So, in class yesterday we were discussing functional assessment and analysis. This is a very interesting thing because it is going beyond the topographic view of things. Topographic view is looking at the things everyone can see. For example look at the room you are in and describing it. There may even be a clear container that has liquid in it but if looking at it from a topographic point of view you really don’t know what the liquid is that is in it. You can make assumptions but you don’t really know (unless of course you put the liquid in it, but that is beside the point).
When doing a functional assessment it is taking into account all of the things that cause the problem. What causes the character to blow his nose: because he is allergic to something, he has a cold, he just bumped it.
Functional analysis is going from learning who the person is to manipulating the person’s environment to see how that person reacts in the given situation. We purposefully change things in their environment to get them to react a certain way or see how they react.
When trying to create a believable character we need to go beyond what they look like and what they think to the point where we understand how they will react in certain situations. Four things to know about human behavior: is understandable and predictable (if we have all the information), is malleable and can be shaped, occurs within a context and not a vacuum, is learned (can be taught) and can be manipulated.
How well do we need to know our characters to write a good novel?