Characterization Exercise: Where Is This Problem Going?

I blame the US government shutdown for this one. If I hadn’t been tracking it, trying to figure out whether I’d be out of work (and then, when I’d go back to it), I’d wouldn’t have gotten suckered onto far too many comment threads. (Curse my curiosity!) If I hadn’t been looking at the comment [...]

Characterization Exercise: Retelling and Reaction

A long time ago, I suggested an exercise in which the object of the game was to come up with a character’s retelling of an event, in voice. But no story is told in a vacuum, and few are told without someone to hear them.
For this exercise, then, choose two characters and one event. It [...]

Characterization Exercise: What’s a Bad Day?

We’ve all had bad days. The trolley we needed to catch pulled out of the station just as the one we were on was pulling in, the food slips off our fork the one day we were wearing our nicest clothing… yeah. Not the kind of bad day that changes your life forever, just the [...]

Characterization Exercise: Try to Be Civil!

This one was originally suggested to me by Shinali, though I’ve elaborated on it a bit.
For this characterization exercise, you’ll need two characters who, if they were to run into each other in most contexts, would be at each other’s throats—physically, verbally, or otherwise. They don’t necessarily have to be from the same world, but [...]

Characterization Exercise: Code of Conduct

One of the toughest things about a relatively new character can be figuring out where their boundaries and obligations lie—which is a pity, because those can be the fastest way of making a character interesting. Shinali recently poked me with a solution, based on her regular quoting of Gibbs’s Rules: write the character up a [...]

Characterization Exercise: Who’s Your Ideal Enemy?

There’s a lot to be said about the peculiar dance between two enemies: a blend of mutual hatred, a peculiar sort of chemistry, and who knows what in the middle. It makes conflicts interesting—but like a good romance, it requires that the two enemies be, in their own way, a good match.
And you can learn [...]

Characterization Exercise Followup: Waiting in Groups

While yesterday’s writing exercise can say interesting things about a character, why stop at just one character waiting? One interesting way to extend the exercise is to, instead of looking at a single character sitting and marking time, look at a small group instead.
What’s a group waiting do for descriptive and characterization purposes that a [...]

Characterization Exercise: Marking Time

Most of the time, when we’re writing about characters, they’re being active, events popping out of nowhere to keep them busy or seeking out things that will entertain them/advance their goals/mess up their opponents without any real time to relax. It’s not often you see one sitting still.
But what would happen if they would?
Pick yourself [...]

Characterization (and Visualization) Exercise: Natural Environment

Biologists are accustomed to the idea of a creature’s natural environment: somewhere for which the creature is uniquely suited, such that seeing them somewhere else prompts a reaction along the lines of “This isn’t right….” Characters, I think, are the same way; each one of them has some sort of environment in which they fit [...]