Thursday, October 6, 2011


~~I know I keep talking about the September Exercises at the Book and Writers Forum with awe, but it's deserved. There are thirty questions to answer about a character. It might look simple, but it's a deceptive simplicity that hides a wealth of discovery. Try it. That's all I can say. Try it if you're stuck on the motives behind some of your characters' actions. Try it if you find yourself blocked on what comes next. Just try it.

~~During September I did the exercise with Paul Collins, the main character of a short story I'm working on. I thought I knew what made the man tick. I had no clue. My story is infinitely richer now.

~~Now I'm using with questions with the main character of my WIP. I've been writing Laura Grace Chandler's POV since March 2008. You'd think I knew her voice inside and out by now. Not. I'm only to question 6 and she's opening in ways I couldn't have imagined. Here's a snip.

Who is the most important person in your character's life right now?

The most important person in my life was Samantha. Not two months ago, I'd have said it was Tom. Even though he is dead. I knew what that meant. I'd chosen to live not to mourn. It had been a subtle choice, one I hadn't consciously made. But I'd made it. Just as sure as the sun rose each day or the seasons shifted. Now I was connected to the girl, even though I'd only seen her twice and talked to her once. We had sung together. Warmth flooded my chest. Yes. That was when I'd made the choice. During Amazing Grace. Once I was blind to the opportunities my life held, and now I saw. Oh, yes. Now I could see.

~~Do you have cherished methods to get into the heart of your characters?


  1. Wow what a cool way to understand your character. I can't wait to try it myself.

  2. You'll be glad you did, Michael. Come and play with us on the Forum sometime. It's a great place to meet other writers. Even the great Diana Gabaldon posted an Oct. exercise. ; )

  3. Zan Marie, I have a sample character study worksheet on my blog. I believe in them. I'll have to look at those 30 questions to see what I've missed.

    I find character worksheets a way to keep myself out of writer's block and nobody usually sees them but me so if I change something in the character's nature, I'm the only one who knows.

    I do a lot of pre-marriage counseling in real life. It just goes to show you how much you really don't know about a person or character that may be important later.

  4. Jo,
    You're right. We learn as we live with others. I think one of the things about this exercise was the depth of the questions. Other character worksheets I've seen (and I haven't seen yours) are surface. These make you dig.

  5. I love slipping into LG's world, even if it's just for this little while.
    The September X helped me no end as I find my way into the new novel. I still hope to do it all again for my hero now that I've gotten my heroine...

  6. I love character worksheets--forces you to really make that person three dimensional. Very excited to check this out--thanks for pointing them out.

  7. Thanks, Deniz.
    LG's world is fun, or I won't still be working on it after this long. The Sept X will be helping us for years! ; )

    I'm glad you like it. I do hope it's as good a tool for you as it is for me.

  8. Excellent exercise, ZM! Even if you don't use the information on your wip, it's important that you know every inch of your character's physical and mental makeup.

  9. Thanks, Mary, but I can't take credit for it.

    Actually, I think the character's mental make up is more important than physical. This exercise is all mental. ; )


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