Characters are my favorite part. I love me some gorgeous backgrounds, and slow-moving storylines, but characters are truly the bees knees. I've been watching a lot of Gilmore Girls re-runs lately and there's something about the combination of every single weirdo in Stars Hollow interacting that just does it for me every time.
Anyway, enough about those Lorelei's. When I set out to create a cast of characters for my webcomic, I started off with real people influences. My first two years at college I lived at home. When it was finally time for me to move out and be closer to campus, I was dismayed that I was too late to actually live on campus. A friend of mine, who I viewed as glamorous, fearless, beautiful, and punky, had a place on campus with a fellow member of the school swim team. I'd imagined that maybe, somehow, I'd luck into being their third roommate and they would teach me how to be as efforlessly cool and athletic as them.
Thus, I had created two characters. The awkward newcomer and her cool, worldly roommate. I wanted the reader to be introduced to a year living on campus along with the main character, Lelaina, so within the first few pages I rapidly introduced her new social world:
Lelaina - the heroine. I wanted to make sure she stood out in some way that made her both noticeable and self-conscious. She would embody the characteristics most people feel when they're fresh on a new scene - insecure, naive, and shy.
Anneke - the first person Lelaina meets on campus. Her role for much of the first part of the story, is to introduce Lelaina to her new life. I wanted to make sure Anneke was the opposite of Lelaina - casually confident in a way that Lelaina envied yet couldn't quite understand.
Lucy - Anneke's other roommate. Lucy and Anneke already have an established bond and Lelaina must figure out where she fits into their dynamic.
... Aaaand finally, Linden - the third roommate, and our man meat for Lelaina to gaze upon. You need a love interest, right? Like most people who go off to college, Lelaina latches on to the first (okay, third after Anthony and Neil) as her crush-to-be.
So now you have all these characters, then what? When I started writing the story, I didn't plan out: Okay, I need 1 main character plus 3 girls and 3 guys. I knew I wanted Lelaina to get thrown into a social scene as an outsider, and see what happened from there. Then, as she was finding her way and making new friends and they started trusting her, I would add a Greek God or two into the mix.
This allowed me to really play with the characters - instead of the story following just a slice-of-life thread, I could figure out how each character would react to abnormal circumstances. Say, waking up to a drooling Fury crouched over you in the middle of the night. Y'know, stuff like that. But first I had to get to know them.
The important thing, for me, about character development is that you can only set them up so far. When I planned out my characters, the list above is as far as I got. Once I started writing the scenes, they started to develop and separate from one another on their own. It wasn't necessary for me to make a smart one, a pretty one, a sarcastic one, a bitchy one (well, okay full disclosure - Sloane's the bitch). They could all be all things at any time, depending on what situation they ran into.
So I try for a simple set up and then let the personalities roll out from there. I've created more extensive character sketches before writing the story, but the result is the same - as the story continues, they all morph into whatever they want to be, which doesn't necessarily have anything to do with my intent in creating them. Weird, right? This is why it makes perfect sense to me when Daffy Duck gets into a fight with his animator.
How do you guys go about creating your characters? Any particular philosophies you apply to them before you start, or do you just wing it, like me?