Becoming Them

Finding it difficult to get into the head of a character? Here’s an exercise I learnt whilst acting – it transfers nicely to writing too.

So, sit down and think about your character. Think about what they look like, how they sit, how they breathe, how they dress. Coat or no coat? Smile or frown?

Then, once you are inside this character, go outside and walk down the street as this character. Think about where they’d go, what they’d do. Coffee or tea or drink? Will they buy lunch? What will they buy for lunch? Will they say hello to strangers or scowl? How do they walk? Do they limp or stride out? What annoys them? What do they like? Will they hand around the bookshop or the clothes shops?

It pays off. After a while you realise that perhaps their way of hunching over gives them backache, or their habit of talking to strangers at bus stops leads to all kinds of stories. You understand this character far more completely than you were just thinking about them. And once you have these little details sorted out, it’s much easier to get the big, important details done.

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