Hampton Roads Writers

Writing Prompt for October 10, 2008

I'm frightened--Characterization 4

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 write a piece depicting yourself from the third person in difficult situation. THis will force you to consider the hypothetical underlying motivations for the actions of a person you're intimately familiar with – yourself – with the aim of encouraging you to do the same for the fictional characters you'll be working with in future creative work.

  • Think of a situation in which a long-held fear or anxiety that you have comes true (this should be a situation which could, but has not yet happened). Now, using the third-person mode of narration, write a scene – or a very short story – describing a fictional version of yourself dealing with the situation.


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