Did you have a book boyfriend, or a book girlfriend? Someone we fell for in the imaginary part of ourselves that enjoys the freedom of our own instruction? Many of us did and still do. It's all part of the magic of losing ourselves in a really great book. Writers take a lot of care and effort to make sure their characters are believable, deep, and so human they could as well live next door. Think about yourself, all the many aspects to your life that make you part of the real story of life. There are so many factors about you that could find their way into the narrative. The thing is, if we don't know them technically, it can be near impossible to put our finger on them. Luckily, a lot of work has already gone into finding out the key points which we love to identify with. Include some if not all of these in your character design and you'll have people that readers will feel they really know.
Actually, who are they?
We all have an identity, something we call ourselves. What is it they do? What do they dress like and what music do they like to listen to? These things matter and conjure alll manner of predisposed stereotypes we can utilise. It's almost as if someone's already done the work for us in that regard.
How do they see the world?
Are they one of the angry sad types who find life a daily battle against higher forces or are they the excited happy type who leaps out of bed and gives thanks for everything they find? Most of us have a bit of both, we have to decide which is which for each person. Someone's world view tells us a lot about their past experiences and the types of decisions they will make.
What sort of people do they like?
Who are they attracted to, what do they admire, respect, and want to associate with? These things tell us a lot about how a person sees themselves and their values in life. Does it matter if their friends or loved ones do things in different ways or not? Which kind of people don't they like, who do they avoid?
How do they speak?
We all have different vocabularies and mannerism of speech. The things we talk about, the ways we say them, and the ability to put our thoughts and feelings across in different circumstances are all unique. This matters and when we write characters, we have to be aware of these opportunities for depth.
What makes them happy?
Sometimes people have guilty pleasures or obscure hobbies that we'd not normally ascribe to them. Knowing another level of personal pleasures can give yet another interesting dimension to an individual on paper.
Who do they turn to for help?
We all have a support network of sorts. Some of us have really big ones, others have small ones. Depending on how a person sees themselves in the world, a support network could be any number of things. Define this by having your characters turn to people for help sometimes. Who do they ask and why?
What is their intuition like?
We're all different. Our intuition and instincts vary depending on who we are, how we see the world, and what we think it is we want. Some of us shy away from danger, others go in head first. Some of us would not feel comfortable in an unknown place with unknown people, others would gladly do it everyday. When the phone rings, do they think oh no or oh yes?
What makes them imperfect?
No-one is perfect, it's a lie. The thing is we all have issues and unhelpful behaviours and psychology that get in the way of social harmony. Find these breaking points for our characters, what is their trigger, how do we get our character to do something completely out of character?
How to they make up for it?
So unless we're a psychopath, we all feel bad when our actions or words end up in the wrong place. It's not a nice feeling to know we are at fault and we have caused suffering for another person. How does our character feel this and then make amends? Do they take their time, summoning the courage, or do they go in full speed and bend over backwards to say sorry? Do they lose their cool?
How do they use this to become a better person?
The story has to have a progression and the characters have to find meaning in the text for themselves. How will their experiences in the story change their personality from the start to the finish? Can we see a gradual evolution of intention or perspective throughout the chapters?
Want to know more about character development? Try this short online course
Or how about using the Tarot deck to design your characters? Here's how.
We all tend to have the best intentions for our day's effort. We try to get as much done as feasibly possible, and maintain good relationships throughout. We're mostly all grown-ups, we are fully aware of our limitations and emotional background, so why do so many of us end up over-doing it, piling on the pressure, and ending the day a wreck? Sometimes our intentions are bigger than we are, and when this happens, we end up being in as many places as once doing a mediocre and frustrated job of it. It's not lazy to reduce your workload if it makes you more effective in the long run. Try these counter-intuitive techniques in your own life to see if they help.
