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Philosophy, Character Design, and Worldbuilding

May 31, 2019

Philosophy can really help you to add nuance to your characters and worldbuilding. It's cracking stuff!


I'll be truthful with you all: I love to read. When I'm in the middle of a reading spree I can easily have three books on the go at any one time. I use snazzy corporate-issue bookmarks that I've picked up from here, there, and everywhere, or sometimes I use envelopes, pens, and sometimes I fold corners (sorry, book purists, you're right: I am a terrible person). I dip into old favourites, research new things in my cookbooks that I haven't tried yet, and make resolutions to read portions of academic books that looked interesting but I didn't have the time for the first time around.

But here's a little secret: I haven't read much about philosophy. It's one of those subjects that, when I hear someone else talking about it, I feel like a bit of a fraud. I feel as if I should know more about it than I actually do.

Well, it's not quite true that I haven't read any philosophy. I did read a little bit, while writing a counselling case study around a year ago, when I had to write about my understanding of the philosophical meaning behind the word 'trust'.

It was nice to do. Up until that afternoon when I read everything I could find about trust, it hadn't occurred to me that a person could trust another from a position of strength, or from weakness, that trust could be used as a peace offering or a warning, laid out as an invitation to mutual honesty or set as a trap; think of the difference between "Will you be nice to me?" and "I'm trusting you not to mess up". It clarified for me the significance of betrayal over disappointment. We feel betrayed when our trust has been broken, while simple disappointment is so much less painful.

Nuances like that help, not just with understanding ourselves and one another, but with writing characters, especially those characters we don't identify with that well. Writing a character who has power over your 'pet' character can be difficult - but being able to explore the possibilities of why they choose to trust or distrust, how they present it, and why, can help you to write better characters.


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About Me

Hayley is a trainee therapeutic counsellor and has been an administrator for far too long. She lives in Bristol, UK with her boyfriend, and no dogs. When she's not completing her training and building TCC she goes hiking, and bakes too many cakes.

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