Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I will share my jargon: equifinality and multifinality

Here's a quick post for those of you with a fondness for cool words. It's sort of relevant to writing. I mean, if you want to avoid one-dimensional, predictable characters, this could be one way to think about their development.

OK, honestly, this post comes from the realm of DUH, but I hope the concepts are still fun to think about. They were fun to draw pictures of. #nerd

Equifinality: the same outcome can result from multiple predictors, stressors, pathogens, or developmental paths.


In other words, there's not one obvious path  or set of experiences that will lead to whoever your character is. In fact, for characters, usually the twisty, less-traveled roads are more interesting to readers.

Multifinality: One factor can lead to any of several outcomes, depending on the person and the context.

In other words, early experience doesn't lock a character in to a particular outcome, life choice, career path, ambition, passion, etc. Be creative. Flexible. Don't go for the obvious or easy.

And ... all my energy has been spent writing psych evals this week, so this is all I've got for you today. Can you apply these concepts to your characters? If you have characters from similar backgrounds, how do you craft their development along different paths? What kinds of things do you consider? And if you have characters who arrive at the same place in life, how do you vary the paths they took to get there?

Or, if you don't want to think about that, can you at least agree with me that the words are delightful?

Today is Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog day! Please go visit Lydia, who is posting on the question: How would you personify your muse? Here's the link to Laura's answer from last week.

20 comments:

  1. The words ARE delightful, and yes -- I my WIP has two brothers raised the same way who turn out completely different.

    And darn that day job, sapping your creative energy and cutting into your writing time! (Gosh I feel the same way ...)

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  2. You're so smart. Yes, this might be common sense, but you lay it out very well, with pretty diagrams.

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  3. I can apply this to my task of the day! :) I'm making my peri into the character I always wanted her to be, using the same input as before but favoring one thread more this time. Make sense? I'll stop talking jibberish now.

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  4. heeheehee love the word love and the diagram love and the common sense love!

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  5. This was a perfect reminder while I develop my main characters. Thanks for the great timing!

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  6. Wow, hadn't heard of these words before, but they make total sense! In fact, I think they really speak (in part) to my Mental Health Monday post from a couple days ago. (Though, I think you said it better, LOL!)

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  7. Those diagrams make a lot of sense, particularly #2. I like the idea that we're not locked into a certain destiny. Actually, those are the stories readers find the most interesting! In our life, as well.
    :)

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  8. He he, it may be intuitive, but sometimes you forget the simple things when you concentrate on all the minutia. LOL maybe I should do a post on that? :D I love your blog. I feel like I'm taking another psych class - but one for writers!!

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  9. Wow, I love the diagrams--they make so much sense to me. I'll definitely apply this to my writing. Thanks for the tips. I love coming here and learning something new. You're my hero. =)

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  10. I'm a jargonophobe, so I entered with trepidation. But your colorful diagrams put me at ease.

    I'm with Matt on the smart thing too.

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  11. You've hit on one of the questions I come back to over and over again: what is it that makes people from similar backgrounds, even the same family/upbringing, react and behave differently? Personality factors? Other experiential factors? Really worth thinking about to develop complex characters. Thankyou.

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  12. What a clever post. And I love the nerdy graphs. I'll definitely keep this in mind while figuring out the characters to my new novel. :D

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  13. Cool graphs! The new wip definitely aligns itself with this post.

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  14. I am jealous of your use of words. But you already knew that.

    And blogger is still being a pain. That's why this is anon. Sorry. Why am I the only one having this problem???? ARGH!

    ~JD

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  15. You are a BRAINIAC. I love that!! Nerds ROCK. I always like thinking outside the box w/my characters, so graphs are uber cool tools. Oh, and YAH. Words are like, totally awesome, dude. ;)

    JD above...I was having the same prob 2 weeks ago. It ran its course with me. HOpe it does w/you too!

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  16. Those ARE nice words! And finding the not so easy path for our characters, as well as our word choice is key in crafting good stories! Thanks for the reminder! :)

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  17. As a fellow WordNerd, I LOVE this post! In YA, you see this often and when done well it is so clever. Teens are famous for creating their own words or using words that mean the opposite of their actual meaning (e.g. Bad = Good.) Who knew?!

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  18. Spot on--so many factors play into it! Love the nerdy graphics!!

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  19. Yes! The words are wonderful! And I can see how this thinking could apply to characters who are siblings. Cool!

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  20. Great post, Sarah. I often reflect on how my clients (I work in the MH field) have reacted to situations, and how completely different each person's reaction is from the last. There are no clear-cut outcomes, are there?

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