Mindy Hardwick's Blog

Author Mindy Hardwick Muses about Writing

A Short Character Writing Exercise

on January 31, 2011

I’m taking an on-line collage art drawing class with Carla Sonheim. I first met Carla at JournalFest in Port Townsend last October. I took her class, Wretched Girl Journaling, and had a great time being “wretched.” Good material for writing tween and YA! Carla is the author of 52 Drawing Exercises for Collage Artists. The class that I’m currently taking is called, The Art of Silly. Each day, we receive an e-mail with a link to a worksheet. On the printable worksheet, we are given a ten minute drawing exercise. The exercises have included everything from completing dialogue bubbles on drawn creatures, to contour drawings of old pictures. Each exercise takes about ten minutes, and I do them with my morning coffee. It’s a great way to get the creative ideas flowing.

I used to do more with quick writing exercises. But, somewhere along the way (probably when writing became a way to pay some bills), I stopped doing the quick, creative exercises. Now, I only do them if I’m drafting a new story and need to play a bit to find character or plot. Otherwise, I’m focused,  focused, focused on the task at hand. (Which is not always a good thing and sometimes stifles the creavity.)

My current work in progress is a memoir for teens about my experience running the poetry workshop. The working title is: Kids in Orange: A Love Story, and I explore why I love working with this population of incarcerated youth so much.

I’m reading a craft book on writing memoir entitled, Your Life As Story, by Tristine Rainer. Last night, I found an exercise which seemed like it might work for not only memoir, but also fictional characters.  This exercise made me think it could be used a bit like the Art of Being Silly Exercises. A quick one to do in the morning with coffee before the writing begins:

How To Be (Page 165).

Think of your character. Now, make a list of all gestures and behaviors as if you were writing a how to guide for the impersonation of the character you are working on. When you have completed the list, choose the items you like best and write a “How To Be” poem or instruction guide for your character.

For example, if I was using “Curious George” as my character, my How To Be Instruction Poem might go like this: (My examples were taken from Curious George Rides a Bike)

How to Be Curious George

Be Curious…about EVERYTHING.

Do tricks on your bike

Make boats out of newspapers

Ride your bike and don’t watch where you are going

Give a circus ostrich a bugle

Rescue a baby bear from a tree

Perform in the circus

If you notice in my How To Be Instruction Guide, it becomes an outline for a story.  The plot points are all there in the How to Be poem along with a bit about the character.  Try it with both a published story and a character you’re working on. I think the results will surprise!

2 responses to “A Short Character Writing Exercise

  1. LuAnn says:

    Following through from Winter Friends Wednesday via A Cup of Romance

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