Posted by: nancyisanders | April 16, 2013

Writing Exercise: Let Your Characters Speak

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In real life, each person is unique.

In a well-written story, each character is unique, too. Each one has his own fingerprint. Each one has her own voice.

I don’t know about how it is for you, but I tend to make all my characters sound the same. If you fall into that trap easily, too, here’s a writing exercise to try:

1. Pretend all your characters in your story are flowers. Each one is a different flower.

2. Pick a different flower for each one of your characters to be.

3. Write a short bio of each character based on the flower you’ve picked for it to be. For example, if Grandma (in your story) is a rose, she can be very wealthy and regal. She can be famous. She can smell wonderful with some mysterious perfume she wears. Everyone smells it as soon as she enters a room. People adore and revere her. But to her granddaughter, she’s all thorns.

4. After each character has their own unique bio based on which flower he or she is, ask each one to answer this question in his or her own unique voice:

There’s a knock on the door…who might it be?

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Responses

  1. I think sometimes the similarities come between characters of different books by the same author.

  2. Since I’m not into lengthy background documents for my characters (they kind of make my eyes glaze over), I’ve made character dossiers. This has a cooler sound, too, like I’m a secret agent instead of a writer.

    I look through the internet to find a stock photo that makes me think of my character. The dossier reflects the character’s voice. It has a life philosophy for the character, any strong personality traits, like loyalty or kindness, and unusual info. This helps me know my characters better and keeps them unique.

    • What a great idea, Beth! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Hi Nancy,
    This sounds like a wonderful exercise. For me there’s one problem, I don’t garden and I know next to nothing about flowers. LOL :-)

    • Ha ha, Tracy! That’s so funny. Instead of flowers, you can think of your characters like birds (eagle/hawk/hummingbird/sparrow) or like fish (shark/whale/minnow/dolphin) or any other group of things that seem like they have different personalities. Let me know what you think!

  4. Ah! Problem solved. I’m actually writing a PB about a butterfly, a hummingbird, a bumblebee, and a skink. (not a skunk) and each has their own personality. :-)

  5. Hi Nancy,
    I like this idea. I have a 9-year-old boy that I am going to write about. I know that he is smart, blonde hair, wire-rim glasses, computers, moved up one grade level in the first grade. I went for a bird; the Owl. Reply to exercise:

    “Hello. may I ask your name please and what is your business?”

    Thanks again.

    • Oh, this is awesome! He talked exactly in a way that matches his personality. What a great voice!!!!

      • Thank you.


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