Writing Tips: People Like You
- Choose a character who intrigues you, perhaps one from an earlier exercise. Put that character in a brief scene, where you can oberserve her/him. Let her/him interact with other characters while you watch. There needn't be tension in the scene. The character needn't talk about herself/himself. You are trying to see the character in action and not some observations about her/him.
- Think of a person you know whom, you've felt that you really don't know at all. Something about the person's behavior simply mystifies you. Write about this person, in descriptions and in recollected scenes. Try to find out more about this person in your writing.
- List at least a half-dozen people you know who interest you enough to write about them. Describe why you find them interesting. If you want, re-create them as fictional characters, making up new names and changing some aspects of their personalities, but leaving the real people pretty much as they are.
- Combine aspects of two of the people or characters on the list you made in the previous exercise above, turning them into a single character, one who embodies elements of both characters. If you want, place that character in a scene or situation.
- Combine aspects of four of the people or characters on your list, turning them into a single character. Try to pick aspects that are in some way related, making the character complex but not too fractured.
- Practice your powers of observation. Go to a party or some group gathering and be consciously aware of what's happening around you. What taps his foot? Who flounces her hair? Who brags? Who mumbles? Who is the liar? Who is trying out a new look? Who fidgets? Who laughs loudly? And listen to what people are telling you and how they speak. Try to pick up an unusual rhythms of speech. When you get home from the gathering, write down your observations. Keep the notebook handy. When you're stuck for a detail or description for a character, your notebook can supply what you need.
- Flip through some magazines and find a picture of a person who looks interesting. Don't choose a celebrity or someone about whom you know anything. Don't read the caption. Cut out the picture and put it in your desk. Now freewrite about the person, creating a character sketch. Write about the person's life, her problems and her goals, her background, whatever comes to mind. Move toward some conflict in which the character can be involved. Then write a scene to explore that conflict. If it interests you, then keep going. Try this exercise every day for a week, choosing a new picture for each writing day. Keep these characters and pictures in a file and begin building a stable of characters.
- Use at least two of the characters from your stable, putting them together in a scene. Force them to talk to each other. If you want, make the scene a first meeting. Put these strangers in a waiting room or on a bus or in an elevator, some place where they will have to talk. Force the proximity.
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@ Lonely Procrastinator - Thanks. You'll never believe what you'll hear in an elevator. Ideas are everywhere.