Knowing the Basics About My Characters
Before I start writing my stories, I have to know the basic attributes of my characters:
Who are they?
Where did they come from?
What event brought them into this story?
What are their attitudes and why?
How will they solve the problem in this story?
Will they grow from their experiences?
The screenshot above is a mind map of my main character, Amanda Thorne Colbain, who is the main character in my current work in progress, Shades of Evil. As I am still a beginner with this technique, I thought I would experiment with a character that I already know.
With this mind map, I diagrammed her basic information, such as where she was born, her marital status, her likes and dislikes, etc. I used different colors for each subtopic and added images that would represent certain topics in a way that would add depth to Amanda’s character. The yellow background represents her favorite color, for instance. The dotted lines with the arrows represents a connection between the major events in Amanda’s life, something which she will realize late in the story. While the picture doesn’t fit my mental image of her, the photo I used is a good representation because I can see a real face. Every element in this mind map has a purpose, and that is to help me remember who Amanda is and how she’ll shape my plot.
Before you start this tutorial, I’d like you to check out a site that I found yesterday that showcases mind map drawings. Also visit my prior post to learn about the concept of mind mapping and to download some free software for this exercise. Freemind is a good app to start with.
If you’ve never touched a mind mapping app, I would play around with that first before you start mapping out your character. Once you get a feel for the software interface, you can start mapping without interruption. That’s key, because you need to focus on letting your ideas flow.
Drawing Your First Mind Map
- Draw a shape in the dead center of your screen. This position will give you plenty of space to draw your branches.
- Next, think about the direction that you would like your branches to go–clockwise or counter-clockwise. Also think about the colors that you would like to use for each branch. You can either color the branches themselves or write the words in the color that you choose for this section of your map.
- Draw your first branch. For the purposes of this exercise, we’ll write Born on top of it. Draw two branches off the first one. Write the date of birth on the first, and the place of birth on the second.
- Draw another branch from the center shape and label it Parents. Give the branch or the word a color. Draw another branch from this one and write Mom on it. What is the first word that comes to your character’s mind when she think about her mother? Kind? Gentle? Nasty? Unloving? Distant? Write the word down on the next branch, and then create as many branches as you feel necessary to describe your character’s feelings toward this parent.
- Once you’re finished with this section, start on the next section and continue the process until you feel that you are done.
Take Advantage of the Notes Feature
Unlike traditional, hand-drawn mind maps, many desktop mind mapping programs come with a built-in note feature. This feature allows you to expand on a topic for better clarity while allowing you to keep your mind map uncluttered. For instance, you wrote that your character’s mother was unloving. Click on the Notes feature and summarize the character’s memory of an instance where her mother was unloving.
Good Sources for Images to Enhance Your Mind Maps
50 Websites for Free Vector Images
stock.XCHNG Has lots of free images plus paid premium images.
Dreamstime.com Has both free and paid images. Great site!
iStockPhoto.com Has a great selection of paid images. Another favorite because they have such a wide selection of photos and vectors.