Saturday, January 14, 2006

Fiction project: introducing hellbents

About this post

Post in a nutshell: a character has a goal they are utterly determined to realise. This goal is called a 'hellbent'. Hellbents can be created using this template: character does (verb) all (noun).


In a story, a character (hero or villain) has a goal they want to realise more than any other. They are willing to make any sacrifice to achieve that goal. I call these goals 'hellbents'. There is a systematic method to create hellbents.

The hellbent template

The hellbent template takes the form:

Character does (verb) all (noun)

The purpose of the all is to help aggrandize the goal. For the verb and the noun I can choose any two random words (regardless of their status as words - see creating new verbs).

Random words: belittle, Lourdes

With these random words I complete the template thus:

Character does belittle all Lourdes.

I now set a quota. In this case my quota is five and I try to think of five possible meanings for this hellbent. I try to make the hellbents a sizeable goal if I can.

1) The character goes to Lourdes and abuses everyone
2) The character investigates (and discredits) all the miracles that have occured at Lourdes
3) The character belittles Madonna's daughter Lourdes
4) The character finds every place in the world also called Lourdes and belittles them
5) The character finds children called Lourdes and belittles them or tries to unsettle them

The second tier

I can use the 'stems' from the words in the previous hellbent and use them as triggers to create new hellbents. So, with 'belittle all Lourdes' I take the stems - the 'bel' and 'lou' and create a new hellbent such as:

Character does believe all Louisville

and (assuming I am working to a quota)

Character does bellicose all Louvre, etc.

With either of these (as before) I can set a quota and create five possible meanings and thus five new hellbents.

The first hellbent created using 'believe all Louisville' could be that the character tracks down any person with strange/unusual beliefs at Louisville and - by some convoluted means - proves them right (or perhaps just champions them).

Internal and external hellbents

There are two kinds of hellbent - the internal hellbent and the external hellbent. With an internal hellbent, the character chooses the hellbent of their own accord: "I think I'll climb Mount Everest". With the external hellbent the character is coerced (by whatever means) into doing the hellbent: "Climb Mount Everest or else!"

The 'tillgood' mentality

If I am creating hellbents I may adopt what I call a 'tillgood' mentality: that is, I keep creating hellbents until eventually I find one that really hits me as a good idea and that I'd like to develop as a story. The alternative is to just take any hellbent (regardless of instant apparent value) and start developing the story - deferring my need to create valuable, exciting ideas until a later point of the story development.

Sources of random words:

Dictionary (see Lateral Thinking or Serious Creativity by Edward de Bono)
Pangram trigger
Directed free-association results
Flip-flop directed-association results
Three speedy free-association techniques

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