Oftentimes when someone is introduced to a fandom and they turn out to become big fans of it, the desire to create an Original Character (OC) for the fandom arises. Transformers is no different; but where do you even start? I hope to explore that process in the following step-by-step tutorial. Follow the steps carefully, and you may wish to read them more than once.
Section 1: The Basics
Building an OC is like building a house; first you need a foundation. So let's begin with the obvious (and maybe not-so-obvious) basics.
Choosing your character's faction is a surprisingly big deal. This will help determine what they transform into, what colour they are, their backstory, and how they act.
Here are the options:
- Autobot - The "heroes" of the universe, this will make your character part of the good guys.
- Neutral/Rogue - These guys are neither good nor bad. They might never have gotten involved in the war in the first place, or perhaps defected from one of the factions.
- Decepticon - The "villains" of the universe, this will make your character part of the bad guys.
- Other - Some people choose to make up their own factions or groups; this is entirely up to you on where they fit!
Your character is going to transform into something; the question is what? This will help to determine what kind of abilities they can or can't have. Be sure to pick an alternate mode that you like; you want to have fun using this character!
Here are your basic options:
- Flier [aircraft] - Decepticons are usually fliers, and Autobots almost never fly. Neutrals and other groups can go either way.
- Grounder [any land-based vehicle] - While any faction can have a ground-based alternate mode, these are favoured among Autobots and most Neutrals.
- Seadog [boat or submarine] - These are rare, and don't really have one set faction that they "belong" with.
- Techno-Organic [any animal] - These are uncommon, and mean your character is half organic and half Cybertronian.
- Citybot - These are also rare; these giants turn into actual cities!
- Planet - The only recorded cases of canon characters that turn into planets are the deities, Primus and Unicron. Using this as an alternate mode is possible, but generally frowned upon as "god-moding," which we'll explore later.
- None - This doesn't usually happen, but I've seen it here and there. Whether they never chose one or had some kind of defect or damage to the organ that lets Cybertronians transform, something has happened where your OC doesn't have an alternate mode.
So now we need to figure out what your character actually does. Do they fight on the front lines? Do they build things? Do they repair the injured and nurture the sick? We can't have them standing around all the time! Most people choose from a basic class first, and then decide what their character does within that class.
These are the main class options:
- Communications - This can involve spying, information gathering, message carrying to/from other groups and officers, hacking/code breaking, and monitoring communication frequencies.
- Cyber Ninjas - A mysterious group, the ninjas (for example, TFA Prowl) specialize in hand-to-hand combat and often find a fascination with nature and the world around them.
- Engineers - These guys build things. Whether it's creating weapons and gadgets, repairing ships and machinery, or just plain old construction work, that's their job.
- Seekers - Seekers take flying to a whole new level. Kings and queens of the sky, they are an elite team of fliers in the Decepticon army whose expertise lie in aerial and long-range fighting.
- Front-liners -These guys are tough warriors that no army could do without. Relying on physical strength and a good defense, they are the definition of foot-soldiers and are found right up there on the battlefield.
- Guardians - This is almost purely defense. They are the guards and watchmen of the bases, keeping an eye out for enemies back home while the others are out fighting.
- Medics - Without the medics, an army is virtually useless. Medics have a vital job in the army: repairing their injured or broken comrades.
- Scientists - The nerds of the bunch, scientists are masters of chemistry, biology, viruses, mathematics, and other science-y things. There is a very broad range of fields for these guys to go into; if you want diversity, go see them!
- Tacticians - These guys choose both brains and brawn. The Tacticians' field ranges from battle planning to being a source for information, to actually fighting. Some expand past simple battle expertise and operate as general scholars.
- Zealots - If you want crazy, visit the zealots. Often religious-fanatics or berserkers, these aren't the kind of guys you want to mess around with.
- Other - None of these suit your fancy? Come up with something else! A bartender, merchant, general explorer, commander, whatever you'd like.
Now your character is going to need some colours!
Things to think about when choosing your colour scheme;
- Number - How many colours are you going to have on your character? The average number is usually between 3 to 7 different colours on a single character. If you make them all one colour, they're going to look a little boring. Too may colours, and they start to look like a clown. One exception to that is a camouflage pattern - then you can get away with having a lot of them.
