Saturday, December 12, 2009

ORACLE (Part 1): Character Compass

As I mentioned yesterday, the ORACLE is where I go when I need writing help. Since it's the season for giving and sharing and all that good stuff, I thought I'd pass along a few tricks from my ORACLE to my fellow writers out there. Enjoy!

Character Compass

I read once that there are four basic ways to show character: Appearance, Dialogue, Action and Thought. While it's possible to depict a character using only one of these elements, most scenes tend to rely on all four elements working in concert to convey the character. That's where the character compass comes in.

This graph lets you track how much of each element you're using to show your character. You put a dot on each line. The closer to the circle's edge you put the dot, the more heavily you're using that element. (Example: the graph on the left indicates a scene where there's a lot of dialogue and action, but not a lot of thought or descriptions of appearance.)

Once you've draw the dots, connect the lines and it gives you a visual picture of how that character is being depicted in that scene. Of course, it is not essential that the graph be perfectly balanced all the time. I prefer to use this compass as a diagnostic tool. I'll choose a character and map him or her over a series of scenes. Over the course of several scenes, these graphs will show me if one (or more) of the aforementioned elements is missing.

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