Hampton Roads Writers

Writing Prompt for September 29, 2008

Talk to me--Characterization 3

Often, the narrator or protagonist of the story is a barely veiled version of the writer himself and the secondary characters also bear a close resemblance to real-life people from the writer’s life. The first problem with this is that the story tends to become autobiography dressed up as fiction, often featuring with a highly idealized and unrealistic version of the writer. While there is, of course, nothing inherently wrong with using a real-life event or series of events as a basis for a work of fiction, there exists a tendency among inexperienced writers to write about events from their own lives that may be very emotionally resonant for the writer, but not so for a reader who is unfamiliar with the writer’s life. Similarly, the writer often unwittingly writes from a position of familiarity with the real-life inspired characters that a reader will, of course, not share.

The purpose of this exercise is to encourage you to disambiguate yourself from your characters.

  • Choose a character from a story you have written or are in the process of writing, then write a scene or multiple scenes in which that character interacts with you, the author. One way to approach this exercise is to write with the assumption that the character understands that you, as the author, “created” him or her and are responsible for the things that happened to them in the course of the story; another is to write as though the character does not know these things and is simply interacting with the author as just another person that he or she has met.

  • For a bigger challenge, do the exercise using a secondary or tertiary character from the story (as opposed to the main protagonist).


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