On "unique" characters (or: Interesting Fursonas/OC's Without Looking Like You're Trying Too Hard)

Discussion in 'Fursona Discussion' started by TheRealKingKoopa, Mar 17, 2017.

  1. TheRealKingKoopa

    TheRealKingKoopa Pixel Junkie

    I've seen a few people, on a few different websites, say that they're worried their fursona isn't unique or distinctive or interesting enough. Invariably the responses are "don't pile on details, that's how sparkledogs happen, focus on personality" – but I want to give a slightly more in-depth, slightly more comprehensive answer to anybody who has concerns about how interesting their OC's are. So, welcome to How to Make Interesting and Unique Furry Characters Without Looking Like You're Trying Too Hard!

    ...Or something to that effect. It's a clumsy title, but it's communicative.

    A quick primer.

    These are guidelines. Suggestions. They're not rules. I'm not telling you that you shouldn't create a fox/wolf/GSD/husky as your fursona, I'm just saying that exploring other options might help make it better. I'm willing to bet that someone skilled enough can break all of these guidelines and still create an awesome character. It's just something to think about when you're creating your characters.

    Try a slightly unusual species.

    Unusual in this case meaning underrepresented in the furry fandom – lord knows there are enough snow leopards in furry art despite their real-life rarity. You could even just have an underrepresented subspecies of something common in the fandom – cougars and panthers are reasonably popular, but the latest image of a Florida panther on FA at the time of writing is from 2013. If somebody appeared with a Florida panther fursona, it would definitely pique my interest.

    Instead of giving them a unique combination of traits, make the individual traits unique.

    Let's make a fairly stereotypical fursona: a gay arctic fox with some sort of abstract rainbow markings, heterochromia, wings, and the ability to shapeshift. I doubt anyone has made a character to that exact description, but I've seen all of those individual things a ton on other characters (although maybe not the shapeshifting one; it's less common, but I just have a thing for shapeshifters). Instead of shapeshifting, maybe this guy can have a magic glove that can summon some ancient spirit that takes on the form of a number of different feral animals. It's tangentially related but also something I've never seen before. And we'll ditch the heterochromia and wings (more on that later) and instead, maybe he can have markings that change color depending on his mood. It's corny as fuck and I personally wouldn't include it in any OC I would take seriously, but I don't see color-changing characters all that much, and it's at least better than rainbows.

    That's enough, I think. Any more and we start venturing into sparkledog territory. And see what we've done? We have two major, defining traits – two! – one visual, in the form of the color-changing markings, and one conceptual, in the form of the spirit-summoning glove – and that's as much stuff as we can safely cram into this guy. He can still be gay and he can still be an arctic fox, but those are less important traits; you can change them without affecting the stuff that makes him stand out.

    Don't make the extraordinary mundane.

    I've found the most egregious offenders of this to be in the Sonic fandom. Tails' primary visual trait is that he has two tails, and I will strangle somebody if I see one more fox OC in a Sonic fanfiction who inexplicably has two tails as well and no one seems to think much of it. Or the thankfully-small handful of OC's I've seen whose description includes “super speed, super strength, chaos control, immortal, can fly, pyrokinesis, telekinesis...” like motherfucker you have just taken every extraordinary trait from almost every canon character and stuffed them into one character AND NOW THEY'RE ALL BORING.

    I may have gotten a little carried away there. But my point still stands that if you treat these exceptional things like they're no big deal, they stop being interesting. I see this manifest in the furry fandom pretty often in the form of heterochromia and wings – the two things that we took off of the character we just created. In reality, complete heterochromia is extremely rare and should be treated as such – although “sectoral” heterochromia is slightly less rare and can look really fucking cool and I wish more people knew about it. And as for wings, well, that's a defining trait of birds, bats, dragons, and a number of other species. If you put wings on a fox with no explanation, it just kinda leaves me thinking, why? If the guy wanted his fursona to be able to fly that badly, why not make him a bird or a bat or a dragon or something to that effect? If the wings are just to look badass I can respect that, but it should at least be treated as being a really integral part of the character's design, not just “oh yeah, and he has wings as well.”

    So what about everything else? After all, I never touched upon personality or backstory or any of that. Well... just do it as if you're making a human character, and there's far more stuff on the internet about that, written by people who are far better writers than I am; in which case, here's a good jumping-off point for that, if you're still in the mood for reading walls of text. I'm just talking about things that specifically pertain to the furry fandom.

