From each of the following questions, craft an answer that becomes a character, such that you end up with four separate characters (give them any gender, age, etc. you like, or leave the details vague for now). Don’t read the rest of the exercise until after you have the characters.
- What one specific location terrifies this character the most? Why? What happened to him there, or what does he imagine happening there?
- What does this character wish he could do for a living? What keeps him from doing it? Why is it so important to him? What would he do or sacrifice to achieve it?
- What scar does this character hide, and why? What caused it? How does she feel when she sees it?
- What one possession does this character value most, and why? How did she get it? What would she do if she lost it, or it was stolen from her?
The Exercise: Now imagine that all of these characters go to the same health club. It’s a place of importance to them: they go there nearly every day, and it’s a social place as well as the key to fitness and health for them. In each of their lives it represents some aspect of their hopes and dreams.
These characters know each other fairly well, and perhaps know some personal information about each other. There’s enough of a connection between them to create some friendships, some tensions, and some secrets.
Write the characters’ names in pairs; make sure you have each character paired with each other character once. Next to each pairing, write one word or short phrase to describe the relationship between those two characters. When you’re done, go back and free-write for three to five minutes on each pairing that seems to have some dramatic energy to it. By the time you’re done, you should have plenty of material that could be used as the basis or background for just about any sort of work of fiction involving those characters.