Oh, character designs. I’m sure anyone who has created a character before had to do this at some point – whether it be through, writing, drawing, or some other medium, you may had to redesign a character before. If you haven’t, you might be wondering as to why one would redesign their creations. If not, you can just scroll past these first two paragraphs and read the rest of this post.
Usually when one redesigns their creations, they’re doing it to improve the character. Sometimes with initial designs, especially when the characters are designed when the creator was at a younger age, the characters are flabby, weak, and leave a lot to be desired. Other times, their original design doesn’t fit with the storyline and has to be redone to fit it correctly. In the case of drawing, an artist may change the character’s design because their artwork improved or simply because they didn’t like how they used to look. In most cases, the redesigns are for the better, allowing for well-rounded, better looking characters compared to the originals. I know this may seem depressing, but usually one feels good when they finish a redesign unless, of course, the redesign didn’t come out as planned.
I have quite a handful of characters I need to redesign, both in writing and in drawing. Some I have actually started their redesigns, others, not so much. A large majority of these characters are from when I was 8 to 13, back when I didn’t really develop their own personal histories and when my drawing skills were much lower. Any of the characters I wanted to bring back or continue to tell their stories, I have decided needed a character redesign in both writing and drawing. A majority of the physical redesigns are based off their original looks, just updated in my current style, but others are completely redone to the point beyond recognition. I would say it’s the same for writing up their character biographies too, but it’s a bit different.
Most of the time when I write their updated biographies, I look at (or rather, think about) their previous biographies and the story itself, thinking what I like about their character and what I don’t. From there, I add, remove, and change things to build a better character. I usually destroy most of their previous histories, keeping one or two things I feel are still vital to the story they’re in. Sometimes I destroy characters entirely during the redesigning process to the point they’re an entirely different character.
When I say that, two of my characters pop into my mind: Amanda Goldenrod from Magic Misty and Star Sages and Princess Kerryn of Brehtstral from The Embellished Romance Under the Bright Stars. Amanda Goldenrod is actually interesting in terms of redesign – originally, there was Amanda Richfield from Magic Misty and the New School of Ghouls and Amanda from Star Sages. They were completely separate characters created at different times – Amanda Richfield when I was 8 or 9 years old and Amanda probably when I was 10 or 11. When I revived Magic Misty from the grave, I could no longer remember Amanda Richfield. All I remembered was that I had a character named Amanda in it and that she was one of Magic’s friends. Since I’m such a huge sucker for crossovers and connecting stories to each other, I took Amanda from Star Sages, gave her the last name of “Goldenrod”, and added TONS to her identity, including that she is one of Magic’s friends and attends the same magic school as her (which was all I remembered from Amanda Richfield). I more or less merged the characters into one.
Princess Kerryn of Brehtstral is a different story from those two. It’s hard for me to figure out where to start when I explain her redesigning. Let’s see here…the story she is in is based off an idea I had in connection to my Pokémon fan character, Kelly, in attempt to explain the fact Kelly is half Pokémon. I scrapped that idea in terms of fanfiction, but I felt like it would have been a fantastic original story minus certain aspects (which, so far, is proving itself to be true). Since I wanted to make it into an original story, I knew I would have to heavily redesign the characters, including giving them new names. Princess Kerryn’s original name was Keruri-hime (which was intended to be something along the lines of “Princess Kelly”, but in Japanese – you may see me write “Keri” or “Kerii” instead of “Keruri”, since those are more accurate to the actual romanization of my name written in Japanese). When I was giving her a new name, since that was the first thing I had to think about, I knew I still wanted to “nod” to the original, so I kept the first two letters of her name. “Kerryn” struck me as a very nice name and quite befitting to her character, so I decided to make that her name. I then added a personal history to her, which she didn’t have before and, well, I made her into a well rounded character, no longer connected to any of my other ones (at least, for right now).
Princess Kerryn is actually what made me want to write up this post in the first place. I was trying to draw her one day and I was having some issues with her design. I probably haven’t drawn her since 2005 or 2006, right around the time I scrapped the idea for Kelly’s Journey. My drawings have made a clear improvement since then. I thought I would be fine drawing her in my updated style, but it became apparent quite quickly that it was a problem. What was the problem, you might be asking?
Well, it was that she was looking far too much like my redesign of Magic Misty.
I redesigned Magic Misty in 2008 when I attempted the first rewrite of the story. I based it off her original design and a costume I made of Magic Misty for Halloween one year. There’s a lot of redesigning information I could go into, but I feel like that would be more appropriate when it gets closer to the time Magic Misty is to be released. Anyway, the redesigned version of Magic, as you can see, has puffy hair and bangs that get tucked behind her ear.
I didn’t realize until I tried to draw Princess Kerryn recently that she has a very similar design to Magic Misty. Compared to the original, she doesn’t, but right now, oh boy. She’s so close to Magic’s redesign, I’m afraid people are going to think they’re related somehow. Which I can tell you right now that they are not related. I could write them to be related, but I can just feel that they’re not. They have no connection whatsoever.
Now, if you look at Keri-hime’s design, you see that she has the bangs-behind-ears thing going on (which is actually based on how I used to wear my hair, surprise-surprise) and long, wavy hair. Her redesign (Kerryn) is drawn in more or less the same way as the original, however, ends up extremely unsatisfying for me and she looks too much like a weird older version of Magic Misty or something. The next picture (the one on the right) is my most recent drawing of Princess Kerryn. Since I didn’t like how I was drawing her, I added curled locks of hair. Which makes her look even more like Magic. Eventually I’ll get to where I want to be, but right now, her physical redesign is quite troubling. I want to avoid having her look like Magic Misty. I actually kind of wish she would look more like Kelly, but still have the wavy hair thing going on, so it’s kind of like a nod to the original but not quite. Everything else about her is fine though.
I think a good example of a character design drastically different from the original is Drake Laine. His character design is VERY different. Well, his physical design, anyway. He’s always more or less had the same personality to him. As you can see at the side, his 2011 self is VERY different from his original design. The original had far shorter hair that reminds me of a bowl cut gone wrong. His current version has longer hair in a ponytail. He still has a sweatshirt thing going on in his current version, but as you can see, it’s different from his original sweatshirt. It’s kind of unbelievable that they’re meant to be the same character, huh? In the end though, 2011 Drake Laine looks much better and the design settles with me quite well.
It really is a process that takes a lot of time to do. Sometimes its heartbreaking, but other times, it feels so right to do, that you fall in love with your completely changed characters. People who are reading this, have you had to redesign your characters before? What kind of changes did you make? Just physical ones? Just written ones? Or did you drastically change everything about them? I want to know below!