The Creepy Way To Create A Character

I say Creepy, because it may seem slightly stalkerish to some of you. I am, however, just leading your metaphorical horse to water. You don’t have to let it take a drink… 🙂

In Louise Doughty’s excellent book A Novel In A Year (which may or may not help you write a novel in a year, but will definitely give you a lot of excellent advice, strategies and inspiration), she often presents her readers/writers with a situation to thrust a character into (even if it’s not one they envisage being in the completed novel), or to write about a time a particular situation happened to them, such as: having an accident, getting lost, feeling trapped (emotionally or physically), being of a different nationality from your own, being a character from the past, and being an inanimate object.

Of course, these exercises are designed to generate plots and characters, and she then helps you assemble this generated material into a novel. I found those chapters fascinating and incredibly useful (Big Respec’, Louise). And it’s sparked my own ideas on ways to create a character – or to get to know an existing one better.

My Writing Idea of the Day is:

Make your Character walk in your Shoes
(because actions speak louder than words)

Walk your character through your day (or even week). Lterally, if you want; think about your character wearing your shoes! Would they? Imagine your character living through your day. Would they be good at your job, more or less patient with your children/ mother/ dog/ boss? Would they have gone for coffee with that friend? Would they walk the children to school or drive? Bus or train to work? Would they remember to send that birthday card as you did, or are they forgetful/ lazy/ inconsiderate? Would they be a blogger or do they not know their Mac from their PC?

Or perhaps walk them through days in the lives of people you know. I have a female friend who is a bouncer. This wouldn’t be every woman’s cup of tea, but what kind of woman is prepared to do a job like that? (One who is also a black belt in Karate, if you must know!).

Look out your window – is your neighbour off to a club or their work? Would your character be there too? Karate or WI? Or both? And if you have no idea where your neighbour is going, use your imagination – where could they be going, why, and would your character be likely to be there too? Asda or Waitrose? Deskbound or a landscape gardener? Would they have waited patiently in that traffic jam or would road rage have taken over? What might have resulted if they had lost their rag?

Now prepare for boredom.

My uneventful day: Took son to school, spoke to Mum on phone, emptied & refilled the dishwasher, tweeted, revised opening of my novel, researched readability score/reading age of a few novels using MyNovel software, had text conversation with my boss and agreed to increase my hours, drank tea, coffee and a double chocha mocha, ate a chicken and coleslaw sandwich, picked up the post, did some more writing, emptied the bins, went to village shop to buy chicken, bread and fruit juice cartons, collected son from school (delivering two papers from my daughter’s round on the way), spoke to my black-belt friend and another who runs a natural beauty products company, filled in a school form to say yes, son & I would love to go to the Royal Wedding barbecue at school, emailed Techy Husband holiday dates, spoke to Arty daughter when she got in, spoke to Techy husband when he got in, deleted 4 spam comments awaiting moderation on this very blog, read a few other blogs, spent ages converting file type & reformatting text of the work newsletter so I can put it on the work website (which I run), dispatched my family to karate (yes, they go to classes run by black belt friend!), and then wrote this post.

Now your answer may be similar, or completely different – but ask yourself:

What did your character actually DO today?


7 thoughts on “The Creepy Way To Create A Character”

    • Hi Joy 🙂
      Thanks for your comment – have just been reading your blog about characters too. Great stuff!
      Of course the challenge, once we’ve made up these great characters, is to reveal them by ‘showing not telling’ – I often have to go back and deliberately revise my work by thinking, right, how can I change this to show how he feels and what his intentions are?

    • Thanks Carol! Not sure it was my most eloquent and compact post, but thanks for the compliment 🙂
      I’ve just visited your blog and will make sure I call in again soon – well worth a read. 🙂

  1. Hi, I enjoyed reading your “how to” and most of what I write is about my own experiences in my lifetime of nearly 78 years. Never written a book, though. I enjoyed your post. 🙂

    • Thanks Ruby 🙂
      Perhaps it’s time to think about that book – even if it’s only for future generations of your family, it could still be fascinating.


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