Characterisation- Feelings

I’m working tomorrow so my normal Friday post is shifted to today. Today I’m going to share another list I had compiled- feelings. During my novel writing process, my beta reader told me that one of my trademarks is that I delve too much into protagonists’ heads and not enough into their feelings. So during this latest bout of Writer’s Lethargy, I compiled the following list:

·         accomplished
·         agonised
·         angry
·         anguish
·         antigonistic
·         antipathy
·         appalled
·         bored
·         broken-hearted
·         bullied
·         calm
·         care-free
·         cheap
·         cheated
·         compassionate
·         composed
·         confident
·         content
·         degraded
·         denied
·         diffident
·         directionless
·         dirty
·         disenchanted
·         disgusted
·         disillusioned
·         dumb
·         energised
·         euphoric
·         exasperated
·         excited
·         exhausted
·         faint
·         fake
·         fatigued
·         fulfilled
·         gainsaid
·         gentle
·         genuine
·         gratified
·         happy
·         hopeful
·         horrifed
·         indifferent
·         insignificant
·         inundated
·         joyous
·         kind
·         languid
·         lazy
·         lively
·         lost
·         malicious
·         manipulated
·         murderous
·         nourished
·         numb
·         nurtured
·         oppressed
·         overwhelmed
·         pale
·         pampered
·         protected
·         proud
·         queer
·         reassured
·         repulsed
·         rested
·         sad
·         safe
·         sated
·         satisfied
·         self-assured
·         shocked
·         sorrowful
·         suffocated
·         suppressed
·         tearful
·         tested
·         thunderstruck
·         timid
·         tired
·         torn
·         tortured
·         underwhelmed
·         victimised
·         violated
·         watchful
·         wistful
·         wonder
·         yearning

Characterisation- Moonlake’s List of Moods

I won’t be able to post tomorrow so I’m posting in advance today and it is about yet another list I’ve created as a result of my 10 by 10 exercise for characterisation, which is on the possible moods that a character typically goes through.

·         affectionate
·         aloof
·         angry
·         anguish
·         argumentative
·         authoritative
·         avoidance
·         bashful
·         boastful
·         boisterous
·         calculating
·         cheerful
·         concentrated
·         confusion
·         contemplative
·         content
·         demanding
·         depression
·         despair
·         directing
·         directionless
·         disappointment
·         dreamy
·         excited/hyperactive
·         Exhaustion
·         firm/forceful
·         focused
·         frustrated
·         gleeful
·         grumbling
·         grumpy
·         happy
·         hopeful
·         humorous
·         ice-cold
·         intense thinking
·         introspection
·         isolation
·         killing edge
·         lamenting
·         lecturing
·         lethargic
·         lighthearted
·         lightning
·         longing
·         malice
·         mischievous
·         numb
·         obedient
·         philosophical
·         playful
·         quiet
·         reasoning
·         regret
·         relaxed
·         reminiscent
·         restless
·         sleepy
·         stubborn
·         sweet
·         tender
·         unfazed
·         vulnerable
·         wistful
·         worrisome
·         zone out

Characterisation- Moonlake’s List of Personal Values

Before delving into the actual topic of this post, I have to mention that I edited the previous post about Catalyst Events and Elements yesterday rather than going with 2 separate posts on the same topic as previously planned.

So in today’s post, I’m going to share yet another list I had created that aids characterisation- a list of personal values, what is particularly important for a particular character that potentially drive a significant part of his/her actions . This list might not be as comprehensive as that in the previous post. It’s basically made up of items that I had come up with in the process of filling out my 10 by 10 character grids that I had talked about. So anyone reading this should treat it as a post for starting ideas rather than a comprehensive article on the topic.

I’m going to go by alphabetical order this time since it’s quite short at the moment:

  • Affection- mainly thinking of people who want to please others all the time
  • Comfort- not necessarily lazy people but could be for example women who dislikes high heels because they’re uncomfortable and don’t have occasion to wear them
  • Compassion
  • Convenience- people who likes taking shortcuts, people who dawdle on tasks that are complicated….
  • Duty
  • Equity
  • External approval/praise
  • Freedom
  • Happiness
  • Harmony
  • Idealism
  • Independence
  • Integrity
  • Love
  • Materialism
  • Momentary gratification versus long term welfare
  • Moderation- mainly thinking of how likely the person is to go to extremes
  • Planning versus improvisation- mainly thinking about personal preferences for planning or not
  • Power
  • Practicality
  • Security
  • Self versus collective achievement- “self achievers” are more ambitious and seek credits whereas “collective achievers” care about whether they make good contributions to a collective cause the way I see it
  • Self expression
  • Self sufficiency- distinguished from independence in the sense that the ultimate driver for the character is to not rely on others
  • Stability
  • Status
  • Visibility- attention seekers basically
  • Wealth

10 by 10 Character Grid

Today I’m going to share another technique that I learnt from one of these writer self-help books (again the The Creative Writers’ Workshop by Cathy Birch for those interested) that I’ve adapted to my use and found extremely useful in terms of filling out characters. This time, the procedure is really simple: you use a 10 by 10 grid to brainstorm 100 facts about your character on 10 different areas. The original example shown was related to Red Riding Hood and contained information about her in the following areas: 1) Physical appearance; 2) Relationships; 3) Colour; 4) Music; 5) Talents; 6) Flaws; 7) Moods; 8) Past times and 2 others that I cannot remember but are likely to be other innocuous aspects. After all, the actual book suggested using this exercise as a pure brainstorming exercise. If anything odd comes out, it would have little impact on the actual characterisation while the occasional oddities might even bring out surprises when it comes to plotting.

I applaud this simple idea but I found almost half of the categories too innocuous and of little use in characterisation for me as a genre writer in fantasy. So I adapted them such that my 10 categories are: 1) Physical appearance; 2) Relationships; 3) Talents; 4) Flaws; 5) Past times; 6) Moods; 7) Values, fears and secrets; 8) Memories; 9) Reactions; 10) Mannerisms, quirks and little habits. I found that after my adaption, this brainstorming exercise involved substantially more meditation than its original form which I felt could be completed in one session uninterrupted. My revised form, however, sometimes required me to complete it over 2 days, especially for all of my main characters. A somewhat unfortunate side effect is that I could not find it in myself to complete the full grid for all of the characters in my book and I’ve found it through the hard way that some of the minor cast became quite hard to write when it came their turn to appear in the story.

Still, I feel lucky that I stumbled upon this approach. Previously, I was using a character profile approach where you basically complete a questionnaire about each character and it was just a dreadful experience. I was never a form-filling person but I can be matter-of-fact about that when required. However, this character profile thing just got on my nerves in some inexplicable way. But to each his own, I say. At the conclusion of this post, I would like to emphasise that what I wrote in my posts are purely personal insights into what worked and not worked for myself and should not be taken as broad-stroke advice on writing craft in any way. Thanks for reading.