I wrote another long response to a Formspring question, and I felt compelled to post my response here.

Q. I’m having trouble figuring out what to cosplay as; any advice to find a character that fits? Like a website or something.

A. No website exists, as far as I’m aware. You just have to find where the following questions intersect for you:

1. If you’re creating the costume for a specific event, who will be in attendance? Is there a certain creator you want to honor by dressing as one of his/her characters? I ask myself this first, as I find it’s the clearest rubric to me for narrowing down the field of costumes I want to try. I made my first Molly and Maeve because Jim was going to be at NYCC ’07 and PhauxCon ’07. I made Delirium because Neil would be at NYCC ’08. I made comicverse Wendy because Javi and the cast of Middleman were going to be at SDCC ’09. The ability to show a creator my admiration for his or her work makes cosplaying extra special for me.

2a. Whose outfit/costume excites you? From the first time I read the description of Maeve’s glacier-colored dreadlocks, I knew I wanted to recreate them. I loved Molly’s wildly dyed hair, and I wanted to design a SplatterCon!!! logo. And I wanted to create a wig that captured Delirium’s madness! I kind of like making wigs, in case it wasn’t apparent. :D
2b. Reality check: will you be comfortable in said costume? Is it feasible under the constraints of time/budget/the laws of physics? Can my Mistcloak be as cool in reality as it sounds in the books? Is the visual impact of movieverse Nightcrawler’s blue skin and scars worth the three hours it takes to put on and the pain of removing the liquid latex body paint afterward? Will you be able to walk and stand around all day in those shoes? Is your costume too hot or heavy to wear around the Exhibition Hall? Do you have the sewing skills to create something more custom (or a stitch-savvy friend willing to help out), or will you need to crib your costume together from found pieces?

3. What characters jump out at you as being particularly interesting? There’s a lot of acting in cosplay–what kind of personality do you want to inhabit? I have a penchant for characters who operate on a different plane as the rest of the world, like River, Delirium, and Professor Trelawney, and I have a great time hamming it up when folks want to take my picture. On the other side of the spectrum, I love dressing as Zoe and Wendy, because simply donning their clothes makes me feel stronger and more confident.

4. Who do you look like? What character shares your build? Are you tall, short, skinny, muscular, curvy, heavy-set, or somewhere in the middle? Obviously, you don’t have to conform perfectly–I’ve dressed as movieverse Nightcrawler, and I am not a dude. I’ve dressed as River and Zoe, and I am neither tiny ballerina nor goddesslike Amazon. But many folks choose to dress as someone in the same ballpark. Or you may choose to make some joke about your appearance–one of my Star Wars-obsessed guy friends is 4’11”, and he’s working on a “Aren’t you a little short for a Stormtrooper?” costume. (Yes, I’m trying to convince him to read the Vorkosigan saga!)

5. Will people know who you are? This is more important to some and less important to others. I dressed up as Angua at a high school where perhaps three other people had read the Discworld books. Even some folks in line for Jim’s signings didn’t recognize me as Molly or Maeve–including a Harry Dresden cosplayer–much less other random folks at the con. And while I was treated like a rock star by the fans (and special guests!) at the Middleman table read, everyone else at the con treated me like just another cute chick with a bare midriff. Sometimes, the cosplay anonymity gets to me, and I’ll throw on Kaylee or Sally to compensate. Will it bug you if only a tiny fraction of folks recognize your character?

Best of luck!