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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?
- ride elevators?
- 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.
- 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, 2009May, 2009April, 2009March, 2009February, 2009December, 2008September, 2008August, 2008July, 2008June, 2008May, 2008April, 2008March, 2008February, 2008January, 2008December, 2007