    To summarize:
    • Having an underrepresented species is a quick & easy way to stand out.
    • A unique color scheme, wings, heterochromia, etc. are NOT good ways to bring about uniqueness – rather, base your character off of very few, very interesting traits.
    • If your character has something extraordinary about them, make sure to treat it as such, otherwise it just becomes kinda pointless.
    • Personality- and backstory-wise, with a few exceptions, your character will be indistinguishable from a human.


    Whew. That got kinda long. I hope somebody actually made it through all of that.
    mox7, Rant, Cloudyhue and 1 other person like this.
  2. Simo

    Simo Skunk

    I'm Simo the Skunk, just a little 'ol black and white striped fella, and I endorse the above message!

    I like the idea of a slightly unusual species, or a species that might be usual in the wild, but unusual in terms of fursonas: Skunks are very common, but I have seen next to zero, here, as with even raccoons and weasels, or most smaller woodland critters.

    Also, I like certain exotic species, the Fossa is my alternate fursona...

    Myself, I have always stuck to a basic animal, typical markings, and let the personality/backstory, and maybe the clothes (if any), do the heavy lifting, to make things stand out.
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2017
  3. Renven

    Renven Member

    except for the very last part about the color scheme, my friend's 'sona that i wrote for him fits that pretty well. he just kinda went all in on the looks (BTW i follow that guide because i like to have a frame of reference). docs.google.com: Magnis
  4. -Praydeth-

    -Praydeth- The Trickster coyote.

    (still waiting on it to be finished drawing)

    But I created a story first then the fursona. But then I looked into native american mythology & found how coyotes were depicted over all these different stories. I saw lots of similarities between the depiction of coyotes in their mythology & my personality. So I decided ill be a coyote & ill have him merged with my character I created a short story for.
  5. MadKiyo

    MadKiyo Villainous Fly

    I do like a good unusual species of fursona. I sometimes find things I didn't know existed.
  6. nerdbat

    nerdbat Green butt of reason

    In general, just reading a couple of books or courses on good character design, as well as dig around some artists who primarly specialize at designing characters (JKN159 is my personal pick, crapton of inventive stuff in her fantasy girls gallery). Some stuff I can agree with OP, some I disagree, but in reality, there's tons of info on making interesting and unique characters you can find on the Internet.
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2017
  7. Kipekee Reddington

    Kipekee Reddington All American Flying Foxdog

    Good post! It deserves a sticky if you ask me.

    I've been having this exact problem with my main sona lately. She's good for the most part, I put lots of thought into her concept & design, but she needs one more thing to stand out more that matches her personality.

    I made a thread of it on here, you sound like you could be of some good help :D

    Once again, great post!
  8. Cloudyhue

    Cloudyhue Certified Fuzzbutt

    Great post! This had some great information in it.

    My fursona is a bat/shark hybrid. I picked this bizarre combination first because it looks badass and second to be unique. I don't think there are any of those out there. If there are, I'd love to see them.

    Seeing all these canines gets really boring. I stare at the next generic gray wolf and sigh. If that's what makes the owner happy, than that's perfectly fine. I just prefer something more exotic.
  9. Sergei Sóhomo

    Sergei Sóhomo Well-Known Member

    Be a bird. Birds are pretty alright
    Rant likes this.
  10. Cloudyhue

    Cloudyhue Certified Fuzzbutt

    The fandom needs more birbs.
    Rant likes this.
  11. Mr. Fox

    Mr. Fox Well-Known Member

    Birds are lunch to me, sometimes breakfast and dinner too. In fact, I'm eating bird right now!
  12. ChapterAquila92

    ChapterAquila92 Resident Bronze Dragon Kasrkin

    Nano-aug posthuman with mechanical prostheses. Default draconic appearance and bioforming capability are the result of the nanotech's initial analysis of my psyche.
  13. FluffyShutterbug

    FluffyShutterbug A Foxy Femboy Photographer

    My sona has a combination of common and unique traits. She's a herm vixen who's a shy and ditzy photographer. But, she's a massive flirt when she's around people who she trusts. Want to analyze that?
  14. AnarchyLynx

