are important to the story.

There are many genres and sub-genres of fiction and non-fiction. Each genre distinguishes its self from another by tropes and moods. A detective fiction would be moody and dark, whereas a comedy would be light. Notice how in films like Sherlock Holmes the titular protagonist wears darker colors, like browns and blacks. Also there are a lot of reds to emphasize the color of blood. On the other hand, in comedies, like 40 Year Old Virgin and Step Brothers, the colors are vibrant and expressive. They help to enhance the facial expressions and routines the characters run through to help the audience know when to laugh. So when considering your genre that you are writing, understand the psychology of your characters and their parent genre. It will help your character's apparel and exterior appearance stay in line with your work.

Clothing in Period setting narratives is much different for a number of reasons. If your story is set in the 1100s, it would behoove you to understand the contemporary styles of the time. Immediately you will be limited in what you have to choose from as far as clothing already. Peasants of the time looked the same more or less. Where you can help to make a distinguishing character stand out, clothing wise, in a period setting, is in how they wear the clothing, what it's made out of, or have them be an outsider. There's a cool comic book called Northlanders where one of the protagonists is an outcastes son, who was run out of the kingdom when he was young. He didn't visually fit the viking look at all, and the clothing he returns wearing is arabic in design from his stint in Constantinople, and the Near East. Using this, the writer of the comic helps to create a visually striking character by playing to the cultural biases of the time. Another interesting example was from the Robin Hood movie put out by Ridley Scott. In this movie we see the King of France in a particular scene, dirty, bent over next to a stream, eating oysters. He looks repulsive and dirty, but at the time that wasn't all too uncommon. They didn't have showers, and baths were highly luxurious. Nevertheless the character is iconic because he is this high figure in society, but visually unappealing.

Now these two dynamics are two of many approaches. For now, I will leave you with these understandings. They serve as a good starting point for most narrative work.


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