Today we're going to have fun with one of those things.
First first, I need a visual. In lieu of trying to find an image that actually fits (too hard!) I give you one of Galen Dara's awesome pieces. I met her at World Fantasy Con 2014 and she's fabulous. And I'm left to wonder if she ever did get that awesome tattoo that we discussed...but never mind that, enjoy her beautiful space unicorn art (also the cover of Uncanny Magazine's first issue) and if you really like her work go buy one of Galen Dara's art prints on Etsy!
Second first, the background. I took a short story class with the lovely and talented Mary Robinette Kowal. It was a great experience, conducted via Google+ Hangouts. (Sidenote: I'm not sure what future classes Mary is going to offer, but the Writing Excuses Podcast this year is focused on taking you to school. There's also a cruise with classes taught by Writing Excuses staff!) And not only did I leave the class with some new confidence and knowledge about writing short stories, I also left it with a group of 8 writers I could meet with regularly, all my particular flavor of oddball (what are chances?)
Since then, Mary has taught numerous other classes and created an alumni group from all of her classes. The group numbers over 200 by now! And in that alumni group, I met Kate, a fellow writer who has created a few different generators just for fun.
These generators can be used as a tool for working out details of a story. Or we can just have some fun with them! :)
For instance, using the Character Appearance Generator, I've come up with:
A reliable woman with a cynical outlook on life.
a little shorter than average
soft, tending to rounded build
wrinkled medium-brown skin
She even included personality quirks in her generator. This stuff is pure gold:
Constantly wants help with even the simplest tasks.Okay, okay, so I have a character. A little heavy and short. Maybe older. What's her backstory? Have no fear, use the Character Backstory Generator to figure out this char's relationship to the protagonist and more!
Takes practical jokes very poorly.
Thinks up elaborate solutions then discards them for being too easily seen through.
Pathological liar: lies even when he doesn't want to, or doesn't intend to.
At least ten minutes late to any appointment.
Picky sleeper; cannot sleep on the floor, or near-floor level.
Often gets sick from overeating.
Relationship to protag, how do they know each other? through social group; relationship is casual, interactions are sporadicWell that's great. How about a Belief System? What's common in this world? There's a Belief System Generator as well.
The system is polytheistic. The divine follows a familial model.Origin myth: The world was created when land emerged from the waters, and humans were made from fallen deities. It is heresy to say humans were made from mud, or from the divine.
(The Belief System generator was one of the early ones Kate created and very thorough, fascinating to pull through and see some of the different configurations of beliefs and deities.)
Other generators related to language and country/geo-political factors exist. And Kate adds to this as she finds other things of interest to her and of possible interest to other writers.
See, this is something I've learned from my various writing groups. Not only are other oddball writers great to connect with because it's nice not feeling so oddball all the time, they also are super generous with their time (offering critiques for your work, comments on your questions) and talents (creating these kinds of generators, sharing book recommendations.)
So go have some fun with these generators! Share your results in the comments!