What is a Figment?

musemThis post is part of a blog museum, archiving old writing from a previous blog.


Figment  [fig-muhnt] , n. [L. figmentum, fr. fingere to form, shape, invent, feign.]
An invention; a fiction; something feigned or imagined: just a figment of the imagination.

Fantasy & Gothic Fair by ♥siebe ©

In a writer’s heart, there are normal characters… then there are REAL characters. Characters who become more than just a plot device or collection of random biographical data. Characters who endure the test of time, survive the rising action and extend beyond the happy (or not so happy) ending. These are characters that remain with their Authors for years, even decades. They develop and grow, sometimes slowly… sometimes unobserved. And they become a part of that Author’s life.

This kind of character has become what I call a “Figment” — a living fragment of ourselves that plays out across the page. Figments develop minds of their own, complete with hopes and fears, likes and dislikes… and very often they let the Author know only as much as they feel like sharing at the moment.

Does this sound familiar to you?

Do you believe that your fictional heart and soul is ruled over by one or more characters who have become figments?

I’m here to tell you that you are not alone! You are not weird to have characters who have become more than just words on a page. Writers, often the greatest writers, across the years have experienced the exact same phenomenon as this!

I discovered my first figment at the age of 14. I didn’t realize what I had found until many years later… when that character simply refused to fade away into the rosy glow of pre-teen memories. In fact, that character (now figment) is still part of my life today. It was through this figment that this and many other online projects and websites were founded. It was through this figment that I met my best friend and creative partner. It was through this figment that I discovered more figments… and in doing so, started down a road of self-discovery.

Of course, I couldn’t see where it would all lead to then. But that’s the way good things work in life.

Do you have a figment of your own?

Who was your first and when did you discover they had become more than just a character in your life?


  1. I have two figments that came about the same time, (I want to say third grade, but I may be wrong) and they’ve always been inseparable. If I’ve ever tried to write a story using only one of them (and I have) it falls flat within a page. They’re Ruby and Mitche, and though they’re looks have changed…. A LOT over the years, I still see the same twins who want to do the best they can with what their given. Ruby’s actually changed the most, from the blonde, red leather, emotionless husk (no, really… she had NO emotions. trauma or something.) of the early years, to the white and teal haired avatar of me (this was very brief), then to a cat-person, and now to what she is now. A really weird elf who knows how to use bad luck to her advantage. Mitche hasn’t changed much, actually… He’s still a quiet loner with spiky brown hair and a green jacket. (I remember not having a “set” look for him until actually started drawing people.) Though he was a cat person too….
    Actually, I don’t think any figment of mine NOT from the cast of TGA is older then a year. Huh.
    Does this make sence? I have a tendency to ramble, and I apologize if I did.

    1. Don’t apologize, you made perfect sense. Twins are fun to write for… I have one set of twins myself (as I wanted to try it but not overuse it). They’re a bit too young right now to really flesh out, but I have ideas for them as they grow up.

      It’s neat to think about how figments change as we go through phases in our own lives — just shows how much they are a reflection of ourselves, perhaps?

  2. Ah, my first figment evolved all through my high school years. Although, the personality hasn’t changed much and I haven’t used it in a lasting story yet.
    Chiari Buio, a small round ghost-like creature with dog ears and two tails. A guarding spirit of sort. I started drawing it during my first year of high school and it was a character which wouldn’t leave me. Around the last two years of high school, Chiari became more than a character to me.
    Chiari started out looking like one of the ghosts (Boos) from mario and evolved from that, gaining a personality around a year after creation.
    The name is a combination of two Italian words; ‘Chiari’ which means ‘light’ (adjective for colour; ‘light yellow’ etc) and ‘Buio’ which, aside from being a recent addition to the figment, means ‘dark’. Just noticed, combined that means ‘light dark’, maybe like a shade colour (grey)?
    Chiari is the voice of reason which says that everything dangerous is a bad idea. Chiari likes sweets (especially lollipops), watching others get into troubling situations (as long as it’s safe) and playing around.

    So that’s my first figment: Chiari Buio.

    1. Wow! That’s a neat and original figment design. I guess I have created figments that are somewhat spirit-like in form. But I’ve never designed a ghost that remained a ghost.

      Neat play on the figment name too!

