Visual Dictionary from (unlimited) Characters for abstract words (long term learning, not competition)

Background :national_park::

Well, after searching as much as I could in the forum for ways or techniques to transform abstract concepts to images, I’ve found a lot of interesting advice which might suffice for most people, I’m sure. However, I couldn’t find no one doing it the way I do it (also, a lot of the advice is leaned toward competitions), so I decided to share my method and system in case it helps someone here, and also to know your mnemoist’s opinions.

First of all, my original inspiration was the great @LynneKelly’s book “Memory Craft” :ok_hand:, where she explains the effectiveness of using characters :mage: to visualize and memorize knowledge, the reasons it works so well and a lot of examples of indigenous cultures that used and still use this technique. I can’t recommend the book enough for anyone interested in those topics, I enjoyed every page of it and learned so much with it.

Anyway, she not only recommends the use of vivid and interesting characters to represent abstract concepts (and in general memory activities) but also proposes a culturally adequate name for them, “rapscallions” :exploding_head:. I believe it sounds very well in English but doesn’t seem very appropriate in Spanish, my mother tongue, so that’s the reason I’ll stick with “Characters”, although I strongly recommend to use the term “rapscallion” for anyone for whom it seems adequate.

Finally, a word of caution :open_mouth: , the current method I use is still in development, I have only few weeks using this iteration and it will likely evolve with my practice and, hopefully, with your thoughts and practice as well. I, however, have used similar methods in the past with success in a greater scale (like a Visual Dictionary made of colorful symbols, for which I collected and memorized hundreds of them) and this version seems to me to be a great improvement.

Visual Dictionary of Characters System :file_cabinet:: (working name, hahaha, although I’m liking a lot “Pantheon of Forms” (alla Plato)… what do you think?)

Ok, so, the idea is actually very simple, to develop, gradually and with personal and with immediate functionally, a Visual Dictionary for abstract words or concepts. I think this can work with peg systems, linking/story method and, specially, memory palace (method of loci, etc.). It needs a little time for selecting and memorizing the character for any concept and, since the number of possible words used in competition is huge, I really don’t see a lot of use from it in memory sports, although it incidentally can help in the cases which a concept already coded as a character appears.

Some advantages of developing your Visual Dictionary/Pantheon :woman_superhero::

  • It is, at least for me, a lot easier to remember images that include characters.
  • The characters can easily be imagined performing actions, with objects or with other characters.
  • The amount of time needed to codify a concept into a character, even if it’s bigger than the time it would take to codify it into an image made “on the fly”, is greatly surpassed by the time saved in the future, since it can be indefinitely reused in any number of new memory palaces.
  • Your memory palaces (and your mind) will be filled with interesting, funny and beautiful characters! That in itself is a lot for me, since I enjoy seeing great illustrations/art, and part of this technique requires to look for them among a lot of great illustrations/paintings.

Some examples from my own Pantheon/Dictionary :genie: :woman_zombie: :vampire: :fairy: :mermaid::

My character for “dimension”:

My character for “State”:

My character for “Myth”:

My character for “Democracy”:

And just one more, my character for “Logic”:

I currently have several dozens of characters, but hope to memorize hundreds and thousands over the years (I’m definitely switching from my prior dictionary of symbols, but in a few months I gathered and memorized more than five hundred of the, so it seems very doable). I use them with normal memory palaces and with a form of miniplaces from illustrations (similar to the ones presented, but with important differences) which I call Guardians (I’ll make a post describing it soon, so… stay tuned? Hahaha). Anyway, let’s go with the actual instructions.

How to create, memorize and maintain a Visual Dictionary/Pantheon of Characters :thinking::

Ok, so, first things first. A character can represent anything you want, no matter the complexity :sparkles:. For example, I have characters for “simple” concepts as the ones presented, but also have characters for complex concepts like “surplus value” or even “critical narration of the history of technology”. You decide what makes sense to transform into a character.

How can I decide which concepts to turn into Characters?

One criterion that works for me is: “How likely am I to store this concept in a memory palace again?” If the answer is “probably never”, I don’t take the extra effort :face_with_monocle: to make a character out of it, simply use some of the other great techniques shared in this site (“sounds like”, “remembers me of”, “starts with”, etc.). I don’t recommend (but who knows, maybe it can be worth it) or do make Characters “just in case”. Instead, I make them only if I have an immediate use for them in something I’m memorizing and I believe I’ll probably use them again in the future, in other memorization process.

Since I tend to codify one book/chapter/section/article/etc at a time, I’ll look :mag_right: for the most important concepts and decide, before doing the codification of the memory palace, which concepts is worth to transform into characters. Generally I pick between 4-8 characters for any “macrostations” (my Guardians generally consist of 12 loci each).

How to select an illustration to turn into a Character?

