Well, it depends on the game’s setting, and which LIs I want to read about. I always play once with a generic OC I have (well, she’s not really generic, but she’s your average, everyday nice girl with a slow temper and a lot of patience, and a good one to test things with). Once I do that, and figure out if I want to play the game and which ROs I want characters for, I start developing my MCs…
My MC's typical traits:
Female (I happily play video games where I RP a dude, but in IF, I play female or don’t bother, unless I want to help work out a male OC I’m writing).
Hair color differs, depending on how I picture them, but more often than not they have some flavor of red or blond hair… or black. I do have a few with brown hair, so this isn’t a set thing.
Personalities differ, but I love RPing reckless characters, so they are typically either reckless or have little fear of anything.
More often than not, they are sarcastic. Sometimes, they start sarcastic, then develop as more serious (depending on how their backstories play out).
Most of them are pessimists, but sometimes I make an optimist just because it feels right. Or because the story is dark and I am feeling contrary and want to develop a MC that contradicts what the author is pushing, lol.
Almost all of my MCs are varying degrees of stubborn. It’s a trait I understand well ahem. Sometimes, it’s fun to play a pushover, though. Even if it starts annoying me after a while.
I also tend to like badass characters with good hearts. They may be able to beat you to death with your own intestines, but if someone they care about is in need, they’d do anything to help them. I don’t enjoy playing nasty characters or outright murderers. Self-defense is great, and defending those you care for, but just killing people to add to your body count makes me cringe, which is why I can’t play a true villain in FH. When I write characters like that, I have to put them back in their box when their scene is done and not let them out for a long time.
All of my MCs have some kind of issue. It may be extreme or not, but usually comes from trauma, something that happened in their past, a character flaw that is glaringly obvious, emotional problems, or even just one of the seven deadly sins they tend toward (one of my MCs is nice as can be, but too lazy to get up unless someone makes her). I don’t like perfect characters.
In romance, my characters always go for male ROs, but may go for a poly if the involved parties are good.
Most other traits vary wildly, but my OCs are never the shy blushing type because I hate playing that. They may be more reserved (like my marshal in ItFO), but if the text equates reserved to stuttering and freaking out over the mention of sex or flirting, I rework them. I will make an exception in cases where the game setting or character’s background presents a reason for them to border on freaking out over everything, but most times that kind of thing is written in a way that makes me sneer.
As for recycling, I never recycle actually MCs or their names (save for one that I use for another game because the author put a little tidbit in for some players she knows, and I have to use the name, at least!). Some may be similar in some regards, but they are different in my head and they develop differently due to the environment they’re in. Their histories are always different, too–sometimes, because the author gives you a history for your MC, but if we head canon it, I have a different foundation for them all, anyway.
When I pick a MC’s name, I take a ridiculous amount of time doing it. I have an excel spreadsheet of names and words from all languages to assist, and I either have it fit the character 100% or be mocking in some way (one of my MCs that is the most pessimistic, her name means “Hope” and she has none). Surnames always give me fits, though…
I did this for ItFO. Unfortunately, she’s limited to my ability to strategize, which is basically, “go in and kill them all!” so she’s kind of screwed…