  3. Hmmm… I’ve had many characters bouncing around my head as long as I can remember. Some of them were pretty Mary Sue-ish, like the Jedi Knight character… (shiver)
    But when I was about ten, eleven, somewhere in there, Zela popped up. She actually started off as an OC side-kick to a video game hero who shall remain nameless. But before very long she was in her own world, taking control of her own life. (I actually wouldn’t remember the video game bit except for a page of prose I wrote about her waaaaaay back then, which I found in the last year or so.) She had friends, she married and had children, and fought in a vague, shapeless war.
    Since I found out she lived in her own world, one of those ‘alternate history’ worlds, she’s been my main figment, although her son Flairé is very good at seizing attention. Zela has changed over the years, subtly, from a straightforward, fiery warrior princess, to a complex, brooding, but still passionate and fiery woman. I still don’t really understand her at all; in fact, I understand her less than ever. I still don’t understand Flairé at all, and I hang out with him all the time!
    Her world has become more interesting too, although it’s far from being close to finished. Her language has developed a little, but her name means the same that it always has: Beautiful Sword (drawn from a sheath). Thanks to NaNo, I understand what has happened in her life a little better. But there is still so much to discover in her.
    Her appearance has not changed much, although it’s become more detailed as I learn more about the world (and about drawing). She’s always been brown-haired and brown eyed, long ear’d, long nose’d, and tall and slender. She’s always been dressed in dark blue or green-and-black, and she’s always had a sword.
    Here’s hoping to another decade or few of not-always-comfortable, but definitely-fascinating life with her!
    .-= Zela´s last blog ..The Totally Not-Canon Adventures of Flairé: Let’s Go! =-.

  4. Ah yes. In my case I’m not entirely sure if these two are representative directly of bits of my own mind or what they are, but I’m sure a case could be made for representatives of myself in a way. After some writing I noticed that, due to my analytical training, they may actually be contending desires for happy and sad ending; but I’m pretty sure they are more than that.

    In fact, I think of them as opposing concepts more often than not, originally as a younger child they were good and evil. So simple back then, but things change rapidly and now, if they do represent concepts or ideals, than they are “will” and “no will,” or domination of will. I call them Karnuovia and Varamortian respectively; I admit the names may have been inspired by twisted forms of Tolkien’s two main elvish languages.

    I didn’t really have a fixed look for either until I had to describe them, and I went with something that felt oddly both counter intuitive and proper. Karnuovia is a somewhat outgoing personality with silver hair, well it isn’t his regular colour but he likes it at the moment, I do not recall his eyes actually. Probably whatever he feels like at the time. He also wears black, at first I wanted to give him white, as I thought it would be representative of the “good” guy, white has that connotation, but I dumped it. As he himself recognizes, he has too much power to really be all good, plus he’s technically… uh, human? A person? Something like that. So he doesn’t fit the pure knight in shining armour character, in fact he doesn’t particularly like it. The black might be because he likes Johnny Cash too though, I’m not sure.

    Varamortian is only a slight bit taller than Karnuovia and he wears, what was originally black but is now, a kind of light gray (though his hair is black). He is far more closed and serious than Karnuovia and less prone to anger. Interestingly he has, after some time, become a less cold person. His philosophical approach to people is the reverse of Karnuovia, he believes that humanity’s problems stem from choice and will, hence his desire to control it. “Separate the willing from the doing” as Thomas Mann’s magician Cipolla once said (reading that book sent shivers up my spine at how some of the things were so similar to my own thoughts and concepts), Varamortian is far more totalitarian in his approach to things I think. I have yet to really find out why though. Actually I might know. But just like Karnuovia is not all good, Varamortian is not exactly evil. He also has an active disdain for emotions, and so his servants are supposed to have none. Supposed to is, of course, a central part of some character development.

    The two actually have much in common as well, weapon preferences (a kind of rapier-like, sabre sized sword), created beings who serve them (though these two are essentially opposites), extreme amounts of, well, ability to do things with their own wills directly, call it magic if you will I suppose, and an interesting habit of jumping from reality to reality (or dimension to dimension, or universe to universe, or omniverse to omniverse). That last one is my excuse to put them into situations with different technologies, creatures, rules, etc… of course they constantly flout the rules of their host universes. Then there is the whole apparatus and the agents of the two powers… then there are the other two powers aside from these two etc…

    Sorry for being long winded, but I enjoyed this! Great idea.

    1. Don’t be sorry! I’m enjoying this, too. It’s neat to look back on old times and think about where things first started and how they’ve evolved as we’ve grown as Authors and people ourselves.

      Thanks for sharing your figments! 🙂

  5. M-My first figment? I don’t remember >.< It's hard to tell when a character becomes its own or IS its own and . . . URGLE.

    The difference for me is that they don't stay in my head. It's almost like being in the military and moving a lot. When you are with them, you enjoy their company, but they will always move on (or more appropriately, YOU will)–they have lives of their own, you know! And then occasionally you can check in (like emailing Christmas letters or something . . . but in your head . . . something like that? XD ), but it's not like they're constantly there, sharing banter with you or anything. There's a definite camaraderie between military peoples. It's hard to find elsewhere. Military people are experts at saying hello . . . and goodbye. 🙁

    1. That’s an interesting take on your figments — mine aren’t with me constantly or anything. But I don’t know what I’d do if my figments said goodbye. It would be heartbreak… but that’s the kind of person I am.

      What do you do when your figments go off on their own? Do you just discover more? Why do you think they leave — is it because they have changed or you have changed. Maybe they’ve taught you all you needed to learn from them and it’s time to move on?

      1. “Maybe they’ve taught you all you needed to learn from them and it’s time to move on?”

        Yep, I think it’s that. And because we change. I had two cop characters in a story once. I needed two cool cops, and they volunteered, so I took them up on it. However, after writing the story . . . I don’t even know how necessary they are to the plot. Even so, the little bit they gave me of their personalities is enough for the story <.< It's kind of awesome. They give me just enough before they move on, and I have to listen CAREFULLY, otherwise I'll miss it! I literally sometimes feel like a bystanding reporter having to keep up, trying to write how the scenes play out at the same time.

        Maybe when I do more research on the story, they'll come back . . . then again, probably not, because I don't know if I'll go back to that story xD

        Well, when they leave, I can try to make them stay . . . but that never works, LOL. They turn into somebody/something else. They're not really their own character, but more like me. Lots of mes in a story get's rather boring. -.-

        So, I'm the type of person to move on, I guess. And I meet new characters! You got that right! 😀

  6. My first figment .. thats a long time ago, in elemental school. She isn’t part of my life anymore, retired to an island world of her own, having fun with her friends. As long as she’s not forgotten she’ll live there happy, unchanging. Like an old picture of your childhood. But her legacy, that vast world of figments that she started, remains and reminds me that i’ve always wanted to write down these storys.

    1. Gosh! Everyone’s discovering figments so much earlier than I did! I must be a late bloomer.

      I agree about the legacy of figments, though. Even if your first real figment isn’t your current “main” figment, the doors they’ve opened and the foundation they’ve created for your worlds and other figments is so incredibly important. Something that shouldn’t be forgotten!

  7. Oh… my first one went by several different names, and quite frankly he started developing when I was in kindergarten. Yeah, he’s moved on by now.

    Most of my others, as I’ve mentioned before, started life as D&D characters. Then after I’d put all that effort into getting to know them I didn’t want to say goodbye when the campaign ended. That’s how I got Almonihah Zrathanzon, Garkhen, and Zakhin’Dakh. There are a few others who I chat with on occasion, but those three are really the only ones who have stuck.

    1. D&D is a great springboard for setting down the foundation of characters, I think. It really helps you to sit down with them and figure out the basis of who they are, where they come from and why they are who they are. I, for one, am glad your figments were keepers!

      1. I think having to play them helps a lot, too. It really forces you to think about how they would react to certain situations.

        The interesting thing is how some of my characters I’ve made for various RPGs have stuck, some I enjoyed while playing but haven’t stuck, and some I just couldn’t play.

  8. Okay, I’ve had a good night’s sleep and now I feel like rambling about my other main figment.
    Flairé is the eldest son of Zela and her husband Flaer. I’m not sure exactly when he was supposed to first show up, but he was definitely there in the first (terrible) incarnation of Book 2 of my story, written about age 13, in which myself and a bunch of my then friends (some of them are still my friends! How about that) went to his land and wandered around like Mary Sues. Sort of like the much better and current Totally Not-Canon Adventures of Flairé webcomic that (is supposed to) update on Sundays! Back then in the beginning, Flairé was a teenager, rowdy and energetic, my kalmaeirin bff, and while he’s grown up and stayed grown up subsequently, he’s mostly been the same on the surface – good-natured, quick to laugh, sympathetic, optimistic… Inside, he’s grown ever deeper – I’ve also seen him deeply depressed, or terribly angry – until I don’t know what he’s thinking because he hides it so well. I’m not even sure what he’s “supposed” to be thinking. I think this is pretty much the height of development for my figments, which is pretty cool!
    Recently I’ve had cause to find out what Flairé was like as a teenager again, and he hasn’t changed all that much as he grew up in the current canon. He’s become more mature, wiser, perhaps, but he still keeps his love of fun and his wit. He’s not as crazy as Gullac, his later younger brother, by far, but he keeps situations light.
    And he hovers over me. 😛 Overprotective-brother-like kalmaeirin bff.

  9. I have a great many figments who spent their days (and often nights as well) causing trouble in my head. It seems that most any character I create, weather it be for and story, an RP, or even for D&D or a LARP, comes to life with their own personalities. And they don’t like to be ignored.

    My first figment came about around the time I was 10. Back in elementary school I used to write lots of silly little short stories, and soon enough they all became about one character, who is nowadays the character I know as Raine Firefield (or Rainel Celestialia, as is her proper name). Back then she was named Corien Celest, and she was a girl (about 12 or 13) who was born to a royal blood line, however she didn’t want to be treated like royalty and so ran from home.

    Gradually over the years the story changed, as did her name, however her personality stayed the same. To this day she is still a member of an important royal bloodline, and she still doesn’t want to rule or be treated like royalty. She still has a temper, still can’t stand to see her friends hurt, and still can’t seem to help but get herself into trouble. As she’s grown and changed in my mind she’s become a part of a far darker story than she originally was. Now she is from a world that is plagued by a monster known as the Angel of Despair, which causes people to give in to their darker emotions, go insane, and become monsters themselves. She has lost her family, she has been captured by slave traders from another country, she has suffered with the fact that her own sister is Despair. And yet through it all she’s still just a strong, and in the end she will always fight for her beliefs.

    Being my first figment she appeared in a lot of my earlier stories. Of late she hasn’t showed up much in any RPs, except for a quick snippet here or there when she making announcements after she accepts her role as queen of her country. I’ve missed her however, and am now working on her costume so that I can play her at the LARP I go to (I know, I’m an uber geek).

    sorry for the ramble ^^;;;

    1. I say, go for it! If you can dress up like your figment for LARPing, that’s great. I’d never get away with it with any of mine. Then again, I’m a bit too shy for LARPing, too. ^^;

  10. I have a number of figments, but my first/main/alter ego is Deanira. I first encountered her as a wood elf druid in the game EverQuest when I was about 9. I still recall my dad helping me come up with a name for her, and not being able to remember how to spell that name for a LONG time. About the only characteristics that she developed during that time were the preference for the color green and a wolf companion based off of my dog in real life. I can’t remember, but I don’t think she had claimed my other EQ character Suzan as a adopted twin sister yet. (They’re identical except for their ages and eye colors)

    After I stopped playing EQ, Dea moved with me to D&D. It was there that she gained most of powers, like shapeshifting and throwing lightning around, and really began to gain a personality. As of right now (and since she really came in being) her personality is such that if you aren’t hostile to her or anything she cares about, she won’t attack you. In short, she doesn’t care about the drow standing 5ft away as long as the drow isn’t going to attack or otherwise injure anything she cares about.

    The poor girl has also been killed a number of times (she didn’t stay dead because Death didn’t really want her yet), turned into the queen of her mother’s people, married a tiefling, and a whole lot of other random things. At least she can vent at her wolf companion/adopted brother Shadow.

    I think I’m just gonna leave it at this, since there’s a LOT more that I could go on about. She has had about a decade of my life to grow in after all. And I think she’s still around. Kind of hard to tell sometimes when she’s off driving normal characters crazy with her personality and habits.

    1. Neat! An EQ-spun figment! Usually, mine go in reverse. I’m the one always trying to make my online gaming characters look like my figments. They never exactly fit into the worlds I play them in, but it’s fun to do anyhow.

  11. My main figment started as a WoW character… an alt, no less. I never indended for him to become an important character, it just happened. While he never actually became my main character in the game, he did in my mind. He’s not the same character anymore, though. In WoW, he started as a true pyromaniac (fire specced mage, with goblin engineering as profession), but slowly turned away from fiery madness and became more of an explorer and wanderer.

    Then I brutally ripped him out of the warcraft universe and placed him in my own, which only enhanced his wanderlust. He did gain more of a complete life, with an actual childhood, no less. I’ve been trying to reconstruct the events of his life, leading to his current predicament. So far I’ve only got fragments and anecdotes. This is all very recent though, so hopefully I’ll learn more over time. on the other hand, he’s not really one for answering questions often. Maybe I should just start to actually write down what I know so far and see where that leads me.

  12. Well, my story is a bit tragic, to be honest. I’m a social misfit.

    I’ve never really been good with people, and I started writing in elementary school, where I was a bit of a tomboy and would hang out with all the boys. When I arrived in middle school, their paths deviated, and I was left alone, except for my characters, who began to devolop rapidly due to my having no friends. My first figment, Lusiel, didn’t step into my life until I was thirteen, however. I guess he was around before than, and he first appeared briefly in seventh grade, but I didn’t realize what he was until I stummbled upon Darksatar when searching for Final Fantasy IV reference material for Gaelach Breithe.

    It’s sort of funny; these characters were, for a long time, what kept me sane. Without them I doubt I would even be here today; I’m an emotional person, and my own despair could have easily drowned me. Even at home, I’m a black sheep, though my family is quirky.

    I felt really weird up until I stared reading Darkstar, Wayrift, and the comments surrounding it, and then discovered I wasn’t so alone after all.

    High School was better for me, and I made my first real friends, though I was hurt, too, but I figure now that that’s part of life.

    I’ll never forget, though, the lessons Lusiel and his friends taught me, and continue to teach me, even today.

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