Last modified: June 24th, 2021
Wanna make a monster persona? Let’s do it! Monstersonas are awesome because there are no rules or restrictions – it can be almost entirely human-looking but with bizarre behaviors, or completely bestial, or abstract and surreal. Anything goes! Creating a monstersona is an excellent way to practice unfettered self-expression and relax your internal rules to allow greater flow of creative energy.
Make more than one! Give them different parts of your personality from different points in your life!
Let your monstersona embody your special interests at their most undiluted!
Collect inspiration based on your favorites and preferences.
Get on Pinterest, create a new board called “Monstersona”, and start adding ideas.
Search for your favorite:
- fantasy creatures
- nature scenes
- art/photography styles
- color aesthetics
- fashion styles
- places to visit
Go with your gut feelings and attractions. Think about what you loved as a child. Don’t worry about something feeling overdone, or predictable, or lame. Try to quiet those insecurities and follow what genuinely speaks to you, regardless of how other people might feel about it.
Try looking at these for starting points:
Find the common threads and themes.
Take a look at the inspiration material you have gathered. Are there common themes in terms of design, such as animals, colors, or art styles? How about cultural origins, behaviors, or personality traits?
Examine the inspirations that fit within the majority categories, and those that don’t. Start to narrow down which things stick with you, and which things feel less important. It can be tricky at first to identify the patterns among your inspiration, so keep adding things if you don’t feel like you can see one.
I love using Pinterest for this step. Visit the “More ideas” tab for your Monstersona board and comb through the related images, adding those that feel right. Take note of the “Boards like yours” section under “More ideas”.
Pinterest also allows you to zoom in on specific parts of an image and search for JUST that part. Try zooming in on parts of images that stand out to you, and looking at the related images for that.
Do you have several distinct styles that don’t seem like they go together? Great, now you have TWO monstersonas! Create a second board and separate your inspiration materials.
Name your monstersona.
Even if it’s just a temporary name, and even if that temporary name feels silly or throwaway, like “Fang” or something. Just pick a word that describes an important trait, like “Fin”, or “Red”, or “Fire” if you can’t think of anything else. This will allow you to start referring to your monstersona and give you a way to mentally compartmentalize and solidify the idea of it.
Come back and revisit the naming process once you’re more confident with your monstersona!
Design your monstersona’s physical form.
Take a look at animals and colors in your inspiration materials for ideas.
Do you have a lot of cats on your board? Maybe your monstersona wants to have cat ears or paws.
How about birds? Sounds like your monstersona wants feathers or wings!
Draw a plain circle and then add on the most important features. What are they? Why are these the most important features?
Consider any scenery or environments on your board. If these feel like places your monstersona might live, give it traits that help adapt it to that place. If it’s near water, consider giving your monstersona webbed feet or a fish tail. If you have lots of creepy abandoned places, think about making your monstersona rough grey skin to blend in with crumbling concrete… or even parasitic vines in its body!
Doll-makers or dress-up games can be fun ways to work on a human-like monster, or a human form for your non-human monster. Just be careful of being limited by the options that the game has, and go beyond those limits!
“Talk” to your monstersona.
For me, developing a character’s traits comes hand-in-hand with developing their speaking and communication style. The way in which they convey information is just as important as the information itself. You’ll develop your characters – or “learn” about them faster, if you prefer to think of it that way – more efficiently if you stage your information-gathering as an interview or question-and-answer session. You can have these conversations in your head, or even better, on a document where you can record the responses. I love to use Google Docs for character planning.
Feel free to copy down some character design questionnaires, but many are geared towards normal boring humans.
- What do you eat? Why do you eat it?
- What do you keep in your home/lair?
- What draws you out from your home/lair?
- Who should be afraid of you? Who doesn’t need to worry?
- What does your voice sound like? How about your cry when you are angry, or sad?
- What makes you furious? What makes you sad?
- What are you afraid of? Why?
- What is most important to you in the entire world?
- What creatures follow you?
- What kind of person could befriend or tame you?
- What five items could be used to summon you?
- What do you make? What do you do with your creations?
If anyone has a Pinterest board for their monstersona, please share it with me at pinterest.com/monsterbrainsoup! I would love to provide feedback on the common trends I can identify, the sense I get of your monstersona, and I might even have time to sketch some of your monstersonas.