Archive for the ‘The Bubbling Imagination’ Category

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The Diversity of Imagination

February 24, 2016

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I love to hear about how radically diverse our souls and minds are, as human beings.  It’s part of why I love Myers-Briggs so much.  It’s delightful and mind-blowing to me how very differently people can approach similar things!  It’s what makes the world exciting and fun, that none of us quite think the same way.  It’s why our souls are so endlessly fascinating and we can keep getting to know more about one another forever.

Over the past week, I’ve been thinking specifically about writers and how we approach the task of getting to know our stories.

5 Different Imaginations

All my musings were sparked when I spoke with a writing friend, Janeen Ippolito, about our different approaches to writing and how our imagination handles our stories.

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Janeen Ippolito – A Puzzle Approach

Janeen explained her approach like this:

I’m a major story collager. … I’m constantly moving pieces of story around into different realms. Stories, plots, characters, settings, creatures, all of those things. I’ve had plenty of things not fit and then are much happier other places. It’s making a system where everything fits and making the characters truly happy and fulfilled psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. I handle it a lot like therapy. Tough love character and plot therapy.

Janeen’s approach sounds to me like her imagination dumps out a ton of puzzles into a heap, and she’s organizing and sorting and fitting everything where it ought to go. Sometimes a puzzle piece ends up in the wrong box and has to be moved.  She’s on a mission to make sure everything fits in where it should.  She often closely examines a character and digs deep down to understand what they need, and what their true place is.

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Bethany A. Jennings – A Painting Approach

Janeen’s approach was so foreign to me!  Move an element from one story to another??  I almost never do that.  If I invent an element for one story, even if I delete it entirely, in my mind it still “belongs” there.  The way I think of my writing projects is entirely different.

I explained my approach like this:

I look so much at the integrity of the whole idea, as a whole. … For me it’s like taking a vision and fleshing it out until it is complete and whole and vivid, going down to the nooks and crannies to understand it and make the finished product as epic as the glimpses I got in my head.

For me, getting to know my stories is more like painting a picture. I have a vision in mind from the beginning.  I sketch it out.  I add more detail.  I add color.  If something I visualized doesn’t look right on the canvas, I paint over it with something else.  To me it makes no sense to then take the painted-over element and draw it on another canvas elsewhere!…it’s still there down under the top layer, quietly tucked beneath the finished masterpiece.  It might never see the light of day, but maybe it still provides a little bit of color or form to the finished product.  Each book is a painting of its own, some of them roughly sketched and some fleshed out to bright color.

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RJ Conte – An Investigation Approach

Very different from either of us is my friend RJ Conte (who is an ESFJ).  Drawing her inspiration mainly from real life experiences and the people around her, she described her story-forming process as:

For me, it’s a character or a scenario that boggles my mind and makes me think, and then it’s figuring out the deepest recesses of that character’s heart as he or she goes through the situations life has thrown their way. Like saying, “Why WOULD someone do that or respond that way?” or “How would someone like that change?”

As many of her stories are issue-driven contemporary works, RJ considers her approach to be more like an interrogation or deeply getting to know a person and understand how they tick.  All other story elements are built around the characters and their relationships that are unique to each story, many of them drawn from her own experiences.

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K.M. Carroll – A Snowball Approach

K.M. Carroll, another speculative fiction writer, has yet another completely unique approach to finding and understanding a story.  She said:

There’s this strange game called Katamari, where you roll a ball around and stuff sticks to it. First you’re collecting lint and paper clips and crayons, then you’re catching furniture and trees and buildings and clouds and rainbows. The idea (I think) is to collect enough mass to build a star. For me, building a story is like that. I start with a concept. Then I roll in characters. Then I build on their arcs and goals. Then I collect more cool worldbuilding ideas, and the ball gets bigger and bigger. But I can’t start writing until I find the Oomph, the magic, the particular sparkle that makes me excited to write it. That’s when it becomes a star.

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H.L. Burke – A Casual Stroll Approach

H.L. Burke, an ENFP, has a more laid back approach than any of these:

It’s like taking a walk for me. I know where I’m going and generally how to get there, so I just start walking through the world, heading towards my story’s ideal conclusion, sometimes with highlights I want to see along the way, sort of how I might go into town for the bank but know very well I want to stop at the coffee shop and maybe browse the bookstore next to the bank and if I have time take my kids to the playground. This usually happens pretty instinctively and impulsively. I don’t pre-think my books much. They sort of spring fully formed from my head, wearing plate armor and all that. I may get distracted a few times along the path. I may meet someone along the way and end up talking to them for longer than I mean to or ask them to join me in my errands when I didn’t plan to, but I almost always end up at the destination I’d originally planned, maybe just with a few unplanned detours. My first drafts are also very similar to my final drafts. I rarely make big changes once things are on paper. I’ll make little changes all over the place, but big changes, not usually.

