Attending the event

Step 4: At the event

Having just attended a convention this past weekend, I can speak with absolute certainty to the fact that keeping in character while cosplaying will provide you with the energy needed to last all day surrounded by people – especially those who are interested in taking your picture.

 PHOTO BY DAVID MACKINNON

PHOTO BY DAVID MACKINNON

I have a bit of a ritual whenever I first get to a convention to help me get into character. When I first arrive, rather than going directly into the hall, I go into the bathroom. While double-checking that all the pieces of my costume are in place, I pull a few faces and poses, tilting my head up and down to find the best angle while under fluorescent lighting (lighting is one of things you always forget to factor in until you get a picture back that has so many shadows on your face that you end up looking like a caveman). Don’t be embarrassed about getting these last few minutes of practice in: I guarantee that you will be surrounded by other cosplayers doing the same.

While wandering the hall, the only time I let my guard down is if I’m looking down at the booths for something to buy. If I’m simply walking through the aisles or crossing the floor to get to the next area, I’m on full alert for other characters from my “universe”. As The Riddler this past weekend, it was easy to keep my eyes peeled for other characters from Batman. I find that something as easy as narrowing my eyes at a passing Batman or Batgirl, or high-fiving a Joker or Two-Face raises a sense of community and pride that I’ve totally immersed myself into the character I’ve chosen.

Another thing that many cosplayers don’t always think about when they’re trying to fully become the character they’re dressed as is their resting facial expression. Obviously you’re not going to be able to hold a crazy smile or furious bared teeth all day, but finding a comfortable expression that still suits your character while you’re not actively posing for a photo is important, because there’s a good possibility that people will take your picture when you’re not expecting it.

Ultimately, the most important part of getting into character is to have fun with it, and allow yourself to take on the personality traits suited to whichever costume you want to wear out.


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Alex is an aspiring author and second-year Professional Writing student at Algonquin. She loves to edit manuscripts, make costumes and play video games. Alex finished her first novel last year during National Novel Writing Month and intends to write a second this coming November, despite working and going to school.

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Preparing for the event

Step 3: Preparing for the event

 

Whether the event is something as important as a costume competition at a convention or as relatively insignificant as dressing up for a movie premiere, immersing yourself in the character is very rewarding. But like anything worth doing, becoming a character takes work and preparation. 

 PHOTO BY COREY GRAHAM

PHOTO BY COREY GRAHAM

When cosplaying an existing character, I find the research stage fairly straightforward. I recently attended an event as Roxy Richter from the movie Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, and in anticipation of becoming her for a night, I watched the movie about four times in the weeks leading up to the event. Doing so allowed me to study Roxy’s behavior, mannerisms, facial expressions and speech patterns. The smallest details – like whether she smiles with her teeth or close-lipped – make the portrayal of a character convincing (especially in pictures).

If your source material comes from a movie or show, taking lots of screencaps is a great idea. Artwork of characters often doesn’t show them from all angles, so taking a single screencap can save a lot of time, rather than trying to find the scene and pausing every time you need to know what the back of their shirt looks like.

Original interpretations of characters are more of a challenge, but you can have a lot of fun making up your own character traits. The key to any performance is consistency, and becoming a character through cosplay is no different than getting up on a stage to act. Whether it’s the way you walk, a reaction to other people, or a goofy tic, you need to decide how your character behaves well ahead of time, and practise. Practise, practise, practise. A good way to research for an original character is to watch videos of other cosplayers and pay close attention to those who emulate your ideas. 

Lastly, posing for pictures is something a lot of cosplayers forget about. Find some classic poses (or make some up) and – I kid you not – stand in front of a mirror and pose until you’re happy with how you look. No matter how silly you feel in your home, you’ll feel much better when you end up with nice photos, rather than awkward, static, hands-at-your-sides pictures that don’t exhibit your character at all.


ALEX BLAHOUT

Alex is an aspiring author and second-year Professional Writing student at Algonquin. She loves to edit manuscripts, make costumes and play video games. Alex finished her first novel last year during National Novel Writing Month and intends to write a second this coming November, despite working and going to school.

