In a series that I'm writing, characters are aligned with different elements based on their personality. The four elements are the classics: fire, earth, water and air. I want to see what other people think of when it comes to personifications of these elements, and what common themes run across each individual element.
So: 1) Which element would you be based on your personality and why? 2) Look at an element other than the one you have classified yourself as, and explain which personality traits are needed to properly represent that element.
Every human in the world I'm building is aligned with an element. It is important that I fully understand stuff like what a fire person is in contrast to one associated with earth, or what kind of a person an air elemental compared to a water elemental.
This reminds me of The Runelords-series by David Farland. There you don't have everyone being, if you will, a certain element, but the wizards of the different elements start to show different traits as their powers grow. Lets see if I can remember them.. Earth and Water is viewed as protecting elements, healing and nurturing. While a Earth-wizard would be very firm and unbendable in his views a Water-wizard is flexible and tend to flow around obstacles. If I remember correctly, Water is more turned towards healing then Earth, which stresses growth and reproduction. Fire and Air is more destructive elements. Fire gives the lust to destroy, burn (duh :P)and so on. It is also more passion-driven then the others. An Air-wizard is portrayed as always changing, both in mood and the way he/she acts. They are also quite mad, due to their ever-changing thoughts.
While I don't say that you should just use this, I hope it can help anyway. And using it on all instead of just the wizards/magicians/sorcerers/whatevers makes for an interesting concept. Maybe have persons become act more like typical fire, for example, the more magic they possess or something like that. Anyway, good idea.
Oh..and I think I would be something of a water-person myself. With one part fire and one part earth.
I'm fire, despite appearances. I get heated by a crusade, one that changes things for the better. I would burn injustice, melt oppression, fire corruption and bring ignorance into the warmth of knowledge.
I like earth people for their grounding, caring and understanding. They're leaders of conscience.
I imagine air people are entertainers, clowns and conjurers, light of spirit and uplifting to be with.
For me, water people are close to earth, but more practical, nurses and doctors perhaps.
I kinda like one-liners based on the elements: "I'm fire 'cause women like the heat." You could also say, "He's water 'cause he's too slippery to get a grip on," or "He's air 'cause if he wasn't tied down he'd go up and never come down." (Can't think of one for "earth" at the moment.)
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There's an Asian philosophy that divides people into elements. Maybe Chinese. I remember being told I was clay. As a gardener and potter, I found that very appropriate. However, I think there was an even smaller division - white clay was more refined than red clay.
The others that I remember were metal, water, fire, tree.
Why don't you try going BEYOND the perceptions that most of us are going to have? Mostly what you're going to get in response to this question is stereotypes and cliches, probably. Try stretching it out and making something new out of this idea. Otherwise, you're going to end up with the same world we've all seen a hundred times. If you base your version on what everybody already associates with these elements, then your readers won't get anything new...no surprises. No surprises=safe and boring.
For example, everybody is going to say "fire" would fit a personality that is impulsive and easily angered, and "earth" is going to fit a personality that is immovable and sticks to his/her beliefs. Try making your version different. Maybe "fire" fits a personality that is easily addicted to something (or everything)...drugs, sex, self-improvement, television, familial affection...whatever. (The connection I'm making is that the pleasure, whatever it may be, consumes the person just like fire consumes its fuel). Maybe "earth" fits a personality that passively absorbs abuse and pain seemingly unharmed until one day he/she explodes and goes violently crazy all of a sudden (like the Earth seems unaffected by our pollutions and environmental abuse until it explodes and wipes a village out with a volcano or something...not my personal worldview, but just brainstorming for possible new interpretations of an old theme).
Anyway, just my two cents. try taking the idea in a new direction instead of basing it on everyone else's tired cliches. (No offense intended to anyone who has posted here...I have the same tired cliches about this subject as everyone else. I just don't think they would make a very interesting story).
SchamMan89, wetwilly makes a good point. Mercedes Lackey also has books about "elemental magic" and they follow the same old pattern (not that there's any problem with that, but it is the same one). These "cliches" are based on folklore and go WAY back.
If you haven't researched them already, you ought to. Astrological signs are divided up into the four "elements" so you can find information by looking into astrology, for starters.
Then, once you know what the "same old" ideas are, twist them, as wetwilly suggests. I think that would be way cool.
Another thing you can use, which you may find in your research, is the way each of the elements have their own overlap. Water is wet and cold, earth is considered dry and cold, air is considered wet and hot, and fire is considered dry and hot.
