Character is one of the most important aspects of creative writing. In fact, you might say it is the most important. Without good characterization, nobody’s going to care about your story. They won’t have reason to. The writing exercise below keeps that in mind as it gives just one way to begin crafting compelling characters. I call this exercise “Mr. or Ms. Perfect.”
Perfection should generally be avoided in a character. Real people, such as your readers, aren’t flawless and chances are they are not going to be able to fully identify with a character who is. They might even get annoyed and put your work down altogether. Reading about a character with no faults or vices is like reading a sermon…there’s a reason why sermon anthologies aren’t typically found on The New York Times Bestsellers List.
Within 300 words, create a new character by detailing their failings. You’ll likely be tempted to temper the description with redeeming qualities, but resist the urge. Give at least five faults. They can be socially perceived vices, like smoking or gambling, or perhaps personality traits, like a raging temper or deep selfishness.
Once you’re done listing the faults, read over them and see how you feel about this character. Do you hate them? Feel sorry for them?
Now write a similar, but separate, character sketch, only this time list exclusively good qualities. Examine your feelings about this character. Do you envy their piety? Or perhaps want them to fall down a deep well? Does it feel like they are wagging their finger at you?
Put the two exercises together, combining character traits (you don’t have to use all of them) and come up with one master sketch. Notice how much deeper the character feels once there are both good and bad aspects to their personality. This is the bedrock for creating interesting, fully-rounded characters.
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This is one of the exercises that appears in The Writer’s Tune-Up Manual, which is being released on July 15. One thing every writer wants is the opportunity to improve their craft, to hone their skills, and create the most dazzling prose possible. The Writer’s Tune-up Manual is just what you need. Maybe you’ve been away from the game for a while, struggle with a certain aspect of writing, or perhaps you just want to put your skills up on the rack and give them a good tuning. Filled with 35 targeted exercises and inspirational quotes from established writers, The Writer’s Tune-up Manual will help you do all these things by expanding your writing savvy in five specific areas: Character Development, Dialogue, Point of View, Description and Setting, and Plot.
The exercises in The Writer’s Tune-up Manual are more than just writing prompts; you can find those anywhere. No, The Manual gives you a real opportunity to flex your literary muscles by laying out detailed, often difficult assignments. Nobody said that becoming the best writer you can would be easy, so roll up your sleeves, flex your fingers, and get ready to take your writing to a whole new level!