5 Adaptable Character Design Ideas from Everyday Life

So, you’re looking for character ideas you can steal? What if you just need to look around you? How do you come up with character design ideas? This post looks at getting character design ideas from everyday life. I’m going to tell you a story then talk about how I get ideas then tell you another story. So are you sitting comfortably?

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The Shieldbug that Hitched a Ride

One day I was over at my mum‘s with the dog. It had been a nice day and we had had a good play. As I was driving away down the road I found a little shield bug clinging to my arm. I opened the window and encouraged him to fly out. When I arrived at home, I got out of the car to find the intrepid shield bug had been clinging to my car roof! I helped him into a buddleia bush and went about my business. Later that day I spoke to my mum on the phone and told her the story of the enterprising creature. She laughed and suggested that he had been on a quest. That gave me the idea that follows…

Generating Character Design Ideas from Everyday Life

Animals can be such an inspiration for character design with anthropomorphising being a way to generate a strong human connection with your animal characters. Just look at some of the Disney greats like Mickey and Donald to see how successful this strategy can be. And animals give so many opportunities for new ideas; from pets to bugs to farm animals or migrating birds, their worlds are full of stories just waiting to be uncovered. The animals’ behaviour (or misbehaviour!) provides the inspiration that leads to ideas for stories and these stories are the secret sauce for character design from everyday life.

And it’s not just animals that do funny things, what about cars backfiring or washing on the line on a windy day or balloons escaping from a child’s hand. When something unusual happens in daily life, try turning the ‘actors’ into characters and work backwards from the event to find their story. Try changing the context of the event e.g. a car coming to a sudden stop at traffic lights could be reimagined coming to a sudden stop in front of a … insert crazy obstacle here … then work out why the ‘car character’ was in such a situation. Then once I have a story I can start designing the character visually to fit it by giving them suitable body/clothing/accessories/abilities. This is character design. There are some great sites where you can get tutorials on how to develop your design visually like 21Draw or Schoolism.

Courageous Shield Bug Knight: Sid the Determined

Character design ideas from everyday life - shieldbug character
Sid the shieldbug knight

Sid woke up early that morning knowing he had a great journey ahead of him. He had been asked by the tree council to help them save the creatures and plants where they all lived from the great sickness that had grown there. Plants and animals were dying and no one knew why but the tree council had learned of a crystal that would protect them and Sid was the one chosen to go on the quest to find it.

Sid pulled on his boots, sword, water bottle and helmet then he grabbed his walking stick and set off in the dark early morning. He headed East for a while then as it got lighter he climbed a bush to get a good view of the way ahead. He stood looking out over the ocean wondering drowsily how he would ever cross it, because that’s where the crystal would be found and the lives of all his friends depended on him returning with it.

Recap of Character Design Ideas from Everyday Life

No need to steal questions for brainstorming character design ideas; here are some for free:
  1. Look out for animals’ odd behaviour. Also plant life and man made objects can provide inspiration.
  2. Be aware of out of the ordinary events happening around you or on the news.
  3. Turn plants/animals/objects into characters and work backwards from the event to find their story.
  4. Try changing the context that the event you noticed occurred in.
  5. What characteristics might your character have to help them in this story?

Here’s another post I wrote about character design looking more at the visual aspect while I was studying a module with the OCA (highly recommend). I hope that post about getting character design ideas from everyday life is of some help and you enjoyed my little story. Please do comment below with other character generating ideas, either for the back story or the visual storytelling. Hugs, Ceri xx

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