    AnarchyLynx New Member

    I did agonise a bit over whether I should choose a more underrepresented species (toyed with jaguar, puma, Andean mountain cat, smilodon fatalis and a few non-feline options) but in the end decided lynx was the one I feel the most connection to. Visually my ideas are essentially just a generic anthro lynx, about 6' tall with light brown fur, silvery highlights and typical markings (not actually got a picture yet - hence the boring avatar - but that's what I'm thinking of) but I did try to focus on creating what I felt was a distinctive personality and backstory. His full name is Loxred but that's almost always shortened to Loxy or Lox. I won't go through his whole backstory but the short of it is he's an anarchist revolutionary/rebel, now slightly disillusioned and living in exile after a civil war in his home country (don't worry it's mainly just a character trait not a political statement). Itried to give him some genuine character flaws to avoid him turning into a Mary Sue type, so to that end while he's idealistic and has fundamentally good intentions, he's impulsive and overconfident in his beliefs and abilities, which leads to him making rash decisions without thought of the consequences. He's also thin-skinned and has trouble balancing his emotions, not helped by his increasing drinking habit and his particular line of work.
  15. Royn

    Royn Otterest Sergal evah!

    Im.... Me. Majestys writing has good iron.
  16. TheRealKingKoopa

    TheRealKingKoopa Pixel Junkie

    Hybrid species are also a good way uniqueness, although they're a little difficult to perfect. And someone who's really feeling ballsy can create a species from scratch (damn, I found a really good tutorial on this a while back but I've lost it, I'll have to see if I can dig it up and share it here)!

    Bat/shark is definitely a little on the esoteric and out-there side, although far from the most absurd I've seen... that being said, it'd also be cool to see more real-life hybrids like ligers represented.
    Hmm, I smell worldbuilding. :p

    It's a good baseline. Granted, I'm writing this from the perspective of someone who takes fursona creation as seriously as creating the main character for a book, and I get that a lot of people just want their sona to be some character who they can identify with. And I'm gonna be honest, most of the detailed stuff I come up with doesn't become relevant unless I write something or draw something involving them.

    That wasn't really an answer though, was it? :I

    But yeah, the right basics are there if you want to expand her character into something more complex. A hobby and one or two personality traits are good things to base a character around.

    Real talk: Natural fur color never gets old, and I always go in that direction with my character designs (well, usually -- but the reason for my avatar's bright colors is an actual technical reason that requires a little bit of context to get). IMO, weird/bright fur colors (provided they don't have a reason, as I just mentioned) are becoming played out, but natural colors always work. And it wouldn't hurt to give him something visually distinctive, even if it's just an accessory or something, but hey, it's your character.
    ChapterAquila92 and Rant like this.
  17. Rant

    Rant Haters Gonna Hate

    You just revealed something about me even I didn't know, I have sectoral!? What?! But yeah my eyess are brown with a ring of yellow/amber? So thats cool thanks dude.
    TheRealKingKoopa likes this.
  18. ChapterAquila92

    ChapterAquila92 Resident Bronze Dragon Kasrkin

    No surprise then that it's part of a literary project that I've been writing and revising since before I encountered the furry fandom: a near-future military sci-fi in which sufficiently advanced alien nanotech is introduced to humanity by way of escaped test subjects, and one of the unintended effects of this nanotech is what's referred to in-setting as "theri-sync" (short-hand for "therio-synchronization") - they effectively became anthros in the physical sense (they're still genetically human), with their individual species determined by physical and psychological traits among other things.
  19. AnarchyLynx

    AnarchyLynx New Member

    Well I gave him a bitchin' leather jacket, does that count? :p The problem I have is that I don't imagine him being in a particularly fantasy/sci-fi world, so physically I imagine him looking pretty normal, maybe some prominent battles scars but that's not exactly 'unique' (some kind of near-future semi-apocalypse might be fun though, could maybe give him a robot arm or something :rolleyes:). Maybe it doesn't help that I'm not at all good at art, so the aesthetics take a bit of a backseat to the character since anything I did with him would be written most likely. I'm open to ideas though! :D
  20. Shane McNair

    Shane McNair Adrenaline addicted Arwing pilot

    Right, so let's see if I can organize a coherent response from the jumbled mess of random and incomplete thoughts that clutters my head, just to add my own $0.02.

    People focus too much on superficial things like the looks of their character, or the species. Frankly, I really don't care about bizarre physical traits or unusual markings, or things like wings. I definitely don't care for nonsensical, unnatural looking colors and shit like that. They are attention grabbing, but not in a good way. In most cases these things just come off as a cry for attention or a display of lacking imagination. They make the character unappealing, ridiculous, and cliche. I'm not even necessarily greatly interested in things like a muscled physique or battle scars or a curvy, busty feminine figure (although I do generally appreciate it, lol). But how about what a character DOES? What about his/her story? What about a character's PERSONALITY and their motives? What about character archetypes? Are they a hero, villain, coward, temptress, ???? Aren't these things infinitely more interesting?