Each Writer Unique

My guess is that each one of us has a different way of imagining our stories, a different emotional approach to seeing and interacting with the ideas, and a different way of shaping them into the finished product.  It might even vary from book to book, too!  Perhaps writing The Kraesinia Trilogy feels like endlessly adding layers to a painting because I’ve been revising for years…I’ll be interested to see how writing a brand new draft of a book will feel to me.

I’d love to hear how your imagination works, fellow writers.  Is it like any of the approaches above?  Or is it entirely different?  Let us know in the comments!

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Further Thoughts on Heaven: The Limits of Imagination

May 16, 2012

Our church sends out a monthly newsletter, which usually includes articles from other pastors and theologians which our pastor has read recently and wants to share with the congregation.  This month’s issue came today, and included a review of Randy Alcorn’s Heaven, which I have been wanting to read for awhile.  As I scanned the review, I found that most of it was disapproving.

Some of Migotsky’s points I agreed with (as much as I could, having not read the book yet), but I felt a few of his arguments were harsh or jumped to conclusions about what Randy Alcorn actually believes versus things he is merely speculating about.  Naturally, I will have to read Heaven for myself before I can decide whether I agree with Migotsky on some of his critiques, but one of his main beefs with the book is that Alcorn speculated too much about heaven, applying his imagination liberally on matters where the Bible did not have anything to say.

“Extreme speculations”

Apparently, Alcorn remarks at one point that he could “easily envision us living on other planets” (page 263) in the New Heavens and New Earth.  Pastor Migotsky refers to this as an “extreme speculation”, a phrase which is followed up with another example quote from the book (page 264): “God has built into us the longing to see the wonders of his far-flung creation.  The popularity of science-fiction reflects that longing.”

I then wondered why on earth this little aside about planets and science-fiction was in a section entitled “Dangers of the Book”, sandwiched between two paragraphs about sinful desires!  Is it supposed to be an example of sinful wishful thinking?

Perhaps Pastor Migotsky has reservations about imagination and science-fiction/fantasy in general.  I don’t know.  But my point here is, I don’t believe this is dangerous.  Alcorn didn’t say, “I believe we will live on other planets in the New Heavens and New Earth” – he simply said he could “easily envision” it.  Honestly, I can’t “easily” envision this, and personally I find the idea slightly unnecessary (although I admit its coolness).  The thought might be a little silly, especially to the non-geeky among us, but in what way is it “dangerous”?  In the worst-case scenario, a Christian sincerely believes this to be true…and then gets to heaven and finds out, oops, it’s not!  And then they’ll go on to be blissfully happy with their Lord and fellow Christians for all eternity.  The end.

The one case where I can see this being dangerous is if Alcorn is (unintentionally) encouraging Christians to focus on what they want in heaven, what they think would be cool in the afterlife, etc., instead of looking forward to heaven as first and foremost a glorious eternity with God our Savior, focused primarily on Him.  Based on other quotes the review brought up regarding the book’s strengths, I don’t believe Alcorn intends this attitude in his readers.  But I can see where someone might be led astray that way by reading this book.  I suppose that is the “danger” the reviewer is talking about, although it was vaguely stated.

Now that I’ve been defensive about imagination…

Migotsky brought up some questions at the end of his article which I think are good for us speculatively-minded Christians to think about.  One of them was this:

What limits should there be on the use of the imagination in thinking about heaven and the eternal life in heaven?

We lovers of science-fiction and fantasy tend to be defensive about the gift of imagination and what we can do with it.  This may lead us to speculate too far, too fast, too hard, and let our imaginations run away with us.  We need to remember that there are times when imagination is uncalled for, and could be unwise.  Speculation about heaven and eternity does have its limits!

