Think of four main characters in your story:
The hero – the person whose story it is e.g. Harry Potter
The friend – totally on their side but just or almost as powerless e.g. Ron, Hermione, Hagrid
The mentor – someone who can help and who does teach them e.g. Dumbledore
The enemy – Voldemort
Sometimes the mentor and the enemy may not be human.
Anyway, take your hero and one of the other characters. Think about them for a while. Make notes if it helps. This is the sort of exercise you can do whilst waiting for a train or whilst sitting in a café . Or even if you’re stuck in a traffic jam.
You must know:
- What your character is like physically, emotionally, intellectually
- What their personality is like
- What they most desire in the world
- What they are most afraid of
- What is their motivation in this story ( if you don’t have a story yet, what is their motivation right now)
When you know your characters well, put them together in a short scene and see what happens. Spend no more than thirty minutes writing. You may even have enough within ten. Up to you.
Now show your scene to a writing buddy. Ask them what they’ve understood. Are they getting the same picture in their head as you had when you started?
Then ask them some specific questions about the characters, INCLUDING MATERIAL YOU’VE NOT SHOWN IN THIE BRIEF EXTRACT. For instance, you might ask what colour hair they have, even if you haven’t mentioned it.
Now, here is the spooky bit. If you’ve spent enough time on your character your writing buddy will get at least 70% of the answers right. I’ve used this exercise for ten years and only had one fail. Most people get more that 70% right. That extract carries all the DNA of your character.
Please share your experiences of doing this exercise in the comments box.