Create-a-Character Exercises

Getting to Know your Characters

Create a character or get to know him better with these creative writing exercises. Well written characters engage the reader and make him feel as though he has made a new friend.

1. Read!

2. Read!

3. Read!
This is the most important thing for any writer to do. Read everything. Notice the books that don’t appeal to you. Can you define what it is that made you disengage from the story? It often comes down to character and believability.

4. Reread books that you really love and notice how the author handles characterization and character description.

create a character

5. Collect mannerisms--as revealing on the printed page as they are in real life. Pick an emotion and for the next few days, track it in the people that you see. Keep a notebook--a small one that you can carry in your pocket. You can unobtrusively jot down a few notes in the grocery store lineup or while at dinner.

  • How do different people show that they are bored; how do they disguise it?
  • How do you know when someone is impatient or irritable?

  • What about stronger emotions like fear, anger, love?
  • Did you catch them out in a lie? What did they do with their bodies, their hands?

6. Go shopping for your character and pick out an outfit or two that they would love. You can give it to him without spending a dime. What did you find that they wouldn’t be caught dead in? This will help make the character more real in your mind and firm up some of their likes and dislikes. This gives you more insight into the character.

7. Actually costume yourself as your character Wear a silly hat or flowing cape or a fake moustache. Anything that will help you feel more in touch you’re your character or help you get into the theme of your book.

8. Pick a few different words or phrases that your character would use. Can you visualize him saying them, hear his voice in your head? Have him express them in anger and in humour; you get to know what tone and emphasis your character would use under stress or when teasing someone. You might even use them yourself for a few days. This works best if it is something you wouldn’t normally say.

9. Choose some mannerism that distinguishes your character from others. Can you visualize your character doing these things? Try it yourself and make sure it is physically possible and natural for your character under the circumstances.

10. Write a letter to your reader as if you were the character, using first person. This is my favorite way to get into my character’s head. And/Or write a letter from one character to another at some point in your story.
creative writing exercises 11. Choose a pivotal point in the story and write a journal entry as your character.

12. Interview your character for a radio talk show, a magazine, or a job. You can even do this before and after the story occurs so you understand the impact the story has on your character.

13. Pretend you are in a waiting room. Describe the people around you-focusing only on their feet! Type of shoes, cleanliness and condition of shoes, toes if they show, how they let their feet rest. Are they quiet or do the feet move? What can you tell about the person from their feet?

14. What is in your character’s refrigerator? You can learn a lot about a character by the state of their fridge.

15. Dream exercise: write the recurring dreams of your four most significant characters.

16. Think of the one thing you always wanted to do but never had the gonads, or skill, or funds for--let your character indulge and share the internal/external highs and lows with the reader.

create a character

17. Describe your main setting through the eyes of each of your major characters. Use first person and let yourself really get inside the character’s head.

18. Choose a pivotal scene in your story which involves some of your major characters. Write the scene through the eyes of each character. Do this with any or all of your major scenes. It will help you to make the characters more real, develop subplots and keep track of the characters who are off screen.

create a character

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Sherry Wilson's step-by-step method helped me organize my thoughts and transform a simple idea into a full-fledged plot. Without her help and guidance, I'd still be walking around with just another "great idea for a story."

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