Each of them interacts with each other in certain ways: water can kill fire, but fire can kill (evaporate) water. Air can kick up earth (dust devil or tornado), but earth can cut off air (cave or tunnel collapse). Earth can also kill fire, but fire can scorch earth. Water can weaken earth (mud), but landslides can dam water. Air can feed fire, but too much air can blow out a fire. Fire can heat air, but can also use it up. And so on and so on.
Twisting how these are applied to personalities (one reason why they are part of astrology) could be fun.
I would be water because I can be both very flexible, and very difficult to compress, and I can hit something with a lot of force when I'm driven to, whether physically or metaphorically. Water can be perfectly at peace, or disrupted into a huge storm, so it has a kind of bi-polarity to it. It's also the embodiment of sadder or more "calm" emotions.
It's also delcious.
Fire to me is someone more extravagant, obvious, ostentatious, lacking-in-subtlety, constantly aggressive, etc.
Earth is someone slow and lumbering, slow to move, slower to act, but absolutely rigid and unflexible. Stubborn when completely convinced, etc.
Air is someone who is light-hearted, extremely flexible, not committed, lacking in conviction, and potentially disloyal. But also very fast with their body and their mind.
quote:I kinda like one-liners based on the elements: "I'm fire 'cause women like the heat." You could also say, "He's water 'cause he's too slippery to get a grip on," or "He's air 'cause if he wasn't tied down he'd go up and never come down." (Can't think of one for "earth" at the moment.)
... He's earth 'cause he's dumb as a brick, (or a rock, if the mud -> brick level of separation robs the simile of its power).
I'm definitely fire. A flashfire temper, emotions on my sleeve. Physically, I can't stand being wet or getting into bodies of water. Freaks me out.
As far as characters go, in the world I've used exclusively for my short stories, the pantheon of gods is based on the elements. Earth is very slow and patient. Air despises Earth for this, for Air is free and fast, uncontainable and promiscuous. They just don't get along. Of course, the same kind of hostility applies to Fire and Water. I've had so much fun playing with their personalities, discovering their alliances and feuds and so on. So your project sounds like an interesting one.
I've already done a lot of developing of this idea. For example, each element is only able to use one style of magic. Fire people can only use creation magic, earth uses manipulative magic, water uses mimicry magic, and air uses healing magic. Then, each style of magic can only be performed through a certain art.
I know the direction that I'm going in, but I want to make sure I know what people expect and why they expect it. Stereotypes can be good tools to reimagine certain ideas.
Thanks so much for the input so far everybody, I really appreciate it. I especially like the one liner thing =)
Earth. My how I wish I could say I was fire, becuase I was h-o-t-t, hot. But I would have to say, earth. I love the outdoors, summer, winter, it matters not. Earth also, seems to go back to the salt of the earth, basic, simple loyal, family and friends. Does that make sense?
My first thought is that the only thing I can think of is sort of the old cliched concept of earth wind fire and water. Earth people are steady and grouded, fire people hot tempered or mercurial, wind people creative, and water people emotional and flexible. By this reckoning I would probably be closest to water.
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What an interesting question. thanks for asking.
Earth, for sure.
I'm into nurturing and growth, love the woods and mountains, and decorate with and wear earth tone colors. My myths are all about going deep into the dark, scary places and coming out the other side. I'm quiet and introspective. I hold onto things and process over a long, long time. Patient.
Fire -- passionate, of course, but energetic, dangerous, purifying through trial.
Water -- emotional, in touch with feeling, creative. Relaxing, calm.
My first instinct was to say air. Though many seem to associate this with qualities that I do not embrace. I suppose air is a bit of a mystery. It is the unseen element. One can feel it and see its effects, but it is otherwise invisible. It is also the most compatable of the elements. Fire does not associate well with the other two elements, but it gets along OK with air. Earth and water seem to tolerate it as well; it often carries them both. It is much like water in that it easily conforms. However, It is unpredictable. It can be still and calm or be violent like a tornado or hurricane. It can easily change directions or seem confused. It can be light and uplifting. It can be ethereal in many ways. Air is curious, creative and extremely flexible, but water is as well. If you really think about it, air exists as a paradox.
