Have you ever mixed up the pieces from multiple games or multiple puzzles? The result is a mess! However, mixing up characters can be the key to getting out of a writing conundrum.
Occasionally, I will have a character who absolutely refuses to do what I want him/her to do. No matter how hard I try, he/she will not do or say what I envisioned in a way that feels believable. The reason is usually that he/she is underdeveloped. In most cases, I am able to get to know the character better by asking and answering a series of questions. In other cases, though, I am too focused on the story’s needs to be able to honestly answer the questions for the character.
Your writing prompt for the next two weeks is to learn about your characters by taking them out of their world.
1. Choose two characters from different pieces you’ve written and put them together in a scene that takes place outside both of their stories.
2. Choose one of the following situations to start the scene:
- Put them in an interrogation room together. (One could interrogate the other or they could both be interrogating a third character.)
- Have them go on a blind date. (Be sure to give some thought to the setting.)
- Give them a task to accomplish. (It’s best if the task requires two people.)
- Give them a problem to solve. (There must be consequences if they fail.)
- Have the characters tell their stories to each other. (I did this with one of my villains from “The Four Crystals.” Wow, the story was different from that point of view.)
3. Write the scene keeping both characters true to their personalities.
4. Read through the scene and note some of the following:
- How did the two characters interact? (Were they friendly, civil, or hostile? Could they work together? Etc.)
- Who took the lead?
- Did either of them dominate the conversation?
- Did either character have a key mannerism or phrase?
- What was each character’s primary goal in the scene (i.e. what was most important to each character)?
- Did either character have a predominant emotion?
- What did your characters do or say that surprised you? (For example, when I did this exercise, I discovered that one of my supporting characters was oblivious to her leader’s flaws. Going into the exercise, I knew that she was a very loyal follower. When she was talking to another character about her leader, I realized that she believed her leader to be infallible.)
*I would like to thank sci-fi and fantasy author Olivia Berrier for sharing this writing exercise with me and for walking me through how to do it.