Comment with a character, or several, and the numbers you want to hear from them!
01. What does your character’s name mean? Did you pick it for the symbolism, or did you just like the way it sounded?
02. What is one of your character’s biggest insecurities? Are they able to hide it easily or can others easily exploit this weakness?
03. What would be their favorite physical trait about themselves?
04. What are their favorite traits about their lover? (one psychological and one physical)
05. Are they sexually confident or more of the shy type?
06. Do they have any hobbies that their lover finds unusual, odd, or otherwise annoying?
07. Is there a catchphrase or sound that they tend to make a lot (likely without being aware of it)?
08. What is, perhaps, their biggest flaw? Are they aware of this or oblivious to it?
09. Do they have a favorite season? What about a favorite holiday?
10. Is your character more feminine or masculine?
11. What is something that would make your character fly into a rage?
12. Is there some particular talent, skill, or attribute that they simply could not give up?
13. What are your character’s sleeping habits? Heavy or light sleeper? Blanket stealer? One that always rolls onto the floor? Pushes their lover onto the floor? Sleep talker or walker?
14. Do they live alone or with family? How do they feel about their family/roommates?
15. Is there a certain person in this world that they cannot stand? The very mention of this person’s name makes them tremble with anger or fear.
16. Is your character the athletic type or more of a couch potato? What are some sports/games that they like?
17. Does your character have dreams of getting married and/or having children?
18. What kind of home would they want to live in? Where would they place this abode?
19. Would your character be the kind to get into fights? (physical or verbal) Would they be a good fighter or cave in rather easily?
20. Does your character like animals? What are some of their favorite animals? Would they want pets? What about mythological creatures?
21. What is one of your character’s biggest fears? How would they react when dealing with this fear?
22. What kind of tattoos, piercings, birthmarks, freckles, and other such unique physical features do they have?
23. What is your character like when it comes to school? What subjects are they good/bad at? Do they get in trouble a lot or are well behaved?
24. In their own words, how would your character describe what their lover is like?
25. Is there something traumatic from your character’s past that greatly affects them even to this day?
26. What is their lover like sexually? How do they feel about their lover’s quirks, needs, etc?
27. If your character was going to get arrested, what would be the most likely reason for it?
28. If your character became a celebrity, what would they be famous for?
29. What is one of the most courageous things your character has ever done for a loved one?
30. When it comes to the arts (music, film, theater, etc), what does your character like?
31. Would your character be the kind capable of killing? Would they enjoy killing or only use it when necessary or, perhaps, refuse to kill no matter what?
32. If your character’s lover offered to take them out on a dream date, what would they want to do?
33. If your character wanted to be alone, where would they go?
34. Does your character have favorite foods? (breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, snacks, etc)
35. Is your character afraid of death? If they got to choose how to die, how would they want to go?
36. Does your character have any medical conditions? Are they serious or minor? Do they affect their day to day life?
37. What are some of your character’s pet peeves? What are some things that annoy them or disgust them?
38. What kind of weather does your character like? Cloudy skies, rainy days, sunshine, etc?
39. When people look at your character, is there some assumption they might make about them just by appearance? Is that assumption correct?
40. Does your OC have any guilty pleasures they enjoy? Hobbies, past times, music, etc that they wouldn’t want known by others?
41. Does your character’s family affect your character in any way?
42. Is there anything in your character’s past that they regret, haunts them, or they wish they could change?
43. Does your character have a switch that changes aspects of their personality whether they are around friends, family, etc. Is there someone who gets to see their true self?
44. Is there a particular event that would emotionally devastate your character?
45. Is your character the kind to hide their true emotions or do they wear their heart on their sleeve?
46. What is some random affectionate thing that your character always does to their lover?
47. Is your character outgoing? Would they be the leader of the friend group, or the quiet one that gets dragged along?
48. Is there anything in particular that would ignite your character’s jealousy? Or does your character not get envious?
49. What is something that your character has nightmares about? Are these frequent? Do they heavily affect your character’s mood?
50. If your character confessed love to their crush, boyfriend, girlfriend, etc, what would they say?
Throw me a number or two along with a Leif & Thorn character, and they’ll answer those questions!
