Image Exercise Follow-Up Tips

Looking over yesterday’s characterization exercise on the images people translate their world into (and getting into a few discussions over it), I realized that I had talked about a lot of what and not too much how, particularly when it comes to figuring out what sort of medium or variety of image any given character operates in and how to get images in the first place, so here’s a little more on that.

First off, figuring out what form the images take. What I usually do is just ask the character, but that’s not going to work too well for people who are using this as a way to learn to know characters in the first place. Instead, one can start by looking at the character’s normal senses. Is there one they tend to depend on? Their general image will probably fall under that sense category; this is even more likely if they have a dominant supernatural sense that works in that category.

If sense isn’t enough, start thinking about what kind of media are around for them to choose from. A character in a medieval world probably isn’t going to be thinking about things in terms of action movie stills or comic book splash pages, unless you’re dealing with a parody; similarly, one whose society has technological rendering capabilities we don’t have might base their internal image language on that. You can then narrow it down based on things like interests, things they’d grown up exposed to, or things that had had a large impact or been a constant recently (who says any given person sticks with just one image source all her life?). For instance, one of the side effects of my working at a library is that I’ve found myself regularly imagining things as represented by dust jacket summary blurbs, usually ones that I’d find irritatingly mass-market.

Then there’s the question of what to pluck out images of; again, I’ve found two ways to make it work. One is asking the character: emptying your mind and seeing what ends up being supplied. But again, that works a lot better when the character’s willing to talk, and even for people who are well-connected with their characters there might be a brief confusion period as the character figment figures out how to process this new line of questioning. On the other hand, there’s just supplying themes and topics, then trying to figure out how those match up with the character’s unique worldview; when I played the one who filtered everything through music, I spent a lot of time figuring out what certain people/places/events/magic would sound like to her as a baseline, just so I could start getting my metaphors and analogies together. (Even that can come one of two ways, either taking things as they come or trying to get as big a cross-section as possible before something actually comes up in game/story; there’s no single right way to handle an exercise like this.)

I hope that makes the whole exercise make a bit more sense.

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