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SMAC! MANGA DOJO #17 – "How to make a charming character ③ 3 Principal Elements you need in a Character"

Mayuna Mizutani Mayuna Mizutani 23/07/2018 23 min read
<Characters>   Penmaru Is a ninja dog who dreams of becoming the greatest manga creator in the animal world. To help achieve his dream, Mocchi gives him a mission… “Learn how to create manga at the Manga Dojo.” His most treasured possession is an autograph card of his favorite manga creator he won in a readers present lottery.   “Shihan” Manga Master The master of the dojo and Penmaru’s tutor in the ways of manga. An experienced editor who has worked in the manga industry for over 30 years. His most treasured possession is a home-run ball which he caught as a boy.   <Previously in Manga Dojo> Penmaru, a Ninja dog, is studying how to create good manga under the tutelage of Manga Master Shihan. These days his mind is far away from manga, preferring to watch TV shows, or find the courage to approach his crush……! Thus, the day X (July 13th) finally arrives……  

Ep. 17  How to make a charming character ③  3 Principal Elements you need in a Character”

― July 13th 2018. ― ― Night…… ―   Penmaru: ……   Shihan: ……   Penmaru: Sigh……   Shihan: Well, no need to feel so depressed, Penmaru.   Shihan: Life may seem unbearable, being turned down by your love interest, not to mention failing to win any manga awards… but as they say, “”If you’re at the rock bottom, there’s no other way to go but up.”   Penmaru: Yes……sob……   Penmaru; But I really thought I did my best, you know……I wonder what’s wrong with me?   Shihan: Hm… There’s no point in wallowing in “what you did wrong” if you have any hope of improving your work…   Shihan: Rather, spend that time and energy in studying the entries that did win, as well as examining your favorite manga to understand what works and what doesn’t.    Penmaru: Is that so……?   Shihan: Of course.    Shihan: So today, I shall share another TIP for creating a good character. I’m sure it will help you improve your work drastically! Would that help you out of your gloom?   Penmaru: Yes, it will!!! Alright, I’m gonna study today’s lesson with all my strength!!   Shihan: Good to hear! Here’s the TIP…  

TIPS ③ Use “EXAGGERATION”, “SURPRISE” and “SYMPATHY” to develop a charming character!