Regarding the negative qualities: madness, disloyalty, lacking commitment and conviction, and flighty. I disagree. Air is consistent, but it often reacts to earth and fire. It is always present, but not always attentive. Most importantly, it is important to remember - you shouldn't spit or piss into the wind.
earth - slow to change, steady and solid, unemotional, but caring. fire - easily aroused, task and goal oriented, and emotional. water - flexible and conforming, emotional, and easily persuaded.
My yoga instructor was talking about a yoga concept around the kinds of people...gosh I can't remember the terms at all nor the yogi who she recommended I look up the work of, but I think it might be beneficial for you to dig around on some yoga sites to look for some more information.
We were comparing notes after class and I was asking for a cold bottle of water. She used to have a refrigerator but the new studio doesn't have one any longer, so they only had room-temp water. I made a sour face, I really prefer cold water, and that prompted a conversation with several around there about the kinds of people, based on this yoga concept I can't recall the name of (and no, it's not chakras, that's something else though looking into chakras may lead you into this domain.) The other people nearby were yoga instructors-in-training so they had all read this same information, and then they commented on my teeth (white) and there was some connection between liking cold water and having white teeth and being this certain type of person - which I associated with the idea of a water person. I explained how I liked things quiet and calm, how in the winter I get really cold and bundle up all the time, I don't like loud noise, etc.
The yoga instructor, on the other hand, was definitely *not* this kind of person. She is the epitome of fire. She's energetic, runs from one thing to the next, she's the kind of person who doesn't need a coat in winter, she's driven and active all the time (I think she came to yoga originally as a way to find a peaceful outlet.)
ANYWAY - I'll poke around on my desk to see if I can find the slip of paper that she wrote this info down on, but there's another direction of research for you to go in. Hindu/yoga lore is not well-explored in literature, in my opinion.
I agree with Zero. I think even the most cliche of ideas can be unbelievably unique, given the right characters and twists.
I would say that I'm a mix of Water/Earth.
I'm open minded, and I believe in change (Water, I'd think) I can be extremely stubborn, especially if I know I'm right (Earth) I am nurturing. (Water, or Earth. Depending on your take) I have a great sense of pride (Earth or Fire) But if I know I'm wrong, I will not pretend otherwise, just to protect said pride. (Water) I dislike conflict. (Water) I try and be at harmony with myself, and the world. (Water)
Keep in mind that if there are only four elements, and they are rigid, your world will be fairly black and white. People, I find, are generally not as simple as one 'element'. They may have a focal element, but they also have hints of other 'elements'.
Furthermore, remember there are no 'rights and wrongs'. This isn't a science. One persons definition of earth, could be another person's definition of water. Etc.
[This message has been edited by Gan (edited January 29, 2009).]
I think it's interesting that several people have mentioned "creative" as a definite aspect of one elemet or another. (Usually water or wind, as listed here.) But I don't really see why water behaves more creatively than fire, for instance. Anyone care to expand on this to satisfy my curiosity?
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I would think this is due to the destructive nature of fire. Where wind and water simply move and mold, fire changes the physical composition of what it touches.
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Fire can be enormously creative. Passion drives change, which requires creativity.
It's the same with the task orientation that philocinemas mentioned can be associated with fire: to achieve a result one must often be creative, especially when there are tough constraints and an imperative to deliver.
And, to create almost anything -- metal, beer, bread, electricity, motion in a car or train -- takes heat: fire.
I know I'm at my most creative when I'm angry with a problem. (Well, I was when I was younger. Now I'm more mellow, so I try to limit myself to irked.) It feels fiery; I call it "the energy of frustration", energy I channel into solution finding--creativity.
[This message has been edited by TaleSpinner (edited January 29, 2009).]
[This message has been edited by TaleSpinner (edited January 29, 2009).]
I have to laugh at myself, philo, because I was thinking "ability to generate new or unique ideas" as what was meant by creative, not just "ability to create in general."
So yes, I can see why (intuitively) fire seems to work against creation. But as Talespinner pointed out, fire is really just an agent of change. It might be destroying something by changing it into something new, but by so doing it's simultaneously creating. Isn't it?
I destroyed the log by burning it, but I created ashes, cinders, and the rich smell of smoke.
One of the best books I've ever read to really nail down personality types is Earth Medicine by Kenneth Meadows. The book presents an alternative to the traditional zodiac, with a myriad of well-integrated traditions.
