In this new series, Operation Awesome is providing exercises to help you break out of writer's block, or a creative slump. Too often, we get stuck with writer's block because we believe when the words don't flow organically, or when the sentences don't come out perfectly structured, or when the plot has holes, we've failed. Usually, it just means you're having an off day, and forcing yourself to write on these days can perpetuate the feeling of being stuck. It can really help to take a day off from writing, but that doesn't mean taking a day off from working on your book. These exercises will help you work on your book when you're not actually writing.
So, none of our exercises involve narrative writing, per se. Instead, they require you to think, daydream, talk to your characters, and CREATE. You can jot down notes as you go, or you can record yourself talking through the exercises, or you can keep everything in your head.
For Exercise #2, we're going to focus on CHARACTERS. Specifically, getting to know your main character, the antagonist, the love interest, and any secondary characters you want, by using a Character Questionnaire. Examples of these questionnaires abound online, but you can keep this simple and see where your creativity goes with it. You won't use the bulk of the answers directly in your story itself, but knowing your characters well makes it easier to build fully-fleshed out people.
First, pick a character you want to get to know better. Use a notebook, think through the answers in your head, or talk to your character out loud (probably don't do the latter option in a public place). Ask your character the following questions, and see how much better you can get to know them!
1) Full name (including middle name, maiden name, aliases, etc.) Have you looked up the meaning of your character's name? This can also help inform personality traits.
2) Birthday. Have you looked up the astrological meaning of your character's birthday? This can also be an interesting way to add personality and life events.
3) Where has your character lived? One place? Many places? If many, why did they move? How did your character react to moving?
4) Family/upbringing: Two parents? One? None? Siblings? Other relatives that lived in the house when your character was a child? Pets? How did everyone get along? Were they rich/poor/in-between? Were the parents strict, easygoing, loving, neglectful?
5) School: What level of education did you character achieve? Were they an attentive student? Did they enjoy studying or hate it? What were their favorite subjects? Extracurricular activities? Did they have a lot of friends or were they a loner? What significant events happened during your character's school years?
6) Friends: Who were your character's friends as a child? Are they still friends? If not, why not?
7) Love interests: Did you character have relationships as a teenager? What happened to them? What is your character's current relationship status? Ever been divorced? Ever had their heart broken? Ever broken someone else's heart?
8) Travel: Did your character get to go to many different places? If so, why (business trips, vacations, moving, etc.)? If not, why not (money, etc.)?
9) Careers: What kinds of work has your character done? Are they lucrative? Did they enjoy them? Are they respected at their job? Did anything significant happen at these jobs?
10) Fears: What does your character most fear? Have they told anyone? What does this fear stem from? Does the fear impact how they live their life?
11) Hopes: What does your character want out of life? Have they told anyone? What are they doing to accomplish these things?
12) Physical appearance: What does your character look like? Hair color, eye color, skin tone, height, build, and also things like notable scars, tattoos, piercings, etc. Are they athletic? Clumsy? Graceful? Do you picture a celebrity or someone you know when you picture your character?
13) Voice: What does your character sound like? Do they have any notable auditory characteristics, like a barking laugh or a beautiful singing voice?
14) Social: Is your character an introvert, and extravert, or somewhere in between? How do they react in social situations? Would they rather go to parties or read at home?
15) Children: Does your character have children? Want children? Hate children?
16) Hobbies: What does your character like to do when not working?
17) Food and Drink: What are your character's favorite foods and drinks? Least favorite? Are there any memories attached to these preferences?
18) Music, movies, TV shows: What are your character's preferences for entertainment?
That's enough to start with. Have fun interviewing your character and try to apply what you've learned about them to their story!
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