Dilute The Diary. Three hours in the morning and five or six in the afternoon, then maybe another three after that and the day's over. No-one wants to be interrupted before 9am and after 9pm unless its urgent. It might be fashionable to scrawl all over the calendar and do as much as possible in the day however people are not routines and we often don't quite know how things are going to pan out. We don't really want to take the energy that's built up from person one to person two, there needs to be a pause to unwind, reset the mind, and allow a new personal experience. Give yourself a lot more time in between meetings and jobs, unwind, relax, do something unrelated.
Disciplined Break Time. We tend to plan our work time really well then switch off when it's time to stop. This stop time is actually time we could be using. We all need space to play computer games or read a decent book, maybe even sit in silence for a little while and let the world go by around us. Make sure that breaks are regulated and that you fill your spare time with tasks and activities that have a general purpose that goes into your desired end. Even if it's not really hard work, the little things all add up in the end.
Drink More. Water is like petrol for our engine. It makes the blood go around and delivers food and oxygen to our cells. We must drink regularly to remain at full effect. Our brains and bodies slow down when water is running low, even a tiny amount of dehydration can result in dramatic reductions in productivity.
Brace The Elements. Taking a cold shower or going out in just a t-shirt can really spark the body into being more active. Wake yourself up with a walk or a blast of fresh water.
Get A Good Soundtrack. The music we listen to is really important. It directly affects mood and productivity. Music that draws you in can reduce productivity where as music made for dancing to can do the opposite. It's been shown that white noise can help us to be more productive too. Maybe our favourite album is not a wise choice, but the stuff that all sounds the same from a distance will help keep a good work pace.
Tidy Up. Yes, the distracting piles of potential work and the stale glass of water need to go. Keep your space fresh and clutter-free. It's actually really important work to do this and it can take a day or two to get on top of if left for a while. Don't feel guilty if you need to do this! You'll work a lot better after.
Can't Sleep? Ride It! So you're wide awake at 2am and you don't know why. May as well bury your head in the work you need to do. It might even be just what you needed to finally fall asleep. It's not good to stay up late every night working hard but if your body is refusing to switch off then it's a good idea to make use of the extra energy.
Make Room For The Unexpected. Sometimes a kick start happens when we're taken by surprise. When our routine is challenged, when our ideas are made to look foolish, when we don't get the results we worked so hard for, when we discover our efforts are in vain, it can really shake up the bottle. That energy wants to make a mess of things but we know better. We can use it to make the necessary changes so that our hard work becomes more effective.
Exercise. Stand up and take a walk around, maybe even go to the park for half an hour. Switching from brain active to body active and back again can really help to maintain optimum effectiveness. It's not a break if it can be shown to be helpful to the over-all quality of work.
Work Around Hard Working People. We're all like the sun. We have planets who orbit us. These are the people we spend time with. They affect us, and we affect them. The people closest to us are the ones who have the most influence. Choose them wisely, surround yourself with people who give you a good feeling about yourself and life in general. Pick people who appreciate you for what you do.
Cut The Slack. This being said, there are connections we all have who don't do this for us. It's okay to simply feel this way and unsubscribe, reduce communication with, and move on from these people. It's not mean to be choosy about who you connect with, it's wise. If a person isn't your cup of tea then simply let someone else drink it.
Listen To Yourself. We have on days and off days. We have times when we do loads of work and times when it feels like a pain to do anything. Don't fight these days, accept the tidal effects of emotions, the body-clock, life's stresses and strife, do what you can when you can. Make the most of your on days and don't feel bad about the off ones.
Most of all, Have Fun. We always do a better job when we're happy. Be prepared to entertain yourself and your colleagues with pleasant natured humour and games. Nurture a fun and easy going atmosphere to de-escalate work related stress.
We've all heard the one about the universe responding to what we put out and God blesses good people. I don't buy it. When I see the rich list, I don't think to myself “What a great bunch of saintly people”. When I see a family living on a dump site in a third world country, I don't think to myself “What truly terrible people they are”. It's nonsense. In fact, that family making use of people's rubbish to make a living is actually part of the solution. Innovation and an attitude of responsibility for our situation go into it. There will be all kinds of factors that prevent us from becoming as successful as the next person. It's not our fault when we work hard and realise only a fraction of the dream. We can make steps to ensure that fraction is as big is it can be. Here are some great ways of addressing abundance with human psychology.
