An Exercise in Character Creation

Project Introduction

For the final project of the year, Junior students were allowed to explore whatever subject they wanted, such as stop-motion animation, photography, or painting. It was essentially a free-for-all. Since we were given a month of free time to accomplish our mission, the project tested our creativity, as well as our time management. One of the requirements for the project was to follow one of the '21st century skills' as listed on the Freestyle Academy website. These skills included cooperation, creativity, self direction, etc.

By the end of the month, Junior students would present their explorations in the form of an Infographic, carefully designed and written in our English and Design classes, as well as whatever creation we conjured up. Digital Media students would design a website.

For my Explorations Project, I chose to do an exercise in character creation, following the 21st Century Skill for 'Creativity.' I set out to create three vastly different characters and then throw them into a storybook where they found themselves face to face with 'death.' You can see both this book and the infographic I made on the process of creating a character in the Infographic section.

The Process - Story Building and Book Design

From the start, I had an inkling of what the story and the characters might be like. What I wanted was to show different people's reactions towards death. No one wants to die after all. Usually, someone might have to be dragged away screaming and scratching, but sometimes we might be calm in the face of our fear and quite deliberately ask for three weeks more. Or strangely enough, we might just agree to go peacefully.

With these kinds of reactions in my head, I wrote down the story of three characters on a Google Doc. My first draft... was not great. My second went through major edits. Finally, my third managed to skirt by, although admittedly my reader told me it was awkward in places. I had bigger worries though, so I accepted the story as it was and moved on to designing the book in InDesign (although I turned to making the book into a video rather than a physical book).

Before designing the book though, I drew little representations of the pages and images in a small notebook. If you look below, you can see they are very simplistic drawings...

Anyways, the book was always meant to be in black and white. However, the chapter titles and different color fonts were a later addition. This was due to confusion as to which character was talking and when exactly the plot would move on to the next character. The design portion wasn't the hardest part, rather it was the illustrations that really ate up the time.

I have never been a great artist, but I figured I could at least do sillhouettes. I had seen examples of it in my sister's documentary project. The image of a light colored figure on a dark background was entrancing. This is the only reason I decided to create a storybook. That being said, I had to learn anatomy in less than a month, and even then I think my illustrations are strange-looking...

Below are images of my work in Google Docs (where I wrote down the story), Illustrator (where I drew the characters), Indesign (where I designed the storybook), and After Effects (where I created and edited the video). Fun fact, I meant to name the document 'Explorations' but misspelled it and wrote 'Expo' at first. It made me laugh, so I kept it.

My work in Google Docs My work in Illustrator My work in InDesign My work in After Effects

The Process - Character Profiles

In all, there were a total of five characters. Since I aimed to create different reactions, these characters of course had to have different backgrounds and ambitions. The strange things about characters is that when you first think them up, you're usually never going out on a limb to contrive them. They just are. (What I mean is I had an idea of who they were and rolled with it, which of course meant major revisions eventually...)

Reaper: When I first imagined Reaper, I figured he was a crass kind of guy. His goal after all was to take the souls. But he was also a bit of a softy, so sometimes he'd let a soul stay just a little longer. I wanted him to be a realistic sort of person, blunt and persistent but with a little compassion. Additionally, Reaper does not have a gender (I could just as easily call Reaper 'she' or 'they'.)


Death: As you can guess, Death is Reaper's boss and the emodiment of death itself. In this story, I like to think of Death as a woman, but she could be any gender really. Normally quite calm, however her job has become much more hectic due to the increasing human population, and thus the increasing number of deaths. She doesn't play a large part in the book, but I imagined her as a calm and mature woman, not easily angered, but also performing a 'straight man' sort of act to Reaper's 'idiocy.'


Backpacker: A man in poverty whose one ambition was to find financial success. Unfortunately, he met an accident in the mountains and came to an untimely death. He continues wandering toward a city nonetheless. Normally a kind man, I imagined his bad luck has caused him to become more pessimistic and desperate. (As a note, Backpacker was probably one of the last characters to be fully developed, due to my first idea of using him to embodify 'self-greed.')


Dancer: In life, Dancer was a beautiful woman, beloved by many for both her beauty and her kindness. Unfortunately, she met an accident as well, but even in death she still persists in her trade. A charismatic and mature individual, she has persuaded Reaper to allow her to stay on Earth longer. She doesn't harbor any ill will, but desires to see the dancers that come after her to grow and develop. (Had she continued living, she probably would have become a teacher.)


Nobody: Nobody... is sort of an enigma. At first, I had wanted Nobody to be a high school student, but their reaction towards death is a little strange for that, isn't it? Or maybe Nobody is at the height of their nihilism? In any case, Nobody is a calm individual, not easily fazed even by death. That's their outer appearance. On the inside, it's a constant rush to understand what's going on and respond. This quick processing usually decides 'let's stay calm and see what happens next.' Although, this doesn't explain Nobody's cool reaction... perhaps something else has happened.......?


From TJ Productions... 'Charac'

For the infographic, I looked for sources on websites like Writer's Digest. Frankly, it wasn't hard at all to find good information on the subject. I've been through this bend before. There is a reason why I chose "Character Creation" of all things. I'll continue creating stories, and knowing my character from top to bottom will certainly help.

The design of the infographic is another thing entirely. I had so many different choices to make, from color scheme to differently styled bullet points, to which way my infographic would lay down. In the end, I decided to choose a color scheme similar to the storybook, which was black, grey and violet. Below you can see the storybook and the infographic.

This is my infographic
This is my infographic

The voice actors:

Colin Liversidge as Reaper

Jacqueline Ta as Death

Leandro Andrade as Backpacker

Mikele Baugh as Dancer

Jasmine Ta as Nobody


I heard about this project near the beginning of the school year, around the Narrative unit's start. When I was creating the comic, I thought "Creating comics is fun... I can't draw, but I'd sure like to do something with that." And this is where the storybook comes from. Frankly, after a year of messing around with all the stuff I knew I didn't like, I'm surprised I worked up the courage to do this (or rather, I've turned nihilistic as of late...). But in any case, this was fun. It was difficult and time-consuming, and just a little heart-breaking, but I'm glad I did this.

Since this is the final project of the year, I can finally say that the past 85.5 percent of the year was just the taddest bit wasted. Being taught in a very restrictive school environment led me to being restrictive of myself. This is probably the only assignment this year that I can truly say 'represented' me. That being said, the past year has at least been a little fun, and I look forward to next year.