Playing in Boxes

Thursday, August 30, 2007
Boxes have always been an effective tool of the imagination. Who among us has not spent hours as a child using an empty box (large enough to climb into, of course) as a race car, secret fortress, spaceship, or just a comforting place to sit and relax?

Several months ago, as part of a department-sponsored training exercise, I once again took the Myers-Briggs personality questionnaire. (This was the second time I had done so; the first time had been about eight years earlier.) For those of you who care, this time around I was determined be of type ISTJ. One of the things that the facilitator said when summarizing the traits of this type was that ISTJ types don't tend to be as good at thinking "outside the box". However, if you want to know everything about the box and what you can do with it, we're the people to ask.

Several days ago, this came back to me (I don't really recall why), but it got me thinking about the ways that I explore characters and situations in my fiction (also including, this case, my gaming characters). I like to create what I like to refer to as a context that the characters exist in--essentially the world they live in and some of the people they regularly interact with. For two of the characters, I have also created their "evil" mirror images.

Emerald Flight Sapphire Night Scott Skott

It has been suggested that I've limited myself by dipping back into the same pool over and over again. There might be some truth to that. Thinking about it now, though, I think it has more to do with wanting to learn everything about the box. I have a good sense of who the original characters are, but what would they be like if they walked the other side of that often ambiguous moral line? (Consider the persistent fascination Star Trek fans have with the crews' Mirror Universe counterparts.) As discussed somewhat in a previous post, after creating Hope's Fury, what else is there to know about Aerians? How did they and humans meet for the first time? What was that like? What other aliens are there?

As you can probably tell from this, the "box" can sometimes become galactic in scale (think Star Wars or even The Lord of the Rings). The broader the context, the greater the potential for a larger box. The kind of stuff that long-running television and movie series are made of.

I was also thinking about this in the context of when I was writing "Building Baby Brother". As I wrote that story, and it grew, I found myself wanting to explore all of the possibilities and implications raised during the course of the story. Hence, what started as a 2,000-word short story eventually became a 21,600-word novella. I had found a new box, and--darn it!--I wanted to explore it! (This might also explain why so often when I start a writing new novel, ideas for potential sequels come unbidden to mind not long after the original one is started.)

Have you found any good boxes today?
Labels: ,