Monday, September 08, 2008

Exercises for Developing Characters

Got to hear some great advice from Prof. Steven Wolfson yesterday.

The occasion? The UCLA Writers Faire, a free event held every September, offering four rounds of seminars in four hours. All you have to pay for is the parking. Those 40-minute seminars cover all aspects of fiction, non-fiction, screenplays, etc: writing, selling, inspiration, character development, markets, you name it.

The point is to get people to sign up for courses at UCLA (many are online) but there's no obligation to do so. Lots of people just come and enjoy the day and the advice.

So what was this great advice?

  • An exercise to help you understand your characters better: list and describe their daily habits. One full day--what do they do and why?
  • Characters should be in a constant state of want (you've heard this before, right?) Know the aches and wants of every character--and write in the margins of your manuscript a scene-by-scene running commentary of who wants what. Every scene!
  • When you're stuck, sit down and interview the characters. What are they going to do next? What have they done so far that troubles them?

Bear in mind that these tidbits are crunched into a dynamic, 40-minute presentation on the art of storytelling.

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