1. How many dead parents do they have?
2. How good are they at tongue twisters?
3. Biggest regret?
4. Are they formally trained or have they gone through a more organic learning experience for their skillset?
5. If they could hang out with one famous person in 18th century American History, who would they want to hang out with?
6. What’s their theme song?
7. What fictional character are they most like? Was this an intentional or accidental influence?
8. Paper or plastic?
9. What’s their dump stat?
10. What’s their best stat?
11. What is their favorite anime?
12. What’s their favorite beverage?
13. If they can use magic, what’s their favorite spell?
14. Most heroic thing they have ever done?
15. Most despicable thing they have ever done?
16. Are they a hero or a supporting protagonist?
17. What’s their favorite food?
18. Would they rather fight a hundred duck-sized horses, or one horse-sized duck?
19. They have to go live on a deserted island. They can take one thing and one person. What do they take?
20. Are they religious? If so, what god or gods do they serve?
21. How did they become an adventurer?
22. Most amazing monster they have ever killed or helped kill?
23. Thoughts on death?
24. Do they have any interesting skills?
25. Favorite animal?
26. Expansion of civilization or the preservation of nature?
27. They’re at a tavern. They bump into a big burly angry drunk with a combative attitude. What happens?
28. What do they do between quests?
29. Biggest positive and negative influences on their life and development?
30. Would they smooch a ghost?
Looking at endless arrays of pretty rocks. Picking the pretty rocks you want to work with. Designing the characters, and then coming up with cool ways to blend the designs together, and going through another array of rocks (and their mineral types! and their properties! and their crystalline structures!) to figure out what rock would be the best mix of the two.
It’s so soothing. I could spend all day just working out new multi-Quartz fusion designs.
At this point there are Gem versions of a ridiculous number of Leif & Thorn characters. Gems for characters who haven’t been introduced yet. Fusions for pairs of characters who haven’t met yet. I once had tabs open for every article on naturally-formed glass that Wikipedia could offer, in order to fuse Leaf Green Pearl with a character he has no idea even exists.
(…and I still don’t know what to do with Juniper, though they not only have been introduced, they’re one of the major characters. How do you cast a fighter-type who’s too tall to be a Ruby, but not buff enough to be a Quartz?)
I don’t even know how much crossover there is between the fandom audiences. It’s totally possible I’m the only one who cares, here.
And yet it’s still weirdly fulfilling to spend an hour, say, resizing and rearranging the figures on a height chart. They’re so neat. So organized. As relaxation techniques go, I’ll take that over meditating, any time.
All the fills for the OTP Sexy Art Challenge are complete!
I thought about queueing them up between serious storylines, to make an omake week (or two, or three…). Finally decided that, no, it would go too far out of the m.o. of the site to have such graphic hanky-panky all over the front page.
The cool thing is, the Webcomic plugin can juggle multiple comics on a single site.
So: readers who want your NSFW fix, check out Leif & Thorn After Dark. There’s no single “front page” that shows you the latest After Dark strip — but you can follow it on ComicRocket to get notified when it updates.
Right now it’s all Sexy Art Challenge, including a final character/pairing breakdown. Other posts will show up sporadically, so keep an eye on it. Maybe some racy art, maybe some strips about characters’ fantasies that get, uh, more explicit than the main comic.
(I may or may not have drawn some of these already. Leif has an active imagination, okay.)
In response to a Tumblr ask, some thoughts on webcomic magic.
(1) Don’t feel the need to start from scratch, or get overly stressed about coming up with things that Nobody Else Has Done Before. Everything has been done before. Frozen wasn’t a hit because “powers controlled based on your emotions” or “ice magic” were new ideas, it was a hit because the characters were lovable and the songs were catchy.
BICP combines shapeshifter battles, monsters bonded to human Masters, cool power sigils, a special magic language, and animating sculptures by engraving them with the right words. Every one of those is a cliche in some way; every one has a TVTropes page. If they seem fresh, it’s because they’re being handled in new ways, or put together in new configurations.
(2) Be inspired by real-world things. That’ll help with the consistency. And the familiarity gives your readers a point of reference, which is useful. Galavant gives the characters magical communication crystals – an old, old trope – but then has them glitch like a smartphone on a Skype call. It’s hilarious and engaging because the viewer knows exactly how they’re feeling.