Here are a few I’ve thought of, off the top of my head.  When we speculate about heaven, we need to be mindful that…

  1. “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).  It’s all very well to wonder if there will be dinosaurs in heaven, or if you will see your beloved dog again, or whether we will travel to other planets.  But we don’t know anything.  We can’t even imagine!  When we get to heaven, most likely all our wildest dreams will crumble around our ears – and we’ll be perfectly happy about it, because what God has planned will be infinitely more amazing than anything our mortal human minds can think.  We can have fun speculating about what life will be like in paradise, but it is unwise and even silly to put too much stock in our own imaginings when it comes to what we believe about heaven.
  2. “To the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever” (Jude 1:25).  And, “The world is passing away along with its desires…” (1 John 2:17).  In the Christian-speculative-fiction world, most of us soundly reject the idea of paradise as a purely spiritual, ethereal place, but we also tend to do a lot of speculating about the *things* that might be there.  Will there be pets?  Will there be space travel?  Will I still write stories?  Will there be books, movies, plays?  Will we have personal possessions?  These things might or might not be the case (and some are more likely than others…), but rather than be overly concentrated on the stuff and experiences that might be in in heaven, our expectations ought to be dominated first and foremost by the joyful anticipation of spending eternity with our Redeemer King.  Heaven is not about us, our hopes, our dreams, our desires, or our hopes for adventures we can never have in this world.  It’s about Jesus Christ!
  3. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).  The only things we can be sure about heaven are things the Bible tells us.  I don’t believe this precludes speculation about stuff the Bible doesn’t mention (such as whether there’ll be books, writing, etc.), but it does caution us to search the Scriptures diligently.  I have heard Christians declare that they don’t know how, but our sexual desires will be satisfied in heaven, because God gave us those desires, they are not bad in and of themselves, and of course He’s not going to leave our needs unsatisfied!  Well…certainly, we will be perfectly satisfied in heaven, with no needs left unfilled.  But surely He can remove a need from us entirely?  Scripture is clear that sex outside of marriage is sinful, and it is also clear (Luke 20:35) that there will not be marriage after the resurrection.  To claim there will be some kind of sexual fulfillment in heaven is to blatantly ignore what the Bible teaches.  Just because we may desire something while living on this earth does not mean that God will fill that desire in paradise.  Our greatest desire is (or should be) God Himself, and He has given us eternity with Him.  Won’t He alone be enough to fill our deepest needs and longings?  God’s Word always trumps speculation.  Always.

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and marvelous for me.  But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.  O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore. – Psalm 131

In my mind’s eye…

Personally, I don’t speculate about heaven in much detail, mainly because I know it’s a fruitless endeavor.  I will see it when God takes me there, and until then it is a delightful, tantalizing mystery (and I’m glad, because I like surprises!).  But I think all of us have some kind of picture in our mind’s eye when we imagine entering paradise.  I’ll admit what I see…

I picture a pearly palace inspired by Roman architecture, with stately pillars surrounding an open courtyard within.  Anything around it is obscured by golden mist – and yes, I am pretty sure heaven won’t be floating in clouds, but I think most of us see something like that because it’s a deep-running cultural presumption.  Christ meets me at the entrance, but I really can’t imagine what that will be like because I don’t know what He looks like yet.  I heard someone say once that they were going to race into His arms like a small child into the arms of a father, but seriously, I think I’m more likely to collapse at His holy piercéd feet and choke on my own awe…  Anyways…  After He’s scraped me off the golden steps lifted me to my feet and greeted me, Jesus ushers me into the room beyond, where throngs of joyful believers are dining at long, wooden tables.  There is rich food, glittering light, beautiful white clothing, and the room rings with happy laughter.  My gaze catches on the closest table.  There, I see one of my dearest loved ones; I think I imagine her specifically because when I first pictured the scene, she was going through a very long rough time of her life.  A wreath of flowers is perched on her head, and she is laughing and shining with joy – gloriously happy, all traces of earthly sorrows washed away.  I then realize that there are other beloved friends and family members there, too, and they call for me to join them at the table…

That’s all.  It’s simple, but it sort of expresses the joy of my hopes and expectations.  It is more inspired by the phrase “wedding feast of the Lamb” than what I think all eternity will be like – because, again, I don’t think it’s possible to imagine that, fun as it might be to try.  (Random aside: I once had a dream where a bunch of friends and I had died and were waiting for heaven at a bus stop, where there were water slides and coloring books.  Hahaha.  And believe it or not, I wasn’t six years old.  This was relatively recent.  😀  I’m pretty sure the afterlife won’t be like that, either!)

