December 23, 2008: My Characterization Idea

The other day, I mentioned that I’d bought a sketchbook to play around with a characterization idea I’d had recently. I also said I’d describe it when I was less tired and more coherent. I’m wiped out because I haven’t done anything — I’m sure you know how that goes — but I’m going to describe the idea anyway.

About 10 days ago, I got a bee in my bonnet about various and assorted types of software. I fired up my copy of Liquid Story Binder, and I downloaded yWrite4 based on a review in the online version of PC Magazine. Somehow that led me to mind mapping.

According to Wikipedia (which puts it much better than I could):

A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged radially around a central key word or idea. Mind maps are used to generate, visualize, structure, and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organization, problem solving, decision making, and writing.

In using it for characterization, basically what I do is put a character’s name in the middle of a blank piece of paper, and then all around the name, I write things associated with that character–other characters, emotional attidues, in particular. (I don’t have a scanner; otherwise I’d show you what I have. Instead, you can see some examples of mind maps here.)

So far, I’ve done one for Ilsabet, and I learned a couple of things about her I hadn’t known. One, she hates her parents. Two, I had no idea what her talents and abilities were. That might not sound like a big thing, but I have a very clear idea of what her sister’s talents and abilities are, and she’s a secondary character. I should know the same things about my primary character that I do about a secondary character. 

Half the battle in solving a problem is knowing that you have it. Using a mind map to map Ilsabet showed me that I have a problem. So I’m halfway to solving it. 


I’m also thinking about using this approach as a scene brainstorming tool. I have to write a new scene introducing Prince Kerlis, and I only know two things about it: one, that it happens at a ball; and two, that it’s in the prince’s point-of-view. Other than that, I’ve got nothing. But I’m thinking that if I begin a map — one that keeps me from thinking in a straight line — I’ll figure the rest of it out. 


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. matthewgallagher
    Dec 23, 2008 @ 21:45:00

    I like mind-mapping!

    One technique I tried when I was writing a story with a bunch of characters might help you.

    I wrote down the names of all my main characters, then I listed which ones had parts of my own personality. Which one has my selfishness? James. Which one has my sense of humor? Peter. Etc. I didn’t ultimately do anything with the list, because I set the project down, but I really enjoyed the technique!


  2. Robin
    Dec 24, 2008 @ 16:09:03

    Wow Katy. I LOVE this idea! I’m going to try it out right after I get through Christmas…


  3. katycooper
    Dec 25, 2008 @ 19:35:06

    That’s a fabulous idea, Matthew, one I shall be using in the near future. One thing I’ve vaguely worried about is that I’ve either given one character everything from my personality, or that I’ve given most of the main character the same aspect of my personality. This is a way for me to work around it.

    The beloved hooked up a scanner to our little home network, so hopefully I’ll be able to post an example of a map before long.


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