Fun Friday: Moana, Talk About Characters, Character Design, And The Character-making Process

Hey everybody! Happy Friday! I’m back with even more shenanigans, hopefully you find them fun. ๐Ÿ™‚

But today I wanted to talk a little about Moana but more importantly, seeing it and the characters in action made me think a little deeper about characters and how they’re made in cartoons and films versus how we writers make them. And it made me wonder if the two are more alike than I thought.

Because think about it, when we write, don’t we strive for characters that stand out and are vivid to our readers? And when we draw, we also want characters that stand out.

But the interesting thing is that the same thing applies to both drawing and writing: characters are shaped by the story behind them. Meaning that no one is ever just born what they are. Your eccentric tomato-growing neighbor who can list every species of tomatoes forwards and backwards while doing the cha-cha slide wasn’t born a tomato-phile. He was more likely conditioned to be one, consciously or unconsciously, because of his life circumstances. In the same way, Maui from the movie wasn’t born just Maui. He was a human and then became a demigod through his actions.


Some of Maui’s concept art from Disney, without his tattoos (likely to make him easier to draw more than once from different angles). But his tattoos actually have meanings unique to the story and they make him more interesting! ๐Ÿ™‚


Now, I love drawing too. And I was surprised when I started looking into character design fundamentals that it’s advised not to just draw characters willy-nilly, but to do story-based design: looking at the traits that make up a character, their role, and to draw the character using that as a guideline instead of the other way around. Because for one, character design, like writing, uses archetypes often and archetypes by themselves do not make stories. A cool-looking character in art, or a mysterious character in fiction for mysteriousness sake is not a story. The reasons behind their cool-lookingness and their mysteriousness could be though.

Now don’t get me wrong, drawing a lot or making a lot of characters is not only still good practice, but you can probably find a use for them one day in another work, or to even inspire another character. However, what gives them life and what makes us attach to them so hard isn’t just what they do in the story, (otherwise I’d write a lot more posts about plot and none on character). ๐Ÿ˜›

It’s that character’s unique personalities, hobbies, fears, flaws, admirable qualities, how they came to be like that, and the fact that there is no other person who could possibly fill their space (hence why archetypes don’t work).

Funny enough, I actually tried a drawing approach to developing one of my characters. And strangely enough, I came up with something outlandish that I might just keep, but I would’ve never come up with if I’d only been thinking from a writer’s perspective.

Of course, I also realize that not everyone is artistically inclined to want to draw everything out, so you might not be able to apply this specifically. But hey, don’t feel discouraged. If you love improvisation acting, use that! Or if you love voice acting, try making characters with that! Try music! Photography! Changing diapers (not really, but if you can make this into a creative activity, you’re probably a character-creating god and probably don’t need this post anyway). You get my point, use what creative avenues that you like.

As for me, thanks to Moana, I’m re-inspired to make my writing even more lively and vivid so that readers don’t just walk away reading a book, but they walk away with a powerful experience. And hopefully, I can bring you guys even better content that helps you do the same. If you haven’t seen Moana, I’d recommend it, it’s gaaaawwwwjiss.

Until next time! Aloha!

Or Alola if you’re playing Pokemon. ๐Ÿ™‚



2 thoughts on “Fun Friday: Moana, Talk About Characters, Character Design, And The Character-making Process

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s