Exercises Creating Characters

1. Choose three short stories to read and think about. For each story, write brief answers to the following questions:

a. Who is the protagonist? Why do you think the author chose to make this person the central character?

b. How does the author handle the point of the view?

c. Which characters in these stories seem to be the most three-dimensional, and why?

d. How does the author work in the back story?

e. What techniques does the author use to convey the characters to the reader?

2. Create a character and introduce him or her through four brief scenes, each using one of the following methods. Try to keep the author's voice out of the narrative. Let the readers see and hear the character directly:

Scene 1: Through his or her own inner monologue.

Scene 2: Through two people discussing the character in his or her absence.

Scene 3: Through a dialogue between the character and another person.

Scene 4: Through action, showing the character in a typical situation such as driving a car, getting dressed, or preparing a meal.

3. Read The Life of the Party on page 53 and then:

a. Character development: Write a brief sketch describing one of the five people mentioned—Spanner, Maria, James, Alison, or Gary. Bring in his or her physical, sociological, and psychological characteristics.

b. Point of view: Rewrite the scene above from the point of view of one of the five characters. Use first or third person, but remember that we are looking at what's happening strictly through this person's eyes. Feel free to add details; you don't need to stick to the events described.

Then choose a second character and rewrite the scene from this new person's point of view.

c. Dialogue: Write two separate dialogues in which one of the characters discusses the incident at the party with someone who was not there. For example: • Maria talking to her mother. •James talking to his therapist.

4. Write three brief scenes, each depicting one of the following situations entirely in dialogue. Characterize the speakers only through their words and their individual modes of expression, without any details of setting, action, or other background:

Scene 1: One person is trying to hide an opinion or feeling from the other. First, have the person succeed. Then rewrite the scene so that he or she fails.

Scene 2: Someone is telling two friends about finding a knapsack filled with cash in the woods. One friend wants to convince the first person to take the money to the police. The other friend tries to persuade the finder to keep it.

Scene 3: Three relatives are congratulating a bride at her wedding reception. One of them is in love with the groom and bitter that he's married someone else. Another dislikes the groom intensely and doesn't expect the marriage to last a year. The third genuinely wishes the young couple happiness.

5. Someone is telling a friend about attending a lavish dinner last Saturday night at the exclusive Greenwood Heights Country Club. The event was a fund-raiser for the governor's reelection campaign, and the narrator had the privilege of shaking the governor's hand. Write three scenes depicting this situation, changing the speaker each time:

Scene 1: A social climber who loves to go to parties, the fancier the better, and who becomes ga-ga over anybody famous.

Scene 2: A newspaper reporter who has to attend events like this all the time and finds them dull and boring.

Scene 3: An ambitious local politician who is maneuvering into position for a run at a higher office.

The Life of the Party

The party was full of noisy, unpleasant people, and Spanner was eager to get out of there until he saw Maria come in with James. Very nice, he thought as he watched her stroll across the room.

Maria noticed him staring at her and immediately was attracted to him. She abandoned James at the bar, leaving him feeling sullen and resentful as he ordered his first gin and tonic of the evening. She walked up to Spanner and smiled, trying hard to charm him.

Alison watched them with dismay. She'd been optimistic at the start of the evening, but now, seeing the sparks fly between Spanner and Maria, her hopes were dashed.

Gary was alarmed by the encounter too. "Uh-oh, there's going to be trouble," he muttered as he dug his pen and his palm-sized notebook out of his pocket.

Spanner and Maria, enjoying each other's company, were oblivious to the hateful looks Alison was giving them.

James noticed, though. He sidled over to Gary. "Wanna make a deal?" he asked.

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