Monday, 8 February 2016

Writing Character

Try this 30 minute writing exercise:

  • Pick someone you know and describe their appearance in as much detail as you can. Write for ten minutes.

  • Write for ten more minutes about what they do in life and how they engage with the world in general.

  • Now write about your connection with this person.
 " But I hear her still, welcoming me 
with a seagull's voice..."

You could use your descriptions to make a poem about the person, bringing in similes and metaphors as Norman MacCaig does in his poem Aunt Julia -  

"She was buckets 
and water flouncing into them. 
She was winds pouring wetly 
round house-ends.
She was brown eggs, black skirts 
and a keeper of threepennybits 
in a teapot".

You don't have to write a poem, the exercise is complete in itself. The process helps to clarify thoughts and feelings about a person and can move from a negative perception to a more positive understanding.  

The first two parts could also be useful for creating and developing fictional characters. 

I'm not sure where this exercise originated. A colleague passed it on to me several years ago. I've found it helpful personally and used it many times with groups since. (Thanks Aisha!)