Character Exercise 3: Quick Conflict Sketch

Exercise 3: Sketching a Protagonist and an Antagonist
From Writing Forward
Sketch two characters who are in conflict with each other. (Both should have potential to be good or evil.)

  • Physical descriptions
  • Who they are
  • Bit of backstory
  • What is their fundamental conflict with each other? (The core of the exercise is to identify the conflict.)

My Thoughts
I like the idea of this exercise as a way to consider character motivations. One of the traps I definitely used to fall into as a beginning writer (and probably sometimes still do) was to allow my villains to exist simply to be villainous. This exercise seems like a great jumping-off point to tackle a contentious relationship from both sides, rather than seeing one character as “good” and one as a “villain.”

Since I’m already working on a project, I decided to approach the exercise a little differently. I reviewed my handy Excel sheet, now filled in from Exercises 1 and 2, and found two secondary characters whose goals (“What do they want?” from Exercise 1) were in complete opposition to each other. Then I completed this exercise for those two characters.

Not only did I end up more fully developing two secondary characters, I also learned a lot more about their relationships with my primaries. Plus, I don’t know that they ever would have had cause to have a direct showdown about their opposing goals, but having taken the time to think through their backstories and relationships, I also dreamed up a pretty heated conversation where they battle it out. We’ll see whether it makes it into the book, but it was fun to explore!

Up Next
From Brian Kiteley (Exercise #12)
Construct a character who is not present.