This year’s RWA conference included a workshop on writing great characters by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I attended her workshop at last year’s conference and really enjoyed it, especially the hands-on exercises. This year’s workshop featured two exercises that were aimed at helping us delineate character with description, rather than just telling the reader about the character. They were fun so I thought I’d share them here.
Exercise: Describe your character’s outfit in a way that reveals character and reveals plot.
Here’s what I came up with for my heroine Abigail. I feel like it gives a little insight about her, as well as raising the question of just why she needs a knife for an evening with Lord Wallingford.
“Abigail tucked her favourite knife in her left-half boot, accepted her mask and domino from the waiting maid, and headed off for an evening with Lord Wallingford on the dark walks of Vauxhall.”
Exercise: For the second exercise, the group brainstormed an archetype (Bossy CEO), a setting (a mountain), and an emotion (frustration), then had to write a few sentences showing the emotion, without saying “she felt” or “she thought.”
“Again?” Valerie picked herself up from the ground threw the length of frayed rope at the cowering guide. “Are you trying to kill me?”He tried to explain what had happened, but she cut him off with a hand. “I don’t want to hear it. Just get it fixed. The sooner I get off this damn mountain, the better.”
It was really fun hearing all the different ideas the workshop attendees came up with for these exercises. Better yet, the exercises were a good way to jump-start creativity. I’ve started adding a few exercises like these to my daily writing routine to help get me into the right frame of mind.
So, your turn. What can you come up with for one (or both) of these exercises? Please share in the comments.