Character Creation

{Previously published in the SCBWI Oregon Newsworthy under the title From the Drawing Board: Exploring Animal Characters}

Who doesn’t have a story gathering dust in a drawer? I recently pulled one out that I’d never created a dummy for, let alone submitted. The obstacle?  Though I know, deep down, that my main character wants to be an animal – a badger, to be precise – I’m inexperienced at creating critters that convincingly combine human and animal characteristics.

Inspired by Dan Santat’s talk at the SCBWI Western Washington Conference in 2011, I decided to give anthropomorphism a whirl. Cribbing his approach, I first explored character concepts from imagination; then drew from reference; and finally blended the two in a character who has real Character.

My first sketches generated costume and personality ideas, but didn’t convey Essence of Badger:



My sketches from reference made lovely wildlife drawings, but lacked individuality.


Finally, armed with a new understanding of badger markings, anatomy, and proportions I ditched the photos and revisited my vision:


Progress! This guy feels like my character: a slightly anxious fellow whose limbs are flexible enough to gesture, but whose body and head feel truly badger-like. A true Character who can hold his own as I dummy up this book and send it out into the world.



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