Character development is defined in the Collins dictionary as “the portrayal of people in a work of fiction in such a way that the reader or audience seems to learn more about them as they develop”. Sometimes character development is based on what the creator/s is/are feeling at the particular time in their personal life.
Character motivation comes in the early stages of, if not before, character development. Writers will usually go to their desired environments to help them stimulate ideas for the birth of certain characters. An example of this is when animators Andrew Gordon and Nate Stanton went to a bird store to draw sketches of bird characters. Here they were able to not only see what the birds looked like, but were also able to study their movements, their behaviour, the sounds they made, how they reacted in situations, how they displayed their emotions and many other elements involved in character motivation and development. Studying the bird environment also helped them to get to know what sort of surroundings make their characters feel comfortable, and get to know the characteristics of the birds for the development of their characters.
Writers usually develop characters based on their own personalities or the personalities of people they personally know. This is because the writers can more easily relate to the characters and appropriately develop actions and reactions of the characters in different situations.
We can see this play out where the head writer of Adventure Time, Kent Osborne stated that Ice King was his favourite character “because he lives alone - I live alone, and he has a penguin, I have a cat”. He also cited that writing for them is made easier by thinking what the character would say based on their personality.
Osborne said that their process of coming up with ideas sometimes involves the team coming together and him asking them what they did over the weekend. They will then use suitable activities and people who were involved as the basis for their character motivations and developments. He said “If we’re really desperate we’ll just sit around and do drawings, and you (the writers) pass the drawing to the next person and they have like, they have 2 minutes to write a story based on the drawing”. This helps stimulate creativity and sometimes gives the writers ideas for new characters or the development of current ones.
Osborne says keeping a journal of one’s daily thoughts and activities helps come up with ideas. He also recommends writing about people one sees everywhere. For example, writing about the person one sees entering the bus (how they talk, walk, act, etc.) while waiting at the bus stop.
Today we will speak about 2 different types of motivations of two different characters: ‘Naruto and Spider-Man’, understanding them can be useful in developing games in the future. What is special about them and what makes them different?
Naruto’s creator Masashi Kishimoto received inspiration from different animes such as ‘Akira’, ‘Hiroaki Blade of the Immortal’ and Noluhiro Watsuki’s ‘Rurouni Kenshin’. When Kishimoto met animator Tetsuya Nishio, he became greatly influenced by his style of writing and began to use Nishio’s elements, namely the character development, for his own animes.
Kishimoto wished to write animes for young adults as opposed to animes for children, which was popular in Japan at the time. This is where the inspiration for Naruto comes in. Kishimoto, just like Naruto, was a young adult trying to find his place in life but usually found no luck. After many failed attempts to find his way in life, he finally gets a big break and unlocks the full potential in himself. This is seen at the end of the series where Naruto is relied upon by the whole Shinobi World. From this, it is safe to say that Kishimoto developed the Naruto character by looking at his own life.
Acquaintance with Naruto takes place at a point where he still knows nothing. He is the worst student in the class, a bully and no one wants to be friends with him. However, from the very beginning, Naruto's motivation and goal was to become Hokage, the main person in the village.
When the boy learns that a great power is hidden within him, his motivation does not change. He withstands this shock and decides to apply new skills to achieve the original goal.
Character development is slow and gradual. With each new victory, the main character becomes stronger and moves towards his goal. This feature of motivation can be traced in almost all Japanese anime.
Marvel legend Stan Lee was the creator of the original Spider-Man character. He said his idea for the character came when “I was watching a fly walking on a wall, and I said ‘Gee! Wouldn’t it be cool if I had a hero who can stick to walls like an insect?’”. He figured that the name Spider-Man sounded dramatic and tried to keep the character realistic in order to not make him a typical hero. Stan Lee did this by making Spider-Man an average guy who was an unpopular nerd, who was shy and an orphan. He wanted to make Spider-Man someone that most kids could relate to. Stan Lee also said that he aimed to make all his characters handicapped in some way just like most people are. He thus used himself as a model for deciding on Spider-Man’s handicap. Stan Lee joked that his handicap was that he spoke too much, and therefore gave Spider-Man the handicap of autism - being a social outcast and not being able to communicate well with others. This was an interesting decision for a handicap as it is somewhat opposite to the personality of Spider-Man’s creator - Stan Lee.
The character development of Spider-Man is rather quick. Until the moment of being bitten by a radioactive spider, Peter Parker lives an ordinary life with his relatives. He doesn’t have a great purpose, but he has a passion for photography and a girlfriend. The motivation to become a superhero and to protect the city from evil does not appear immediately. Tragedy forces him to stand up for the weak and use the power of Spider-Man. It completely changes Peter's life. The main character needs almost no training to develop new skills. Superpower is given immediately and by random circumstances. These are the features of the Western school of creating the main character.
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