Monday, July 4, 2011

Character, Part Two: Information

How can the concept of Information help you as you think about your writing?

And why is the Insect Collector talking about it?

Good questions.

This short series of blog posts stems from when I mentioned the theory I use in my work (Contextual Interaction Theory) and folks asked about the interview questions I use to gauge motivation, information, and power.

With these posts, I am trying to transfer those ideas to understanding character in writing.

I have only a few questions to share on information- this was more difficult to transfer than motivation.

This is a fascinating idea to think about in terms of a novel, though, because in the world you create, it really is all about the information.

Is there information our main character has but doesn't want?, Or wants but can't get? What will she do to rectify this situation?

Here are some questions that might prove a springboard for thinking about information as you write.

It's not meant as a formal questionnaire. Instead, these might be things you think about already, in a more organic way.

Think about the core issue/critical point for your book and focus on this issue. It could be a big-picture issue, or a focused personal issue.

1. Who does (and does not) have basic awareness of the issue?
-----Is your MC the only one who knows, or is everyone and their Uncle in on the big mystery?

2. Is your MC aware of the benefits she will receive if X happens.  (not that she should be, necessarily)
-----What would she gain if she gets this thing she's yearning for? fame? fortune? peace?

3. The converse of this question: Is the MC aware of the risks if X happens.
-----What's at stake? Could she also lose something if she accomplishes her goal?

4. Does your MC have a clear picture of who else is participating-- and what their roles are? Why or why not?
-----Is it all a big gray area? Or are all the players readily known?

5. Does your MC know what it will take to accomplish X? Can she find this out? If not, what's standing in the way?
-----What does she need to do to accomplish her goal?

6. How complex is X? Does she have the tools to sort it out?
-----Is this way beyond a solo operation? Does she need a team of crack specialists? Is she the only one, uniquely placed, to solve it? Was he chosen/created/named as the only person who can do this? (I'm lookin' at you, Frodo).

7. What is the role of uncertainties here? Must she figure everything out to get to X, or will there be unknowns that remain?
-----What must be answered to give the story closure? If a series, some new questions may be posed at the end, or some big-picture questions may run through a number of books.

8. How simple or difficult is it for your MC to find out things? To gather new information?
-----Is she a teen who has to subvert adults or sneak around? Is she a lawyer, with easy access to the files she needs? Is someone feeding her info? Who? and Why?

Is information something you think about as you write, as a distinct element, or is it bundled up into other characteristics/elements of plot?

What other big questions on information could be included here?

If you missed Part One on Motivation, find it here.

For further reference:

Bressers, J T.A. (2004). Implementing sustainable development: how to know what
            works, where, when and how. In W. M. Lafferty (Ed.), Governance for
sustainable development: The challenge of adapting form to function (pp. 284-
318). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar. 
Owens, K. A. (2008). Understanding how actors influence policy implementation: a
comparative study of wetland restorations in New Jersey, Oregon, the Netherlands,
and Finland. Enschede, the Netherlands: Twente University Press. 


  1. I believe the more we know about our characters, their world and personal challenges, the better able we'll be to craft a complex, yet interesting story.

    At intervals, I stop and ask what my characters need to achieve, what's stopping them from achieving them and at the end, I want to know that all the questions/challenges have been wrapped up satisfactorily.

  2. These are great posts, lots to think about. Thanks for putting them up :-)

  3. I love the way you think about things, Kat. Great post!

  4. Great tips JL-- really important to keep in mind.

    Thanks Mummazappa- I appreciate it.

    Thanks Holly. It's nice to hear that. :0)

  5. I am printing this post and sticking it to my notebook NOW. THANKS!!! Lots of great stuff to think about :-)

  6. Yay samantha- glad you like it.
    I appreciate it Alicia.


YAY for comments! Thanks for adding to the conversation.