Gratitude goes a long way. Look at nature. See how difficult it is for any life form to even survive for a few days. With predators and people on the cards, not much makes it through to ripe old age out there. We can expect a lot more than nature in general, that's because we're generous people and a social race of creatures. Humans look out for one another and have created a society that helps us to do it. Be grateful more often and you'll feel richer already.
Generosity generates. As in the previous point, the human race is a generous one. Those who want to give, provide service, and improve lives are the ones who make it in the world of business and work. The people who care about giving their all and doing their fair share are the ones who prosper the most.
No faking it. As much as it seems attractive to walk in another person's shoes, if they don't fit you'll soon fall over. Stick to what you know and never stop learning. That way no path is ever closed off and you will never lose your footing. Being in a permanent situation you don't feel comfortable in will bring out the worst in you pretty quickly.
Do it for a reason. Work for work's sake might pay the bills but to make a real impact we have to do things that are truly worthwhile to society. Work that works and work that pays are not necessarily the same thing. Choose where you put your energy wisely.
Nurture realistic ambition. Never settle for what you have now, always be looking to better yourself or your situation. This said, don't reach too high or aim for something with too many steps in front of you. Keep it reasonable and close to where you are as to not give the impression you hate your life. We know that's not true.
Keep learning. Continual education is paramount to staying on top of your game. Never think you know everything, none of us do. Each aspect of life and work has areas of study that go ever deeper into the dynamics and theory of the ways things really are. Knowing ever richer detail helps us to get ever more understanding of our journey and purpose.
Believe in your ability to better your life. Never give up. Keep going and always do your best. People may try to put you off, encourage a change in direction, or call you unhelpful things. They simply reflect their own inner world onto yours and they don't match. Kindly thank them for their advice and then carry on doing what you feel is best.
There are the stable subjects that we all need to know, the standard information that links all world principles together. Arithmetic, literacy, science, religion, they're all really handy for understanding the world we live in. The problem with education is that it can become stale quite quickly. Especially if the one who is teaching it is going over the same lesson plans they laminated thirty years ago. Not only this, the world is also changing all the time. The things we need to know above the basic level shifts with time. Those thirty year old lesson plans might not be much good when it comes to teaching methods and relevant information. Standardising the education system is good on one hand, it means that everyone learns the same things. The problem it causes is that it leaves little room for individual talent. This doesn't have a plan, we're all unique people. Here are some ideas for ensuring the standards don't become the restraints.
Work on self-chosen projects. Let the students do their own thing, using the information and materials given. Encourage research and self-learning in order to achieve the goal. When the student works on their own ideas, they feel more attached to and more involved with the process. If they're working in teams, individuals will gravitate towards their skill sets in the status quo. Perhaps they might need a bit of encouragement, however like electricity, when we're charged up we take the path of least resistance. Collaborative learning and decision making based on discovered information all help information to sink in.
No need to test, repetition and variation will work. Testing is stressful. It provides a negative association with the work and the learning environment. Fearful or worried students won't grow up to enjoy learning. They'll not achieve their full potential in life if they're not willing to continue learning into adulthood.
Put common sense first. Understanding the concept makes remembering the facts a lot easier. Memorising data and copying out of books might pass the test but it doesn't give the student a foundation of wisdom. Boil things down to the basic point more often and build up from there. Common sense is something that will apply in all areas of learning. Learning to learn and discern is a key skill for all of us.
It doesn't matter if you don't know. Sometimes a student will say something completely unique. They might want to do something or know something that you just can't deliver. It's okay to be in this position. Accepting it and undergoing the journey with the student can actually help them learn even more. Your example and response can become a template for how they behave when put on the spot.
Standards are guidelines, not laws. Of course the facts are the same no matter where in the world you are, but the way we look at them changes. The emotional relevance of the story changes, the human aspect is continually being redefined. Teachers have to accept that most people will have their own world view. Providing the facts may evoke an original response, it may require a path of non-curriculum discussion to go into detail. It's okay to wander off the track if it's going to help a student.
