Fiction Writing Exercises: Step Out of Your Shoes
One of the most exciting and challenging aspects of being a writer is creating characters. It is an opportunity to step outside of your own reality and take on a completely different persona.
Unless you’re an actor, an undercover agent, or just plain crazy, you don’t get many chances in life to do that.
With fiction writing exercises that focus on character creation, you can start building skills that allow you get under your character’s skin and get inside his head. These types of fiction writing exercises will take you beyond writing character sketches and descriptions and will truly help you understand your characters and all their deep complexities.
For characters to truly resonate with readers, they must be vibrant and stir the audience’s emotions. Readers have to become attached to the characters, feel sympathy, compassion, even love (or hate) for them. It’s not easy to fabricate people (or other beings) that don’t really exist, have never existed, yet make them seem real. But it can be done.
So how do writers achieve this great feat?
Well, much credence has been given to the old adage write what you know. Base a character on a friend or family member or yourself. But what fun is that? If you’re an accountant by day, do you really want to play an accountant in your fantasy world too? Probably not. And when you create a character, that’s pretty much what you’re doing, playing a role. You have to get into the character’s mind, live the life, absorb the environment in which the character lives. You have to be your character.
Character Writing Exercises
So, here’s a challenge: write a character you know nothing about. If you grew up in the big city, write as a farm hand. If you grew up on a farm or small town all your life, write about an army brat who was raised living in dozens of towns, going to different schools each year. Are you a stay-at-home, married mom? Write as a single woman making it big in the big apple. If you’re a successful businessman, write as a prison inmate who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks.
The idea is to get outside your comfort zone, and explore a different life than the one you know. Even if this is not the type of character you’d normally create, fiction writing exercises like this one will help you when you have to come up with a secondary character who’s not from the world with which you’re familiar. It will also expand the types of characters you’ll feel comfortable bringing into your stories.
This is not a character sketch. It’s more like a monologue. Write a one-page essay in first person from the perspective of a character you’ve created who is totally outside your realm of reality. Think about your wildest dreams or the most incredible adventure you’d like to have, and be that character. Or, if you’re really brave, try something that intimidates you. If you have a fear of flying, write as an airline pilot. Fear of drowning? Write as a SCUBA diver. Does math make you squirm? Write as a mathematics professor at university.
Fiction Writing Exercises for Fun and Focus
It’s just one page and one character, so this shouldn’t take too long. If it sticks and you get really into it, write several pages, or try doing this exercise with different characters. You might unveil a new side of yourself that you didn’t know you had. You might find it completely uncomfortable and decide to go back to writing what you know, but at least you will have tried something new.
Remember, fiction writing exercises are supposed to be fun, but their purpose is to challenge you to try new things and think in new ways, so be sure to focus on your character and make a conscious effort to get inside the character’s head as you work your way through this exercise.
Feel free to post comments about your character. Who or what will you become? What shoes are you going to step into when you step out of your own?
If you have any fiction writing exercises to share, feel free to post them in the comments.
Are you looking for more fiction writing exercises? Pick up a copy of 101 Creative Writing Exercises, available in paperback and ebook.