Can you think of other limitations on imagination, either in regards to heaven/eternity or other things?  And how about you? – when you hear the word “heaven” or imagine the New Heavens and New Earth, what do you see in your mind’s eye?

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The Superbaby Play Group

March 2, 2012

Here is the short story brainchild of my “superhero mom group” inspiration the other night.  Enjoy!

Tara took a long sip of coffee, keeping a leery watch on Benjamin out of the corner of her eye.  He was playing quietly – for once – digging into a bin of multicolored alphabet blocks in Ellie’s living room corner.

“How old is Ben, now?” Ellie inquired, breaking her out of her reverie.  “Seven months?”

“Almost nine.”

“Oh, wow!”  Ellie eyed the wiry baby in surprise.

“I know, he doesn’t look it,” Tara replied.  “He’s so active, he never puts on any weight.  And he’s a terrible sleeper, still.”  She shook her head, burying her troubles again in the tall glass of iced coffee.  “He’s up countless times every night.”

“Have you tried letting him cry it out?”

Tara let out a huff of amusement.  “Yeah.  It never works, for us.  He doesn’t really cry anyway.  The instant we put him in his crib and shut the door, he starts bouncing off the walls.  He just has far too much energy to burn.  Finally Joe just said ‘That’s it!’ ”  She threw up her hands.  “We go out, shut his door, and let him fly around until he crashes with pure exhaustion.  It’s the only way we can get some sleep.  At least he’s happy and not screaming the entire time,” she groaned.

Amber, who had been listening to this line of conversation with visible misgivings, finally spoke up.  “Have you tried bringing him to bed with you?”

“Ahahaha.”  Tara snorted.  “We gave that up when he was three weeks old.  He just keeps us awake too.  At least this way all we can hear is distant banging on his bedroom wall.  We make sure there’s nothing breakable in there, obviously,” she added.  “Yesterday morning we found him sleeping in the laundry basket.”

“What if he needs you during the night, though?” Amber persisted.

“He doesn’t need us.  What he needs is rest, and he doesn’t get it unless he wears himself to the bone.”

“Maybe he just doesn’t need that much sleep.”

Out of the blue, Ellie leapt to her feet and teleported into the living room.  “Stella!  Stella.  No, honey.  NO.”  She tugged her one-year-old daughter away from the electrical cord she had been pulling and chewing – one moment longer and the lamp would have tumbled onto the floor.  Ellie pushed it to the far back of the end table, redirected her daughter to the heap of multicolored toys on the carpet, and returned to the kitchen island with a slump of exhaustion in her shoulders.  “I swear, she is going to kill someone before the age of two.”  She clapped a hand over her eyes.

“Aww, chill out, Ellie,” Tara consoled her.  “We all grew up and had okay childhoods without maiming or killing anyone, didn’t we?”

“Well…” said Amber.  “Nathan’s brother had an incident once when he was a three-year-old.  It required major government cover-up and the Agency is still providing medical coverage to the victim to this day.”

“Oh, don’t even tell me about it.”  Ellie buried her face in her arms.

“Has she transferred anything worse than a tiny shock, yet?” Tara asked.  “I mean, the last thing I heard was that she zapped Zach one day on the forehead.”

“Eh, sometimes it’s a little more drastic than that, but most of the time that’s all it is.”  Ellie sank her teeth into a chocolate-pumpkin muffin.  “Mmm.  Amber, did you make these?”

The woman nodded.

“They’re good!”

“Thanks.”

Ellie swallowed, continuing “And we have to be seriously careful any time we give her a bath!”

“Oh, I can imagine!” Tara cried.

“It’s like bathing an electric appliance.  One wrong move, and ZAP!”  Ellie brushed the hair off her forehead with wide eyes.  “Speaking of…Amber, is there any luck with the whole bath-time thing for Lulu?”

Amber shook her head.  “Nope.  She continues to screech if so much as a little toe gets in the bathwater.”  She glanced down at her fiery-haired infant, who was sleeping soundly in a paisley sling around her mother’s shoulder, one hand still clutching Mommy’s shirt from a breastfeeding half an hour ago.  “We talked it over with her doctor, and he doesn’t think it’s hurting her in any way.  She just doesn’t like it.”

“So how do you keep her clean?” Ellie exclaimed.  “She’s how old now?  Eight months?  She was born in November, right?”

Amber nodded.

“Doesn’t she need a bath once in awhile, then?  She’s crawling, and getting dirty…”

“We can’t give her one.  She screeches bloody murder.”