  Penmaru: ……Shihan, don’t tell me the writer is already out of ideas for this series?? I’ve seen this topic in the “Japanese Manga 101” videos with Mocchi and Taiyo, before!! C’mon, it’s only the 17th episode, you know!?   Shihan: Hahaha, well remembered! Indeed, this topic has been wonderfully covered in the “Japanese Manga 101” video series. But today, I’d like to dig deeper into WHY these three elements are so fundamentally important in creating a character.   Penmaru: Oh…… Coming to think of that, “Japanese Manga 101” did teach us HOW to exaggerate the elements, and how to find the surprise, but I don’t quite know WHY they are important, for sure……   Shihan: Yes. So, why did Mocchi and Taiyo mention these three elements in the first place?  That’s because these three elements, “EXAGGERATION”, “SURPRISE” and “SYMPATHY” each have different roles in grabbing the reader’s hearts and minds. I will explain each one by one, so listen carefully!   Penmaru: OK!   Shihan: First comes “EXAGGERATION”. In Japan, we mostly call this “Déformer / Déformation“, which comes from the French word for “Deformation”. In short, EXAGGERATION is where we need to “simplify the character’s features, by exaggeration/putting emphasis”… and the role is to make the character’s personality clear to the readers.    Penmaru: “Déformer”, as in, deforming characters into different forms, like the CHIBI characters in ‘DD Hokuto no Ken’, or ‘Chiruran Nibun no Ichi’?   Shihan: You’re not far off…… but that “Déformer” you mentioned is rather a deformation of the appearance. The deformation we mean here, is “The deformation of personality”, which is very important for character creation.   Penmaru: Aha! So there’s an exaggeration of the appearance, and an exaggeration of the the substance……   Penmaru: ……By the way, why does “EXAGGERATION” make the character more clear to the readers?   Shihan: That is because it’s much easier to imagine the character for both the reader and the creator. If the character’s personality is described bluntly in one word, rather than explaining everything, then we have a direct focus.    Penmaru: Oh, is that so? I thought it’s better to explain everything, in great detail, to establish what kind of person the character is……   Shihan: Imagine. Which of the following descriptions makes it easier for you to imagine a character?
  1. “This person is a very nice person. He is a teacher. He has a serious personality and very friendly. He likes children. He always cares about people around him.”
  2. “This person is the best teacher in the world.”
  Penmaru: Ah!!!! I kinda feel the second one clicks to me better, even though it’s the first one that’s more detailed!! I wonder why?   Shihan: Maybe that’s because the former is “not seeing the wood for the trees”. If you can’t see the big picture, it’s difficult for you to understand what the story is all about…… no matter how precise the detailed it is. Besides, a personality is essentially an integral concept, thus difficult to describe in one word.    Penmaru: I see……   Shihan: On the other hand, “the world’s best teacher” could be a better explanation in the way it’s an exaggeration of “a teacher” ― a concept which is universal, and already has a certain fixed image. This way, you can instantly imagine what kind of person the character is, from the ready-made image we have from the word “teacher”……  all you have to do is gradually build up your image from the direct image provided. Peace of cake, isn’t it?   Penmaru: You’re right! It’s amazing!!     Shihan: Next comes “SURPRISE”, or “Gap”, in other words. This element is suppose to “grab the reader’s attention”.    Penmaru: ?? Using gaps works that way?   Shihan: Of course it does! As we have said many times, entertainment itself is a big surprise. Same for characters. You can attract the reader’s attention by using this “surprise” method. Moreover, it gives character a human depth as well.   Penmaru: Hmmm……??   Shihan: Easier said than done I guess! Imagine there is the “world’s biggest bad boy” in your class. He loves smoking, he loves getting drunk, he definitely loves to gamble and getting involved in fights…… What would you think, if you were in the same class as this naughty malefactor?   Penmaru: Ugh…… I don’t want to be friends with him, to be honest…… I’ll definitely be careful not to get too close……   Shihan: Understandable. Now, let’s add some “surprise” to this boy. One day, on your way home from school, you see this “evil boy” in the park, taking care of a stray cat.  What would you think?   Penmaru: I’d probably think, “Maybe he’s a kind guy at heart”……? Oh, I see! Now I’m interested in him!   Shihan: That scene would definitely leave a strong impression on you, won’t it?    Shihan: What if the surprise was something like, “he’s actually got a big sweet tooth”, “he still believes in Santa”…… or even, “he’s a big manga otaku!”?   Penmaru: If he was a big manga otaku, that’d definitely make me want to become friends with him!   Shihan: Aha, you found the key phrase, Penmaru…… “WANT TO BECOME FRIENDS”, don’t forget those words.    Penmaru: ???   Shihan: “Surprises” have the power to make the character feel close to you. If the EXAGGERATION shows the “head” of the character, the SURPRISE shows the “tail”…… Humans are interesting, because they all have both sides. It’s the “tail” of the personality that makes you want to know more about that person…… and if that “tail” is something you feel familiar with, it is left in your mind as a positive impression!   