My (Theoretical) Approach to Chinese Characters & Homonyms

I've gotten a few questions about my approach to Chinese character memorization. I answered one of these as a comment under Part 2: Issues, Tweaks, and Examples, but I wanted to repost it here to expand it and make it easier to find. It's a tricky topic. Unfortunately, as I mentioned in Part 1, my Chinese learning has thus far focused on spoken Chinese. I plan to expand into written Chinese at some point, but I've prioritzed spoken for two reasons: (1) Communicating with relatives--my wife's family is Taiwanese--has always been my primary goal. (2) Chinese learning is very much a side project currently, so I didn't want to overwhelm myself. When I took a semester of Chinese in college, I learned a few hundred characters, and I can confirm it feels like a monumental task. All that said, I have a reasonably well-developed idea about how I'd approach characters with the help of memory techniques. Here were the original questions, each followed by my response:

1) How would you recommend dealing with the Chinese characters?

As I mentioned at the beginning of Part 1, I'm focusing on spoken Chinese, so unfortunately I don't have much personal experience to draw on here. That said, I would probably memorize the characters in a fashion similar to how Memrise and Chineasy do it: using images for look-alike characters/radicals, and focusing on radicals as a way of building an intuitive picture of each character. Here are examples from Memrise and Chineasy: 

Memrise.com

Memrise.com

Chineasy.com

Chineasy.com

Robert Heisig's Remembering the Hanzi books may be similarly useful guides. See comment below. 

I might then layer any of those images onto my original pronunciation images. That way I can encode both the pronunciation and character in a single story. For example, for chu1 (to get out, to go out): Chewbacca runs over *two mountains* as he runs out of Penn Station. See Part 2 if Chewbacca and Penn Station aren't clear, but these could of course be substituted with any chu1 mnemonic; for instance, chewing your way out of your house. *Hopefully the image below makes the two mountains clear:

Chineasy.com

Chineasy.com

2) How do you handle homonyms? Words with the same pinyin, but different meanings?

For words with the same pinyin, I either add the new image to the old in some way, or simply create a separate image. For example, for ya1 (pressure, also leave), Edie's at the marina, leaving her signature while putting pressure on her wheelchair. Or, she's just leaving her signature, and a second Edie somewhere else in the marina is putting pressure on something.