Bob Boone


Writing Ideas

November 2010

CHARACTER BUILDING

I. TOO MUCH GUY

Imagine someone who has too much of a good quality—too much honesty, courage, ambition, intelligence, compassion.  Because of this dominant quality, the person does a dumb thing, and this causes a big problem and now the character needs to do something before it's too late.

  • What is your character's name? Where and how does this person live?
  • What is the person's positive quality? How is this immediately evident to a stranger?
  • What does this character like to read?
  • Who is this character's hero?
  • What is this character's job?
  • How does this character spend his leisure time?
  • What unwise decision does this character make? What events led up to this?
  • What would happen if the problem were not solved?
  • What three choices did the character have to solve the problem?
  • What choice did the character make and what happened?

* Years later your character tells the whole story to his grandson. What does he say?


II. SHOW; DON'T TELL.

Consider an extremely rude individual. Now show this person being rude. How do rude people......

  • eat pizza?
  • ask questions?
  • sleep?
  • ride elevators?
  • drive?
  • read?
  • exercise?
  • play golf?
  • walk the dog?
  • sing the National Anthem?

Try these activities with a more complicated person, someone who is…….

  • playfully arrogant
  • aggressively passive
  • unintentionally intentional
  • weakly guarded
  • curiously curious

III. CONNECTING THE UNCONNECTED.

Fit all of these into one person and then write a story. This individual…..

  • whistles in line
  • pretends to stutter
  • reads three books at once
  • earned a million dollars selling Frisbees
  • has three cats with the same name
  • prefers left handed people
  • will never go to North Dakota

IV. TWO CHARACTERS AND ONE SITUATION.

Write little stories for each of these.

  • optimist and opportunist and a fire at the opera.
  • braggart and bully and a big league baseball game
  • artist and agitator and an avalanche
  • grump and gadfly and a garbage collectors strike
  • nerd and narcissist and a nasty note arriving in the mail

V. FIRST SENTENCES.

Let these characters drive an original story.

  • Barney always pretended to like police officers.
  • Late in life, Grampa Finnigan decided to stop talking.
  • I never thought I knew what to expect from teachers until I took Ms. Avery's US History class.
  • People always wondered why William never attended his son's hockey games.

VII. MAKE IT CREDIBLE.

Why would…….

  • a fastidious jeweler be found guilty of littering?
  • an ambitious businessperson become a communist?
  • a bully cry at sad movies?
  • a minister give up his/her religion?
  • an architect move into an igloo?

VIII. TRUTH INTO FICTION.

Think about the kind of person you are. Imagine how you might behave if you:

  • found out your neighbor was a spy.
  • won the lottery.
  • discovered a great skill you never knew you had.
  • found out you had a different nationality.
  • were told a trusted friend was betraying you.
  • lost your will succeed.

After explaining how you would react, create a character very much like you and put him or her in the same situation and make a story out of it.


IX. MINI BIOS.

Fiction writers in general and short story writers in particular often introduce characters by way of a short biography. They sweep through the character's life to explain why and how the character has suddenly appeared in the story.  (“When Ben was eight he was given a pet anaconda. His love of snakes grew until he robbed the zoo and stole the pythons. In prison he met another snake lover and when they got out they established a movement to have a holiday honoring snakes.”) Write little stories explaining how:

  • an old lady in Ohio decided to run for president.
  • a poor immigrant became the wealthiest man in a little New England town.
  • a travel agent decided to cheat her customers.



Email your advice to advice@WritingTeacherHangout.com.


Read Bob's Previous Writing Ideas Columns:
  • October, 2010
  • September, 2010
  • June, 2010
  • November, 2009
  • September, 2009
  • August, 2009
  • July, 2009
  • May, 2009
  • April, 2009
  • March, 2009
  • February, 2009
  • December, 2008
  • September, 2008
  • August, 2008
  • July, 2008
  • June, 2008
  • May, 2008
  • April, 2008
  • March, 2008
  • February, 2008
  • January, 2008
  • December, 2007

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