Penmaru: You’re right…… If the girl I like was a cultist, it would be a SURPRISE, and I wouldn’t like her anymore…… Alternatively, if the scariest teacher at school was a manga fan, I’d probably pay more attention to his classes!     Penmaru: Then Shihan…… what role does “SYMPATHY” hold in manga creation?   Shihan: Hm. “SYMPATHY”, just like “SURPRISE”, brings depth to the character. It makes the readers feel more familiar with the character, by giving the character a human touch.   Penmaru: Eh? Then how is that different from SURPRISE?   Shihan: One big difference is that the element of “SURPRISE” is “NOT likely for the character”, and the element of “SYMPATHY” is “likely for the character”. Also, “SURPRISES” are supposed to grab the readers attention, making them interested in the character, while “Points of SYMPATHY” are supposed to make the readers love the character.    Penmaru: Hmm……so, the element of SURPRISE is “catching a fish”, and the element of SYMPATHY is “feeding the fish”, I suppose……?   Shihan: What a strange way of putting it…… Well, I guess it’s right, though.   Shihan: A big feature of “SYMPATHY”, is that it is not really necessary for establishing a character.   Penmaru: Eeeeeeeeeh!?!? Then we don’t need this element!?   Shihan: Ultimately speaking, yes, we don’t need this element to MAKE a character. However, there’s a big difference in how charming the character is, when comparing a character with the SYMPATHY element and the character without the SYMPATHY element.   Shihan: In the first place, every character is a complete stranger to the reader from page 1. It’s extremely rare for a person to be interested in another person, where no interesting traits appear.    Shihan: It’s like grabbing an object…… to keep the grip, you must apply force constantly. In other words, you need to keep on supplying “SYMPATHY” elements to keep the reader’s heart in your hands.   Penmaru: !!   Shihan: Of course, you can create a character without SYMPATHY, on purpose. But then, you need to carefully work it out so that you can make the readers interested because he/she doesn’t have anything to sympathize with…… like putting him/her into the antagonist position.   Penmaru: I see! So, for characters to be loved, we need to make lots of elements for readers to “SYMPATHIZE” with!   Shihan: ……However, it’s not a good idea to make “lots” of elements to sympathize with. It is important to prepare only the right amount,    Penmaru: Oh? R-Really??   Shihan: Elements of “SYMPATHY” are like accessories…… It’s supposed to work as a spice. Just because it’s stylish and pretty, you don’t put 5-6 rings with different designs on one finger, do you? It’s bothersome, and moreover, wouldn’t look pretty at all.   Shihan: Same for character creation. You must fight with elements that are more sympathizable, instead of loading too many elements on your character. Quality, rather than quantity!   Penmaru: I-I see…… “Don’t try to eat more than you can chew”, I guess…   Shihan: Exactly. Remember, everything is better in moderation.     Shihan: Now, it’s been a quite long talk! To sum up everything I said……  
―3 Principal elements you need in a character― EXAGGERATION: Exaggerate/Put emphasis on ONE feature that represents the character -> Easier for the readers to understand what the person is like! SURPRISE: A gap, that is unexpected from the character in first sight. -> Draw the reader’s attention! SYMPATHY: A feature that adds a human touch to the character. -> Makes the readers more attached! BUT REMEMBER!! Quality over quantity!! Only add an amount you can digest!!!
  Penmaru: I see……! Now that I’ve learned this theory, I feel I’ll be able to create an awesome character by adapting the methods I leaned in “Japanese Manga 101”!!   Shihan: Yes. I strongly recommend re-watching the video once you’ve understood today’s lesson, since the videos show the practical way of creating a character!   Penmaru: Thank you, Shihan! I think I’ve mastered character creation, hehehe.   Shihan: Fufufu……Penmaru, do you really think you’ve mastered everything about character creation?   Penmaru: Wha!?   Shihan: These three methods I told you are merely “the basic elements for establishing a character”. To make your character come to life, you must add a few more things!!   Penmaru: Eeeeh!? Then, how do I make them come to life!?   Shihan: You must add ……   Penmaru: Add……?   Shihan: …… Maybe another time!   Penmaru: Ohhhhhhhhh!!!!   Sadly, Penmaru’s work did not win any awards in SMA9. Still, he has started to understand character creation, with the help of Shihan’s lesson: ”3 elements you need in a character”!! BUT! Shihan says that is not enough…… What kind of TIPS will Shihan introduce next time!?     Did you enjoy reading this story? Did you find the hints and tips to improve your manga production? If YES, please share the article with your fellow creators! If NO, please let me know how we can improve Penmaru’s journey! We welcome any and all kinds of opinions and questions, requests and comments, day and night! Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter for updates 😉
Script: Mayuna Mizutani – Follow me on Twitter and Facebook Illustration: Roberto F. – Support him on Instagram, Facebook & Tweet your questions / opinions / reviews at #SMACMangaDojo, and I will answer! 😉
Mayuna Mizutani

Mayuna Mizutani