Know Your Characters – Mr & Mrs

Heide and Iain, not Mr & Mrs (at least not with each other)

Canada has given many great gifts to the world, lacrosse, instant mashed potato, the pacemaker, the electric wheelchair… and Mr & Mrs.

Created in 1963, Mr & Mrs was a TV show in which married couples were tested on their knowledge of each other through a series of questions. The questions were put to both partners but not at the same time. The differences in answers given were a potential window into the mechanics of the relationship.
Mr & Mrs was about how well couples knew each other. What you and your collaborators wish to demonstrate is how well you know your shared creations, your offspring. Characters in novels are much like children. Writers nurture them and create a space for them to live, learn and grow in. Writers also put a lot of themselves into their characters (although hopefully not too much). Admittedly, real-world offspring aren’t as pliable as their fictional counterparts and we can’t abandon them if they simply aren’t working out the way we planned but you get the idea…

So, how well do you and your co-creator know your creations? If you’ve worked hard on your character creation then you should know without consultation how they would react in most situations. An interesting exercise is to play your own game of Mr & Mrs with your character. Use the questions below, make up some of your own or get some friends to write some. Look at the questions, jot down your own answers and then share the results with your collaborators. How closely do your views of your characters match?

  1. A female friend turns up at your character’s house with a new haircut and asks for your character’s opinion. The haircut looks hideous. Is your character honest with their friend? How will they phrase their answer?
  2. Your character gets onto a bus. There are two seats remaining. One is next to a fat white guy with a shaved head and lots of tattoos. The other is next to a ten-year-old schoolgirl. Where does your character sit and why?
  3. Your character is asked to organise a party for an octogenarian spinster aunt. What kind of party do they throw? How much thought and effort would go into its execution?
  4. Your character is in a bar with work colleagues. An attractive, married co-worker makes a drunken pass at your (far less drunk) character. How does your character respond to the co-worker’s advances?
  5. Your character is on a train. The person sitting opposite is having a very loud conversation on their mobile phone. The conversation has been ongoing for five minutes and there are no signs that it’s going to end. Would your character be irritated by this? What would they do?
  6. Your character is queuing up at the supermarket till. They look round and see the person behind them holding your character’s purse/wallet in their hand. The person tells your character that they had dropped it but it’s an obvious lie. What does your character do?
  7. Your character is running to catch their train. They see a man, also hurrying for the same train, gasp and fall to his knees. It might be a heart attack or might be a twisted ankle. There are plenty of people about who could stop and help but is your character one of them?
  8. Your character is stuck in a dead-end menial job with a weekly pay packet. When Friday comes, how does your character spend their meagre earnings? How much of it, if any, will they have left over by the following Friday?
  9. Your character is walking down the street and sees a twenty pound note on the pavement near a bus stop. Would they take it? Would they leave it? What would they do?
  10. Your character is watching TV when they see something long and sinuous slither behind the sofa. Your character does not own a pet snake. How does your character respond?

Did all your answers closely correspond? If, yes, then well done. If not, you’ve now got fuel for further discussions. Why did you come up with different answers? Are the conflicts in your perception of the character or have you encountered interesting conflicts in the character’s personality?

Posted in 2012, How-to's, Writing Tagged with: , , , ,