The foundation of any comic or manga is the story and the characters. Where do these ideas that are forever instilled in our readers’ minds come from? We asked 12 artists to share how they create characters and storylines as well as what gets them inspired.
I don’t know if I really believe in inspiration. My ideas are mostly from asking questions, which leads to dozens of ideas each day. Any ideas with the ability to stay with me for a while seem worth exploring and developing… that’s when the real work starts happening.
Inspiration is all around us, and creative people have an easy time finding ideas in anything and everything. The way a song makes you feel, a quote in a book, a smell on the street, an experience at the drive-thru – anything can inspire ideas. Finding inspiration and ideas are not the problem for creative people. Finding time to turn them into Stories, is.
I have a million and one story ideas a second. I have time to focus on one or two of them. The rest of them go into a file, get written down on a piece of paper, or get forgotten – later replaced by (hopefully) better ideas. But the ideas that resonate with me – the ones that eat at me during the day and keep me up at night – those are the ones I focus on. An idea so good you can’t not tell it. This is why I say, “I don’t have time to tell the stories that I like. I only tell the stories that I love.”
Stories come from all sorts of places. Some come from reality– items in the news. Others come from past events, both personal and wider in nature. Some simply come from out of the blue… it’s hard to say where, exactly, they originate. Others are a blend of many ideas that combine together into one.
Characters tend to be drawn from people we’ve known, heard of, or have read about.
I would start with the fun part of the character first. If it’s going to be superhero fiction, give the character special powers. Or an adventure character, give it some cool looking weapons or magic. Once all that is done, I put the character in a fictional or real-life situation. How the character can survive in a thought up world is the question a writer must ask him/herself. The end result should be something a random reader can relate with and make the character look like it’s real or it exists.
Most of my ideas and stories come from events, encounters, or stories that have happened to me or someone else.
I find inspiration by looking through other artists, but I try to limit this only because it can be distracting and unproductive.
I also find inspiration by looking through old reference books, things such as plant forms in nature, mechanics manuals, old cook books, or old yearbooks provide lots of ideas for backdrops or character environments.
Story arcs usually arise from either a general setting, mood, or subject I’m interested in exploring, or from something similar to Stephen King’s ‘What if’ writing method. The narrative usually evolves into something very different to the initial ideas, I often end up with two or more stories expanding out from a single concept.
Characters come from two places. One is just from people I see on the street, every so often someone will trigger something in me, either a general mood they embody or I feel that I can imagine their back story. The other place I derive characters is from my own personality, I will take smaller aspects of myself and extrapolate upon them.
For stories and characters, I like to look at the very best in storytelling. My two favorite TV shows that have been heavily inspiring me lately are Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones. I want to strike a balance between cool and interesting looking characters with believable motivations and profound growth. As an illustrator, I really appreciate a “show, don’t tell” mentology.
Keep your eyes, ears, and mind open to anything and everything. If it keeps me up at night and it’s worth repeating, then it’s worth crafting into something creative.
I usually keep a running sketch and idea book/computer folder where I add in things that interest me as often as I find them. They can be in the form of links, images, scribbles in an actual sketchbook, or whatever. Then, when I have some time, I go back through those collections and see what still pops out for me. Then, like a DJ, I mix those ideas together and see if I can find the mash-up, or “third song” that comes from the combination of those unrelated ideas. Usually this process produces story ideas that aren’t just riffs on existing things that I’ve seen. This way, I’m always percolating new ideas and paths rather than trying to start up from zero.
I’ve also always tried to write characters that are not “me”, i.e. white male middle class, straight, etc. This is not just gender- or race/ethnicity- flopping, and when you do that it adds the responsibility of having to know about the gender or race/ethnicity you are writing about, by doing research, talking with people of the race/ethnicity/gender you are working with, and also being willing to take critique from them for what you’ve written. Identity outside of your own in not frosting you just put on top of a generic character; it’s an essential ingredient that needs to be throughout the makeup of that character. Writing outside of your own personal identity should help you stop and think “Why IS X doing this?” rather than just assuming the reader will understand because your internal logic understands the motivation and reasoning because it is yours.
While I haven’t successfully completed any stories or comics yet, I tend to approach stories and characters with the intention of recreating or emulating feelings I had from some of my favorite stories. This requires some thorough searching through my own personal emotions and memories of how I experienced some of my favorite stories. It’s too easy to simply trod along a plot that’s been done before; sometimes you have to go deeper to make something new.
I approach ideas and characters for my story by looking at the world around me. I build my characters and their stories from real events I witness in my life. I think this adds a hint of realism to them — as if you really knew the characters in real life. To get inspired, I usually write down my own experiences and try to understand how my characters would have been affected by or overcame hardships that I have experienced. Overall, real life is a great source of inspiration.
The the idea often comes by itself, and once it comes you can’t calm down until you make a sketch. But when i need to get inspired, I go to the galleries of famous artists.
This post first appeared on The Seismic Art Blog: Tutorials, Interviews, Culture Fandom Artists, please read the originial post: here