    Take Sly Cooper for example. He's a pretty normal looking anthro raccoon, and has a build which is small, slim, lithe, and agile rather than large, powerful, and muscular. While perhaps less interesting, I think it's more realistic in a way. It works better for him considering how he sneaks around and moves through his world, and it enables him to better evade enemies. What this demonstrates is that a character doesn't have to have a herculean look to be a convincing hero. But the things that really make Sly interesting as a character are his backstory and how he and his pals go on crazy, high-stakes, intrigue-filled adventures all over the world where he sneaks around, steals shit, and fights bad guys. Even more interesting than that are the motives behind what he does and the goals he's trying to accomplish. These are primarily what make him an attention grabbing character who you can identify with. And then there are also things like Sly's cool, slick personality, and the interesting dynamics of the relationship between him and Carmelita. Even though they are adversarial for most of the series, you get a sense of the natural attraction and chemistry between them. Other things include creative props like Sly's staff, which he uses in a way similar to Indiana Jones and his whip. It's one more thing that makes the character and his interactions with his environment interesting. He also has a design that complements the themes of his games and their aesthetics. In my mind, all of these are the things that make for an attractive character. And the fact that he's a raccoon is, I think, more secondary in nature and made relevant only by the popular perception of raccoons being and looking like thieves. The point is that there should be more to what defines a character than just the character alone.

    Or how about Fox McCloud, another archetypal hero, flying around in his Arwing and fighting bad guys in space? This is another example of the setting and the story which a character exists in being what makes that character interesting. There are also things like outfits. Fox’s outfits aren't outlandish or really attention grabbing, but even though they are more subtle, they have a look which is both space age and functional while also being unique and being a good fit for both the character and the setting. I particularly like how he looked in Starfox Adventures and Assault. When you come up with a character concept, and that character's attire, if they have any, it should be based mostly on function, rather than just what looks cool. You should be thinking about the environment and it's extremes, and particular dangers or tasks that the character has to deal with, and how that might dictate dress and accessories.

    So the things that people should think about when designing a character are: themes, aesthetics, personality, character archetypes, and maybe outfits and relevant accessories. These are the things that make a character interesting and different. Like you touched on, they should be thinking about the world that the character exists in and how that influences his/her look and behavior, rather than just throwing in this or that detail without any real reason for it being there, other than "it looks cool".

    Here's another example of my own. The concept that I have for my 'sona, Shane, is of a very regular looking anthro border collie. He has the breed’s typical black and white colors. Although he is physically fit, he doesn't have great big bulging muscles or anything like that, nor superhuman strength, nor does he have glowing eyes, or mechanical limbs. He has a modest height of 5'11" and an average build, and if I were to commission a ref sheet of him, without any clothes, I think his appearance would be fairly unremarkable.

    Oh yeah, and he's also straight as an arrow and likes women! :0. He also smokes and likes to drink.

    So what have I done to try and make him unique? Well, he's a fighter pilot in a story setting that is reminiscent of 1930s adventure movies, pulp comics, and dieselpunk (which also served as the inspiration for things like Indiana Jones, The Rocketeer, Disney's Talespin, Tales of the Gold Monkey, Crimson Skies, and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow). If you go over to Spontoon Island, you will likely also find content in a similar mold over there: spontoon.rootoon.com: Spontoon Island

    Shane typically wears an outfit that looks something like this: [​IMG]

    So this is pretty interesting, right? You see what I did here? I made my character thematic and representative of a bigger picture. I let the setting, plot, and the character's role in them define him, rather than the superficial aspects of Shane himself like his physical characteristics. Truthfully, the fact that he's a border collie was more of an afterthought. He could just as well be a wolf, German shepherd, fox, or mountain lion. Some props? Well, he always carries a Zippo lighter which could come in handy for more than just lighting cigarettes, and he also carries a period correct Colt Model 1911 pistol which he received as a gift from his dad, and the pistol itself has some significance and background within the story. I'm still in the long process of working out the plot and pounding out the details, but I typed out a vague synopsis which outlines the basic direction I want to go in. It can be found over on my FA page.

