This is a simple "broad-brush" approach for making the foundations of your character, their personality, motivations, traits etc can then stem from these very general starting points. This article shall begin by going right back to basic, general character types namely "Hero" and "Villain" and shall also look at the (increasingly popular) "Anti-Hero" and "Anti-Villain" types, along with links to more specific articles on various other types of character along with information on how they may develop, ideas for personalities etc.
Thanks go to Varath for pointing out the many flaws in the basic ye olde allignements, thus spurring me to try and contribute something slightly useful to this wiki.
The archetypal heroic character (the "Hero") arguably typically possesses at least some of the following qualities;
Sacrifice Sacrifice is the forfiture of something highly valued for the sake of one considered to have a greater value or claim.
Determination Determination is a fixed intention or resolution; a firmness of purpse or resolve.
Loyalty Loyalty is the feeling of allegiance or the act of binding oneself to a course of action.
Courage Courage is that firmness of spirit and swell of soul which meets danger without fear.
Dedication Dedication is a selfless devotion; complete and whole hearted fidelity or the act of binding oneself to a course of action.
Intrepidity Intrepidity is firm, unshaken courage.
Valor Valor is courage exhibited in war, and can not be applied to single combats.
Selfless Selfless is the quality of unselfish concern for the welfare of others and acting with less concern for yourself.
Conviction Conviciton is a fixed or strong belief; a necessity of the mind or an unshakable belief.
Focused Focused is the ability to direct one's energy toward a particular point or purpose; to concentrate one's energy.
Gallantry Gallantry is adventurous courage, which courts danger with a high and cheerful spirit.
Perserverance Perserverance is a persistent determination.
Fortitude Fortitude has often been styled "passive courage," and consists in the habit of encountering danger and enduring pain with a steadfast and unbroken spirit.
Bravery Bravery is daring and impetuous courage, like that of one who has the reward continually in view, and displays his courage in daring acts.
So a hero can range from the brave, gallant, selfless Warrior, desperately defending their land and companions from aggressors to the dedicated, courageous Cleric, steadfast in their fortitude and conviction against the heretics and nay-sayers. Below are four "sub-types" of the Hero type.
A protagonist who typically possesses traits and qualities opposed to the traditional hero, for example whereas a traditional Hero may battle villains within the confines of law and order an anti-hero would have no qualms with breaking the law to accomplish their, essentially, heroic goal of defeating the antagonist. Typically anti-heroes are represented as morally complex/ambiguous, questioning of authority and generally more "gritty" than the more "clean cut" image of the traditional Hero;
"The spice of a story, the element that makes it more than simple heroes and villains, lies within the character of the Antihero. The Antihero is someone with some of the qualities of a villain, up to and including brutality, cynicism, and ruthlessness, but with the soul or motivations of a more conventional Hero. The Antihero probably existed first (before conventional Heroes), perhaps pre-dating the sanctifying influence of organized religion. Many of the protagonists of Western and Eastern classical and mythological stories fit into the broad antihero mold, especially those who are shown as having turbulent, violent backgrounds and conflicting motivations. Frequently, it is this mental conflict that serves to link the discrete episodes which compose such stories. (Such a connector was necessary due to the oral storytelling tradition that persisted until fairly recently.)"
Clint Eastwood's "The Man with no Name"
DC Comics "Batman"
Marvel Comics "The Punisher"
Discworld's "Captain Sam Vimes"
Practically every Film Noir Detective
"Kain" from LoK: Defiance
"Raziel" from Soul Reaver, its sequel and Defiance
"Ltn.Aldo Rein" Inglorious Bastards
A tragic hero is a Hero who may begin as being relatively similar to the traditional Hero (for example Macbeth was considered to be a valient and efficient warrior prior to his slow degradation upon meeting the witches and his eventual undoing at the hands of Macduff) but who commits a tragic flaw or mistake in their actions leading to their ultimate downfall. The Tragic Hero provides a perfect opportunity for a cathartic end to a character or can also provide an interesting setup for a Heroic character's eventual "fall" into Villainy.