- Function - Yes, function is important here too. It's good to pick colours- if you can- that reflect your character's abilities. For example, medics look great in white, reds, and/or blues. Speedy characters tend to have a dark colour and a bright colour (Bumblebee's black and yellow, for one). Fliers tend to be bright and flashy, and engineers tend to be quite dull.
- Alternate mode - That's right, alternate modes contribute to colour as well. If your character turns into a police car, they're probably going to be black and white. If they turn into an ambulance, they will probably be white and red. Military vehicles look best in shades of grey and darker, duller greens, while other vehicles can be pretty much any colour imaginable.
- Optics - You want to think about what colour their optics are too, you know! Decepticons have warm-coloured optics ranging from deep red to bright yellow. Autobots have cool-coloured optics, usually shades of blue but green is not unheard of. Neutrals are commonly known to have optics of virtually any colour. Or your character could be blind, resulting in any shade from white to black.
Some people may choose to give their characters a name first, but I recommend doing it later on. Transformers generally have names comprised of two different words merged into one.
- Shock + Wave = Shockwave
- Sound + Wave = Soundwave
- Wheel + Jack = Wheeljack
- Side + Swipe = Sideswipe
- Lock + Down = Lockdown
And so on and so on. They may also have names that are single words, but sound cool.
The name you pick for your character should reflect what they can do, or maybe what their alternate mode is. Like how Wasp was named because he was very accurate with his Stinger ability, or how Ironhide was named for having very strong armour. Go wild!
Section 2: Personality
When choosing a personality for your character, there are many ways to go about it. While some might call my method cheating, I find it to be a more realistic and easy means of describing what your character is like.
Myers Briggs is now your best friend. The Myers Briggs indicator is an absolutely brilliant and quite wonderful classification of basic personality portraits, based on a set of four basic traits. While you might be skeptical at first, the accuracy of this indicator may astonish you. Your first step now is to take this test
as accurately as you can as it pertains to your new OC, and find out what basic four-letter portrait your character has.
Fleshing Out Your Portrait
All done? Awesome! Your next step is to find out what those letters mean. Out of the sixteen possible combinations listed here
, click the one your test result gave you and read it through carefully. If it doesn't sound like your character, go back and take the test again. You may have made a mistake there. If it does, you're on your way to writing out your character's personality!
What you can do now is re-write the portrait you have into your own words, taking out bits here and there that do not apply to your character and adding in bits that do. Make sure to add and delete at least a few things; that's what really makes your character's personality unique!
That wasn't so hard that way, was it? Now get ready, because the tricky part is coming up next.
Section 3: Backstory
This is likely the most difficult part of making your character. I cannot possibly hope to list everything that could go wrong here; but don't panic! Just take it slow, and make sure to remember a few things. First of all;
Things to Avoid
- Death of Family - This is a very sensitive issue. While having a family member to your character die isn't an uncommon occurrence, the way that it is done can be a big deal. Having a villain kill your character's parents and/or siblings before their eyes is rather dramatic, and if done incorrectly can lead to accusations of a Mary-Sue.
- Death of Lovers - This can just plain get uncomfortable. While not an impossible occurrence- especially in wartime, it can lead to problems. One, for the same reasons I suggest avoiding dramatic family deaths; two, for the after-effect. Be careful with how your character reacts to this; constant whining and being set off on a rant about this at the slightest thing gets annoying and uncomfortable very quickly.
- The Revenge Cliché - The most overused plot device in the history of plots. Though I myself am guilty of using this at least once, it does get very boring. One faction or a character from that faction did something to your character, so now they have to join the other faction to get back at them. Yeah, woohoo. Be creative with how they got where they are!
- The Orphan - This... can be pathetic, honestly. It often goes with The Revenge Cliché, but not always. The concept that the character was made an orphan by one faction and therefore joined the other for revenge is horribly overused, as is the idea that your poor widdle orphan OC was taken in by a nice guy from one of the factions.
- The Science Experiment - Another plot to go hand-in-hand with The Revenge Cliché, this is tiring at times. The character is used by one faction as an experiment and escapes to join the other. Woohoo.