The magitech communications in Leif & Thorn work like IRL digital communications. Different underlying process, but since human psychology is still the same, you get the same dynamics as our world has with cellphones, texting, social media.
And readers can accept it without needing a detailed list of Rules Of Smartcrystal Spell Encoding. Same way I accept that my smartphone works (or freezes, as the case may be) without knowing all the fine points of the Java or C++ that explain why.
(3) It’s okay to be guided by what works for the story. The “battles take place in a separate realm” trope is a blatant author convenience – it saves you from dealing with the ramifications of real-world destruction, and it’s an easy excuse for why the muggles don’t get involved.
X had just-like-the-real-world-but-with-no-civilians battle realms. Puella Magi Madoka Magica goes to the other extreme, having the characters fight in symbolism-laden psychedelic acid trips. BICP goes with “pretty nature scenes” – in part because it’s easy to find references for a wide variety of them.
(4) Think, in detail, about the implications of your magical mechanics. This is something you get a lot in deconstructions or parodies, oddly enough. (”Why don’t we just attack while she’s transforming?”) When that kind of stuff doesn’t get followed up in-series, fans will often step in and reverse-engineer a rationale. (”The transformations must take place in a flash in realtime – the extended flashy sequence is just a device to show it off to the audience.”)
BICP battles take place in a flash in realtime, but for the participants it’s like an extended detour into another dimension. Why just use that for magical battles? Why not use it to have secure, absolutely-not-bugged conversations – or just to hang out and relax, knowing it can’t possibly make you late for your next appointment?
So that’s exactly what some of the characters do.
I think this is the biggest one, honestly. Unless you’re playing to a very young or very broad and non-geeky audience, your readers will already have put some thought into magical tropes and how they could work. If you anticipate them having a question like “Why doesn’t–?” “But shouldn’t it–?” “Why would they–?” – and then answer it – that’s all kinds of fulfilling.
(Caveat: know which things don’t need more explanation. The Force worked just fine as a spiritual thing; viewers didn’t need or want a pseudoscience biological mechanism involved.)
(5) Think about the historical implications, too. That’ll help make things feel serious. Steven Universe is really thoughtful about working the presence of Gems on Earth into the fabric of human history and mythology. You see Gem-inspired bits of culture everywhere, from totem poles to how-our-town-was-founded legends to trashy romance novels.
BICP also has thousands of years’ worth of history involving strangely-powered immortal nonhumans. Some of the restrictions on Beings’ powers were conceived of largely to keep them from becoming overwhelming historical game-changers. What we do see is Being-based mythology, and…well, technically also Being-based mythology.
(6) You can work things out as you go. It’s not like you have to spell out everything for your audience right away. And if you commit yourself to an idea behind-the-scenes, and then the story develops in a way that makes the idea awkward or unsatisfying or inconsistent, it’s going to suck if you refuse to adapt. (See: How I Met Your Mother.)
Figure out enough of the basics to get started, then fill in the details as you write. I’ve only specified a few of the magical domains in Leif & Thorn. Partly because there are some whose existence I don’t want to spoil…but partly because I want the freedom to make up new ones on-the-spot if necessary.
(7) It’s okay to relax and just go with Rule of Cool. I put magic sigils in BICP because I loved them in Hellsing. There’s no intrinsic meaning to the lines and shapes in the Beings’ sigils – they just look neat.
(The humans-casting-spells sigils, meanwhile, are from real-world hermetics.)
The mages in Leif & Thorn (of all ages and genders) have magical-girl transformations, the kind I first saw in Sailor Moon and in plenty of other mahou shoujo series since. Necessary? Nope. Pretty? Oh yes.
And, listen, some people love coming up with intricate systems of fictional rules, with tons of detail for readers to analyze. If that’s you, embrace it! Worked out great for Tolkien. But if not, don’t feel bound to it just on principle.
If something feels exciting and inspiring to you, that’s going to energize your writing, and it’ll show through to your readers. It’s hard to fake that. Don’t worry and second-guess so much that you cheat yourself out of it.