Friday, November 18, 2011

Nine Things

Today's post is part of the blog chain (see sidebar at right). This month's topic is "nine things". Please be sure to visit the others' posts, too. 

One thing I continually try to work on in my fiction writing is character development. At times, though, I've found it difficult to come up with original characters. So over the years I started to develop a "system of lists" as a means of avoiding writer's block in this area. The lists are organized by categories: occupation, hobbies, traits, and psychological needs.

How this works is that I usually start with an occupation, and then match it with a hobby, then add some traits, and finally combine it with a psychological need. In other words, it's kind of like an assembly line for characters. You don't need to start with the occupation, though, and often times I'll freely draw connections between the lists or try out different combinations to see what is the most interesting.

So, here are eighteen words from each list to help you with your own writing (nine things times two ='s the eighteenth...get it?):


trucker, cook, inventor, musician, doctor, plumber, teacher, drifter, firefighter, librarian, jeweler, clockmaker, woodworker, banker, chemist, farmer, carpenter, resort owner


rockclimbing, music collector, gambles, teaches, plays golf, stargazer, weaves, plays chess, hunts, writes, does crosswords, marathon runner, paints, has no time for hobbies, sculpts, plays in a rock band, hikes, draws


shortsighted, free-spending, aggressive, passive, analytic, impulsive, picky, honest, punctual, carefree, manipulative, meticulous, opportunist, conceited, control freak, comical, hypochondriac, intuitive

Psychological Needs/Motivations

wants to fall in love, vengence, needs to be right, to discover truth about the past, wants to help everybody, running from past life, needs to win, to right a past wrong, to be in control, misses church, medical quest, lost parent or sibling, need for acceptance, to conquer things, poor as a child, needs lots of friends, wants to be alone, social justice

And, since I normally post tech-related links on Fridays (and since this was a low-tech post), here's a link to a video that shows the strange phenomenon of "bioluminescent waves". Not really tech-related, but colorful nonetheless. Oddly enough, this effect is a result of a red tide.

Lastly, here's an article describing the effort to build two ten-story Tesla coils in order to study lightning. It's one of the more intriguing uses of the Kickstarter funding program I've seen.

Have a good weekend.


  1. So this is why you wanted the 18th? Because it was 2 x 9? LOL!

    Actually, I kinda cheated on this, too. My Top Nine were followed by nine honorable mentions, so I also had 18.

    And I know what you mean by having trouble inventing unique characters every time. I've had to think hard sometimes to distinguish one character from a similar one, so readers (and I) would not get confused.

    ~ VT

  2. I thought about listing nine categories...sort of a 9 X 9 grid thing with nine examples for each...but I ran out of time. :-(

  3. Great lists, Mike. This is a terrific help for writers to brainstorm their characters.

    And a Tesla coil? Cool!

  4. Thank Mike. This is a very helpful and insightful tool.

  5. Good idea! So far I've just let my characters reveal themselves to me as we go. They're usually based on people I know. But something like this will come in handy if I ever get stuck.

    Thanks for sharing.

  6. Interesting list, Mike. Maybe one of these days, I'll stretch my vision and journey for a bit in the fiction writing world, fleshing out some unique characters. :) For now, I have my hands full with the whole array of non-fiction characters already fleshing out my life! Loved the red tide link. Red tides are so fascinating! Blessings!

  7. great list Michael !! I really liked the bioluminescent wave, very cool !!

  8. Watching you guys try to figure complex equations to justify your list of "nines" is like watching Harold Camping trying to compute the date for Judgment Day. . . . ;-)

    In any case, you get a pass on this one, McG, because this is exactly the sort of thing I find incredibly useful for character creation. It's simple, compact, and yet contains a great deal of what you need to know to establish the foundations for primary characters. I plan on giving this a try for myself soon, just to see how it plays out. (I'll let you know the results.)

    Thanks for the post, and the idea!

  9. Great lists. I'll keep them in mind next time I get stuck on a character's make-up. :)

  10. Thanks! I figured I'd post something a little different this month anyway. Hopefully it will help someone.