- Canon Relatives - This is something you really need to be careful doing. Having your character as the child of a canon (a character that is already in the show/comics) is widely frowned upon as getting into being a Mary-Sue. This is because to create a child, there must be parents- and that means a slash pairing (two canon characters together) or an OC and a canon character together (see below). Being siblings with them is getting rather iffy as well. As a general concept, I avoid this altogether; the closest I have ever gotten to this is that one of my OCs might be a distant cousin of Skyquake and Dreadwing.
- Canon Lovers - This is also a big no-no, especially for beginners. It takes a LOT of work to pull off pairing your character with one that exists in the show; unless you do a lot- and I mean a LOT- of writing and have done so over a long period of time so that you understand the development this kind of thing takes, I do not recommend it.
Things to Include
Backstories are tough not only because you're trying not to make your character a Mary-Sue, but because there's so much to include. How do you give your reader a sense of how your character came to where they are, but not bore them with mind-numbing details so that they forget that they're reading a character profile and not a memoir? Simple; stick to the basics.
- Family - What was your character's family like? Did they have siblings? Were their parents kind, rough, strict, easy-going, what? Let us know!
- Childhood - How was the early stages of life? Were they the spoiled only child? The bratty youngest? The responsible oldest? How did they fare in school; were they bullied? Did they move from city to city a lot, or did they stay in one place? Give us a brief summary!
- Education - Where did they go to school? Did their parents send them off to the Elite Guard Academy, or did they go to a normal school? Did they graduate with honours? Did they graduate at all? Show us their smarts!
- Career - What job did they have before they got into the military (assuming they did)? Did they like it? Why or why not? They had to make themselves a living somehow (unless of course they were the lonely kid that camped out in their parents' basement)!
- The War - How did they far as the war effort grew? What faction did they join? Did they stay out of the war as much as possible? Why did they do that? Were they in any significant battles? Show off their military prowess!
Section 4: Skills & Combat What can your character do? What are they good at, and what are they like in battle? This is important to know; especially in wartime!
Weapons & Combat Style
When it comes to war, everyone needs to carry some kind of weapon with them to defend themselves. A good rule of thumb is to pick at least two weapons; a long-range weapon (so they can attack an enemy that's farther away) and a close-range weapon (so they can attack an enemy that jumps in front of them). You can most certainly have more, but not too many; I'd recommend having no more than five different weapons, though there may be multiples of them (for example, one weapon is missiles, but there are three of them). When allowing for multiples of weapons, try not to exceed ten total pieces of weaponry as this begins to get a little extreme. You might be able to skirt around this rule a little with a very big character that turns into something like a large military bomber, but don't go crazy.
When choosing your weapons, be mindful of what kind of character you have. If you've chosen a military vehicle as an alternate mode, research what kind of weapons are attached to them. An aircraft might have several missiles; a ground vehicle might have a machine gun turret. Also keep in mind what your character will be able to carry; where are these weapons going to go? Don't just throw a bunch of weapons on them and say that it works. Let's look at some examples;
Character X: A large, military aircraft. His maximum possible weaponry could include;
- Three or four missiles in a bomb bay
- Laser-guided munition (rapid-fire, long-range; stored in secondary weapon bay)
- Two swords OR rifle OR machine gun/bazooka/rocket launcher (stored on his back)
- Two handguns at his hips (one on each side)
- Twin punching daggers OR twin swords OR twin plasma guns (stored in forearms)
- Daggers OR whip OR lasso OR something else (stored in leg panels)
Character Y: A petite sportscar. Her maximum possible weaponry could include;
- Two handguns at her hips (one on each side)
- Two swords OR rifle OR machine gun/bazooka/rocket launcher (stored on her back)
- Twin punching daggers OR twin swords OR twin plasma guns (stored in forearms)
- Daggers OR whip OR lasso OR something else (stored in leg panels)
The examples above are going a bit over the top in terms of weaponry and do not have to be multiples, but you can get an idea of where some of these weapons might be and how much a single Cybertronian could carry at maximum. I've chosen not to include "natural weapons" such as fangs and claws (if they have them), because I don't think those count to the "number of weapons" rules.
Something that goes right along with their weapons is their fighting style. Not everyone fights the same way! If you gave your character a pair of swords to stick on their back (katanas, perhaps), maybe they fight in similar fashion to one of the older Chinese or Japanese styles. A character with a long, slim sword might choose an elegant fencing style, while one with a larger, bulkier sword might go with the rough slash-and-stab style. If they are equipped with a rifle, perhaps they fight like a sniper; striking down their enemies from afar with deadly accuracy. A machine gun might indicate a rougher, more reckless combat style. Think about how they use their weapons, rather than just slapping some on them!