    As for archetypes, Shane embodies an explorer archetype. He wants to do things that are new, exciting, thrilling, adventurous, and this is what leads him into the life that he lives and the problems that he will get into later on. It's actually something of a reflection of myself in real life, too. The way I envision him right now, he also somewhat represents the innocent, leader, survivor, and anti-hero/reluctant hero archetypes. He's a young and cocky fighter pilot, like Tom Cruise's character in Top Gun, but he also has his vulnerabilities. He's not perfect and he's really pretty much like anyone else. As his story goes along, he will eventually come to realize his true strengths, and he will probably also mature a bit and gain some sort of greater understanding. He's a character who I want to make believable and give some depth to by showing his weaknesses and taking the reader through his struggles and how he is affected by them. I want to make him seem real. I think this character is different on the face of things, but he's also about much more than just mere appearance or themes or the fact that he’s an anthro dog. There's a whole background and feel to him that I want to explore and try to capture. I think that many, if not most furries rarely put this level of thought into a character, but I think it's really what makes a character genuinely interesting and unique.

    And as for an unusual species, how about a pangolin?
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2017
  21. Mandragoras

    Mandragoras Inept Abecedarian

    Mine's just me as a marten, with a little scar on my face in the same place I have one in real life and glasses so I can actually see past my arm-span. I haven't settled on a formal eye colour because I actually *do* have central heterochromia (blue/hazel-green) and I'm not sure that would translate well in an animal whose default eye colour is dark brown. But I don't have much interest in making my fursona "unique" so much as reflective of who I am and what suits me aesthetically, which hopefully stands out without being ostentatious on its own merits.

    And I think maybe that's the key? Be what you love. If who you are shines through, the rest is window dressing.
  22. AnarchyLynx

    AnarchyLynx New Member

    Interesting fact about arrows, they get surprisingly bendy when they're flying through the air ;)

    I think like the sound of your 'sona, although I'm unclear what kind of personality he is...I'm getting a kind of flying James Bond figure but are we talking Pierce Brosnan or Daniel Craig?
  23. TheRealKingKoopa

    TheRealKingKoopa Pixel Junkie

    I pretty much agree with all of this, but there's something that I think is worth mentioning: Form-from-function and function-from-form are both good ways to build a character. The characters you mentioned work in the former way -- the world and their places in it determine what the bulk of their design is going to look like, and then you make an eye-catching design and interesting character within those constraints. Meanwhile I've mostly been talking about the opposite: taking a really cool character and then justifying their existence by building a world and their background around that design & concept. I generally do the latter if I have something in mind that I absolutely want to make (and I have built D&D characters solely based around pictures before), and the former if I just need to make a character that'll fit a role.
    ChapterAquila92 likes this.
  24. Cloudyhue

    Cloudyhue Certified Fuzzbutt

    When most people see my fursona they're always asking "what the heck is that?" I probably should've designed her better or something so that that doesn't happen but she looks awesome as she is.
    ACaracalFromWork likes this.
  25. Shane McNair

    Shane McNair Adrenaline addicted Arwing pilot

    Lol, well....I never really thought of him that way. In a lot of ways Shane is an idealized representation of my real life self in fiction, and I've never had a way with women like Bond does. But how many of us do? Lol.

    Okay, so like I mentioned before, Shane mostly represents an explorer archetype. He has the qualities of other character archetypes like the innocent, the leader, survivor, reluctant hero, but I think Shane will mostly be the explorer because this is the one that really sets him on the course that will take him into the meat of the story, and make him relevant to the main plot elements and story themes. Being an “explorer” character means that he has a desire for adventure, for excitement, for thrill. He has a certain sort of wanderlust and tends to want to take the road less traveled. He might also have a penchant for daring. Maybe in this way he is a little bit like James Bond.

    Starting out, he can pretty much be summed up as cocky, adventurous, curious, and maybe a bit brash. He starts out with a sort of youthful innocence and inexperience, but that will change over time, and he will become more wisened, insightful, and shaped by his experiences in a world whose nature he has come to more fully understand as ominous, dark, and cruel. During the course of things he will be confronted by different challenges and his own limitations, and he will become less overconfident and proud and a bit more humble and down to earth. He might experience some self doubts and have to work around them, but in doing so he will also gain a sense of his true strengths, which will manifest in more fully realizing his leadership potential, grit, and mettle when dealing with tough situations. He's still very much a work in progress though, and my conceptualization of him is still somewhat vague and not fully developed.
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2017

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