The Best Characters Just “Appear”

2014 Artwork Spontaneous Characters Sketch

Well, a couple of weeks ago, I made a random painting. I wasn’t feeling hugely inspired and the only idea I could come up with was to paint something that looked like something from a Hidden Object Game.

Initially, I thought about painting a messy room with an inventory bar along the bottom of the page and a hint button in the corner, but as soon as I started sketching this, I realised that it wouldn’t really look that great.

So, I erased my sketch and just started drawing randomly. Then, before I knew it, this character had emerged:

"Heather Greyfield And The Vanishing Station" By C. A. Brown

“Heather Greyfield And The Vanishing Station” By C. A. Brown

Unlike many of the random characters who appear in my paintings and drawings, Heather Greyfield not only already had a name, but she also seemed to have a story of some kind too.

Annoyingly though, she seems to be a computer game character – and, not being a programmer (or really having enough money to get the professional version of Adventure Maker, even though the free version is really cool) – I’m not sure if she could also work as a literary character or a comic character. But, she might well end up appearing in something or other in the future.

Anyway, this experience made me think about the whole subject of spontaneous characters.

Although I’ve created a fair number of comic and literary characters over the past few years, the best characters I’ve created – by far- are the ones who just kind of “appear” of their own accord.

These are the kinds of characters that you don’t really spend ages designing or planning, they just “appear” somewhere or other (usually, in my case, in my art) and then you’re left with the interesting job of trying to learn more about who they are and, occasionally, even what their names are.

This might be because I’m an artist as well as a writer (ok, I’m much more of an artist than a writer these days), but this still used to happen back when I’d laugh at the idea of ever becoming an artist because my drawings looked more like this:

Some random doodles I made during a lecture about six years ago.

Some random doodles I made during a lecture about six years ago.

If you’re not an artist, then it’s possible that these kinds of characters may just appear as mental images, a particular type of narrative voice or a verbal description that suddenly pops into your mind. But, when they do, write down and/or draw as much as you can remember.

This is how my “Damania” comic, “Somnium” comic and my “CRIT” comic started out with characters like this. I’d drawn a random picture, one amongst many, and then somehow it seemed like the characters in the picture had much more of a story to tell than any of the other characters I’d drawn.

Not only that, these kinds of spontaneous characters are almost always mysterious in some way or another. They’re always intriguing enough to make you want to learn more about who they are and what their story is.

For example, when I first drew Roz and Derek from “Damania” back in 2011, I knew that they were some kind of paranormal investigators, but I didn’t even know their names. In fact, it was another month or two before I even knew Derek’s name :

"The Magician's Room" By C.A.Brown [2011]

“The Magician’s Room” By C.A.Brown [2011]

I still, for the life of me, don’t know where these types of characters come from – whether they emerge from the depths of the subconscious mind or, to get a bit more mystical, whether they appear from some unknown outside source or other. But, regardless, they can just appear at random.

It’s always amazing when one of these characters appears and I still can’t really understand it – I’ll draw and paint hundreds of random characters and then one of them will just kind of “jump” out at me and seem more “real” than the others.

I’m not sure if there are any ways to make these types of characters appear more often, or whether they just show up in their own time. But, when one appears, then make sure that you make some kind of record of their existence. Although, saying that, most of these characters are too mysterious and intriguing to be forgotten easily.


Sorry that this article was slightly rambling, but I hope that it was interesting 🙂

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