Skills & Abilities
What else can your character do? Outside of brute battle, your OC probably has other skills to pass the time with. There are hundreds- of not thousands- of abilities to choose from, so be creative!
However, when choosing skills be mindful of your character's age and occupation. Some things take a certain amount of time to learn, and even longer to master, so don't choose something that they haven't had the time to get good at and call it a skill of theirs. Their occupation might help here too; a medic might have dexterous fingers, for example, which are good for a variety of things such as piano-playing, knitting, tying knots, and so on.
Fears & Weaknesses
Where there is strength, there is also weakness. No character is invincible; even Unicron had at least one weakness.
It is important to balance your character's faults and strengths. Too strong of a character, and you get more accusations of god-moding and Mary-Sue-ism. Too weak of a character, and they start to get boring. What I do to avoid this is for every strength my character has, I give them a fear or weakness. The cooler/better/stronger the skill is, the worse the weakness is to match.
And when giving them fears and weaknesses, be realistic. Don't make it some obscure thing that will likely never be found, like a trinket lost on a faraway planet. Look at things that you, friends, and family members are afraid of and apply them to your characters, or look up common phobias on your favourite search engine. Also think about their age; an old character might have back or joint problems, for example, while a very young character might be overly confident or reckless. Also think about your character's personality when choosing things they might be scared of; a solitary character might fear large crowds, for example.
Section 5: Fun Stuff *[Optional Step]
Now for the fun little tricks and tidbits! There's a bunch of other things that you can add to give your character some extra fun and dimension, but aren't entirely necessary. Of course, I'm sure there's much more than what I have listed here, but this is some of the stuff I like to throw in with my characters.
Age, Creation Date, Protoform, and Holoform are things I like to add to my character profiles under basic information.
As there is controversy as to exactly how old Cybertronians can get and how their ages and the ages of a human match up mathematically, age is something I list as an equivalent (as an example, I might say my character is the human age equivalent of 20 rather than throwing on a bunch of zeros and hoping that it makes sense).
When it comes to picking a Creation Date (birthday) for my characters, I like to line them up with the zodiac sign
that sounds most like them. After I pick that, I usually choose a date via RANDOM.ORG
to decide exactly what day during the time of that sign they were "born" on.
I also like to talk about their Protoform and Holoform. The Protoform is pretty much the "body" that houses all their internal workings, the thing you find under the armor. All I really mention is what colour(s) it has, and any scars they might have on it. The Holoform is a three-dimensional hologram of the Cybertronian in a human form, which I will either draw or briefly describe.
I'm the kind of person that gets very much into detail with my characters, and I tend to like using lots of math and numbers. I research the statistics of their alternate mode to determine things like height, weight, wingspan (if they have wings), maximum speed, and cruising speed.
I also like to add fun tidbits of information to their profile, such as Likes, Dislikes, Fun Facts, Theme Songs, and Special Font.
Likes and Dislikes is a pretty straight-forward section. I like to be balanced here; for every like, I add a dislike, but you don't necessarily have to do that. Fun Facts is the section where I put interesting things about the character that don't seem to fit in any other section. Theme Songs is pretty straight-forward as well. Special Font is the font face I think fits them best, and would likely use for speech bubbles if making a comic with them in it.
This includes listing their family, friends, and foes. For their family and best friend, I like to include a brief description on who the mecha in question is and what their relationship is like.
This can be lots of fun to do. I list what accent my character has (if you don't think they have an accent, then if you put this in just list your own nationality) and include a voice actor. If I pick a voice actor, I also list what character they most sound like, as the actor might change what their voice sounds like depending on what character they are acting as. I also like to put in a list of random quotes from my OC, so people can get a sense of how they talk.
Section 6: Final Touches
Almost done! Your OC's profile is looking pretty snazzy, but now it's time to give it a second look.
Here are some steps to follow to make sure your new OC is just right;
Now it's time to take them out into the world to play; whether that's through visual art, writing, or role-playing, get them out there!
If you choose to take your character out for some role-playing, here are some tips for beginners;