Tracy S. Morris

Quirky Mysteries, Screwball Fantasy and Sassy History

Monday Musing: Characterization using a Johari Window

Written By: Tracy - Nov• 15•10

This weekend I went to a local coffee house chain (They will make me a peanut butter cup mocha and Starbucks won’t) and ran into someone I knew in high school.

I couldn’t remember this person’s name. When I sheepishly confessed this, they said: “That’s okay. I changed it to L____.”

I didn’t know this person that well in high school, and it’s been about sixteen years since then. Which made me wonder what happened to them that they rejected the name that they were given and selected a name that they personally thought was more fitting.

Was the name change symbolic of casting off the past? A way to signify a personal rebirth? A way to gain personal distance from painful memories?

In fiction, a significant event such as a name change can be a story in itself. Persons in witness protection change their identity for safety reasons. Con artists add and discard identities the way you and I change clothes. The why of things makes a character interesting.

This character underpinning may only be hinted at in a story. But as writers, we need to know the reasons our characters have done things, even if they aren’t revealed to the reader.  Does your character dye her hair? Why? Is she hiding her gray or did she secretly always want to be a redhead? Has she recently gone through a bad breakup and just wanted a change?  Does your character have a tattoo on their left hip that they never reveal to anyone (even the reader)? Is it symbolic of a beloved brother who died in a motorcycle accident 6 months prior? Or is it from a drunken night in Vegas?

What you know about your character (even if the reader doesn’t know it) can shape the way you write your character).

One way to help develop your character is to diagram their personality through a Johari Window. A Johari window is a way of describing personal interactions that a person has.  To diagram a person through a Johari window, draw a four-paned window on a sheet of paper.  (In other words, divide a sheet of paper into four equal quadrants).

 

The upper two quadrants of the paper are each diagramming things that others know about a person. The lower two quadrants of the paper are each diagramming things that others do not know about a person.

The left two quadrants are things that the person knows about themselves. The right two quadrants are things that the person does not know about themselves.

Let’s use my character David “Dr. Dave” Nye from the Tranquility series for an example. In our upper left hand quadrant (The known quadrant), we can list everything that everyone knows about him and he knows about himself. Most of his physical traits go here. He is tall and painfully skinny, has dark hair and hazel eyes and he is a doctor.

In the upper right hand quadrant, we can list things that others can tell about Dr. Dave, but he can’t tell about himself (The blind quadrant). Dr. Dave thinks he is coping well with a recent tragedy (he and his fiancée broke off their engagement). But in reality, everyone around him can tell that he isn’t coping very well with the break-up.

In the lower left hand quadrant, we can list things that only Dr. Dave knows about himself, and others can’t tell about him (The hidden quadrant). This is where the embarrassing things and the skeletons in the closet both reside. This is also where the facts that a character knows and doesn’t consider important enough to mention go. Dr. Dave won’t tell anyone, but he occasionally has Wiley E. Coyote-type fantasies in which he is killing his ex fiancée by dropping an anvil on her. He also has a scar up in his hairline from a childhood accident that required eight stitches. The former is embarrassing to Dr. Dave. The latter is something he just hasn’t mentioned because it isn’t important or germane.

In the lower right hand quadrant, we can list things that are unknown, both to Dr. Dave and to others. When the Johari window is used in real situations, a person may place themselves in a strange situation and discover new things about themselves. For example, they hold-up well under pressure and think logically in crisis situations. 

In the scope of the books, Dr. Dave doesn’t know that he is secretly adopted. He has a twin brother who was adopted by a missionary couple who moved to Japan. His twin brother is an executive in a car company in Tokyo. Both he and David have gastrointestinal problems that stem from stress, which is why they are both too skinny.  

Sometimes, a person writing a book feels that a plot isn’t working out the way they thought. After walking away and giving it some thought, they later realize it’s because the plot runs counter to the character’s nature. After a rewrite where the character behaves in a logical way, the writer is happier with the outcome.

Diagramming a Johari window is one good discovery writing exercise to help you get to know your characters, which can help you with plotting more efficiently.