“Well, she obviously gets baths sometimes.  How do you keep her clean?”

“With fire,” Amber replied quietly.

Ellie and Tara gaped.  “You can’t be serious.”

“I’m totally serious.  Having a telepathic husband comes in handy sometimes.”  Amber grinned.  “Nobody could figure out what was going on with the whole water thing, until one day he was carrying her past a burning candle at my mom’s house.  She squirmed, and turned in his arms, and reached out for it, and he said it was like everything in her was straining to get to that warmth.  I don’t know why he did it – because he’s nuts – but he said she just seemed so desperate, so he let her touch it.”

“What guy in his right mind would do that!” Ellie burst out, then put a hand over her mouth. “ Sorry, I don’t mean to bash on Nathan…but…seriously!”

“I know!”  Amber laughed.  “I saw it happen out of the corner of my eye, and I just about hit the ceiling.  I was going to screech at him, but the next second Talullah started laughing.  And she just didn’t stop!  She sat there in his arm, trying to grab the flame, and giggling like crazy.  And it started spreading up her arm!  I thought I was going to faint by this point, but he just said, ‘I think I’ve found her power!’ and hurried over and dropped her in a clean stockpot my mom was drying on the counter.  Lulu sat there and giggled – it was hilarious, because it was echoing all around in the pot – and the fire covered her whole body from head to toe, and slowly burned out.  So now, at the end of the day, we stick her in a pot over the stove and sanitize her with fire.”

“Oh, my word.”  Ellie gulped.  “I hope you shut all the curtains.  Otherwise somebody is going to see you someday and call the police.”

“Of course,” Amber retorted.  “Plus, we kind of live out in the boonies.  Nobody’s peeking in our windows.”

“How can you do that to your child?” Tara was still in shock.

Amber shrugged.  “It kills the germs.  She loves it!  And what else are we supposed to do?”

“Wow.”  Ellie swallowed the other half of her pumpkin muffin.  “That is insane.  I didn’t know you even found her power.  You know, I thought you were kind of crazy, with the whole cosleeping thing and not using pacifiers.  But the whole fire-bath thing is truly insane.  I had no idea.”

“Well…we don’t really like to talk about it,” Amber said discreetly, sipping her glass of water.  “It’s a little awkward.”

“Well, yeah!” Tara exclaimed.  “Oh, dear.”  She set down her coffee, preparing to jump to her feet.  “He’s at it again.”

They all watched as Benjamin floated ceiling-ward.  Tara got up and pulled him toward the table by his foot, popping a pacifier into his mouth to soothe his protests.  “Sometimes this is the only way,” she said, and began to latch him into a baby harness.  “I can’t go outside without one.  He might float away like a balloon.”

Fin.

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Distractibility

February 28, 2012

This is one of those weeks where I bounce from project to project, barely wading knee deep into one story before I splash away to immerse myself in the next.

Technically Daik 11 is my primary project, and I’ve been putting together character profiles for it and scenes have been running around in my head.  That’s been fun, but I haven’t been as obsessed with it as in prior weeks.

Yesterday, I spent a good chunk of time writing a scene that had come to me randomly.  I was contemplating the passage in Psalms which speaks of the deer panting for the water, and suddenly I imagined a desperate stag struggling up a beautiful mountain gorge – hunted, fleeing from unknown pursuers, blood running down its leg from an arrow wound…and carrying a sleeping child upon its back.

I don’t know why the image came to me.  The story idea that blossomed out of it was unusual too, at least for this writer.  It seems almost like high fantasy, which isn’t my usual sub-genre, and the scene that I wrote was in third person omniscient, whereas I usually write in very close third person, following one character’s thoughts and emotions at a time.  It was interesting, and fun!  I imagined it might be some historical backstory for the world of The Queen in the Wooden Box…  For now I’ve tucked the scene away, to inspire me sometime at a later date.  (Perhaps I’ll post it here!)

Today, I was washing dishes and had the urge to write a kind of satire about mothering, from a superhero mom’s perspective.  Imagine a superhero mom’s group!

Mom A:  “How old is Rory now?”

Mom B: “Eight months.”

Mom A: “Is he sleeping through the night yet?”