With each concept I’ve decided to turn into a Character, I will search my library :books:of potential Characters (ever growing) and find one that, for whatever reason (sometimes for no real reason at all, hahaha), seems suited to become this Character-concept. I must stress that this process doesn’t need to be overly complicated, the relation between the image and the meaning (as it happens also with words) can be arbitrary. Practice will make it not only fixed but automatic.

Where can I find suitable images for Characters?

I prefer to increase these Library aside from the moment of selecting a new Character, to save time and not loose focus, although sometimes I have something very specific for a concept and will go looking for it in the web :spider_web:. My preferred site to look for new potential Characters is, which I will navigate (generally the “trending” section) whenever I want to rest from other activities. I really like to do it, since I can see a lot of great works, but I always do it in the look for Characters (and Guardians, but that’s for another post).

My criterions for selecting potential Characters are simple. Is it distinctive enough? Does it seems memorable to me? And, also very important: Do I enjoy looking to it/Will I enjoy remembering it? :star_struck:

How to memorize and maintain in my memory the meaning of the Characters and their images?

You can use whatever method that works for you, ideally with spaced repetition and active recall, since those are the most effective techniques that we know of. You could also put them in a memory palace dedicated for Characters.

Personally, and I definitely recommend you try this for its amazing efficiency, I create a card in Anki :ballot_box: with the concept in one side and the image in the back, and let the algorithm take care of the rest (for those of you that are familiar, a “Basic (and Reversed)” card type will work wonders). Literally, in a few seconds I have memorized it and with consistent work I know I won’t forget it. The revisions (some days I have dozens of them to review) generally take just a few seconds in total, and sometimes a few minutes minutes, but they have always been super enjoyable and easy, like an super easy Memory game or something :sweat_smile:.

Final words and a “gift” for you :santa::

I would love if you use a similar system than mine and what is your experience with it. If that’s not the case, feel free to try, adapt and practice with my system, or tell me your impressions, ideas and even (hopefully explained and sustained but, hey, you do you) objections of my approach :persevere:, I’d really like that a lot.

This is only a small contribution to the community, but I hope it turns out to be useful for some of you. Also, feel free to ask any questions. As I said, English is not my first language so it’s likely I’m not that good at expressing myself as I’d like to.

Anyway, as a way of thanking you for reaching to this point, I’m sharing my current Library of potential Characters (230 of them), gathered from around the web. I’m sorry to not be able to credit the artists for their amazing work, but if you want you can “search by image” in Google and find the source that way. Here is the link:

I hope you all have happy holidays. Love from Mexico.


[Edited: two missing sections, hahaha]


Dear @LynneKelly, I would love your thoughts on these approach. I’m still working on the Guardians post, but maybe you find this one of interest too, since it’s based in large part in ideas I learned from your book. Greetings and my gratitude to you.

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Hey, @elitely, this is it, what do you think?

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This is awesome,man…

I have bookmarked your post for future reference…And thanks for sharing your resources.

I do have a plan to use “Characters” for certain abstract concepts or words. But I did not have enough time and motivation to organize the data/images. So,your resource will help me a lot. And thanks a lot for that…

I have “Six Characters” for the “Six Thinking Hats” method. But I think,I will change my old ones and use your charcters,as your characters are quite beatifull and eye catching…


Hey! I’m glad you find it useful!

Of course the credit is to the amazing artists, I’m happy to share their work and to find a use for it in learning and thinking. The thinking hats seem very promising, I’ll add De Bono’s book to my list :slight_smile:

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I recommand you to create images for 100 most common words in the English language which you can find in the internet and I have edited this system and in that edited system you create images for characters based on words as you do in your system and there are starter effects which happen when an action is started and an end effect when an action is ended(by you),

With changes in the person’s appearence,

For example- “Heros are good”.
Images- Calming fireworks coming out from the shirt of the small 11 year old Ben Tennyson from Ben 10 Omniverse and you putting your hand over his shoulder in a good way :slightly_smiling_face: making Ben Tennyson smile and after you your hand from your shoulder those fireworks end.

Heroes(Image)-Ben Tennyson.
are(effect thought on the fly)- Calming Fireworks.
Good(An action)- Putting your hand above Ben Tennyson’s shoulder(In a good way i
of course😄, like he is your friend or you can get more creative with your action).
— End effect- The fireworks stop(The end effect does not necessarily have to end an effect it may be anything).

Find out what works for you and keep it pleasant and remember to feel good out of goodness(I can not explain this feeling of goodness it is a mixture of feelings, ex- A warm feeling and also a compassionate feeling(Compassion),

Learning this technique has increased my reding speed and comprehension noticiably and so has your technique when I am speed reading but for comprehension,

The 100 most common words of the English Language can be found in the website below -

If you will scroll down to the bottom where there is a table and you will attempt to create images for those words it will happen very quickly (in seconds) maybe because of the table’s format,

And I have noticed that the characters does not have to be a cartoon character it can be a classmate whom you share a bond with and remmeber to keep it appropriate and good and they will be more memorable than ordinary characters and also childeren in higher classes share a bond with each other if they mature and their behaviour is mostly good in most of the cases and they help each other and I believe that either all the people in this forum either will have or have had this experience and it will be easy to create characters using them but this information is for good people.

