Friday, September 24, 2010

Sept 24th Great American Blogging Experiment

Welcome to my installment of The Great Blogging FEST Experiment. The topic for this blogfest is about writing compelling characters. So for this blog, let's look at writing characters as an experiment.  In the scientific method each experiment has several definable elements (I am an elementary school teacher so this is basic.  If I miss something tell Aristotle I'm sorry for me.)

Question:
The first element is a question. It's what we want to learn.  It might be, "What will happen when I put household items in a blender?"  For characters the question is simply, "Who is this person and how will they operate through the different situations I throw them into?"

Hypothesis:
A hypothesis is what we guess will happen in our experiment.  So if I'm experimenting with my blender I will make a statement as to which things will blend well, or not at all, or explode, or cry out for help before I close the lid.  As readers we all learned (from amazing teachers like me) how to predict based on what has happened already and who our character is.  Even as we write we move our characters along based on who we have made them and the things we know about them.  Reader predictions are based on it and they can feel off-put if our characters act outside of that.  Sometimes our characters acting outside of their usual parameters can be intriguing so long as a good explanation or background comes with it.

Constant:
The constant is the thing in the experiment that we don't change.  For our blender experiment it is the blender itself.  We would always use the same blender at the same setting.  When writing characters it's the events in the story.  Ah the great blender of life!  Set er' on ice crush and let it go!

Variables:
The variables are the things in the experiment we do change so we can learn and make conclusions. For the blender experiment it would be what we throw into the blender.  In character writing the variables are the characters themselves and their character traits and backgrounds. They are what we throw into the blender of life and circumstance.  It's what drives the characters, whether directly written or implied by the author.  Each new character reacting to the same kinds of pressures and events (constant) in different ways teaches us about them.  


Conclusions:
Conclusions are what we learn.  Did the remote control blend or explode?  The things we learn about our character by the unique ways they approach situations give us conclusions to draw from and use to make new predictions (Hypothesiseseziz) about our characters.


For my writing I use characters I know to make them more compelling.  I am currently writing children's chapter books.  I like to use students I've had in the past as my imaginary framework.  Of course I move around names and details, but I try to think what a kid I knew would do and translate it into my story.  I use their quirks and the things I loved about them to help me translate the joy I have in my characters on the page.  Each situation in my story (constant) helps me define what my characters (variables) would do and answer the question of, "who is this weirdo?"  


That's my take on it.  I'm going to go put a sofa pillow in my blender now and see what happens.  

-Chris


PB (post blog) I also have my Friday Morning Pump-Up Video posted below.  Be sure to check that out as well. 

25 comments:

  1. I do that all the time - take things from real people I know and mix it into a character I'm writing.

    I like your scientific method analogy!

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  2. I love listeing to my daughter talk with her friends. It's hilarious and educational!

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  3. Cool ideas dude :-)

    I completely copped out of participating, It didnt work out! :-D best of luck to you, goodspeed !lol

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  4. I would like a copy of the video of the pillow destruction event ;)
    I like your process, I think a lot of us do that without realizing that we're doing it.

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  5. Love the scientific method! I never thought about it for characters, but this totally works! Thanks for sharing.

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  6. I like how you said the events in your story don't change. This gives me an idea: we should write the scene --the same events--from the POV of a character. The scene should change, a lot I might venture to say, based on who's head we're in.

    Great, great stuff.

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  7. This takes me back to my days in Science writing lab reports! Great post. I have a feeling the motor burnt out on the blender lol.

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  8. LOVE LOVE LOVE that you put this into an experimental write-up! Fabulous! I think I try to get my characters in my head first and hold THEM as a constant and then manipulate the events I subject them to, but I think subjecting DIFFERENT characters to the same thing really DOES test whether you've differentiated well. Not nearly as interesting if they'd all respond the same.

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  9. Characters in blenders - so aptly described!
    And I'll take a strawberry slushie, please.

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  10. I *love* this. Breaking it down like a scientific experiment just blew my mind. You helped me see the development of a character in a new light. Thank you!

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  11. Normally, the scientific experiment would hurt my head, but I LOVE the way you used it for characters. Brilliant! :-)

    I voted William Shatner, btw - no contest! :-)

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  12. I think I'm staying away from your blender!! :) Great way to approach it!

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  13. I grew up hearing about the scientific method applied to everything (both my parents were scientists!) but never to writing. Nice breakdown. I'll have to tell them my profession isn't so different from theirs after all :)

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  14. Haha, love it! But as a professional smoothie girl, I can tell you that even commercial blenders would not do well with household items ;)

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  15. You have some excellent tidbits in here. I've never thought about the fact that the scenes should stay the same but be different from different characters heads. But its so true. We each have our own version of reality.

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  16. Interesting take on this! Nice to read something different :o)

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  17. Very cool take on this!!! This is another take from what I've seen, and you've done excellent with all your tidbits!

    Sorry I'm late! Still trying to make all my rounds!

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  18. Love the blender experiment! Nicely done. Just wondering if the pillow survived? LOL.

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  19. Using real people for inspiration can be so effective. I sometimes have my students make a list of their friends' quirks and then assign some of those quirks to their characters. It can be an interesting way to bring out flaws in the characters that might have gone unnoticed before.

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  20. I love your twist on this. Characters in a blender is genius and I too would like to see that video! Great tidbits Chris!

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  21. Hey Chris! Thanks for offering to post for me on October 19. I was going to email you the information, but couldn't find your address. Mine's alexjcavanaugh AT earthlink.net. Thanks!

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  22. I taught for 17 years...I use stuff from my kiddos too. :)

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  23. I love your approach to this - you've got yourself a new follower!

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  24. Love your approach - I was a science major in college (chemistry) so it tickles my fancy that you used the scientific method. Awesome! And excellent points all around.

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  25. I love your scientific approach! Great post!

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