November 28, 2018

Character Development: Using the Johari Window

In my last post, Character Development: the Johari Window, I introduced the Johari Window as a tool for developing your characters. It's important that your character not know everything about their situation. These unknowns can lead to an intriguing story and create possibilities for conflict within the story.

How do you use the Johari Window?

In this post, I thought I'd provide a simple example of the Johari Window with a character most people know:  Harry Potter.

Below, I have filled out the Johari Window as it might appear within the first few pages of book 1, Harry Potter and The Sorceror's Stone.

The Johari Window based on Harry Potter and The Sorceror's Stone


Three of the quadrants in this window reveal what Harry doesn't know about who he truly is and what happened to his parents. I could add a lot to the quadrants representing what he doesn't know, but I hope this gives you an idea on how a Johari Window might be used.

What do you do with this?

Ultimately, you want your character, or other characters in the story, to become aware of the unknowns. In the example above, Harry begins to learn the points in his Not Known to Self quadrants as the story progresses. If you've read the books or seen the movie, you can probably recall the point when Hagrid looks at him and says, "You're a wizard, Harry." It's a great, but simple line that's revealed at just the right time.

Even though Hagrid tells him this, he doesn't explain why everyone in the wizarding world knows his name and becomes excited over meeting him. Rowling does a great job of dropping information in as we need it, and we learn about Harry and the world of wizards as Harry does. These revelations, I believe, are what makes this series so remarkable. Hints exist throughout the books pointing to the information Harry and others will learn. That makes these revelations believable because we can look back and say, "Oh yeah. That makes sense."

How should you start?

The best way to understand the Johari Window is to use it. Look at your current work in progress and fill one out for your protagonist. If that's a challenge for you, try filling one out for one of your favorite books. Then be on the lookout for how the unknowns are hinted at and eventually revealed. Once you've done that, go back to your current work and try it again. You want some points in the Unknown quadrants. Your character needs to discover information about their situation and their selves and others as the story progresses.

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