Mom B: (with an enormous eye roll) “We’ve tried and tried, but we just can’t get him to sleep well at night.  Every time he wakes up in his crib he starts bouncing off the walls!  Finally we just shut the door and said ‘That’s it’!  We just let him fly around until he crashes from exhaustion.  Yesterday morning we found him sleeping in the diaper basket.”  (She chuckles to herself in a slightly unhinged-with-exhaustion way, and sips her latte.)

Okay, that does it.  I’m off to write this thing.  *rubs hands eagerly*  *scampers away*

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Character Profile 2012

February 20, 2012

I am a big fan of character profiles.  No matter how organically a character appears and develops in my mind and on the page, sooner or later I find myself compelled to “flesh them out” a bit more: to consider what their pet peeves are, what they studied in college, their favorite foods, what music they enjoy, whether they drive like a wild banshee or creep carefully exactly at the speed limit.  I certainly discover a lot of these things as I go along, but filling out a profile puts all the information in one place, and helps me tie together a more unified vision of the character as a person.

I also like them because I have a great fondness for filling out forms.  I’m weird that way.

The best thing about profiles is that they bring up areas I might never consider.  I may know all about the protagonist’s family, but completely blank out when questioned about his school history.  The extra information I come up with might not be relevant to the plot, directly, but it gives me a better idea of where this person is coming from, and what their motivations are.  I’m fast and skilled at imagining a person on the outside, down to the last freckle, but I have a harder time understanding what makes them tick.  Through writing profiles I have made huge revelations, even about characters I’ve worked with for years!

The Common Pitfalls of Character Profiles

The most common complaint among authors is that character profiles are tedious, and take too long.  This is so true.  I simply do not have the patience or motivation to fill out pages of categories like this:

  • Years of schooling:
  • Major and minor studies in college:
  • Degrees:
  • Grades achieved in school:
  • (Plus 47 other miscellaneous categories about the character’s school history…)

Bo-o-o-ring!!  Why wrack my brains for all those details (unless it’s really important) when I can just have a simple category called “Info About Schooling”?  Also, that sort of thing tends to box you in, creatively.  Notice how it assumes your character is a normal person living in the modern-day world?  These kinds of things can throw us speculative writers!

All I need is the prompt to make me wonder about the character’s educational history, and then I can brainstorm for as much or as little detail as I want or need.  Profiles that ask for too much detail dizzy me, especially when the character is fairly new and I don’t know anything about them yet except their looks or relevance to the plot.

Other profiles don’t ask for enough detail.

  • Name:
  • Age:
  • Birthday:
  • Hair color:
  • Eye color:
  • Height:
  • Weight:
  • Favorite food:
  • Pets:
  • Goal in life:

This is far too basic.  Maybe it’d be okay for a second grade writing assignment, but c’mon!  I probably already know all these things!  The main reason I use profiles is to help me think of the stuff I don’t know, and to understand the character’s personality better.  This doesn’t inspire me to wonder.

My Continual Hunt

Almost every time I go to fill out a new batch of profiles, I find myself searching for new outlines to try.  I enjoy the “questionnaire” kind that has questions you answer from the character’s point of view, but I usually only use these when I feel in need of a “refresher” in the character’s voice or personality.  (For that kind of profile, I really like the “Personal Interview” section of this profile here.)  Most of the time I am looking for the kind you fill out in third person, with all their basic information and lots of details.

Years ago, I used to write my own profiles, making the list of categories up myself.  Of course, this didn’t help much when it came to brainstorming.  Then a friend of mine sent me a VERY long one that she and her brother were using.  I still have that document she sent – it’s ten pages long, and that’s without any character information put into it!  (I don’t know where my friend got it originally, but she said later that what she sent me was the *short* version!)

I’m not sure I ever filled it out “as is”, because I didn’t like the format.  However, I liked the way it made me think.  It didn’t just ask what a character looked like; it also inquired how they felt about their looks.  It questioned me about not only where they live, but also their past homes and residences.  These kinds of things are the things that matter!

Don't just describe what a character looks like. How do they feel about how they look? How do they perceive themselves?

I took that ten-page profile, pared it down, and rearranged it to my liking.  Some categories I took away, and I added others I felt it was lacking.  Not long later, I came back and did it again.  And again.  Every couple of years I reorganize this thing!  My goal is to someday have a profile that’s easy to fill out (not too lengthy or overwhelming) and which inspires me to probe deeper into my character’s soul.

Here is my work for today – the character profile of February 2012!  I thought I’d stick it out there on the web, to see if some others might find it useful.  Maybe this will be “the one” for me.

Download: New Character Profile 2012