04 March 2015

Wednesday Writing Exercise: Character Opinion

Note: This exercise was originally written for About's (now defunct) Creative Writing for Teens website. Although it was aimed at teens wanting to get better at writing, I hope it will be useful for all writers.

Character Opinion: A Character Development Exercise

Instructions: If all your characters think exactly the same way you do, then they're not very well-rounded. Characters should appear to the reader to be real people, with their own histories, thoughts and opinions. In this exercise, we'll explore characters through their opinions of current events.

1. Choose a current event about which you have a strong opinion, or about which you've spent a lot of thinking.

2. Choose one of your characters. You might find it easiest to first do this exercise with a character whose opinion is very like your own, or with one whose opinion is very different. Or start with the character you know best.

3. Write a monologue or essay from that character's point of view, about your chosen current event. Write for as long as it takes for your character to express their opinion. Remember to write as if you were that character, or as if they were writing through you.

If they would be very straightforward about stating their thoughts, then be straightforward. If they would try to hide their real opinions, then do that. Let the character's voice take over.

4. Set what you've written aside for a few days (or longer, if you want). Read over it later. You should learn some interesting things about your character, which you may be able to use in a story.

5. Repeat the exercise as often as you like, with other characters. You could write one character each evening for a week, say, then read over them all when you've finished.

Notes: Even if your characters are in a fantasy world of your own construction, they can still have opinions on "real world" events. Write as if these characters were able to see into the real world--you can try pretending that our world is a television show, or play, or series of novels in their world, if you have trouble imagining them as aware of the real world as well as their own. In fact, you can even try this exercise if you are using real-life historical characters by imagining what they would have thought of life today.

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