Some common traits characteristic of a tragic protagonist:
- The hero discovers his fate by his own actions, not by things happening to him.
- The hero sees and understands his doom, and that his fate was revealed by his own actions.
- The hero's downfall is understood by Aristotle to arouse pity and fear.
- The hero is physically or spiritually wounded by his experiences, often resulting in his death.
- A tragic hero is often of noble birth, or rises to noble standing (King Arthur, Okonkwo, the main character in Achebe's novel, Things Fall Apart.)
- The hero learns something from his/her mistake.
- The hero is faced with a serious decision.
- The suffering of the hero is meaningful.
- There may sometimes be supernatural involvement (in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Caesar is warned of his death via Calphurnia's vision and Brutus is warned of his impending death by his evil spirit).
- The Shakespearean tragic hero dies at some point in the story, for example Macbeth. Shakespeare's characters illustrate that tragic heroes are neither fully good nor fully evil. Through the development of the plot a hero's mistakes, rather than his quintessential goodness or evil, lead to his tragic downfall.
- The hero of classical tragedies is almost universally male. Later tragedies (like Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra) introduced the female tragic hero. Portrayals of female tragic heroes are notable because they are rare."
Shakespeare's "Macbeth", "Hamlet", "Brutus" and "Othello"
Goethe's "Dr Faustus"
Arguably FF7's "Sephiroth"
Arguably Lord of the Ring's "Boromir"
The Byronic Hero (named after it's "creator" Lord Byron) is an "idealised but flawed character" best summed up as "mad, bad and dangerous to know".
Typical traits include;
mysterious, magnetic and charismatic
- high level of intelligence and perception
- cunning and able to adapt -sophisticated and educated
- self-critical and introspective
- struggling with integrity
- power of seduction and sexual attraction
- social and sexual dominance
- emotional conflicts, bipolar tendencies, or moodiness
- a distaste for social institutions and norms
- being an exile, an outcast, or an outlaw
- "dark" attributes not normally associated with a hero
- disrespect of rank and privilege
- a troubled past
- self-destructive behavior"
Although the Byronic Hero shares several traits with the stereotypical Blood Elf RPer don't let it put you off trying it out!
The eponymous Phantom from "The Phantom of the Opera"
Arguably "Kain" from Blood Omen and its sequel
Heathcliff from "Wuthering Heights"
The Reluctant Hero is typically a character who either is an ordinary person thrust into extraordinary situations, lacks the desire or drive to bother doing good when and where they can or possess special powers or abilities but couldn't be bothered using them or don't want to risk using them;
"The reluctant hero is typically portrayed either as an ordinary person thrust into extraordinary circumstances which require him to rise to heroism, or as a person with extraordinary abilities who nonetheless evinces a desire to avoid using those abilities for the benefit of others. In either case, the reluctant hero does not initially seek adventure or the opportunity to do good, and their apparent selfishness may draw them into the category of anti-heroes. The reluctant hero differs from the anti-hero in that the story arc of the former inevitably results in their becoming a true hero."
Mat Cauthon from Robert Jordan's "The Wheel of Time".
Arguably Marvel's "Spiderman" with his moments of doubt and occasional retirements from heroics.
Arguably Discworld's "Rincewind" although he never becomes a true hero in his own eyes.
Villains are typically the foil to the Hero, where the Hero performs "good" deeds the Villain attempts to foil these "good" deeds from coming to fruition (hence they are often labelled as performing "bad" deeds");
"In fiction, villains commonly function in the dual role of adversary and foil to the story's heroes. In their role as adversary, the villain serves as an obstacle the hero must struggle to overcome. In their role as foil, the villain exemplifies characteristics that are diametrically opposed to those of the hero, creating a contrast distinguishing heroic traits from villainous ones."
