Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cloud Profiles

I've been experimenting with Wordle again, this time for characterization purposes. Initially I wanted to create a profile cloud, or a word cluster that illustrated different aspects of one protagonist. I put together a list of keywords I felt described him, and fed them to Wordle, with the following result (click on any cloud to see a larger version:

Seeing all the profile keywords put together like this helped, and I think it's because I don't read a word cloud the same way I read a line or a paragraph. Wordle's juxtaposition of the character elements forced me to look at them both individually and in proximity to each other, creating new compounds and new ideas.

I like the effect so much I made a cloud profile for the other protagonist:

Then I thought, what if I add the two lists together and feed the whole thing to Wordle?

Aside from getting a whole new perspective on the protagonists, I noticed one word had been enlarged: brave. That was because it was on both characters' lists and when you repeat a word to Wordle, it makes a bit larger than all the others in the word cloud (which is why the names pop, I put them on the list a couple times so they would show up larger.)

I didn't intend to emphasize the word brave (I didn't even realize I'd repeated myself in both lists because I was working on this over the weekend.) In each character's case brave has a different meaning (Charlotte is brave because of her past and her job; Samuel is brave because of his condition and his Kyndred ability.) That said, it is the one character element that brings the protagonists together, helps them navigate through some extraordinary and dangerous events, and even attracts them to each other. Wordle had it all figured out before I even thought about it.

The happy accident also made me think that you could use Wordle to map out what things characters have in common. It doesn't have to be aspects of their personality, either; you can create lists of their likes and dislikes, physical attributes, possessions, routines, whatever area of their lives you want to explore, hand them over to Wordle and see what pops.


  1. Anonymous4:49 AM

    wow i LOVE this idea! honestly, i'd never heard of wordle before but I love to hear ideas on ways to help you see your characters clearer. this sounds like a lot of fun! thanks for sharing :)

  2. Nifty. Another reason to play with Wordle!

  3. You know what might be fun? Make lists for the protagonist and the antagonist and see what they have in common, or what words end up juxtaposed in interesting ways. The good guy and the bad guy always have a bit of the other in them, after all, even if the writer doesn't see it at first.

  4. I love Wordle! I do manage to stay away from it most of the time though. Then I see something new and fun you've done with it and I lose myself in it for hours again. ;o)

    I definitely like the idea of combining the lists though. Very interesting results.

  5. Love Wordle though I've never used it for characters like this before. Love the idea. Off to play *g*

  6. Neato. I never thought to use Wordle like that. Thanks for the tip!

  7. I have used Wordle before, even blogged about it, but never thought to use it as a characterisation tool! Thanks, this is very cool, will try it.

  8. Wow, those are some interesting words you've got going there. This is going to be one I can't wait to read. Those are some heavy hitting names.

    (and the wordle made loyalaloof-bottom row. Fun to say)


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