Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Creative Writing Exercise to Get Fictional Characters Outside of Your Head via Writing Prompts

Creating your own character is probably the most important ingredient for a compelling novel. But how does the writer use creative writing prompts to create characters that the reader will really believe in? Well, here is a technique that will bring the character to life.

Character Creation Technique

Interview your Fictional Character
Conceiving characters from the top of your head is not the only way to create characters. Every writer needs to try various techniques that will spark the imagination. Some writers base characters upon real people, tweaking detail and altering aspects of that character, such as appearance or background. Other writers prefer to come up with totally imaginary characters that will undoubtedly source unconscious memories from the many people we have known in a lifetime.

Create your own Person with a Character Questionnaire and Interview

This creative writing blog shows how to complete a character questionnaire, a quite effective way of getting into the minds of a character, but the really interesting thing is what to do with the questionnaire afterwards (and I don’t mean putting it in the bin). But first, I shall explain the questionnaire itself.

To get an idea of what the character will be like, begin with sketchy detail, which can be answered on a questionnaire. Don’t worry if you have to force yourself to write answers, the magic will come later. Begin the questions with the essential, like:

The basics: Gender, name, age, race. Now follow this with
Physical appearance: eye colour, hair colour, height, weight, build, defining features, scars.
Character traits: patient, arrogant, laid back, pessimist, chatty, easy-going, narcissistic, bossy, easy going.
Attitude in life: a corporate climber, a leftie, a liberal, live-and-let-live, right-wing, traditional views.
Mannerisms: vocal accent, pitch, quirks, personal habits, twitches, facial expressions.
Family: parents, siblings, pets, marital status, lovers, adoptions, skeletons in the cupboard.
Now look at position in life: accommodation, job, car, financial situation.
How about tastes: hobbies, music, films, dress sense, perfume, education, talents
Likes and dislikes. What peeves the character? What puts the character in a good mood?

Now let’s look at your character in a little more detail:

What does your character want in life? What are his/her goals, ambitions?
What are your character’s motives?
What stands in his/her way?
What does the character end up getting?

Interview your Fictional Character

Once this questionnaire has been completed to the best of your ability, bring it into life. This means getting a willing participant to ‘interview’ your character. This will entail getting into character. You don’t have to be a great actor, just imagine being that character and answering questions that have been put in the questionnaire. Actually vocalizing the answers is quite different to simply writing them down. Further details could emerge once in-character and feeling more spontaneous. Here is an example of an interview I had undergone after completing my character questionnaire:

What’s your name? Millie Daws
Where do you work? I am vice president for a jewelry design workshop
What is your ambition? To get to the top.
What is standing in your way? My younger sister-in-law, Rose.
Do you have a family? No, only two cats.
What physical attributes do you dislike about yourself? I have a haughty laugh that I wish I could get rid of. I don’t like people laughing at me behind my back. (See how I volunteered a little here?) And then I added, I want people to see I mean business.
What are your hobbies? Hmm, well if I have the time, I enjoy ice skating, though my ankles have got strained from wearing heels all the time (more volunteering here). To be quite honest, I see hobbies as a waste of time. My father used to tinker in his workshop all day long and he never fulfilled his dream of being an architect. (From this we can see Millie has issues with her father, not wanting to end up the ‘loser’ she sees him. Perhaps she has a secret fear.)

After answering more questions, this spurred more volunteering of information I would not have written in the questionnaire. I even began to speak in a particular manner and adopt postures. Don’t worry if getting into character feels stiff at first. Just answer the questions and get into the interview.

Interview Your Character for Fiction Writing

Getting someone to interview your character after completing a character questionnaire will help bring the fictional person into life. This may entail a little role-play or acting, but giving your character a voice will engage the senses in a way the written word cannot. Giving your character a voice may also spur mannerisms, facial expressions and temperament. Filling in the gaps about your character will give the persona added complexity and character traits the reader can really believe in.

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