Yes, This Will Be On the Test

Writing, Reading, Laughing

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Designing a Character: Using Shape

It's conference week for me so I'm repeating a post from my designing a character series. Enjoy or re-enjoy as the case may be.

Shape, an area defined by line or color, evokes emotional responses similar to line.  We are surrounded by both two and three-dimensional shapes in our world.  In writing we want to avoid two-dimensional characters, those with only length and width, like the plague.  B-0-R-I-N-G.  It’s that third dimension of depth that adds spice to our puppets.

The fun begins when we manipulate shape.

Are you asleep yet?  Balance can be a story device you employ as a baseline only if you’re intent on utterly destroying it quickly.  As an overriding plot element, it can be deadly.

Once upon a time there were little pig triplets with ungodly trust funds.  The loving pig brothers, all equally intelligent and motivated, left tail in snout to find their way in the wide wide world.  Using their unlimited Renaissance Pig talents, they build a compound with three identical houses where they could live together in harmony.  Best of all they had a bushy-tailed wolfy neighbor who refused to eat anything except stupid pigs who never wore clothing.  The End.     

I know which X you are looking at!

Once upon a time there were little pig triplets with ungodly trust funds.  The first pig made a horrendous investment due to his lack of online research, and was left destitute.  His brothers shunned him, and he had to live out his porcine existence in a cardboard refrigerator box under the forest overpass.  Since he was stupid and did not wear clothing, his brothers’ bushy-tailed wolfy neighbor ate him.  The End. 

A shape we recognize and are able to assign meaning, is always dominant.

One upon a time there were two amorphous blobs and one pig with ungodly trust funds.  The blobs had no hands or faces and therefore no means to access their riches.  The pig opened a small bookstore under the oak tree with his money and was wildly successful since animals who wear clothing, also read.  The indefinable blobs could not communicate with the non-blob world so no one in the forest had any clue what they were thinking, doing, or planning.  They hung aimlessly in the air below the branches of the oak tree, doing nothing, for the rest of all time.  The End.

Note: If you speak “blob” and can order the last mini-story in their original tongue, “blob,” thus being able to identify their unique culture and language, you’ll find the journey of the blobs hanging in the forest is actually an epic to rival Tolkien.  Who knew?


  1. Haha, "The Blob"...

    Interesting way to look at character development. Definitely having "surprises" helps.

  2. I love the way your brain works. Can I borrow it for a few months?

  3. I ditto Julie! It's a sign of pure genius.

  4. Lee - They don't make one sheets like they used to.

    Julie & Lisa - If I can locate my AWOL brain, I'll be happy to lend it to you.

    Prerna - Thanks!

  5. The blob twist was fun :) Good examples!

  6. I get your brain after Lisa. Oh, wait. She's into zombies and zombies eat brains which means there won't be any Leslie brain left for me. Oh my!

  7. Those were so funny! Hope you don't get too tired from having your brain passed around, LOL!

  8. Thanks, Jemi.

    Geez,Stina, I never thought about that. Eeek.

    Lydia - That explains the fatigue.

  9. Characters should have some kind of connection with the reader so we can care about them. Don't just stand there, do something!

    Tossing It Out