Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Writing Tip Tuesday

I have a confession to make.

You know those character development exercises where you answer all those trivia questions about your characters?

Like, what's in her backpack or what's his favorite pizza?


Hate 'em.

I never ever ever do them.

Here's another confession: I was in an SCBWI workshop years ago and the workshop leader asked us to do one of those exercises.

Like a junior high brat, I sat there and wrote "I hate this. I hate this. I hate this."

And then I pretended like I had to go to the restroom and left and never went back.

Here's why I hate those exercises: I get to know my characters by living with them in my head, and, later, on paper, while writing their story.

All those trivial questions seem just, well....trivial.


Those questions are out of context of the story.

Knowing my characters is a feeling - not an exercise.

I get to know my characters best by writing their story.

So, my tip for today is: Don't fret if you don't know what's in your character's backpack.

Fret if you don't know how she is going to act/react/speak/move/look in your story.

My other tip is: Every writer is different. I know that those character development exercises are great for some writers, so please don't send hate mail.

BUT those exercises aren't for every writer.

At least, not for this one.

So if they aren't great for you, it's okay to write "I hate this. I hate this. I hate this." And then pretend like you have to go to the bathroom.

And then go write your story.


lskeers said...

It's SO nice to discover that someone else doesn't like those exercises! If I knew every single detail about my characters, I'd be bored before I started writing! The fun part is learning about them as you go... I LOVE your Tuesday Tips!

jama said...

Thanks so much for this. I thought I was the only one who didn't benefit from those exercises.

Anonymous said...

Yay, validation! I don't know how many times I've printed out character traits sheets and then ... never filled them out. I hate them. I'd much rather learn about my character during the process of writing the story.

Stacy DeKeyser said...

Oh hallelujah. My mother (bless her!) once gave me a book titled "Take Your Characters to Dinner." I've never cracked it open.

ICQB said...