Writerly Plug: Don’t forget, for a short time you can get the Tranquility books in E-book format, along with the Four Redheads of the Apocalypse series from Baen books as a bundle for only $20. That’s 4 great Yard Dog Press books. The books are available from Baen in E-Format here.  And all the great books are always available from Yard Dog Press in paperback format at their regular price here.

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63 Comments

  1. bogwitch64 says:

    Wow! That’s a project in itself! πŸ™‚ It’s interesting to see different ways of doing this characterization thing.

    • Tracy says:

      It’s actually an interesting exercise that you can do within a group you trust to learn about yourself or other people. The key is doing it with people you trust. Because finding out things about yourself that you didn’t know can sometimes be painful and traumatic.

    • Tracy says:

      It’s actually an interesting exercise that you can do within a group you trust to learn about yourself or other people. The key is doing it with people you trust. Because finding out things about yourself that you didn’t know can sometimes be painful and traumatic.

    • Tracy says:

      It’s actually an interesting exercise that you can do within a group you trust to learn about yourself or other people. The key is doing it with people you trust. Because finding out things about yourself that you didn’t know can sometimes be painful and traumatic.

    • Tracy says:

      It’s actually an interesting exercise that you can do within a group you trust to learn about yourself or other people. The key is doing it with people you trust. Because finding out things about yourself that you didn’t know can sometimes be painful and traumatic.

    • Tracy says:

      It’s actually an interesting exercise that you can do within a group you trust to learn about yourself or other people. The key is doing it with people you trust. Because finding out things about yourself that you didn’t know can sometimes be painful and traumatic.

    • Tracy says:

      It’s actually an interesting exercise that you can do within a group you trust to learn about yourself or other people. The key is doing it with people you trust. Because finding out things about yourself that you didn’t know can sometimes be painful and traumatic.

    • Tracy says:

      It’s actually an interesting exercise that you can do within a group you trust to learn about yourself or other people. The key is doing it with people you trust. Because finding out things about yourself that you didn’t know can sometimes be painful and traumatic.

    • Tracy says:

      It’s actually an interesting exercise that you can do within a group you trust to learn about yourself or other people. The key is doing it with people you trust. Because finding out things about yourself that you didn’t know can sometimes be painful and traumatic.

    • Tracy says:

      It’s actually an interesting exercise that you can do within a group you trust to learn about yourself or other people. The key is doing it with people you trust. Because finding out things about yourself that you didn’t know can sometimes be painful and traumatic.

    • Tracy says:

      It’s actually an interesting exercise that you can do within a group you trust to learn about yourself or other people. The key is doing it with people you trust. Because finding out things about yourself that you didn’t know can sometimes be painful and traumatic.

    • Tracy says:

      It’s actually an interesting exercise that you can do within a group you trust to learn about yourself or other people. The key is doing it with people you trust. Because finding out things about yourself that you didn’t know can sometimes be painful and traumatic.

    • Tracy says:

      It’s actually an interesting exercise that you can do within a group you trust to learn about yourself or other people. The key is doing it with people you trust. Because finding out things about yourself that you didn’t know can sometimes be painful and traumatic.

    • Tracy says:

      It’s actually an interesting exercise that you can do within a group you trust to learn about yourself or other people. The key is doing it with people you trust. Because finding out things about yourself that you didn’t know can sometimes be painful and traumatic.

    • Tracy says:

      It’s actually an interesting exercise that you can do within a group you trust to learn about yourself or other people. The key is doing it with people you trust. Because finding out things about yourself that you didn’t know can sometimes be painful and traumatic.

    • Tracy says:

      It’s actually an interesting exercise that you can do within a group you trust to learn about yourself or other people. The key is doing it with people you trust. Because finding out things about yourself that you didn’t know can sometimes be painful and traumatic.

    • Tracy says:

      It’s actually an interesting exercise that you can do within a group you trust to learn about yourself or other people. The key is doing it with people you trust. Because finding out things about yourself that you didn’t know can sometimes be painful and traumatic.