We are all teachers, whether or not we're paid. The way we work as social beings is through example and discussion. People usually love to learn new skills if it's fun or worthwhile. If you're in work or looking for it then new skills mean more opportunity. If you're quite happy, thank you, then other types of learning can give life more purpose. Look for teachers who see the human side over the process.
Change is hard, and if it's tradition then it can also be hurtful. The thing is, we often know more now than we did then, so in these cases change isn't just a whim, it's essential. Cultural attachment to the way things are can make it difficult for innovators and creatives to break through and have their concepts and ideas taken seriously. We know the way things are is not good enough, the world is full of avoidable problems, so why the resistance to change? It takes work with an ability to let go of attachment to make significant changes. It's often why we resist it. There is more to it than that, though. Culture has a bigger role to play.
The speed at which something of quality grows depends a lot on the type of culture it finds itself in. Those closest to the creator or innovator are the most important in the growth factor as they have a unique connection which is more likely to be a talking point. The culture of all the people who are connected with the innovation defines where and how the idea grows. When you see a good idea taking shape and growing in the world, be aware that it's had to break through all kinds of boundaries to get to where it is now. Unless you already have a brand that's known for good ideas and a marketing budget to sit alongside the Cocacolas and the Macdonalds of the world, it'll be an uphill adventure.
Good ideas need community interest and support. Start-up businesses often rely on donations to get them off the ground. The cultural norms that prepare people for starting a business and accept their ventures with gifts of cash support are down to the type of culture these people are in. Sometimes entrepreneurs have had to battle all the way to be accepted, other times they've been encouraged from a young age to get started. Innovation in the modern age is more necessary than ever, as the populous grows and our impact on the world and on each other grows too.
A culture is broadly defined by a set of shared values. These depend on the types of media the culture generally consume. This includes religious and spiritual media like scripture and preaching as well as news and opinion. The types of things people joke about and take seriously are also part of a culture, what is the normal and what is the odd. Large cultures like that in a country or city can be split up again into types. It is these subdivisions within larger culture that tend to be most influential when concerning an idea's speed of growth.
The first distinction to make is whether a culture is orthodox or liberal. Do they take the rules seriously, with serious consequences for not adhering to them? Orthodox cultures are difficult to have breakthroughs in because the way they think things are is deeper set than anything one person can do or say. You'll find that orthodox cultures use well known sayings and quotes to ensure their way of life goes unchallenged. To best work into this type of culture, our ideas must be presented in terms they already understand and agree with.
Liberal cultures have the same rules but they are less strict. They accept differences and are generally more tolerant. This leads to a diverse scope of people within a culture and they all have differing desires and needs. It's much harder to predict or research what liberal cultures want or will accept however they are also more likely to be accepting as well. There will be a willingness to deviate from the cultural norms if something is exciting or fun or proven to be useful.
Culture can also be looked at with the lens of individualism and collectivism. Individualistic cultures celebrate the self, are big on human rights, and have more liberal ideals. They are more tolerant of deviance from social norms and accept people for who they are. Individualistic cultures look down on dependence and value people by their ability to be independent. They are less likely to pull together to help someone out but they'll be more willing to accept someone who has an idea they want to nurture.
Collectivist culture prefers to orientate themselves in groups. They stick together in collective agendas and think in similar ways to each other. Either through job, social status, faith, or something else that defines a person, people stay in their own groups and stick to common lines of thought and action. They'll be more family based and each person will co-depend on others as others co-depend on them. Collectivist cultures don't work for just themselves but for the betterment of society. Their innovations and investments will be more about the greater good yet they can shun those who stand apart through successful ideas.
Each type of culture has its strong points and difficulties when it comes to breaking through with good innovation. The internet has enabled us to breach our local groups and reach out to cultures all over the world. Online interactions still have a lot of evolution to go through, it can be a little like the wild-west at times, however it's clear that the world needs a lot more innovation and solutions to our problems at the same time as we've never been closer to each other.
Recommended read: Valuing Technology Organisations Culture and Change
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