Last Monday, I posted about using writing exercises designed to clear out your emotional stuff that blocks your writing and apply it to characters. (See that post here). The responses were so interesting to me – ranging from some great fellow writers trying their hand at the exercise, to others fretting over how to do it.
Some even wondered if this was too much like plotting (something the commenters hated).
Here’s the thing, I do these exercises for every major character – and with good reason (and bfore I actually start writing the story) …
You have to know the deepest emotions of the character to understand motivation.
Motivation drives the actions of the character. And action drives plot.
A character’s fears, hopes and desires seldom have anything to do with a particular scene or situation, just as the driving emotions behind a person’s actions seldom have to do with the situation at hand. You don’t need to KNOW what is going to happen in the story do get at the hear of your character’s emotions. In fact, I would argue that NOT knowing the scene, or even the story, makes this process more organic and more useful. These emotions are the force behind anyone’s motivation to do things.
Are you desperately afraid of being anonymous? If you are (or if your character is), one of two things will likely happen – you will seek ways to ensure you will never be anonymous, or you will withdraw further, proving the truth of your fear.
Knowing this level of emotion for your characters helps you stay authentic. It will allow you to shape the internal conflict of the story and create the emotional arc without losing the authenticity of the story.
For me, it has also enabled me to have unique voices for every character in every story – even when I am dealing with similar themes.
So, try this little exercise.
Look at the world from your characters point of view and answer these questions:
- What d I love?
- What do I fear?
- What do I hate?
- What is my passion?
Write for at least 10 minutes on each question. Do it without thinking about it – just be the character.
Do this for any character that feels flat to you. I promise you won’t be disappointed!