Monday, April 1, 2013

Slipping on Your Character Mask by Dawn Lairamore

There are lots of useful, interesting, and just plain odd character exercises out there, all aimed at helping you get to know your characters better so you can write them more effectively.

Some are pretty standard:

  • Give your character a job interview.

  • If your character emptied his or her pockets or handbag, what would they contain? Why do they carry these things and what do these items say about them?

Some are a little more in depth:

  • Describe a room in the home of your character. Only the room—no dialogue, commentary, etc. Just what the room contains. The idea is to get to know your character through their personal belongings, their choices in d├ęcor, the color palette they pick, etc.

  • Write a speech your character would give if he or she was speaking in front of a large group of people.

  • Write an online dating profile for your character. (I’m assuming actually posting it online is not required, although you never know . . . you might get some hits.)

Some are pretty involved and really require you to immerse yourself:

  • Spend a day as one of your characters. Dress like the character, go to a restaurant and order the kind of food this character would eat, go to a park and make observations about the people and environment that this character would make, etc.

  • Go to a store and only add items to your cart that your character would buy. (This one could be really interesting. If your character is a serial killer, you could be filling your cart with things like meat cleavers and rat poison, lol! I take it you’re not actually supposed to buy these items. Hopefully you’d put them back on the shelf yourself and not abandon your cart somewhere, forcing an unlucky store employee to do the re-shelving.)

I like character exercises as much as the next writer, but I’ll confess, I have yet to dress up like any of my characters, head to the local pizza parlor, and ponder what kind of toppings they’d order (hopefully it wouldn’t be anchovies—eww!). But who knows—maybe I’ll work up the nerve to do that one day.

In the meantime, please share—what are the most useful and/or weirdest character exercises you’ve come across?

photo credit: ~jjjohn~ via photopin cc


  1. All great ideas, Dawn. You want to come up to Portland? We can hit the food carts dressed as our characters. Any other Mayhemers want to join the mayhem that'll ensue?

    1. That sounds like a great way to spend a day to me!!

      Of course, we might get some stares. Some of my characters are a little colorful...

  2. Love it! I'm going to write an online dating profile for my character now:)

    1. Fantastic!! Maybe our characters can date :)


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!