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Designing your character

Step 2: Designing your character

 Poison Peach, photo by Cosplayers Canada

Poison Peach, photo by Cosplayers Canada

I am an enormous fan of original character design, whether it’s creating an entirely new character from my head, or taking inspiration from an existing character and adding my own flavour to the costume.

Original designs allow you to put your heart into a costume: You’re not making a carbon-copy of someone else’s work, but putting a piece of yourself into the character. This contributes to how aptly you can portray the character you’ve chosen, and how much you will enjoy getting into the skin of that character. After all, what better way to immerse yourself completely than by being able to think to yourself the entire time, “I designed this. I made this. This really is who I am.”

This past summer, for the third Ottawa Comic-Con, I made an original character design called Poison Peach, which was inspired by two existing characters and a piece of fan-art I found online. I decided doing a fusion of the sweet, innocent Princess Peach (Super Mario) and the seductive, cunning Poison Ivy (DC comics) would be a great opportunity to test my ability to become the character I made. Since Princess Peach has a very classic, recognizable look, and Poison Ivy has great variation in her character design, I will be the first to admit it was a challenge. In original design, there is absolutely an aspect of being recognizable, so that you have the chance to interact with others while in character. Bearing that in mind, I attempted to keep true to a few key traits of both Princess Peach and Poison Ivy, while putting my own little twists on everything to truly make it my own (for instance, instead of Peach’s trademark gem on the front of her dress, I put the gem on a choker necklace). Making personal choices like this at the design stage is the key to becoming the character you’ve chosen, or created.

A unique design of your own – whether totally new or an interpretation – creates a feeling of pride that can be channeled into the confidence required to take on your character’s persona.

P.S. None of this is to say that creating an exact copy of an existing costume cannot be a rewarding experience. My advice is simply that you create the most sincere and personal emotional connection to the character you’re cosplaying. 


ALEX BLAHOUT

Alex is an aspiring author and second-year Professional Writing student at Algonquin. She loves to edit manuscripts, make costumes and play video games. Alex finished her first novel last year during National Novel Writing Month and intends to write a second this coming November, despite working and going to school.

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Choosing who to become

For many, the act of cosplay is simply dressing up as a favourite character, or admiring a costume design so much that they just have to make it. But for some, cosplay is an emotional journey. As someone whose primary focus when cosplaying is creating a complete portrayal of the character – in both dress and personality – I'd like share all the steps I take with anyone else invested in making their costume a deeper experience.

 

Step 1: Choosing a character

 

When taking on the personality of a character, sincerity is important. Being able to believe that you actually are the person you’re dressed as makes your rendition of the character believable. If you have to force yourself into a particular frame of mind, you will likely feel uncomfortable or embarrassed, and that will show in your portrayal. When choosing who to cosplay, I always pick a character with a personality I already reflect, or who has a driving motivation I can relate to; however, as someone who is also an actress, I get a lot of enjoyment from taking on character traits that are completely opposite my usual self.

For example, when I decided to cosplay DC’s The Riddler, it was an easy transformation, because I fully embrace that I’m a complete weirdo, and channeled that into hunting down little kids dressed as Batman and asking them to answer crazy riddles. On the other hand, when I did a female version of Dean Winchester from Supernatural, I called up my paralyzing childhood fears that monsters were real, and walked around all day as a badass demon hunter who finally overcame her nightmares. And as Narcissa Malfoy (Harry Potter) I took on the challenge of being frigid and aloof – the exact opposite of my normal happy and friendly personality.

 Photo by Richard Dufault

Photo by Richard Dufault

No matter how you arrive there, truly becoming a character means using them as a vessel, rather than making yourself into a mannequin. Being able to extract key aspects of a character’s persona and making them your own is the very first step in the transformation from “regular you” to whoever you want to be. Cosplay can become such a powerful expression of identity, because who says you have to be just one person all the time?


Alex Blahout

Alex is an aspiring author and second-year Professional Writing student at Algonquin. She loves to edit manuscripts, make costumes and play video games. Alex finished her first novel last year during National Novel Writing Month and intends to write a second this coming November, despite working and going to school.

Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest