Monday, May 9, 2011

Guest Blogging: Ben Sobieck

I've know Ben Sobieck now for over a year.  Ben's a gifted writer who has a book recently published by Trestle Press in both ebook format and in traditional print.  Called Cleaning Eden, it is a powerful novel about drugs, addiction, murder, and charismatic personalities who prey upon those in need of something . . . or someone . . . to believe in.

Ben's pinned a formula on how to write a novel/characters.  Put in it mathmatic formulas.  Interesting (and I wish I got past basic Arithmatic in the fifth grade).

Take a peak at it.  Tell us what you think.

"A Literal Formula for Creating Quirky Characters"

by Benjamin Sobieck

At the end of the day, everything is numbers. Even as I type this, the letters are represented as numbers in the computer. They stack up into patterns called formulas. Therefore, everything is a formula.

Is there even a formula for building a quirk into a character? I think so. But this "formula" is usually thrown around as a figure of speech. (i.e. "The characters in that Sobieck guy's latest book are so formulaic, I was surprised when they DIDN'T drink beer in church.")

However, I think the figurative expression can be express as a literal algebraic equation.

Here's my non-scientific scientific-sounding attempt at that:

((W - X) * Y) / Z = C

The algebra breaks down like this:

W = A stereotypical set of character traits. If the character is a private investigator, there are certain things you can expect. X represents the most literal, written-in-stone expectations.

X = The under-ability or over-ability to do something. This doesn't have to be a flaw per se. It also could be a trait that conflicts with the stereotypes in Y. For example, a hit man who doesn't use weapons.

Y = An environmental factor that exacerbates the difference of (W - X). It's no good to have a quirk that doesn't get exploited to the full measure possible. From the example above, the hit man would be tasked to take down a samurai armed like a walking tank. In a gun store.

Z = A grounding force. Whatever the equation equaled up to this point, it is offset by Z ever so slightly. This could be supporting characters that help mitigate the effects of our quirky character. Think of the stereotypical boss screaming, "You're a loose cannon, buy a damn pistol already," at the hit man over the telephone.

C = Your quirky character. Call him Biff, won't you? Biff the Quirky Hit Man.

Plugging those variables into the equation to create Biff would look like this:

((Hit man - doesn't use weapons) * samurai) / Overbearing boss = Biff the Quirky Hit Man

Here's another example using a character most everyone knows:

((Private detective - really smart and addicted to drugs) * Fame) / Watson = Sherlock Holmes

Now plug some of your favorite quirky crime fiction characters into this equation. Does it work?


Benjamin Sobieck is the author of the crime novel, "Cleansing Eden," and numerous flash fiction pieces. His website is


  1. Thanks for posting my non-state-certified math lesson! I didn't go to school for any of this!

  2. Ben, it boils down the the classic debate: is art an art form or a form of science? One concept operates off the inexplicable; a true artist and where his art comes from can be almost impossible to explain.

    The second one states with empircal edicts the laws that explains everything. Meaning, indirectly, that once you understand the formula you should be able to whip out the classic American novel. Or British novel. Or whatever.

    Hmmm . . I lean toward the art definition.