The thorny issues of morality can often blur the lines between Hero and Villain, for example take a possible situation where an Alliance spy is caught by a mixed group of Horde scouts, the Orc calls for the death of the spy, the Tauren attempts to stay his hand. In this situation the Orc considers it "good" that he destroys his enemy in his eyes it is the right thing to do, from his perspective the Tauren is acting in a potentialy treasonous way, hampering him from perfomring his "good" deed, the Tauren could even be said to be almost no better than the Spy (who is the "villain" in this example). The Tauren, however, sees the act of killing as being wrong and thus sees herself as the Hero, staying the hand of the Orc. In her eyes perhaps the Orc is no better than the Spy and could potentially be seen as acting in a villainous manner.
Villains are not normally obviously villainous either. Perhaps an insane Villain performing "evil" deeds out of pure madness (although then it is debateable whether or not they could even be called actively "villainous" as they have no real control over themselves) may conform to a more stereotypical image much beloved of silent movie makers in the early 1900s or practically any James Bond film Villain, but the most believeable Villains tend to be ones who don't see themselves as Villains, characters who can be empathised with;
"Brad Warner states that "only cartoon villains cackle with glee while rubbing their hands together and dream of ruling the world in the name of all that is wicked and bad". Ben Bova recommends to authors that their works not contain villains. He states, in his Tips for writers, that "In the real world there are no villains. No one actually sets out to do evil. […] Fiction mirrors life. Or, more accurately, fiction serves as a lens to focus what we know of life and bring its realities into sharper, clearer understanding for us. There are no villains cackling and rubbing their hands in glee as they contemplate their evil deeds. There are only people with problems, struggling to solve them." David Lubar adds to this that "This is a brilliant observation that has served me well in all my writing. (People who spend far too much time with books might recall the issue was also hashed around a bit by Socrates and Protagoras.) The bad guy isn't doing bad stuff so he can rub his hands together and snarl. He may be driven by greed, neuroses, or the conviction that his cause is just, but he's driven by something not unlike the things that drive a hero."
"Moriarty" from the Sherlock Holmes novels
"Fou Lou" from Breath of Fire 4
"The Joker" from The Dark Knight (despite his unrelenting brutal villainy he was arguably most viewer's favourite character)
"Darth Vader" from the ORIGINAL Star Wars Trilogy
"Annie Wilkes" from Misery
"Frankenstein's Creature" from the NOVEL Frankenstein (forget the sterotypical movie imagery, Frankenstein's Creature was a tragic, lonely creature arguably a tragic hero more than anything else but in the end fell into villainy)
If the Anti-Hero is a "dark" Hero then the Anti-Villain is a "humanized" Villain, whereas an effective Villain character can be sympathised and empathised with an Anti-Villain takes this a step further by giving the character noble goals or in extreme cases an excuse for their current nature as antagonist (typically some form of early abuse or extreme and pathological unluckiness). Thus the Anti-Villain blurs the line between Hero and Villain in much the same way as the Anti-Hero does, therefore; "One thing that sometimes distinguishes Anti Villains from Anti Heroes is that despite all their honorable qualities and noble intentions, Anti Villains are still the antagonists of the story for the most part while Anti Heroes, despite all their flaws and/or evil and selfish qualities, are considered the protagonists(or at the very least, they side with the protagonists). Batman, for all his brooding, tactlessness, rudeness, and inability to maintain good long-term relations with members of his own Bat Family and other superheroes, is still the hero of the story. Mr. Freeze, even though he's a good man deep down who only wants to find a cure for his wife, is considered the villain despite his sympathetic character."
"Kain" from Soul Reaver and its sequel
"Magus" from Chrono Trigger
"Dr Victor Frankenstein" from the NOVEL Frankenstein (arguably it was his desire to conquer death that drove him to create life)
"Mr Freeze" from Batman
"Hans Landa" Inglorious Bastards
Specific Character ArchetypesEdit
http://www.suite101.com/reference/character_archetype - Contains many interesting ideas for character arcetypes from "The Librarian (ook!)" to "The Trickster".