    • Tracy says:

      It’s actually an interesting exercise that you can do within a group you trust to learn about yourself or other people. The key is doing it with people you trust. Because finding out things about yourself that you didn’t know can sometimes be painful and traumatic.

    • Tracy says:

      It’s actually an interesting exercise that you can do within a group you trust to learn about yourself or other people. The key is doing it with people you trust. Because finding out things about yourself that you didn’t know can sometimes be painful and traumatic.

    • Tracy says:

      It’s actually an interesting exercise that you can do within a group you trust to learn about yourself or other people. The key is doing it with people you trust. Because finding out things about yourself that you didn’t know can sometimes be painful and traumatic.

    • Tracy says:

      It’s actually an interesting exercise that you can do within a group you trust to learn about yourself or other people. The key is doing it with people you trust. Because finding out things about yourself that you didn’t know can sometimes be painful and traumatic.

    • Tracy says:

      It’s actually an interesting exercise that you can do within a group you trust to learn about yourself or other people. The key is doing it with people you trust. Because finding out things about yourself that you didn’t know can sometimes be painful and traumatic.

  2. bogwitch64 says:

    Wow! That’s a project in itself! πŸ™‚ It’s interesting to see different ways of doing this characterization thing.

  3. bogwitch64 says:

    Wow! That’s a project in itself! πŸ™‚ It’s interesting to see different ways of doing this characterization thing.

  4. bogwitch64 says:

    Wow! That’s a project in itself! πŸ™‚ It’s interesting to see different ways of doing this characterization thing.

  5. bogwitch64 says:

    Wow! That’s a project in itself! πŸ™‚ It’s interesting to see different ways of doing this characterization thing.

  6. bogwitch64 says:

    Wow! That’s a project in itself! πŸ™‚ It’s interesting to see different ways of doing this characterization thing.

  7. bogwitch64 says:

    Wow! That’s a project in itself! πŸ™‚ It’s interesting to see different ways of doing this characterization thing.

  8. bogwitch64 says:

    Wow! That’s a project in itself! πŸ™‚ It’s interesting to see different ways of doing this characterization thing.

  9. bogwitch64 says:

    Wow! That’s a project in itself! πŸ™‚ It’s interesting to see different ways of doing this characterization thing.

  10. bogwitch64 says:

    Wow! That’s a project in itself! πŸ™‚ It’s interesting to see different ways of doing this characterization thing.

  11. bogwitch64 says:

    Wow! That’s a project in itself! πŸ™‚ It’s interesting to see different ways of doing this characterization thing.

  12. bogwitch64 says:

    Wow! That’s a project in itself! πŸ™‚ It’s interesting to see different ways of doing this characterization thing.

  13. bogwitch64 says:

    Wow! That’s a project in itself! πŸ™‚ It’s interesting to see different ways of doing this characterization thing.

  14. bogwitch64 says:

    Wow! That’s a project in itself! πŸ™‚ It’s interesting to see different ways of doing this characterization thing.

  15. bogwitch64 says:

    Wow! That’s a project in itself! πŸ™‚ It’s interesting to see different ways of doing this characterization thing.

  16. bogwitch64 says:

    Wow! That’s a project in itself! πŸ™‚ It’s interesting to see different ways of doing this characterization thing.

  17. bogwitch64 says:

    Wow! That’s a project in itself! πŸ™‚ It’s interesting to see different ways of doing this characterization thing.

  18. bogwitch64 says:

    Wow! That’s a project in itself! πŸ™‚ It’s interesting to see different ways of doing this characterization thing.

  19. bogwitch64 says:

    Wow! That’s a project in itself! πŸ™‚ It’s interesting to see different ways of doing this characterization thing.

  20. bogwitch64 says:

    Wow! That’s a project in itself! πŸ™‚ It’s interesting to see different ways of doing this characterization thing.

  21. bogwitch64 says:

    Wow! That’s a project in itself! πŸ™‚ It’s interesting to see different ways of doing this characterization thing.