Thursday, September 10, 2009


Learning about your character

Okay, what is it you REALLY want to know about your character(s)? Do you really know everything about him/her? You are writing a piece of fiction and you have already pegged a character's eye color and her eyebrow plucking habits. But where do you go from there? How do you share the inner thoughts of a character? Yes, she does have them. How do I know? Because you created her to be well-rounded, multi-dimensional...and someone to jump off the page.
So, I'm staring at the words describing my young adult character as he reacts to something. I'm excited. I feel I've captured the essence of something incredible. And then I shared the scene with someone, whose reaction deflated my character, right there on the page. I then felt the air go out of me, as well.
Disheartening? Yes, definitely. But it also gives me the opportunity to return to my character, breath some more life into his actions, rifle through his pockets, find out what he carries in his backpack, traipse through his room (as only a mother can) and learn every dimension of his life.
Will I need all of that? Probably not within the actual story, but I am convinced that the brand of jeans he wears will probably inform what kind of summer job he has or if he even needs a job. The reaction he has to extra homework will add shading and texture to his reaction to losing something dear to him.
The picture is painted of him, complete from his favorite chewing gum to his well-worn socks. I need those images of him to make the dimensions tangible to my reader so the next time I share the character's reaction to a monumental event, my reader is with me and can feel the anguish I know he feels, as he jumps off the page.

One fiction exercise I have loved giving and receiving is emptying out your character's pockets or purse. What is in there? Why? And if that seems too tiresome, you might do what I do: instead of writing, I clean out my own pockets and purse and ask why.... ;)

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a certified Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach and freelance writer. She also blogs at and, delving into creativity in everyday places. She is looking forward to introducing you to her well-drawn character someday soon.

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Friday, November 07, 2008


Visualizing the Drama

by LuAnn Schindler

A local high school asked me to direct their one-act competition play this year. I haven't directed a play in over two years, and since I have so much spare time (I do?) I said yes. Actually, I knew what play I wanted to direct; I thought the characters would be challenging for the students and I knew how I wanted to stage the production.

As a director, your job is to interpret the playwright's words and place that visualization on the stage. You see each character in a unique light and as you share your vision with an actor, you hope that they crawl into that character's skin and become that person on stage. You plot the lighting changes, sound effects and blocking choices to match the picture you've created in your mind.

It is the same when you write. You visualize the characters, see them in a unique light and bring them to life on the page. You establish a sense of place through staging. And, you plot the lighting changes, the sound effects, and blocking choices when you determine who is in a certain scene, where it takes place, and what dialogue is spoken.

Readers do the same thing, too. When I read Michael Crichton's Timeline, I could see certain actors cast in the movie. I could visualize the castle and the clothing from the Renaissance. I knew Nicolas Cage should be in the movie (obviously I wasn't in charge of casting)! Visualizing the drama, whether a novel or a play, creates a bond with the readers.

And it's an important bond that begins in your mind, travels along the page through the plot twists and turns, and ends with the reader.

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