As you will be able to imagine characters so quickly when reading you can slow down and attempt to manually increase your brain’s capacity for reading and/comprehension and if you will do this then eventually you will get bored and make sure to make it is permanant after which you can read faster because your brain will get bored at slower speeds and you will be able to read faster and comprehend more like me,

I believe that this is one of the most effective methods in speed reading and it almost doubled my reading speed while improving comprehension not sacrificing it because my brain was getting bored and now it will either be a permanant or a long lasting but temporary effect,

And credit to two users in this forum whose ideas of the Starting effect,Ending Effect were used in this forum post and also credit to you for this method and I think that exercises and drills can be created for this method which will benefit people can also have a calming effect on them if they are good and they use it properly,


Have a Nice Day.


Hi, aicreator!

I appreciate your thoughts and engagement, so thank you!

As I said, I don’t codify/memorize words “just in case”, so even the 100 most common words seems unnecessary for me, but the idea is interesting, if it works for you, great! Also, I haven’t systematized neither actions nor “effects”, since I find it enough to do that more freely when codifying the information, but is also an interesting idea to keep in mind and maybe try later on, thanks for the suggestion.

I’m not that into speed reading for now (although I’ve practiced in the past with reasonable results), since most of my reading and learning is for technical/philosophical material which needs more comprehension than speed or immediate retention, but I can see how this may be helpful.

I have done that and still do it a lot! When a concept reminds me easily of a person I know, I still use that as the mnemonic image. However, that’s not the case with technical concepts, so this method is more a complement than a substitution.

Tanks again and good luck to you!

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It’s ok,


Have a nice day.

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Hi, Boris!

Thanks for you thoughtful answer! I definitely don’t want to change the way you do things, it seems that your methods are also working for you and that’s great!

I’m glad we have some approaches in common. Actually, your post on the People Method is very similar to my own Guardians method! I will detail my own approach soon, but it’s great to know others are using similar techniques with good results.

Ok, definitely the goal is not the dictionary but content memorization, the Characters dictionary is only a tool for that goal. I can see why you think it can be overkill, and also think that having a few characters with distinct characteristics is super helpful and “enough”. Actually, that also isn’t absolutely necessary, either, and surely for some others it would also be “overkill”, since creating mnemonic images in the moment is “enough”, but if it works, make the memorization more effective and more enjoyable I think is a great tool! That happens to be the case for my method, at least for me. I enjoy a lot having those images in my head and make the codification and review processes so much more enjoyable also.

I’m not so sure about deriving the practicality of a method on the fact of it being used before or the success of other people not having using it, since that would disqualify any novelty, including your WEI method, as I’m sure you can see. About the “natural” way of building a dictionary, I don’t really value that very much. It reminds me of the debate between “natural” and “artificial” memory, and a similar argument can be done to disqualify the art of memory as a hole. Maybe you think is more practical to leave to practice the creation and fixating of a mnemonic dictionary, and I can relate to that but, having done both things, I do believe constructing a deliberate dictionary es so much effective and practical for long term memorization.

I agree, and don’t personally categorize the Characters. I don’t see the need or benefit, really.

Actually that sounds very similar to my Character method, but with less “entities”, or reusable ones. I don’t see any problems with it, but I do believe that the extra effort of fixing one mining per Character pays itself in the speed of decoding and the easiness of precision it comes with (not problem distinguishing “appropriation” from “accumulation” or “acquisition”, for example, which comes really in handy for technical philosophical knowledge).

Lol.Thanks a lot for your feedback! I’ll keep it in mind, and hopefully you find something useful in my approach, even if only as contrast to your own :slight_smile:


Thank you so much, DanteGaxiola. This is a really fascinating approach. When I first started working on indigenous memory systems, I was well aware of the use of characters, but greatly underestimated the value in the first two books on the theme. I picked that up a fair bit for Memory Craft, but think that I still don’t use them enough. The ancient Greeks talked about giving characters to abstract concepts, but I haven’t followed through on that enough, either.

I am certainly going to think about applying this concept much more. Thank you so much for taking the time to explain so fully.

It is also really interesting to see how others implement characters in memorising for non-competition contexts.

And thank you for such lovely words about Memory Craft!



Very interesting stuff.

Thanks for sharing your ideas.


Lynne, I’m so happy for your words and the fact that you see value in this. We all need reminders even about things that we’ve even explained before (I have that experience a lot), and I feel so glad that it is of use to you. I wish you are having great holidays and I’m looking forward to read Songlines, hopefully soon. Love from Mexico.



@Rajadodve786, I’m glad you find it so, thanks for your comment :slight_smile: Any ideas are welcome!