Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Writing Prompt Wednesday - Character Mapping

Let's do something a little more meta this week!

Do you ever find yourself struggling to articulate the key traits of your characters' personalities and how they relate to each other? It's sometimes tough to go deeper than "kind" and "quiet" and "short-tempered." Characters' personalities and backstories influence how they interact with each other and with their circumstances, and it's important to consider their motivations when writing character development moments into your plot.

Since I'm a visual thinker, I tend to simply things into a graphic before writing an explanation in prose. (I do this both for work projects and creative writing!)

Here's an example from Maywitch, which starts serialization in a few days:

In other words, each main character shares a key trait in common with two others, while being the total opposite of one. That's an oversimplification, but it shapes some of the decisions the girls make during the story - especially at the beginning, before things start to go to hell.

To summarize the impact of the above traits on the girls' relationships with each other, without getting into too many spoilers: Out of the four main characters, Kay and Tierra* fight the most, while Kay and Nadia maintain a weird, mistrusting peace because they don't actually disagree on that much. Holly annoys Kay somewhat with her attempts to be friendly and positive. And while Nadia and Holly date at some point in the story, maybe that whole "opposites attract" thing won't play out so well.

And if I had to simplify the girls' relationship with their employer without spoiling anything, I would sum it up as such: Tierra is Lawful Good, Nadia starts out as Lawful Good but shifts toward Chaotic Good when her personal life gets weird, Holly is Neutral Good (and she's initially drawn away from Chaotic Good because of her relationship with Nadia), and Kay is "I would totally be Chaotic Good if I had the energy/resources to be Chaotic but instead I'm just gonna be Neutral as long as it suits my purposes."

Or, to be a total fucking nerd and compare the girls to various Avengers: Tierra is pre-Civil War Captain America, Nadia is Iron Man in Iron Man 2, Holly is Black Widow in Civil War, and Kay is Hawkeye minus that weird shit about having a family.

My private notes are much more detailed, of course, and that brings me to today's actual writing prompt: Get into your characters' relationships with each other and the key power players in their universe. Draw what you need to (a Venn Diagram? a grid of different personality traits? arrows and random word-blobs in your sketchbook?) but then write out an explanation.

You'd be surprised how writing things out in detail can highlight inconsistencies or holes in your mental notes. Maybe you'll realize that your characters are all fairly similar and need some sources of conflict thrown in. Maybe you'll realize that your characters have no real personality flaws. Maybe you'll realize that if you write one of your characters too much like Captain America, it'll throw off the tone of the entire story.

*Side note: Tierra doesn't appear until a lot later in the story, for various reasons. You might not see much of her until September or so. Sorry!

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