Starting to create characters

Thinking up the characters led to one of the most riotous evening’s fun I’ve had in a long time. We’d planned to talk about this after the fortnightly meeting of Birmingham Writers Group, when several of the group routinely go to a nearby pub. We’d noticed previously that the discussions we’d been having about the project had drawn everyone in. I think it’s something to do with the creative process that is irresistible; as soon as we started bouncing ideas around, we realised that we were getting ideas from everyone around us as well. We found a way to harness this creative power for making the characters. We gave index cards to everyone and asked them to write down character traits. They started out as straightforward, single word suggestions like “compassionate” and “optimistic” but then we started to get more elaborate ones like “wants their best mate to get a hairy mole”.
Once this happened, everyone started trying to outdo each other, leading to “they always weigh themselves before and after having a poo” and “believes that all women are men pretending”.
Once they were all done, we made them into piles.
We knew we had Satan as a character and we wanted him to have two other characters to interact with, in keeping with the well-known comedy “rule of three”.
We made a pile of the characteristics that were inevitably Satan (“is proud of his farts”) and divided the others between us, without looking. The idea was that we would each end up with a set of cards on which to base our character.
We read through them and decided on whether we would like to keep or discard each one. Mostly we kept them, as it seemed like a really interesting idea to combine seemingly contradictory characteristics. We then flipped a coin to see who got the male or female characters, discussed names for them, and went home to draw up some character sketches.
I kept my set of index cards to recycle. Sooner or later, some poor soul will be the recipient of a note from me which will mysteriously say “gets turned on watching Poirot” on the reverse.
Posted in 2011, Writing Tagged with: , , ,
One comment on “Starting to create characters
  1. Iain says:

    Totally brilliant writing exercise. Hilarious and fruitful. I urge any group of people looking for writing inspiration to try it. "Morbid fear of hinges" was my personal favourite.