So let’s get to it. For each of these exercises you’ll need a quiet space to work, and a timer. You can do these exercises for all of your characters, but starting with any character you’re struggling to understand is probably your best bet.

Exercise 1: Visualization

Picture your character walking through a door that is far away. All you can see is the shape of their body because there is a bright light behind them. When they step through the door, describe what they are wearing. (Write all you can in 2 mins.)

Here goes nothing, but hoping for something 😉

He travels with an entourage these days, one in front, and one in back, frequently hangers-on crowd along his side.  His gait is deliberate. People take notice when he enters a room.  

Sh*t!  THAT was two minutes?!  Not nearly enough time.  I suspect this is because I edit on the run and do it while I write.  I’ll have to come back to this one.

As they move further into the room, describe the objects that you can see around them. (Write all you can in 2 mins.)

The door is held for him, wide and welcoming. Heads turn at a table nearby, all eyes on him.  People smile, and titter, and make way. Someone standing nearby quickly moves an errant chair out-of-the-way as he heads toward a chosen table.  The table is covered with the bounty of summer.

Crap!  Too much to say in too short a time.  Don’t want to be a cheater, so I will remain true to the process, but I am coming back here.

As they stand in the middle of the room, people begin walking toward them. Describe who these people are and what their relationship is to your character. (Write all you can in 4 mins.)

His daughter, noticing him at the door, leaves her position at the table and heads over to him.  She moves efficiently, yet gracefully, in his direction.  Her sun-kissed nose and checks reflect the flickering light.  Her hair curls softly about her face, the blonde dulled with age, but still lovely.  She smiles comfortably as she approaches, and holds her arm out to him.

A little more comfortable with the pacing of four minutes, but still…

Exercise 2: Becoming Your Character

Put yourself in your character’s shoes and answer the following interview questions as if you are them. 

What do you love the most? My family means the world to me.  I would protect them at all costs.

What do you hate the most?  I wish I could remember, so I hate that I can’t.

Who are you jealous of?  There is no ONE to be jealous of, just time.

If you could do anything right now, what would it be? I would go back and relive, so that I could remember.

What is your biggest secret?  I don’t remember any of it, and I don’t want them to know.

Answering interview questions was hard because I’m in a zone of creating a scene in my mind, and so it feels out of sorts.  I think I will be able to use the info later, but for now, it kind of stopped the flow.

Exercise 3: Flip the Switch

Imagine that a bad guy with an opposite-ray dropped into your book from hyperspace. The opposite-ray hits your character full in the face and now they are the complete antithesis of the person they were before. Now answer the same questions above again. 

What do you love the most? Money.

What do you hate the most? People who get in the way of my progress.

Who are you jealous of? Everyone and anyone who has more than I do.

If you could do anything right now, what would it be? Leave this place and get back to work.

(I don’t include the secret question because presumably will be the same.)

I’m not sure I did this properly because I tried to be true to the COMPLETE antithesis, which would make him a completely different character.  If I were to do this again, I would do it partially, so I could compare the old guy with his younger self.  That would be interesting.

Exercise 4: Conversion

Take any scene from your current WIP that includes the character you’ve been working on. Strip away all of the setting information, the emotional tag lines and write it as a play with only the characters’ words and any stage directions that move your character into a spot that helps your plot to continue, such as: Moves to door. Door swings open and hits them in the face. Now see how the words your character uses without any props conveys their emotions, or DOESN’T convey their emotions.

Moving to the door and out onto the porch.  People crowded around.

Him: “I’ve got this.”

Other:  ” I’m just trying to help.”

Him:  “I don’t need your help.  Just get out-of-the-way.”

Other takes his arm with one hand and tries to open the door with the other.

Him:  “I said I’ve got this!”

Other ignores him and helps to get him through the door saying nothing.

Him:  “This is not how it should be.”

Both pass through the door and onto the porch.

Hard to strip away the context, but I liked the exercise.  Not sure that all of my intent made its way into the dialogue, but it’s a start.

Note from Kate: If you’d like to share a paragraph of what you wrote today, please feel free to do that in the comments!