Character Exercise 1: The Basics

Exercise 1: Rough out the Basics of Your Characters
From Iconoclastic Writer
For Main Characters (protagonists, antagonists) and Primary Supporting Characters:

  • Names
  • What do they want?
  • What do they generally do in the story?
  • What defines or distinguishes them (e.g., Hermione is a very quick study & smart
  • How does the character relate to the story (e.g., Ron supports the theme of friendship & family)

My Thoughts
I started with character exercises because I have a pretty solid sense of story already (so no brainstorming needed). That said, I really liked the way this exercise pushed me to think through some of the basics of how my main characters would interact with each other, how their goals would coincide and/or clash, and how I could smooth some of that out.

I decided to start an Excel document (I mean, if you can make a spreadsheet, why WOULDN’T you??) with each of my characters as a row and all of the questions as a column. That way I can add to it as I continue with the exercises. I like that I can do a quick scan of their goals and what they’re doing in the story, not to mention that of course it’s nice to have everything in one document.

I’m writing a romance, so I have relatively few characters (8 – which is maybe a lot for a romance, but nothing for, say, an epic fantasy), so I’m not sure whether the same technique would work as well for another genre.

This exercise came from a site that pulled together some suggestions meant for NaNaWriMo prep, and in that respect, it definitely works. I like that it’s a quick sketch that got me going and thinking about interactions. It would definitely not be enough, though, for full character development (nor do I think it was meant to be).

Overall, a definite success!

Up Next
The Zero-Fuckery Quick-Create Guide to Kick-Ass Characters
From Chuck Wendig
This one’s pretty in depth, so rather than trying to summarize, I’ll just provide the awesome link.


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