Here's a short experiment, no eye protection or heat-resistant gloves needed. Some of you may have seen this one before, but please bear with me anyway.
Take a sheet of paper (or a Post-it or an index card, or whatever). Write your name on the paper. Turn the paper over and, on the other side, write an alias for yourself. It has to be a brand-new pseudonym, not a childhood nickname or anything anyone else has ever called you. Take as long as you need; I'll wait right here for you to finish. But try to do it in less than a minute, just because I know that you haven't got all day. And, you know, this assignment isn't part of your grade.
Done? I chose "Asimov Eric Crane." I have no idea why, and that's not the point.
Do you remember the moment when you turned over the paper and stared off into space and there was nothing but a blank gray wall before your mind's eye and you didn't know the answer to the question yet? You were sitting in a sort of undefined space where there was only one wrong answer, and it was written on the down-facing side of your paper. That moment was a real, palpable moment of creativity and, more importantly, an example of writing what you don't know.
When I did this exercise, I felt--though just for a few seconds--disoriented and off-balance and, honestly, a bit afraid and verging on nausea. Call me a wimp; I've been called worse, trust me. One thing that was going on in my mind during that moment of off-balance creativity was a battle between conflicting forces: You are this alias. No, you are this one instead. No, over here is your real alias. There were several directions I could've gone, and in that brief moment I was aware of, if not every possibile outcome to my creative problem, at least many of them. The more complex the creative problem and the more time we allow ourselves to think about the solutions, the more possibilities we'll see. Most of those possibilities will conflict with each other, and we will attempt to choose one of them and let the others go.
Some of the most interesting and useful things we can discover about our story elements (characters, scenes, plots, themes) are the conflicting versions of them that are possible. One of the things I've tried to do in my own fiction is to present many of the conflicting versions of story elements in the same story. It has only been recently that I realized I was doing this, or perhaps it's more accurate to say that it's only been recently that I started trying to give a name to what I've been doing in stories. But as I say, if there is more than one way to think about some story element, I am pretty strongly inclined to include more than one of those ways in my stories. I'll give an easy example, using something I did in a chapter of my WIP "Cocke & Bull."
Suppose you have a group of characters who've all traveled to a city together. Suppose there is some kind of emotional turmoil or conflict within the group. Suppose you want to have your characters walk through the city from one setting to another, and you want to point out locations in the city. Suppose you also want to show the emotional turmoil, but you don't just want them to argue their way across town.
What I did was split the group in two, and the first group walks through the city and I give their impressions of the various locations within it, and I show certain interactions they have with the city's inhabitants. I use a certain type of images and descriptive language, to paint things as colorful and fun and light-hearted. Then I have the second group walk through the city, following the same path as the first group, and I show their interactions with the city's inhabitants. I use a different set of images and type of descriptive language for this trip, painting the city as dark, shabby, dangerous. It is the same city, but viewed from a different emotional angle, as it were.
This is one of my current favorite tricks, and in "Cocke & Bull" and my last book, I've played scenes twice in a row and shown how the scene can have radically different meanings depending on how you interpret the actions within the scene.
A sort of inverse to this is to figure out what the your characters' best and worst traits are, and to dramatize them behaving at their best and their worst in scenes that are as similar as you can make them. Show us your hero, and then show us his alias, as it were. Think, for example, of the protagonist's thoughtless insult during the garden party in Jane Austen's Emma. Shocking, embarrassing, and totally believable. Let the reader enter that moment of off-balance creativity you had, and let the reader be caught up in the battle between conflicting forces inside the story and the characters. You can ask youself "What are the possibilities here?" and you can use more than one answer. You can stay in that off-balance moment of creativity and write down as many aliases as you like and call them all the right answers.
My point, if I have one and possibly I really don't, is that rather than choose The One True Way for your characters and stories, you can create a multiplicity of meanings for events and people and places that are all true and all overlap and all conflict with one another and the story will be, in my opinion, much deeper and richer and satisfying. You can show, with certainty, that the world is uncertain. You can define how things are not definite. You can give your characters and your story not one alias, but many.