As the zodiac goes, I'm an earth sign, a Virgo. I was born on the cusp, and show strong signs of the neighboring sign, Libra, an air sign. I abhor water and am terrified of drowning, am cautious and somewhat scared of fire. I live in a town known for wind, and enjoy it. Many people can't stand the wind and end up moving because of it. I decorate with rocks, and enjoy making gemstone necklaces as a hobby.
My point here is that description of personality based on elements should/could include the influence of both neighboring elements as well as the contradictory, or contrasting element.
One aspect you might integrate is the ability to "talk" to the spirit of the element. I myself have more than an affinity with the stones. When I am making a necklace, I try to tune into what the stones want, or the necklace pattern goes horribly awry. It's not talking, like hearing voices in your head, it's listening to the small voice inside and following intuition. I've talked to several people who work with stones in their profession - a geologist, a marble counter/tile retailer, a professional jeweler... all of them have noticed the same thing that I have: that the stones seem to have a form of intelligence, that if you don't pay close attention to what the stone wants, you cannot force its will. The stone will break, will jump from your fingers to be lost, will be contrary and if you try to force it to be something contrary to its nature, the end result will be unsatisfactory.
Anyone who has a strong affinity for an element would, in my opinion, have the ability to "talk" to it to some degree, to learn to go with its flow, to comprehend its nature, pattern, and to hear its voice.
[This message has been edited by Elan (edited January 30, 2009).]
Extrinsic, though I see the relation Ariel has with air, shouldn't Raphael be placed there instead? After all, he is one of the 3 archangels under the leadership of Michael.
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In Catholic doctrine, yes, Raphael is air. However, I deviated from that. Ariel, the prankish sprite from Shakespeare's Tempest? From Gnostic doctrine? From occult doctrine? What I was going for was a Ptolemaic sensibilty.
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Water people might be those who are fluid, who change easily according to their surroundings and circumstance, or who undergo major changes in perspective or personality throughout their lives.
Fire people might be those who consume more than their share of resources, or who use up the talents and the energies of the people around them; these are the people who step on others to get ahead / and /or these people have a certain kind of restlessness. They burn the candles at both ends. They work too hard or play too hard; they let their passions take over. These are the people who become addicts. These are the people who flash out, die young.
Air people might be those with their heads in the clouds. The dreamers, the vsisionaries (or the utterly lazy); the creative types, the weird types -- those who don't quite mesh with their surroundings. The float along as if they're above the frey.
Earth people are those who hold others up; they provide strength and sustenance. They're grounded, practical, pragmatic. They put the community above the self. They believe in honesty, hard work, sacrifice.
Well, I tend to look at this a little differently than most I would think. When I look at those I fall back on my experiences. Regardless of what anyone tells you, you can use your experience to write a damn good fantasy story. You just have to take your preconceptions of how a things is and turn it on it's head sideways a bit to work.
So my experience is being in the military.
You have the Air, a forceful group that strikes from the skies, usually unknown to those beneath until it's too late. They seem indestructible but without the other elements they simply don't function. They stare at those beneath them with a slight sense of contempt because they think they can't see the big picture.
You have the Water, which can adapt to most any situation. They're resourceful and while they may not be the fastest they are very hard to get rid of because they can operate and eradicate the other 3 elements if they so chose. They are more at peace with themselves than the others because they sense the balance of them all acutely.
You have the Fire, those that are tempered with an unnerving will and won't simply fall to those who would call them master. They are the ultimate weapon but they are a small percentage. They burn quickly and furiously but they must have the others to fuel them on.
Then you have the Earth, the everyman who soldiers on when the others falter because it has no choice. If it falls then all the others lose their base on which to pivot. There is honor in the Earth and they live and die honorably.
That's the first thing that popped into my head. The US Armed Forces are actually a great representation of the four elements.
Also, these are just generalized based on my feelings and they aren't an attempt to make other military folks in here angry. I just thought it might be an interesting take on a very old fantasy cliche.
The cliche's aren't really the problem. The problem lies in not looking at it differently which has already been pointed out.
I would be Air by the way for obvious reasons based on my take of the subject.
I am Earth. I take a long time when forming an opinion, and I take everything I can into consideration. I take my time and allow the thoughts to coalesce. I come out with a strong conviction (which many might mistake for simple stubborness). I dependable and can always be relied on, and I prefer to work in the background helping support and make possible the grand schemes of others.
Water is my opposite. We both take time. However, where I use time to build strong convictions and to lay the groundwork for others, water slowly wears things down constantly eroding away others positions. Water is insiduous, it slowly breaks apart what others work to build up.